Monday, September 30, 2013

John 1:15 John the Baptist's declaration

15 John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’"

Have you ever done an internet search for "John the Baptist"? It is amazing how many different images you will see, of this important person of the Bible. This is a man whose birth was notable; his conception was incredible; his name was divinely chosen; his Relative was omnipotent!
Jesus Himself said of John, “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist . . .” (Mt. 11:11).
Let's dig in!

John's parents were aged people living in the hill country of Judea, and his mother, Elizabeth, was related to Mary. (Luke 1:5, 36, 39) They were both very devout and Luke notes that they were both "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (1:6). The angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly Zacharias, as he worked in the temple. He told him that his (equally elderly) wife would bear a son, and detailed the work he would do, and the prophecies that he would fulfill.
If you haven't read the first chapter of Luke lately, you should give it a go.....there's a lot there! I have heard sermons preached on how Zacharias should have responded, but be that as it may (personally, I think I would have been puzzled, too) the angel told him that he'd not speak again until the child was born, and the name "John" stuck to him.
I expect that you know the rest of the story; the babe stirring in Elizabeth's womb at Mary's (and Christ in her) arrival, the maturing in the desert, the strict regimen followed by John, and more. That brings me back to the google search I mentioned. I guess we won't know until we get to heaven, whether or not John resembled some of the wild-eyed images that artists have made; the Bible does note, though, that his apparel was quite simple, and that prophecy foretold his work. (Kinda makes you wonder how Hebrew scholars didn't "get" that he was the very one whom Isaiah and Malachi told about?)
In the third chapter of Matthew, it is noted that John wore a "camel's hair" garment, and that it was secured by a leather belt. Also it notes that his diet was locusts and wild honey.  I read in my commentaries that the cloak may have been either a rough fabric woven from camel's hair, or a camel skin itself. Either way, he wasn't a walking ad for being well-dressed. But it does remind you of some of the Old Testament prophets, particularly Elijah.  And his diet was the same as that consumed by the poorer sections of society -- all of this made him quite different from the wealthy, proud Jews of his day -- in fact, he was a walking sermon to them!
John was somewhat reclusive, as well. Jesus said in Matthew 11, "John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say he has a demon."   In their language of the time, "eating and drinking" stood for socializing. So we see from this that the prophet of Christ wasn't a partier; his lifestyle almost appeared like those who were demon possessed, instead of a zealous man whose focus was "preparing the way."

All of this led to some people misunderstanding him. He didn't try, but he attracted multitudes. His success was based solely on the message he preached -- repentance, in preparation for the coming of Christ.

What a lesson for those he preached to! And what a lesson for us today! We don't have to have the trappings of wealth and affluence to reach others for Christ. We only need the right focus, and God's strength within us!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Slowdown

This week we studied the Light of the World, and this song seemed just right. I hope you enjoy this and that you have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

John 1:14 Exhaustion

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

It seems that every day we hear someone say (or we may say it ourselves) "I'm so tired. I'm just exhausted."
There is a weariness in our souls; there's an exhaustion in our bodies; we feel tired, worn out, disappointed, drained, poured out. 
How shall we replenish our energies? How shall we recover from our exhaustion? It seems deeper than what a night’s rest will cure. It seems more profound than merely the kind of relief you get relaxing in the evening after a day of hard work.
He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes, like an olive tree shedding its blossoms. Job 15:33
This verse in Job was a picture that the people of Israel would be familiar with. The olives provided not just food, but oil for heating and light, ingredients for ointments and medicine, and the olive tree provided a fine wood for carpentry. The olive trees were easy to grow and did not require much water, and could be expected to live for over one hundred years. This is truly a picture of an inexhaustible resource.
But if for some reason it shed its blossoms? Dire indeed, as they counted on it for their livelihoods. What if it were to be "exhausted" and wither?
Our whole world is exhausted by conflict, yes, and our world is exhausted by its own moral uncertainty. We find that there is no real understanding any longer of what is right and what is wrong. We are tired, too, of struggling to be the people we should be.
What can we do to recover from our exhaustion?
We have hope for peace, and for renewal. We have a source for rest and refreshment, in spite of our exhaustion.
You see, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . our Savior knows what it is to be weary. He understands.
In Jesus God has entered into the realities of pain and suffering, anguish and frustration, and has reached out a healing hand. In Jesus God has painted a picture of human life as it was intended, a little lower only than the angels, full of grace and truth. And God has said, follow Him, and you can live above your frustrations. Follow Him, and I will give you power to become. Your weariness can be healed and your exhaustion can be replenished. The word made flesh, power to become.

(Sincere thanks to Joseph Smith, retired pastor in Washington, DC for his sermon notes which helped me complete this post.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

John 1:9-14 The best gift of all

 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

After the sadness of yesterday's verse, this verse is a welcome shot of joy!

There were some who did respond to Jesus. Who welcomed Him into their lives, opened up their lives to His presence.

To those, and to those who will receive Him today, Christ gives the free gift of redemption. Salvation is by grace alone; it's a free gift, not something that can be achieved by humans.  But we must understand that the imparting of the gift is dependent on our reception of Christ.

Jesus gave to them the right (or the authority) to become more; the right to change the way they were into the way God is. They have the right to pass from death into life; they can start as children of darkness and become children of light. You see, as we follow Christ, we become the children of God.

Did you see the word believe there? In his gospel, John used the verb believe over ninety times. He never used it as a noun . . . it seems that he thought of faith as an activity; it's something that we do that moves and changes us. We accept Him, and trust in Him as He is revealed.

If I had a terrible cold and couldn't stop coughing, I might go to the doctor and receive a prescription for a sure-fire cough medicine, one that was certain to stop that cough. But it would not do me any good unless I poured it into a spoon and gulped it down, right?
The same is true of salvation. Although Jesus has provided it for us through His death on the cross, what He accomplished will do us no good unless we actively believe and take Him into our life.

Jesus gave to those of His day, and to those of our day, every opportunity to grasp the truth and believe in Him and be born again. He is the way, but we must walk with Him. He is the truth, but we must believe Him. He is the life, but we must receive Him.

This fresh start is available to all who receive Christ. Are you rejecting Christ, like the people in yesterday's post? Or have you accepted Christ and you are trying to follow His will for your life? Have you trusted Jesus to save you? The most important words we can ever say is when we say, "Jesus, I will turn from my sin and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I know that I am sinful, and I know that you are the One who can save me and make me whole."

I would encourage you if you want to make that commitment, to click on our page "What is Salvation?" on this blog. It's my prayer that everyone who reads this blog will receive Christ's gift of salvation -- the best gift of all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

John 1:9-14 Rejection -- He's been there

 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Remember I said that in this passage there was some joy, and also some sadness?
We're here at the sad part now.

"And the world did not (recognize) know Him."

I don't know about you, but I have tears in my eyes when I contemplate that short sentence.

The first sad thing is that the world did not know Him. Christ revealed Himself to the world, and there was no flash of awareness, no sudden recognition of the Creator, no realization of the truth of His majesty.  The world rejected the Creator -- John does not even make an effort to explain the tragedy. Perhaps he realized that there is no possible explanation; it just doesn't make sense.
Perhaps it is because the world wanted its own way -- not His way. They just were not interested. He was not the type of King that they wanted to follow or serve.

"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him."
If a sentence could be more tragic than the first one, this is it. The Creator came to His very own possession, to His own home, and he received no welcome, no acceptance. He was not a stranger. Had he come to another people who had no prophecies, no revelations or knowledge, it would have been bad enough to be rejected. But He came to His own people, the people of Israel. They had hundreds of years of prophecies to guide them. He was anticipated, expected. He was longed for, and hoped for. The way had been well-prepared for Him.
But when He came home, his family rejected Him.

Notice here that John does not lump the people of Israel in with "the world." He doesn't say that His own people did not know Him -- but that they did not receive Him. That verb carries with it the meaning of "taking a person to oneself in fellowship."  You see, they knew Him, but they would not allow Him His rightful place in their lives. Jesus came to the place and to the people He had created and nurtured . . . they lived their lives enjoying His creation, and the blessings He gave, and were even prepared to receive Him, but what did they do?
They rejected Him.

Have you ever read the poem, "The Death of the Hired Man"? These lines are contained there:
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
I've always tried to etch into my children the knowledge that they would be warmly received whenever they came home. No matter the circumstances, no matter the conflict. There would be love and acceptance here.
This verse is in sharp contrast, for Jesus came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. He was rejected, turned away.  He gave up heaven's glory to dwell with them and to lead them back to God, to be their Savior and King. He gave them every reason to love Him, but they rejected Him and then crucified Him.

I have been rejected in my life, and I have no easy answers for others who have been hurt in this way. There are no quick fixes or magic cures. All I can say is that we can look to Jesus, and remember that He experienced rejection. He was scorned by His hometown, by His relatives, and by His countrymen. He heard the jeers of the crowd that He was giving His life for, as they demanded His crucifixion. He looked down from the cross and saw that same mob as they mocked Him, and He felt so abandoned by His Father that He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

When you feel the deep hurt of rejection, remember that Jesus understands how you feel. He loves you far more than any mortal can. If you have believed on Him, He has accepted you - and He will never reject those who trust in Him (John 6:37). And I can give personal testimony to the fact that He will work in our lives, and the ones who reject us can come back to us. Jesus gave His life for us so that we could have His life in us and He will never leave us or forsake us.

We can have life, and that more abundantly! Praise Him!

Monday, September 23, 2013

John 1:9-14 Genuine light

 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We're continuing in our study of this first chapter of John's gospel.
He sure packed a lot into it so far, didn't he? Well, hold on tight, because there's more to come!

This passage starts off with a powerful revelation: "There was the true Light which coming into the world enlightens every person."

In this passage we will see some joy and some sadness. I see this as the joyful part -- John starts off verse nine by stating why he thought that the world should recognize Jesus as the Christ.
For him, it was very simple. Jesus is the true light. His light is the authentic light, the genuine one; it's the real light that is the original. Some people used to say of Jesus, "He's the real thing."
And they were right. Every other light in this world is just a copy. They may flicker with some truth, and they may give small, weak glimpses of reality, but Jesus Christ is the genuine light. 
Mere mortal men can try to answer the deep questions of life, but Jesus is the light that powers forth into the darkness, and tells all men the reason for life, the purpose of life, and the true realities of life.

I guess we could say that all men -- and women; I'm using men in the sense of mankind, OK? Don't fuss at me about that... (Grin)  ....anyway, all mankind has a little light within them. By that I mean that we have a light of reason, or understanding.  I believe that God gave us understanding so that we can realize that we are lost; we can realize our need for salvation when the Spirit calls to us and convicts us of our sin. And that same understanding will help us realize that salvation from those sins is found in Jesus Christ. 

We also have a small portion of light because of the creation of the world and the incredible things within it. 
 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
Even stronger than the revelation of God in creation is the consciousness of right and wrong which God "built into" all of us.  All of these small lights are nothing compared to the light of Christ. They are not enough to banish the darkness. That requires the true light -- the Light of the world.

And this is why that true light came:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. II Peter 3:9
Praise Jesus today for being our Light, and let's pray that He will shine forth in our lives!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Slowdown

This hymn was written in 1833, by John Newman; while traveling in Italy as a young priest, he fell ill and stayed at Giovanni almost three weeks. Finally he was well enough to continue his journey to Palermao. His journal reads:
Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, "I have a work to do in England." 
I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three more weeks....At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for a whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, "Lead, Kindly Light."

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

I try to provide some variety in these Friday musical interludes, choosing choirs or solos, traditional or contemporary. This hymn, performed by the Wells Cathedral Choir was particularly appropriate, with our studies of Christ as "the light" this week.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

John 1:6-8 Prepare ye the way, Part II

One thing that I noticed as I wrote yesterday's post, was how many of the scriptures that I added, were made into glorious songs by Handel. Many years ago I had the privilege of singing in a choir that presented Messiah, and the soaring music and uplifting words have stayed with me all these years.

To this day, I can hear in my mind and hum or sing almost all of the solos and choruses. I know, I know, I'm rather strange. (Grin)
But George Frideric Handel set about telling a story in 1741 that John the Baptist, John the apostle, the prophets, and many more have told and retold. In his own way, he was bearing witness to the Light, just as John the Baptist did:
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

We studied yesterday the ways that people bore witness to the coming of Jesus before He came. Now let's look at how people did that, after He came.
Let's dig in!
First, the disciples of Christ -- their unity with one another bears witness to the light.
20 "I pray not only for these, but also for those who will trust in me because of their word, 21 that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are united with me and I with you, I pray that they may be united with us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. 22 The glory which you have given to me, I have given to them; so that they may be one, just as we are one -- 23 I united with them and you with me, so that they may be completely one, and the world thus realize that you sent me, and that you have loved them just as you have loved me.  (John 17:20-23)
So, when we show unity with one another, we bear witness to the fact that Jesus was sent by God the Father, and that God loves the world.  Hmmm, that should make us think about what our Lord feels like when He sees congregational divisions and conflict . . .
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (I Corinthians 1:10)
Secondly, the transformed lives of the disciples and the early church -- and of people today, all bear witness to the light. Our lives being transformed shows the influence of Christ:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
His truth teaches us how to live in righteousness and holiness, and and enables us to shine, reflecting His light in our lives:

So that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky...  (Philippians 2:15)
Lastly, the disciples (and our) proclamation of the Word bears witness to the Light. It's our privilege and our duty to spread the gospel, to "prepare the way" so that others can see that Light of Christ's love.  
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (I Peter 2:9-10)
How little use we are, if we remain silent! How useful we may be, if we proclaim His praises and bear witness to His light!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

John 1:6-8 Prepare ye the way, Part I

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Here in the introduction to his gospel, John is introducing another person by the same name. This "John" is the man we know as John the Baptist. The beloved disciple wants us to know that this man was sent from God, and that his purpose was exactly the same as John's own purpose for writing -- so that he could witness concerning the light, and people could receive the salvation of the Lord.

John the Baptist wasn't the only person to bear witness about the light. Many others did; the prophets of old proclaimed that Jesus would come. They foretold His suffering and the glories that would follow.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
Even John the Baptist himself figured in the prophetic words of Isaiah, who told of his coming to witness and prepare the way for Jesus:
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)
The other three gospels identified John the Baptist as the special witness to the coming of Christ, in their first few chapters.  And John the Apostle noted that John the Baptist called Jesus the "Lamb of God" and the "Son of God."

All of these witnesses were prior to the ministry of Jesus here on earth. Tomorrow we will study more about "bearing witness" to the Light.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prayer Requests

It has been some weeks since we had the opportunity to pray together for the needs that we have been told about. I feel that it's important for us to share and to pray for one another.

Galatians 6:2 tells us:
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

In I Timothy 2:1, Paul writes: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people."

Let's intercede for one another, and let's lift up joyful thanks for prayers that are answered. Please leave a comment if you have a request so that we can pray with you.  If you've seen the grace of God in an answered prayer, let us know -- encourage others with your joy.

Our studies in John will continue tomorrow.

Monday, September 16, 2013

John 1:4-5 No need to be afraid of the dark

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

What would you say if I asked you to define "life"? 

It's more than just our breathing, or our hearts pumping our blood through our bodies. If we try to sum it up, it's pretty overwhelming. But Jesus knows, for He created life.

What about light? Have you ever tried to imagine that moment long ago, when light burst forth into total darkness? I don't think very many of us have experienced total darkness . . . what would it be like to truly not be able to see your hand in front of your face? Or to see where your foot would land, if you take a step? I would imagine that the words fear and anxiety don't come close to describing that feeling. 

Let's be totally honest here -- we pretty much take light and life for granted, don't we? Do we go to bed every night frightened about whether or not the sun will rise in the morning? Nope. We trust in our creator God to make that happen each day.  Do we agonize all day about whether or not our hearts will continue to beat?  Negatory. With the exception of those who have experienced some heart issues, most of us go on with our day, trusting the body that Jesus gave us to keep on going.

John writes here that Jesus is life. He uses this term thirty-six times in his gospel to describe Jesus. The flip side of the coin, if you will, is that Jesus is light. John uses this metaphor twenty-one times as he writes the story of Jesus. On two different occasions, Jesus stated that He was the light of the world.

John continues and says that the light for all people comes from having life in Him, in Jesus, the Word, Who has made all things. Outside of Jesus we have darkness -- because of our sin.

At Christmas-time, we celebrate the wonderful news that Jesus, Who is the light of the world, came into that world. But we can't just leave Him there in the manger. Jesus came to show the light of God's love and mercy as he taught, and healed, and raised the dead. He was born to die, thirty-three years later on the dreadful Roman cross -- the darkness seemed to be on the verge of triumph.
But death could not hold our Savior! He rose from the dead on the third day, and He lives forever! He is alive; the darkness did not triumph, after all.

This is the glorious message of the gospel -- that this Light has come, and has triumphed over darkness.
Please pay close attention to these verses in the beginning of John's gospel. Up until now, everything has been past tense: In the beginning was the Word....was, was. All of that is in the past.
But look at verse 5!
John suddenly changes to present tense -- in the here and now! "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  He was writing these words long after the resurrection, and we are reading them even longer after those events. The light of Jesus Christ is continuing to shine over two thousand years later; it is still shining into the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In fact, we can have faith that the darkness will not overcome it.

The final book of the Bible gives us a glimpse of what heaven will be like. Darkness is banished forever: "Night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light...." (Rev. 22:5)
Jesus tells us: "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)  He offers us light, hope and life -- eternal life with God forever. We can begin to enjoy this here and now, with Him, as we trust Him.
If you have not yet trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, won't you pray to receive His love and mercy, and begin to live in the light?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Slowdown

I think this hymn is especially appropriate after our studies this week.  I liked this reverent rendition of "Holy, Holy, Holy" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Praise His Name!

  1. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
    Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
  2. Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
    Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
    Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
    Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
  3. Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
    Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
    Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
    Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.
  4. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
    Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

John 1:1-3 He's been here all along

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
 John 1:1-3

Earlier this week we noted that John wanted us to understand the truth of who Jesus was; to be overwhelmed by the fact that majesty came to earth. He also wanted his readers to understand that Christ was the "Logos" -- the Word.
John says some other really important things in this small passage; he packed a lot in here!
Let's dig in!

The first thing John speaks of in these verses is timing. Specifically, the time that Jesus has existed, has lived, has been. Did you notice that the first words of verse one are the same ones that begin the book of Genesis? That's not just a coincidence - John planned it that way. The first thing he wants us to know is that Jesus created the world we know, and the other worlds that make up our universe. So before there was any created "stuff," there was Jesus, the Word, the Son of God. John places Jesus as being in existence before time. Jude says the same thing in Jude 1:25, when he says, “To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. We can take it for granted, then, that before there was firmament and water, before there was light and darkness, before there were any living things on the earth, there was the Word, Jesus.  


At the end of verse 1, John says "the Word was God."  Wow! What a short, clear, momentous statement! In the simplest of terms, John is telling us about the Trinity. Well, he's laying the groundwork, anyway, by telling us of Jesus and God the Father.  The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, He who we call Jesus and Savior, was God. He is God. Let's not get enmeshed in theological discussions about the Trinity . . . Satan loves for us to be in discord and disunity -- and the most important things are the ones that we can discuss and agree about. We know by seeing with the eyes of our faith that there is God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Spirit, our comforter. We know that at Bethlehem we worship Jesus as God and Savior. We know with our hearts that we can confess as Thomas did, "My Lord and my God!" The joy and wonder of this makes it clear -- throughout our studies in John's gospel, we are going to spend day after day getting to know God -- because we are getting to know Jesus.


Here's the next leaf on the clover, as some have preached about the Trinity. The Word, Jesus, was "with God," and He is God. This is the mystery: Jesus is God, and He has a relationship with God. He is the image of God; He reveals perfectly all that God is, and yet He stands forth in all eternity as a distinct Person. There are three separate centers of consciousness; two are mentioned here: the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit will be introduced later in the gospel. 


Paul told us in Corinthians that we "see in a mirror dimly" and we know only in partial ways, so don't stress about this mystery. Don't fuss, fret, or fume, and don't allow anyone to harm your faith by making you try to explain it! But at the same time, don't ignore it. If Jesus Christ is not perfect, sinless God, He cannot save us (Hebrews 2:14-15). He is our Redeemer!

In verses 2 and 3, we are reminded that as God, Jesus is our Maker. All things were made through Him . . .That same Jesus who became flesh and dwelt among mankind, who taught the disciples, healed the sick, rebuked demons, protected us, loved us, and then died and rose again -- FOR US -- it is He that created all of the awesome universe. The mercy and the majesty are overwhelming, when we remember that He said He will be our Savior, Lord, and Friend. 

Powerful stuff, huh? And we're only in the first three verses! I hope you will join me as we continue next week in John's gospel.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

John 1:1-3 The Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
 John 1:1-3

We talked yesterday about how the gospel of John is an eyewitness account of three years of Jesus' life. And we talked about the purpose of the book -- it's written to help people believe on Christ and to have eternal life in Him.
But this book is NOT only for unbelievers! Christians must go on believing in Jesus to be saved in the end . . . later in John (15:6) Jesus says, "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned."  So we can see that John is writing both to spark faith in unbelievers, and to sustain faith in believers. 

Today, let's focus on "the Word." Why did John call Jesus that?
I think we will see in our studies that John came to see the words of Jesus as the truth of God, and also saw the person of Jesus as the truth of God -- that these were so intertwined, so unified, that Jesus Himself was the message of God.
Let's dig deeper.
John used a word that both his Jewish and Gentile readers would be familiar with: Logos. That is the Greek word in this passage that is translated "Word." Logos was a common concept in both Jewish and Greek thought and philosophy in that day.
The Jewish listener would have heard the "word" of God from the Old Testament, personified (acting like a human) as an instrument for the carrying out of God's will. If you would like to check out some verses, try Psalm 33:6, or 107:20.
In Greek philosophy, logos was used to describe how their gods (and they had a slew of 'em!) would create things and communicate with them. Logos was thought of as a kind of bridge between the gods and the material, tangible world.

So, what John did in this introduction was to use a familiar word that would have made a good starting point for both the Jewish and the Gentile readers -- but then he goes a step further.
He presents Jesus not merely as a bridge for communication, but as a real, living being -- fully divine, but yet fully human. In verse 14, we will study where John writes, "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

So he makes the distinction that Jesus was God's revelation of Himself in the flesh, that He is the living Word of God, revealing God to man so that all who believe in Him can be redeemed from their sin.  This is what God wanted to say to mankind. It was not only or mostly what Jesus said, but also who Jesus was, and what He did, too.  When Jesus spoke, His words explained Himself and His work, but that self and that work were the main truths -- the message that God wanted to reveal.  "I am the truth," He said in John 14:6, and He came to witness to the truth, as well. (John 18:37)

John uses this same terminology in Revelation. In Revelation 19:13, he describes Jesus Christ's return in glory: "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is the Word of God."

We humans like to say that we have the "last word" in certain situations. John is telling us that he has witnessed all the truth, the glory, the light; he's heard all of the words that Jesus said in his living and teaching, and in his dying and rising again . . .and he sums it all up by saying that He is "the Word."
He is the final, the ultimate, the decisive, true and reliable Word of God.

And we'll talk tomorrow about the fact that He always has been!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

John 1:1-3 Don't take three years to get it

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
 John 1:1-3

John begins his important work by laying out some foundational truths. This first passage is brought about by his desire to impress us with those truths. He had one purpose in writing . . . hold on, and I hope you don't get motion-sick -- let's hop all the way over to John 20:30-31 . . .
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John and the other disciples had the opportunity of seeing Jesus "up close and personal" for three years. In that time, they wobbled back and forth between belief and disbelief; their faith was a fragile thing, and there were times when they consulted among themselves, and other times that they asked their Lord questions. 
It took John and the rest of the men that Jesus chose more than three years to figure out the enormousness of who Jesus was. They finally figured out the fullness of that truth, and they spread that truth across the known world -- ultimately impacting the entire planet! 

But here is the reason he wrote his gospel: in a nutshell, he didn't want his readers to take three years to find out what took him so long to grasp. In fact, he doesn't want us to take more than three verses to figure it out! He wants us to have in our minds, as we read and study, the eternal deity and Creator rights and majesty of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So in these first three verses, he tells us the most ultimate things about Jesus that he possibly can.

That is John's point here. He was hoping that his readers would read this gospel account humbly, reverently, and with hearts that were awestruck with the knowledge that the man Who ate, drank, and got tired was the God of all creation, in human form. The man Who met the woman at the well, and also preached to thousands on a mountain side, is the Creator of this universe. With the very first words from his writing instrument, he is going to blow us away with the identity of Jesus -- God Who became flesh and dwelt among men. 

He knows that this foundational truth will amaze us. Jew or Gentile, it is difficult to grasp the fact that an almighty God would clothe Himself in human form and suffer as Christ did. But there is no mistaking -- we will read this gospel with the solid knowledge that Jesus Christ was with God, and He was God, and that the One Who laid down His life for us was also the same One Who created this world and all of us!

Jesus was clothed with infinite majesty, and yet He put that aside to come to earth. Paul was struck with this same thought as he contemplated the majesty of Christ. He wrote in Philippians chapter two:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
We'll study here in verses 1-3 again tomorrow. I'd like to suggest that we keep a journal of our studies of John, just as Tonya asked when this study blog was young. Today, enter your thoughts on the majesty of Jesus, and His mercy toward us. If some other verses come to mind, enter them in your journal, or leave a comment.
Let's make certain it doesn't take us three years to get it!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A hopeful outlook

I have an especially hopeful outlook this day.

Kinda like when you watch a sunrise.


Well, we are going to begin a study of the Gospel of John.  In and of itself, the message of the gospel of Christ is a very inspiring and hopeful one, but that is not what cranked my tractor!

Have you ever considered who wrote the gospels? Or the other books of the New Testament? Or the Bible, for that matter!

I know, I know, many times there are huge discussions about who wrote what and when. But I think that most agree that the author of John's gospel is, in fact, John. Which one? Well, does the phrase "the sons of Boanerges" ring a bell? (Grin)

The first mention we have of the "sons of thunder" as Jesus called them, is on the beach when He called them to follow Him. They were mending their nets, and they rose and followed Him on a journey that would dramatically change their lives, and change the world.
These zealous, high-spirited men would become witnesses to the life, work, and resurrection of Christ. They also would slip up on some of the banana peels that Satan would throw their way . . .

At one point, the people of a village in Samaria were un-responsive to Christ's message. It was James and John who got excited and suggested that He should call down fire from heaven on the villagers!

And then, when Jesus was talking about His coming death . . . He was revealing how He would be betrayed, then handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, scourged, reviled and killed . . . who was it that suddenly blurted out "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:37). 
That is something similar to saying "Can I have that great coin collection of yours?" to someone who just found out they have only a day or two to live.
James and John were human. They were rough, sometimes insensitive, and talked sometimes when they should have been quiet.

Do they remind you of anyone? Personally, I see myself there. I hope that we will all be honest and really look at ourselves.

But here is the reason I am hopeful as I begin to prepare our study of John's gospel: God transformed the "Sons of Thunder" completely.  At the end of their lives, and down through history, these men became known for something else.
James was the first apostle to be martyred. And John became known as the apostle of love. He was the author of the Gospel of John as well as the epistles of 1, 2, and 3 John. God made James and John into different people than they were before—and He can do the same for us.

Join me, won't you? This promises to be a study that will bruise our toes, and cleanse our hearts, and send us to our knees asking God to help us follow and glorify Him.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A fresh start

I hope that you will join me on Monday . . . we will be starting a brand new study. I believe God is leading us to the fourth book contained in our New Testament, the Gospel of John, and I'm looking forward to what the Spirit will teach us.

See you on Monday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bear with me . . .

I hope you will bear with me as I pray and ask for guidance. We have completed our study of the book of Proverbs, and I am considering what the Lord would have us move forward into. I will let you know so that if you would like to, you may begin reading while I prepare posts, and we will have a running start!

If you have a suggestion that you would like to offer, I am open to those, so leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

Thank you for stopping by, and for your faithfulness to this blog. I know that not everyone has time to comment, but I see on the "traffic" data for the blog, that followers do stop by to read. I'm grateful for the opportunity and I hope that you will continue to read and share your thoughts.

Be back soon!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Well dressed

Whether your tastes run to traditional, or you are interested in the latest trends, you probably pay a pretty good bit of attention to what you wear when you are "out and about."

What should I wear today? You may ask yourself as you get ready for whatever your day has in store for you. 
There are some things that we as Christian women should definitely include in our wardrobe. I thought as a conclusion to our studies in Proverbs 31, that we could look at some of these things that will make us "well dressed."
You didn't know you'd find fashion tips in the Bible, did you? (Grin)

1. First on the list, and most important, is a smile! We have every reason to be happy -- we have, according to John 16:22, "hope above all hope" and we need to remember to smile. If others see us wearing unhappy faces, they probably won't be interested in serving our Lord! We have joy in our hearts and we can share it - so we need to wear a smile.

2. A gentle, quiet spirit is next on our list of what to wear. I Peter 3:3-4 is our fashion tip for this one. Does this mean we must be silent? No!  A gentle spirit is one that is "moderate in action, not harsh or severe" according to the dictionary. We can show compassion, understanding, and sympathy for others, and our spirit will draw them to our Father.

3. We should also wear some inner peace. This tip comes from Romans 5:1. Remember how the Spirit-filled woman of Proverbs 31 relied completely on God for her strength?  He gives us strength and peace as we face our life; if we face obstacles or persecution, or if we are on a mountain-high experience, He has said He will be with us.

4. Next on the list - contentment. This fashion tip is from Hebrews 13:5, and encourages us to avoid the single-minded pursuit of wealth. There is not much that is worse to see on a Christian, than a jealous spirit. We might not have the "latest and greatest" when it comes to electronic toys or designer clothing, but when we count our blessings we will see that we are truly wealthy!

5. We should make sure that we wear confidence, too. But not a puffed-up self confidence; we need to show off a faith in Christ alone. We can do all things through Him Who strengthens us, right? (Philippians 4:13) And don't forget the many times that David proclaimed God to be a refuge and strength, and a very present help in troubled times! (Psalm 46:1)

6. Lastly, here is a fashion tip from the book of Matthew: kindness. (Matthew 7:2) We need to be careful to treat others kindly, gently, and with compassion, considering the feelings of others to be truly important. How would we feel if we were in their shoes?

There are other "fashion tips" for Christian women in the Word . . . we've only covered a few here. It's just as important to be a well-dressed Christian in the way we think and act, as in the clothing that we select before we go out. Perhaps you have another verse that you would like to add, in the comments, that addresses this topic?