A Prayer Prompted by John 2

Gracious Father,

Thank you for giving us the perfect Savior in the person of Jesus Christ your Son.  Help us to always be ready to obey him, even when we are not sure where obedience will lead.  And allow us, through this process to develop greater intimacy with you.

Then Father, when we look at the religious leaders, we realize that we may be in that position today in relation to others.  Help us to always be an encouragement to those who need to grow in their faith. Help us further to make it easier for those who don’t know you to come to know you personally.

Help us to be stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks to other people’s faith.

In Christ our Lord,

Amen

And the Word became flesh – John 1:14

The late Grant Osborne, commenting on this verse, said, 

In my opinion, this is the single greatest sentence ever written in the history of the human language, the deepest theological statement ever written.*

Here it is in its entirety,

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We live very far removed from stable in Bethlehem and the cross of Calvary.  From our standpoint, we look back on millennia of church history, some of which is exceedingly troubling to look back on, assuming we ever take the time.  But if we go back far enough, we see the truth of the incarnation, the moment when God the Son took upon himself the nature of humanity.  This makes all the difference.

He became one of us.  One result of that universe-changing event is that we never have the need, nor even the option, to hesitatingly raise our eyes to heaven, turn our thoughts toward God, and imagine that he does not know what it is like to live the life that we live.

His was only one life, but it was full enough of relatable experience.  He was born under the specter of illegitimacy in a cultural setting where that mattered a great deal.  It would seem by the time he entered public life that his adopted father Joseph was deceased.  This means he bore substantial responsibility for the family’s provision while he was still young.  Though he attracted a following in his ministry, those closest to him and those who mattered in religious circles tended to misunderstand or oppose him.  Eventually he was betrayed by a friend, arrested, tried and sentenced to death unjustly.

There were those, however, like the Apostle John, who realized when they were in his presence that they were in the presence of deity.  He was human, but so much more than human – so much more than anyone or anything that anyone had ever seen.  His was a glory unique to himself.  

This didn’t have to happen.  Christ didn’t have to be born, or die, or take our sins upon himself at Calvary, or rise from the dead.  This was God coming down to meet us on our own level and living a life full of tedious, miserable human experience.  This life was made glorious simply because he lived it, and nothing he ever did could remain poor or miserable or insignificant.  

And he did it for our sake. 

No deeper theology need ever be written and no deeper encouragement need ever be offered than what we find here in John 1:14.  Let us never tire of it.  We have everything to gain from this reality and everything to lose if we fail to appreciate its wonder.

* Osborne, Grant R.. John Verse by Verse (Osborne New Testament Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 703-704). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.

A custom of Jesus – Luke 4:16

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day … 

Sometimes Christians fall a little short (or even a lot) by attending church on Sunday, but letting that be about all there is to their Christian life.  More regular or deeper fellowship with other believers is not high on their list of priorities.  Daily encounters with God through the Bible or prayer are seldom had.  

And then there is another kind of problem.  One frequently encounters professing Christians who rarely if ever go to church at all.  Once in a while a person is willing to admit that it is just through negligence or laziness or what used to be called sloth.  If you’ve ever had the good fortune to see a genuine mammalian, tropical sloth in action, or sloth inaction, you understand why the word applies.  If this is your problem, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath.  It was his custom according to Luke 4:16.  Make it your custom too.

Worse yet is the person who says in a somewhat self-satisfied way, “I am a Christian and think highly of Jesus, but I do not take part in a church.”  This person sees no need for the fellowship of the saints, the regular teaching of the Scriptures, or the exercise of his or her gifts in the context of a local body of believers.  

Frequently, this person has been wounded by a church or its leaders and sometimes more than once.  That’s sad, really, but so often true.  We should not lightly brush off a person’s deep struggles or too quickly minimize their experience.

The same truly wounded person should still take a lesson from the custom of Jesus.  If anyone knew of the hypocrisy of religious people, it was Christ.  If anyone could afford to do without an empty religious tradition, it was Christ.  He was rejected in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he grew up, and almost killed by those people here in Luke 4.  Later, in Capernaum, he encountered a demonized man at a synagogue service, who then began shouting at him and made Jesus the center of attention.  

The truth is, we need a weekly dose of God’s people, with all their good, bad, wonderful, stupid and terrible qualities.  Since the days of the New Testament, Christians have gathered together on the first day of the week and there is no compelling reason to change that custom now.  Learning to get along with all these imperfect people is one of the main ingredients in our spiritual growth. 

If you don’t find encouragement with other believers, find a church and go there to be an encouragement to them.  If you find hypocrisy, make it a point to be the least hypocritical person in the room. 

And then, on top of everything else, humbly admit that you may have a problem.  Perhaps your previous wounds have made you overly judgmental or somewhat too critical of others.  This is understandable, but it still is not good.  Maybe you are a little too afraid of what may or may not happen again.  Understandable again, but it is no way to live.  If you honestly talk about your issue you are likely to find someone else there who will know exactly what you are talking about and might have some encouragement for you on that level.  In other words, this sort of wounding happens a lot, so you are not alone in your experience.

Once again, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath.  It was his custom according to Luke 4:16.  Make it your custom too.

Palmer St. Podcast: A Witness or an Encouragement

Colossians 4:2-18

In this passage, Paul touches on relationships both inside and outside the church. He’ll show us that all of these relationships are important, but they are not all the same. In every relationship that we have we are to be either a witness or an encouragement.

Col 4.02-18.mp3

Col 4.02-18.pdf