Before Thanksgiving, Halloween or even the first cool snap, Christmas 2017 was rolling into town. When Walmart’s trees are twinkling before summer is out the door, you know by December it’s going to be hard to find spiritual room in the inn. But find it we must, otherwise the most important will get shut out: 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 (John 1:14).
So let’s make some room in the inn.
Everything has a beginning. A job. Marriage. You and me. Everything has a beginning, except the Word. When John writes and the Word became flesh, there’s no becoming that, unless you are first there to become it.
In fact, John begins the fourth Gospel with his game-changing prologue stating the Word, Who is Jesus Christ, has always been around: In the beginning was the Word . . . (John 1:1). Before the beginning of this time-space-material universe, Jesus Christ was there and always was there. That’s the sense in the original of that tiny, but critical three-lettered ‘was.’ Confirmed by other Scripture, Jesus Christ had no beginning. There’s never been a ‘first’ for Him. The uncreated One has never been not. With personality, intellect, creativity . . . before Jesus was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, He eternally was.
He knew God. Intimately knew God. Knew all that He thought, felt, planned. Intimately knew God through and through. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (John 1:1). When John wrote his letter, several different terms could all be translated into our English as ‘with.’ The Holy Spirit moved him to chose the one that had the sense of ‘face to face’ closeness. Before this time-space-material universe, the Word was [face to face ] with God.
You likely will be face to face this Christmas with family and friends. You will talk, share, listen, laugh . . . which means both you and those around, are able to think, understanding each other’s communications. With family and friends you will enjoy one another’s presence. That’s so, because there is equality between both you and them. Come time around the tree, you will not be face to face with a catfish or a grubby earthworm where there’s inequality. You will be face to face with another, your equal, a person.
Back before Gen 1:1 where the Bible says ‘In the beginning,’ Jesus as the Word was ‘face to face’ with God, with both Him and God able to think, understanding each other’s communications. Each in eternity past were able to enjoy one another’s presence. That could only be so if there was equality between the two . . . one eternal person facing another eternal person. That’s why Jesus knew all that God thought, all that God felt, all that God planned.
And . . . if we had not connected the dots by now, John connects them for us: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1) . . . which makes John 1:14 so stunning: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, who cried, nursed, and wet, having come into this dimension from another where He always had been . . . was God Himself! Stunning. Inexplicably stunning. God became man without ceasing to be God. Perhaps the Athanasian Creed formulated it best: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; . . . perfect God, and perfect man . . . who although he be God and man: yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the manhood into God.”
So, don’t let your inn get crowded out. Keep the main thing the main thing; the most important where it belongs.
"During the Great Depression that hit the United States in the 1930s, a family in the Midwest struggled to put food on their table. They had no money for luxuries. One day posters all over town announced that a circus was coming. Admission would be $1. A boy in the family wanted to see the show, but his father told him that he would have to earn the money on his own. The youngster had never seen a circus before, so he worked feverishly and was able to buy a ticket. On the day the circus arrived, he went to see the performers and the animals parade through town. As he watched, a clown came dancing over to him, and the boy put his ticket in the clown's hand. Then he stood on the curb and cheered as the rest of the parade moved by. The youngster rushed home to tell his parents what he had seen and how exciting the circus was. His father listened, then took his son in his arms and said, ‘Son, you didn't see the circus. All you saw was the parade.’" (Haddon Robinson, Our Daily Bread; Dec 3, 1995).
The trees, lights, candles and wreaths; even rounds of ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’ . . . Christmas has rolled into town. Enjoy it. Enjoy it with family and friends. But remember parades are not the real thing.
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.
To you and yours: a most blessed Christmas! Blaine
“Who wants it?” That’s what my wife asked a classroom full of VBS kids. Tinsel wrapped, topped with a red bow, the present caused a near riot. Finally, when the winner was selected and tore into the gift, he got . . . a ziplock bag stuffed full of garbage. The moral? Temptation never delivers what it promises.
But it sure looks pretty, doesn’t it? All gussied up, temptation promises to do only good. A facebook chat with an old flame . . . being less than truthful on that resume . . . smart-phone gazing at what your eyes have no business seeing . . .
Of course what’s temptation for one person may not be for another. And for sure, our temptation is different from what our great, great, greats to the nth degree faced. Adam could not run around on Eve. Eve could not bad mouth her mother-in-law. And neither could cast a coveting eye over at their neighbors saying, “I wish we had a place like that.” There was just some temptation that was not going to work on them . . . which says at its heart, no matter the backdrop, temptation is telling God ‘I want it . . . get lost.’
That’s why we need to learn to pray as Jesus taught us, especially with that last request in what’s known as the Lord’s prayer: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:13). That’s asking the Father to keep us away from those ziplock bags.
Sin seldom looks like sin. In fact, our culture gives it slick names. Branded as safe, deserved, and really not that bad . . .sin seldom looks like what it really is. The red bow is not soaked in garbage juice. There’s no card that says what’s inside really stinks. No maggots. Remember the tree looked . . . good for food . . . a delight to the eyes . . . (Gen 3:6). All Eve could think of was why not. Sometime it’s called love. Other times it’s justified as meeting needs that have long gone unmet. Maybe it’s even labeled happiness. The first bite is always free. Again, it’s why we need to pray: ‘Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.’
“Timeout Blaine: I thought God does not tempt us.”
You’re right. Scripture says, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one (James 1:13).
Temptation’s appeal is always to a legitimate need. It says “Trust me and I can satisfy you.” For example, we need food and temptation says, “Trust me” . . . and we over do it.
God has no needs. None. If therefore He has no needs, temptation cannot say to Him, “Trust me and I can satisfy you” when He is already satisfied with Himself. That’s why James says God cannot be tempted with evil. And since He’s 100% pure spiritual health – Holy, Holy, Holy – it’s impossible for Him to tempt us and say, ‘Hey, you really need these germs too.’ God’s not going to tempt with sin when He doesn’t have any Himself.
Rather temptation begins with us: But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:13-14). And when there’s something that really ‘speaks to that desire’ – whether on the small screen, at the office, or in a bottle – Temptation takes on a life of it’s own.
So we pray before it gets to that point. Like keeping gas away from a lit match, we need the Father to do the same for us. Given our fallenness, He knows what can set us off. Every day, at the start of your day, ask Him to lead you not into temptation, but deliver you from evil.
This is a prayer of distrust. You know you are combustible. You know you don’t know what lurks out there.
This is a prayer of profound need. You are not super saint. You are not even pint size saint.
This is a prayer that not only knows temptation never delivers what it promises. It never promises what it delivers.
So pray. “God I don’t want to sin against you. But I don’t always recognize those situations that are too much for me. Don’t let me be blindsided. Don’t let me be foolish. Don’t let me be naive. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”
In fact, why not pray it now?
Blessings – Blaine
So . . . is it fake news or not? No, I’m not talking about what’s published in today’s New York Times, Washington Post, nor broadcast over Fox or CNN. This is about something infinitely more serious. It’s about the creation account with Adam and Eve. It’s about the fall and the flood. It’s about every Old Testament book on down to the gospels, with Jesus Christ and His miracles, cross, and resurrection. It’s about everything recorded after that to the last verse, in the last chapter, of the last book of the Bible. Is Scripture telling us what really was, is, and will be . . . or is it riddled with something less than truth?
To many, taking the Bible at face value is rather naive, if not worse. Even some who claim to be serious followers of Jesus Christ find a plain, straightforward reading of Genesis 1-3 just too much to swallow. Ditto that with a flood that covered the whole earth. Science reigns! . . . don’t be a medieval relic . . . either get with the program or get left behind!
So is it really necessary to cover for God and His book in order not to look foolish to 21st century man? Since the latest theories tell us things written in Scripture are not as they appear to be, must we offer alternative explanations to save face? Do we need to try to make those explanations as spiritual as possible so we can still call it God’s Word? Not according to the Bible:
Scripture Says It Tells Us The Way Things Really Are – That includes back in the beginning when the Bible describes how everything got here within a span six real days, days like our real days. It includes the details when God made the first two people, Adam and Eve. In fact, all the way to the end, Scripture claims to be telling us the simple, plain truth; the whole plain truth; and nothing but the truth, without any need for accommodations centuries later. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17).
We would have never known how things got started, got into a mess, and how it’s all going to end just by observing people, this world, or the galaxies out in the universe. In fact, we would have never known Who was behind it all unless God spoke up. He did. He made sure we had a written explanation of Who He is and what’s been going on, without the slightest hint of fake news. All Scripture is breathed out by God. Every bit of it. From Gen 1:1 to Rev 22:21.
God superintended over the human authors of Scripture, using their personalities, cultural settings, and particular circumstances to record precisely what He wanted, without turning them into robots. When writers like Moses, Peter, and Paul wrote, it was God spiritually exhaling His revelation through them, not vice versa. Though God used human authors, Scripture is all from God. It was ‘breathed out’ by Him so that what was recorded as they wrote word by word in the original manuscripts, was precisely what God wanted. Without that Divine break in, we would have been left to connect dots that just were either non-connectable, or connectable in a way that was not reality. God wanted to connect them for us, so that we could understand in a plain, straightforward reading of the text as to Who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will yet do, all without error.
This is why Jesus made such a bold statement about Scripture in His Sermon on the Mount: For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matt 5:18). An iota? That’s the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet (paralleling the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which looks like our comma). And the dot? That stands for the slightest stroke that distinguishes letters (like the bottom stroke that makes an E different from an F). Jesus is saying it’s all going to be accomplished because God made sure that what was written in the original, down to the teeniest letter and least stroke, was just like He wanted it be. Wow! God meant for it all to be there. The book we call the Bible is so reliable, so accurate, so perfectly complete, that not even the slightest, smallest fragment of a word is there by accident. You talk about dominance! That means with everything it says, Scripture takes authority over all. It is the final word . . . and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
And remember . . .
Nothing Is Impossible With God – Even in what’s considered non-spiritual, historical narratives, Scripture claims perfect accuracy, and that includes the creation account. In a normal, straightforward reading of Genesis 1-2, the Bible is claiming God did it all by His spoken Word, within a span of six 24 hour days. He made Adam and Eve appear with age, though on that sixth day they were brand new. Even Jesus feeding both the 5000 and 4000 men (plus women and children), created edible fish that appeared to have age, though they never knew what it was to have a good swim. God can do anything He wants, any way He wants, anytime He wants.
No, we cannot prove that the beginning happened in six 24 hour days, with humanity starting with one man and one woman--just as alternative talk as to how it all began is unprovable. Nobody was there with an iPhone. Yet the Bible reminds us to be careful drawing conclusions based on visual observations. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb 11:3). We don’t want to hear what that dad heard when he approached the Lord with his convulsing child: And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:21-23). If all things are possible from that time forward, then we had better believe all things were possible from that time past . . . and that includes a plain, straightforward reading of the beginning.
So from cover to cover, it’s not fake news. Don’t feel like you’ve got to make excuses. It’s okay to believe the Bible. It is the unapologetic, inerrant Word of God.