Posts Tagged With: faith

The Word Became Flesh. II: The Word Was God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5; all Scripture quotations are from the NASB1995).

Image via Pixabay.

The Gospel of John is often called “the theological Gospel.” Whereas the three other three Gospels mainly report what Jesus taught and did, John’s Gospel interjects explanation and commentary. He also shares more “private teaching” that was deeper and more complex than what Jesus said in the other Gospels. John wrote near the end of the first century when several heresies were developing in the church (see his three letters for more background on those). Therefore, his Gospel rebuts many of those false teachings.

One such teaching was the notion that Jesus was not fully God and fully man. Some Christians thought that Jesus was just an ordinary man. Others said He was God but only looked like a real person; they also claimed He only seemed to die on the cross but only fell unconscious and woke up while in the tomb.

In response to these teachings, John writes the verses we read above. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This might confuse us, but it probably made more sense to John’s readers: first-century Jews who knew rabbinic tradition and Gentiles familiar with the philosophy of Plato.

Jews would immediately recognize the Word of God with its many facets. They had their sacred writings, which we now call the Old Testament. But, God’s Word was also a creative force that exercised His power. God spoke the universe into existence at creation (Genesis 1). It was not merely letters on a scroll or the wavelike vibration of air molecules to generate sound. It had power.

Jews would also associate God’s Word with wisdom, which is described as having a personality in the Old Testament, for example, in Proverbs 1:20-33 and 8:22-26:

“Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square; At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings…” (Proverbs 1:20-21).

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world” (Proverbs 8:22-26).

Image via YouVersion Bible app.

It would not surprise a Jew or a Platonist that the Word was God. Followers of Plato would say that the Logos (the Greek word translated as “Word” above) is the wisdom, logic, and order that guides the universe. What made it different was the idea that this Word or Logos was not only God but also became human:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

The Word was not just letters on a page, nor was it a set of abstract concepts or ideas. It became a man, Jesus Christ. He became a man, but He was always God. From before the beginning of time, Jesus—the Word of God—was God. He did not grow up and learn how to be God, declare Himself to be God, or figure out how to show us that we are all divine. No, in a unique way, He was God: before He was born, while He lived, after His resurrection, and throughout eternity.

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…” (Colossians 2:9).

When He was conceived in Mary’s womb, the fullness of deity dwelt within a single-celled zygote, then an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a child, and eventually a Man. At all points in His earthly life, He was God.

The Word and Wisdom that shaped the universe entered creation as a vulnerable child. John wrote that “the darkness did not comprehend it.” Indeed, few understood Him: not those who lived in spiritual darkness, nor the religious leaders, nor even His own family. His disciples usually did not understand Him. Christians who boast that we walk by faith in Him do not fully understand Him. If the idea that Jesus could be fully divine when He was just a single cell within His mother’s body blows your mind, you are not alone. The mystery that Jesus could be both God and man overwhelms our understanding. To follow Him, we must take a leap of faith. We must remember and believe that God is beyond our comprehension. We have to trust Him and not our understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The power that created the universe became human. That power now dwells personally with and in us by His Holy Spirit. Since He can govern the galaxies, He can easily deal with the problems we face. The Life Recovery Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1998) shares the following lesson from John 1:1-13:

“The same Power that created the universe is available to create a new life from our shattered hopes. The light of life that exposes and drives away the darkness of the human race is the same light that brightens the dark corners of our world. This source of all life and true light of the world is the source of all recovery. Eternal life and true recovery are ours when we believe what God says, renounce our tendency to do things our way, and receive the one whom God sent to help us.”

Just trust Him.

Do you have any thoughts about this passage that you would like to share? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2021 In Review: God Is In Control; I Am Not

2021 is coming to a close. Perhaps you are making New Year’s resolutions. I usually joke about them. On December 30, 2009, my Facebook status announced, “26 hours to accomplish the resolutions I made last New Year’s Day. I give up.” Another year, I made a New Year’s resolution to complete writing a book and have it published by the end of the year. It still has not happened. The best-laid plans of mice, men, and Michael often go awry. Often, the unexpected interrupts everything we planned to do.

Photo from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/745052. Creative Commons.

Nowadays, I usually just tell people that my New Year’s resolution is to avoid making New Year’s resolutions. That way, I can fail and succeed at the same time.

However, like most people, I usually approach the New Year with some hopes and goals, even if I do not call them “resolutions.” It seems like a good time to look back at the past year, see where you have been, and decide in which direction you want your life to go. We can always choose a time for self-reflection, to seek God’s direction for the future. For most people, January 1 seems like a good time to do this.

Many have not seen our hopes for 2021 fulfilled. We thought this would be the year that the COVID-19 pandemic would end so that life could return to normal. Many people thought the vaccines would end the pandemic. Instead, we are seeing record-breaking numbers of new cases emerge. Thank God, fewer people are dying, but people are still getting sick. Local and state governments are still issuing mask mandates. Nobody expected the omicron variant. Despite people’s best efforts, widespread availability of vaccines, and government mandates, the pandemic continues. There are some things that human ingenuity cannot control.

As 2020 ended, Darkened Glass Reflections was enjoying new records for the number of visits each month. Some time in mid-2020, I read a blog post or article that said that it might be worthwhile to collect ad revenue on a blog when it starts getting a few thousand “hits” per month. DGR started accumulating over 1000 hits every month in mid-2020, and the numbers kept growing. I expected this blog to continue to grow throughout the year, perhaps reaching that “next level.” All I had to do was keep writing, do what I could to share and promote the blog, and expect it to continue to grow.

Then life got in the way—or, should I say, death. I can usually find time to write during most of the year, with only a brief slowdown during the summer. My wife and I usually travel to Missouri, where we visit with my son and his family. For about two weeks, I focus on my family and do not have time to write. The weeks before and after do not allow much time for blogging either. Some years, I re-post favorite older articles for a month instead of writing new material.

However, this year, life did not return to “normal” after our July road trip. My son planned to bring the family to Florida to visit my mother shortly after our visit. However, as COVID numbers spiked in her area, she urged them not to come. So instead, they visited us in New York (my son’s first visit to New York since before his wedding, and the first visit for his wife and children). During that visit, Mom became ill and was rushed to the hospital. Kidney problems and other long-term issues had taken their toll on her.

So, between July and mid-November, my wife and I were either traveling to Missouri (once) or Florida (three times), hosting family from out of state, or preparing for one of those visits.

Despite every effort, Mom passed away in November, approximately 24 hours after beginning home hospice care.

Needless to say, this did not affect only my writing. Pretty much every aspect of my life (as well as the lives of my wife, siblings, their spouses, and other family members) was turned upside down. I mention the blog mainly because it was one “measurable” part of my life that suffered.

Perhaps the big lesson from 2021 is that many things are beyond our control. We like to think we can solve our problems. Sometimes, we cannot. Humanity is powerless to stop a microscopic organism from causing havoc on our world. We are all essentially powerless over life and death. We are barely able to maintain control over how we manage our time. Life and problems—some mere annoyances, some life-altering crises—affect us all.

So, if 2021 has taught me anything, it is that we are not in control. However, God is. Perhaps, if I must make a 2022 New Year’s resolution, it is to let God be God and trust Him in all things. I cannot control the circumstances life will throw at me. I can only choose to be obedient to Him and allow Him to decide what “success” looks like.

It may not be a measurable goal like “publish one book,” “lose 20 pounds,” or “exercise for one hour three times each week.” However, this open-ended commitment is the only one any of us can truly make. Circumstances may force us to change our plans day by day, but we can always choose to remain faithful to God.

What lessons have you learned about God and life in 2021 that will shape 2022? Please share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christian Life, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus, Family, and Grandparents

The parents of Mary, traditionally believed to be named Joachim and Anne, are commemorated in traditional churches on July 26.

This blog have been extra quiet for the last few weeks. Every year, my wife and I take a road trip from our home on Long Island to visit my son and his family in Springfield, Missouri for about one or two weeks. That vacation occurred during the first two weeks of July, and we are still trying to get back into a normal routine since we returned. However, normalcy is a little hard to accomplish, since my wife’s family is visiting from Florida and Oregon. We still have plans to visit my mother in a couple months. It may take a while before we can settle back into a routine, but family is important to us.

Family is also important to God. He came up with the idea of having a man and a woman come together to bear and raise children. When He became man, as Jesus Christ, He became part of a family with Joseph and Mary, along with the children they had after Him (I believe in the traditional Protestant belief that the brothers and sisters of Jesus, mentioned in Mark 6:3, were born after Jesus and conceived in the usual way). In fact, Jesus even had grandparents.

The child Mary with her parents. At Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Photo by Nheyob, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We usually do not think about Jesus’ grandparents. Their only mention by name in the Gospels occurs in the two genealogies of Jesus, where two different people are named as the father of Joseph. Some people think one of those two—either Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Eli (Luke 3:23)—is actually Mary’s father. That theory would require some real acrobatics with the words of Scripture. I believe Joseph could have been adopted; perhaps his parents died when he was young and he was raised by another family. Although I am not aware of any theologians who share this view, I think it resolves the discrepancy between the two different genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke without trying to twist the plain wording that both list Joseph’s lineage or assuming that one is incorrect, while accepting a plausible set of circumstances allowing for Joseph to have two “fathers.”

The Roman Catholic Church believes that Mary’s parents were named Joachim (derived from a Hebrew name that means “Yahweh prepares”) and Anne (the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Hannah,” which means “grace”). The Book of Common Prayer commemorates them on July 26 simply as “The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Whatever their names were, perhaps they deserve a day of commemoration. Joseph and Mary must have been remarkably godly people. Mary had found favor with God (Luke 1:30), so much so that He trusted her to bear His Son. Joseph was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), one who would make the difficult, probably scandalous, decision to raise a child who was not really his own simply because God told him to do so. Such persons are a testimony to their upbringing. I believe Joseph and Mary were fully prepared to raise the Son of God because their own parents had successfully raised them to be people of faith and servants of God.

So, although we cannot be certain of their names, we know their legacy. We can be certain of the impact they had on the world.

Whether you are a parent, hope someday to become a parent, are already a grandparent, or play an active role in helping friends or family members raise their children: Remember the legacy of Jesus’ grandparents. We may not know for certain who they were, but God does. We may not know all we would like to know about them, but we know how their children and their Grandson changed the world. Build your legacy. “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NASB), and continue to build your legacy to future generations.

Family is important to God. Perhaps eternity will measure your impact not so much by what you accomplished, but by what was accomplished by those whose lives you molded.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Family | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sacrifices of Praise

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (First Thessalonians 5:16-18; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created by the YouVersion Bible app.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. Praise God in all circumstances. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have heard these words of counsel. Maybe you have given this advice to others. It sounds like a few simple steps to become a spiritual giant.

That is not how Paul meant it. This was not advice for prosperous people with great health, social standing, high-paying jobs, and a comfortable lifestyle. This was written for people facing persecution. Some Thessalonians probably wondered if God had abandoned them. These were the people whom Paul urged to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in every circumstance.

The Thessalonian church had a brief but colorful history before Paul wrote his two letters to it. It was formed when Paul visited the city, with his partner Silas, on his second missionary journey. Not long before, they had been imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40). Their ministry in Thessalonica got off to a good start: Paul preached in the local synagogue, and several people received the good news. Soon thereafter, though, persecution broke out against the young church, and the new Christians persuaded Paul and Silas to flee for their lives to Berea (Acts 17:1-10).

The church continued to grow, but persecution continued. Furthermore, false teaching arose in the church as some preachers claimed that the second coming of Jesus had already occurred. Some scholars think they were teaching that Jesus was not literally coming back and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was His “second coming.” It would be easy to lose heart.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. Even when times are hard. Even when you are suffering. Even when tempted to think God has forgotten about you. Do not give up.

I recently published my wife’s healing testimony on this site. In that, she shared how she had developed a habit of “memorizing scripture about healing, spending time praising God, thanking Him, and praying.” While her church was having a prayer meeting devoted to her healing, she was at home “worshipping and praying while listening to praise music.”

We might be tempted to think that 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is a message to act upon when life is going well. That is not correct. It is easy to be happy when life is going well; rejoicing takes effort when sickness controls your life. It is easy to pray regularly when God seems to be taking care of you; it is difficult when marital difficulties and financial problems linger for years. It is easy to give thanks when your refrigerator and bank account are overflowing; it takes a lot of effort when you do not know how you will get your next meal or feed your children.

A statue of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus did not give in to despair or depression, but He prayed fervently during the hardest night of His life. Statue at the Malvern Retreat House, Malvern, PA. Photo by Michael E. Lynch.

Yet, this is when 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 becomes a power passage. This is when it becomes spiritual warfare. The real blessing and real spiritual power are when we follow these instructions when our circumstances and emotions tell us it is time to quit.

There are times when it is easy to get angry at God. Do not deny it. If you are angry, tell Him so. Feel free to yell at Him. Tell Him how furious you are. Tell Him how you really feel. Be honest. Be brutal. God knows how you feel. In fact, the Book of Psalms has several prayers/songs that are perfect for times like this. David and the other writers did not avoid expressing their anger, fear, or dismay in their songs and prayers. Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). He probably recited the entire psalm, including its expression of faith at the end (Psalm 22:25-31). When we bring our burdens to God—even when we think He is the burden—He takes our cares from us and brings comfort, hope, and healing.

No matter what happens, do not avoid Him. No matter how angry you are, God is big enough to handle it. He is also merciful enough to forgive you.

When your life hits bottom, it may be at that point that you will realize that God is all you have to hold onto. No matter what you are going through, hold onto Him with all that is within you. He will hold onto you with all of His power.

Rejoice always, and soon your joy will not just be an act of the will; it will be genuine and unstoppable. Pray without ceasing, and eventually, it will flow as you see God turning your life around. In everything give thanks: Before you know it, you may realize that you have had reasons to be thankful all along.

Scripture often urges us to offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15; Psalm 50:23). Sacrifices can hurt. True faith worships God not only when it is easy, but even more so when it is a sacrifice—when we choose to worship God when it would be easier to ignore Him.

I would like to hear from you. How do you worship God in hard times? What helps you to worship Him when it is not easy to do so? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Spiritual disciplines | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Faith, Righteousness, Rights, and Hard Times

“For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37–38; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

When faith is genuine, it governs our lives. When we have true faith, God’s righteousness will grow in us. We will live by God’s standards of righteousness and justice.

While Christians should be eager to see God’s justice manifested, we cannot afford to make our rights our top priority. Americans stand up for our rights. However, God calls us to do what is right, no matter what. Sometimes, we may need to place God’s glory ahead of our rights.

This is one of the main themes of the letter to the Hebrews. The original readers were presumably Jewish converts to Christianity. When persecution hit, some were tempted to return to Judaism. Returning to their former, more “acceptable,” faith offered a better chance of keeping their homes, jobs, possessions, etc., instead of suffering persecution. The author (probably not Paul, but one of his ministry partners or companions) urged them to remain faithful to Jesus. The rewards of everlasting life are far greater than any earthly possessions or privileges.

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (Hebrews 10:32–34).

The early Christians did not expect “your best life now.” While Jesus had promised innumerable blessings to His followers, He said they would not come cheaply. The Christian life begins with repentance. It leads to self-sacrifice. Suffering frequently follows.

“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first’” (Mark 10:28–31, emphasis added).

How do we measure up? The COVID pandemic has shown how weak we are. People thought some of the restrictions—including mask requirements—were the mark of the beast. Many ranted that we are approaching the Great Tribulation because officials urged us to wear masks in public for the past year and to get a vaccine. Jesus told us that there would be great tribulation in the end times, “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24:21). COVID-related restrictions are minor compared to the suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany, Black slaves in the pre-Civil-War south, or countless other oppressed people throughout history. The restrictions of the past 15 months do not qualify as signs of the end times.

The original readers of Hebrews showed us how to respond to difficult times. They joyfully accepted the loss of their property. If they were not the direct victims of reproaches and tribulations, they stood by their brothers and sisters who were. Instead of cowering in fear, they stood with their brethren. When trials came, they accepted them.

Christians today must learn again how to sacrifice. We must learn how to endure trials and tribulations and how to identify and sympathize with those who are suffering persecution or injustice. We should be ready to speak out for justice for all, but we must also be courageous enough to face persecution without a spirit of self-righteousness, rebellion, bitterness, or revenge.

We do not prove our faith by twisting Scriptures to explain why we should be comfortable. Faith is validated when we persevere during trials, tribulations, and persecution. We do not prove our faith when life is easy, claim our blessings, attend church, post Bible verses online, or celebrate our comforts. We show our faith when we remain faithful to God despite hardship.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If we grow discouraged or turn our backs on Him when things get tough, we do not have faith. The readers of Hebrews were tempted to give up—they had not done so yet—under pressures that would have destroyed most American Christians.

Are we strong enough to stand firm in Christ? Can we follow the example the writer of Hebrews sets before us? If not, what can we do to grow in true faith that can withstand hardship?

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: