The Word Became Flesh

“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. … For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 16-17 ESV)

While our most familiar Christmas accounts are found in the pages of Matthew and Luke, in recent years I have been drawn more to John’s account. John’s presentation of the Christmas story is very unique from the other synoptic gospels because John’s purpose was uniquely different. Those other gospels focused heavily on presenting the detailed events of Jesus’ life. John’s purpose was to capture the person of Jesus Christ.

imageJohn’s account of Jesus’ birth was very plainly spoken. Only nine words in length, it can be easily memorized. But while short on words, it speaks volumes theologically. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14 ESV)  We sometimes miss the awesome impact of that simple truth in our own Christmas traditions. We are thrilled each year by the thought of the spectacle of that night. We imagine the majesty of the angel and the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds; the simple, yet touching manger scene with the precious little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I love what Luke says concerning Mary’s reaction to all the events of that night. While the shepherds gazed in awe and wonder at the spectacle and all who heard their story “were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”, Luke says Mary “treasured” them up and “pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV) At Christmas, we could all use a little less hustling and bustling and a lot more treasuring and pondering … treasuring and pondering the person of Jesus Christ – who He is and why He came. And nobody answers those questions better than John in the pages of his gospel.

From his unique perspective as the self-described “disciple whom Jesus loved“, (John 13:23) John offers us the most comprehensive and insightful look into the heart of God found in all of Scripture. He understood better than anyone that Jesus came to show us the Father; that he spoke to us the very words of God so that we can better know the Father more intimately and personally ourselves. 

Only through John do we hear Jesus tell Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  (John 14:10-11 NIV)

That is the unparalleled message of Christmas – that Jesus came to show us our Heavenly Father – a message so uniquely  and profoundly articulated by John with those memorable words, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

I pray that this Christmas you will ponder those words, treasure them in your heart, and reflect upon their implication for your life. El Shaddai, The Almighty God, is also Immanuel, God with us. May you experience the reality and the power of His presence this Christmas as never before. And the Gospel of John would be an excellent place to start!

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

God’s Precious Thoughts

By Julian Wells

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17 NIV)

I am a big fan of the Psalms. I read through them at least twice each year, turn to them often when the inevitable trials of life strike, and reference them frequently in my writings.

I am especially fond of the psalms of David. And of those, Psalm 139 is certainly one of my favorites. David, a man after God’s own heart, pours out his heart to God in Psalm 139 with refreshing honesty and passion – qualities that I continually strive to attain in my own writing.

David’s words convey genuine amazement and wonder toward the God he loves and knows personally and unquestioning acceptance of the divine mysteries he is unable to comprehend.

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. … Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely O Lord. … Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:1-2, 4, 6 NIV)

As I encountered Psalm 139 again recently in my morning devotions, the verse that heads this post resonated in my heart quite like never before. It kept echoing in my mind until I sat down to begin drafting this post.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

As you read through the account of David’s life in 1 & 2 Samuel and digest all the psalms that he wrote, you quickly get the sense that time alone with God was a passion and a priority for David. God’s thoughts were precious to him. They were his lifeblood.

And the same should be true for us if we wish to live a life that is truly pleasing to God and that serves God’s purpose in our own generation as David did in his. (Acts 13:36) The enemy will work tirelessly to prevent that from happening. And in today’s digital environment, he has many tools at his disposal.

That is why for many years I have made it a daily practice to schedule time alone with God first thing every morning – even if that meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. before my daily commute into Washington, DC. I believe that was David’s practice as well.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:3 NIV)

It was also the example our Lord modeled when he made his dwelling among us:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)

In the morning I’m best able to guard that time alone with God from distraction or interference. Like David, I need that daily divine connection like I need oxygen.

I need it to ground myself in God’s truth before I am bombarded with the world’s lies. I need it for divine direction in a world that seems to have lost its way. I need it to find hope in the face of the world’s desperation. I need it to experience God’s perfect peace in the midst of the world’s chaos.

But mostly, I need it because God’s thoughts are precious to me. And the closer I grow to him, the clearer I hear his still small voice amidst all the surrounding noise.

” Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

Shining Like Stars

By Julian Wells

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17 ESV)

The apostle Paul well understood that in order to be credible as witnesses for Christ, our actions must be consistent with Christ’s teachings. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 he characterizes our role as “ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

As ambassadors for Christ, we must remember that whatever the world sees in our actions, hears in our words, and encounters in our social media posts reflects upon Him. And, perhaps more importantly, whatever those around us see demonstrated in our lives will either draw them to the Christ we proclaim or push them farther away.

Let us never forget that, whether to judge us and the faith we profess or to emulate us, someone is always watching.

May they find us shining like stars in this often dark and depraved world. 

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)

Ministers of God’s Grace

By Julian Wells

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 4:10-11 NIV)

I keep my Bible bookmarked at these verses and have turned there so often through the years that the page is torn in the corner. These divinely inspired words from Peter keep me mindful of the awesome responsibility of correctly handling God’s Word, while also reminding me of the unlimited divine resources at my disposal.

Saint Augustine once said, “A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks, a heart through which Christ loves, a voice through which Christ speaks, and a hand through which Christ helps.” When you consider the Christian life from that perspective, it clarifies the point Christ was making when He declared to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 NIV)

On the surface, that statement sounds ridiculous. And if we’re trying to live the life Christ calls on us to live in our own strength, indeed it is. But if we’re trying to live the Christian life in our own strength, we’re doing it all wrong.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)

Abounding Grace

By Julian Wells

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. … I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, 3:7 NIV)

Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the Ephesians that we are saved by grace alone in Christ alone. But he also emphasizes that the impact of God’s grace in our lives does not stop at salvation, but supplies us with unimaginable and often untapped power to live the life to which we have been called.

Grace should be the defining characteristic of a life lived in Christ. And we have no better guide for that grace-filled life than the book of Ephesians, which closes with these words: “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24 NIV)

Abounding sin is the terror of the world but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy