He Was Rich and Became Poor. Seems Easy Until You Think About it

Super Heroes

Super heroes are all the rage today, and they are making somebody rich with the millions of dollars they rake in. But whether they come from Marvel Avengers or Hollywood, they are a poor substitute for the REAL hero who performed the most heroic act of all time. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The complexity of this verse boggles the mind. What sort of riches did Christ possess in his position at the right hand of God? Surely the Lord of Lords and King of Kings had access to wealth we cannot begin to comprehend. According to Colossians 1:17, the entire cosmos is under his authority, and held together by His power, so it stands to reason that there are aspects of his riches we can’t begin to know.

How Powerful? How Rich?

We do know from John’s remarkable exposition on the Word that Jesus Christ existed in the beginning and was the creative force of God’s personality as the Word who spoke all things into existence. John also said that “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.” (John 1:14) How glorious was that glory? How rich were his riches?

rich but poor

Just try to imagine what sort of splendor the Son left behind to become a mere man…We tend to measure wealth in terms of precious stones or metals, and we are impressed by opulence and ornate works of art. But consider the wealth that the Son of Man left behind for your sake:

1) He was rich in power. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God as the King of Kings and Lord of lords. Yet he left the most powerful position in the universe to be a vulnerable man; and not even a king or ruler, but a tiny, frail, and helpless infant. Instead of taking royal office, he became a servant, and humbled himself to become flesh in every way, even partaking of death on the cross…

2) He was rich in righteousness. Jesus was the Holy One of God, the one who went 40 days toe to toe with the tempter but committed no sin; he alone was worthy to be presented without offense in the Father’s chamber of justice as the only one who could stand before the Father in purity and absorb the penalty for our sin. He didn’t have to, but he did it.

3) Jesus was rich in life. He was the guy people invited to weddings, the teacher everybody gathered to hear, the one who said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly“… He was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who created all things and spoke the world into existence. Jesus was there when time began, when all things were formed and sprang forth from his creative Word. He certainly understood what eternal life meant and how awesome it was, and yet He was willing to give up that life and taste death on our behalf. Through his poverty we became rich. It is amazing to consider how Jesus became poor for our sakes.

Was It Really So Easy?

We tend to think, “Well it was just for a short time, he knew he’d go back to all of that heavenly glory and reign on high”, but I will always maintain that since it had never been done before, the outcome held some manner of risk for the Son… what if the whole universe had unraveled when the Word left His throne and gave up His eternal riches and glory? Whatever the odds, we do know this: he left his perfection in eternity past to enter a world full of sin and death. It’s an amazing sacrifice when you consider what Christ left behind.

A Backward Lens

To me, it becomes even more amazing when you turn the lens around and look at that the other way, from our poverty:
1) We were selfish and grasping at control, and yet we were served by the Lord of lords.

2) We were sinful and condemned, and yet we were made righteous by Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice.

3) We were dead in our sins, deceitful and carnal, and yet we were shown the way, the truth, and were given eternal life. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” It’s not just about what Jesus gave UP, but it’s also about what he gave US. He traded his riches for poverty, so that we could leave our poverty for his riches.

The King’s Foolish Trade

There was talk among the angels, all about the king of Kings;
They heard that he was going down to earth, with all that brings…
“Surely he will not give up his place upon the throne!
Surely he will not go down to Satan’s lair, alone!”
Then they watched the Son of God submit to life on earth;
They took the word to Mary, and they watched the virgin birth!
As Jesus grew, they watched him, and the angels held their breath
While the Christ fulfilled his mission in a world of sin and death!
The angels shuddered inwardly to see him leave his glory,
Amazed at what he sacrificed to change creation’s story.
Jesus came to earth to pay our ransom, after which
He took our poverty upon Himself–and made us rich.
Savior, King of Glory, Risen Lord and Great “I AM”!
Who in heaven knew you’d be the sacrificial lamb?
Angels wondered why you left–they knew you could have stayed–
You who took our poverty for your riches in a trade,
Make us ever mindful of the sacrifice you made.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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True Story: John Said his Best Friend was Full of Grace and Truth: Was He Lying?

This is a true story about lies… If your life depended upon knowing the truth, would you be happy with a lie? We generally don’t want to lead lives based on a lie, or feel that it’s healthy to engage in falsehood. (Probably since people who live lives based on falsehood used to be called delusional, and locked away. Today they just go into journalism or Congress,,,)

The Gospel of John takes great care to remind us that truth is important, and he even tells us where to find it. John says that we beheld the glory of God’s promised Messiah born as a baby in Bethlehem, and that he was “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) I am willing to compliment a friend, and it’s good to say something nice about someone, but I can’t really recall ever saying, “Old Charlie is a good guy. He’s full of grace and truth!” I’ve known people who were graceful, and I’ve known folks who were honest, but I’ve never described someone I knew really well as the repository of veracity. Usually when we say, “He’s full of it”, we are NOT talking about grace and truth…

Is it possible to say anything more descriptive and astounding about someone? John had observed Jesus at close range for at least 3 years, and certainly knew him well enough to be aware of any flaws he had to contradict this statement. Perhaps John is here echoing the claim Jesus made which was recorded in chapter 14: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” Jesus said, “I am the truth”, and John BELIEVED him.

Today, in an era when “objective” journalists (who were once bastions of truth and objectivity) publish sensational stories and suppositions without checking facts, or present part of a story as all of the story, someone who personifies the Truth is rare indeed. In our culture, spin is more common than fact. Partial fact and opinion has replace substantiated facts and truth.

To accentuate that point, consider that we actually spend most of our lives simmering in falsehood. Advertising agencies present stories and scenarios that will subtly convince you to believe whatever they claim about their products (even if those claims have no basis in reality). In an era where truth is watered down, twisted, and manipulated, truth is an endangered species. Think about this: almost every commercial message you hear tells a story that either makes claims that are not true, or creates a virtual myth-like environment in an attempt to alter what you think about reality. Christmas shoppers can avoid black Friday crowds and “save thousands” by buying a car.

story

Shaving commercials show guys lathered up like Santa with a shaving cream beard, when only about 1/3 of that amount of shaving cream is needed to actually shave– but they are subtly trying to implant a false idea of how much cream a guy should use on every shave. (Same thing happens with pictures of toothpaste slathered on top of the toothbrush!) In the commercial story, if a guy uses a certain cologne, women go nuts over him. In reality a good smelling nerd is still a nerd.

In the ads, beer drinkers are all hot, slim young people for whom life is a party (and Alpine climbers live in the cooler to bring up some cold ones from the pristine mountain waters.) I know a few beer drinkers whose actual profile is somewhat different, and up in the mountains you can’t even drink the stream water because you might get infected with Giardia, a particularly stubborn and nasty little parasite…

It’s not just advertising that twists the truth. Messages on social media are full of outright balderdash presented as fact, or partial and biased stories are published that pretend to be the whole truth. Based on the amount of exposure we have to advertising and social media, it is highly probable that you hear WAY more lies every day than you hear truth. Even if you don’t believe the story they are throwing at you 100%, the ads are designed to move your needle just a little bit over towards their version of reality.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, said “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Ironically, that’s still true. In a world filled with subtlety and spin, be careful that your needle isn’t moved too far by falsehood. I’d say this: find truth in your world; read it, listen to it, cultivate it, and rejoice in it. If Jesus was the truth, as he claimed to be, he is worth far more of your time than all of the newscasts, Facebook posts and commercial messages you will ever hear. According to John, Jesus was also full of grace. Would the world be a better place if there was a little more grace in it? Could YOU ever use a little more grace? Well here’s the deal: I’m willing to bet that if you seek the truth, you will also find grace.

True Story

The truth about lies is they’re hard to see,
Bombarding us from everywhere,
Reshaping our reality with subtle falsehoods that we share…
Lies come at us from every place–
From ads that do more than they seem–
Convincing us to load our face with 3 shaves worth of shaving cream.
We’re surrounded by these lies from cradle through impetuous youth
While subtle Falsehood in disguise disparages important Truth.
Grab hold of Truth! Don’t let it go,
And don’t let Falsehood take its place.
Beauty may be Truth, but know
That more importantly, Truth is Grace.

 

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Logos: A Quick Word About it Doesn’t Do It Justice

In his Prologue to his Gospel, John said that the Word (logos) was God! Did anybody understand what he meant? Have you ever thought about what it means? Take a quick look at it and give it some thought today…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NIV) Where Matthew and Luke provide historical and genealogical context for Jesus’ arrival, John’s gospel explores the theological implications… He starts his gospel by describing the Word in cosmic terms that transcend time and space, terms that offer no equivocation or apology.

The idea of the logos, or true word, had been floating around philosophical circles for several centuries. (You might stop and consider that it’s still a major concept even in our “modern” world–we currently use logo as the personification of a Brand, or a symbol that fully represents a product or company.) But back then, Heraclitus used the term as a principle for order and knowledge as early as 500 BC. Sophists like Aristotle used it to describe discourse, and Stoics believed it was “the divine animating principle pervading the universe”. Philo (20 BC-AD 50) was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher and contemporary of John’s who adopted it into Jewish philosophy.

John logos

It’s hard to adequately describe to 21st century America how dynamic and pervasive this connection really is linguistically, philosophically, or theologically, because logos is such a broad connective concept. Read simply as “the Word” in the English language, all of these uses and definitions fail to capture or describe the full breadth of meaning behind logos, which conveyed generative force and dynamic thought to first century users. John takes this word, however and gives it a unique application that changed and challenged everything.

He says in 1:14 that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” This connects Jesus to John’s opening sentence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This is one of the most insightful and important sentences ever written. It provides cohesion and context for the Christ’s place in the Bible, and presents Jesus as the incarnate word who connects the Old Testament with the New.

Consider these connections: The Pentateuch opens with, “in the beginning, GOD…” So does John’s Gospel. Moses said, “God created”. So did the Word. In the Genesis account, God created through the word…” John says, “all things were made through” the logos.. (As an aside, when it comes to creation, I find it fascinating that adherents of a Big Bang theory can leap by assumption to a very complex set of conditions that are based on preexisting elements which were NOT recorded or observable. They contend that things happened randomly but exactly in a certain way at the beginning of all things—and they can hold this position in face of incredibly long odds in terms of actual probability—and then they can turn around and be critical of a hypothesis that rationally assumes a preexistent God, with creation and origin coming from the one who already existed in the beginning, and who expressed himself creatively. That kind of assumptive science is faith of a sort, at best; but it is scientific hypocrisy, at worst…)

John talks about the Word who was with God and who WAS God. The Greek syntax where John says “the Word was God” is such that the two parts are identical and interchangeable: the Word = God, and God = the Word.

There is no ambiguity about Jesus’ identity in either this statement or in the other Gospels… Matthew connects Jesus’ birth to the Messiah who had long been foretold. Luke connects Jesus to mankind by tracing his genealogy back to Adam, and John? Well, he connects Jesus to God. If those connections are correct, then Jesus wasn’t just a Jewish prophet, and he wasn’t just a good man: he was God. That’s not just a good word, it is THE Word. Always has been. Always will be.

The Word
The universe was not a bang or something that just occurred,
But cosmic energy released within the spoken word.
“In the beginning was The Word.” John said this long before
Eternity past created what the future holds, and more…
Eons can be relative, and time may seem to plod,
But the Word transcended time and space because the Word was God.
That Word, John said, became a man, and we beheld his glory,
His execution of the plan to tell redemption’s story.
Of all the things you’ve read and out of everything you’ve heard,
Consider this: the Word was God. And Jesus was the Word.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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John Wrote About the Word of God; Mary Obeyed It. What do YOU Think about It?

Ever since I became aware enough to consider such things, I have always thought that the first few sentences of the Gospel of John are possibly the most significant sentences ever written in Western civilization. They tie Jesus of Nazareth to the Ancient Hebrew Scriptures, to Greek thought and philosophy, and to the vast boundlessness of eternity in the space-time continuum. If the arrival of Jesus was a historical event, then John connects the cosmic dots about who Jesus was and why he came.

Yesterday’s post said that Mary heard a word from God, quoting the word of God about the Word of God… John said it this way: “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. 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… 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.” (John 1:1-5, 14 NIV)

When Mary said, “Be it unto me according to thy word”, John’s amazing prologue characterizing Jesus as the Word, or the logos, had not yet been written. In this opening paragraph to his gospel, John says that the Word was eternally preexistent, was with God and indeed was God. This Word was the Creator and the source of all life and illumination in the cosmos. John says that the Word came and dwelt among men, who could see its glory.

John

The concept of men receiving the word of the Lord was fairly common in the Old Testament. God’s Spirit moved among men and imparted His words to the prophets, gave instruction, and prophesied about things to come. (Think: Elijah and the prophets of Baal, or Jonah preaching to Nineveh.) God’s word appeared or was given to men for a task or a season, but it was not an abiding presence on the earth.

For instance, 1 Samuel 3:1 says that “the word of the Lord was scarce in those days”. At other times men like Abraham (Genesis 15:1, “The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision”) and Moses, who was “commanded by the word of the Lord” (Numbers 3:16, 51) encountered God’s word in life changing ways. The prophets were moved to speak because of it. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah” (1 Kings 18:1) and Zephaniah 1:1 attributes his prophecy to the word of the Lord. There are well over 200 references to the word of God in the Old Testament, so John’s reference to the Word was not unique in Jewish Scripture; but the idea that the Word could become an actual person and dwell among men was entirely foreign to the Hebrew mind and heritage.

By introducing Christ as the Word, John makes some astounding claims about a man who he knew well– someone he hung out with, traveled with, and observed at close range for at least three years. He walked long hours with Jesus, heard him preach, and saw him in action. If Jesus had been insane or a mere charlatan, John would have known it.

If Jesus had been a failed prophet who was crucified and then disappeared from the scene, then John would have had no reason to write about him… But as we know, John wrote those familiar words which we know as John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Would John have placed all his hopes on a fraud? Think about those whom you know intimately, the folks you joke with or party with; chances are you know them far too well to equate them with God, or to ever consider actually calling them God… Yet John did exactly that with Jesus. Why do you think he did that? Answer THAT question, and I bet you’ll answer a whole bunch of other ones…

The Writer
Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!
Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be?
Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…
But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Glorious: The Word of God was Made in the Likeness of Men

The Glorious Word, the Bible says, was made in the Likeness of Men… what does that mean? “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, KJV)

The Word, preexistent from the beginning, the creative force behind the universe, was made flesh. As Paul put it, Jesus “made himself of no reputation, took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…” (Phil 2:7). And oh yeah, he was born like all men, tiny and fragile and vulnerable. He was helpless and hungry and had to be protected like any other baby. He cried, snuggled and nursed. He grew in wisdom and stature over time, in the manner of men, and created a new and unthinkable paradigm for the Creator: He became part of his own creation.

In what way do you suppose God is most glorious? You might expect God to be cosmic and majestic and distant, but instead he used his humanity as a vessel to dwell among us, to share our sorrows, our hopes, our emotions, our experience. Jesus had a personality. He hung out with friends. He went to parties and out to dinner! He smiled, laughed and told stories around the campfire out by the lake. He wept. He taught and healed among us, and rebuked those who made a mockery of his Father’s intentions.

Living in the midst of carnal, selfish men, he offered something we rarely see: he showed us that God is indeed glorious. He reflected wisdom and grace, and confounded people who expected him to be normal. It was not majestic physical glory or awesome splendor, it was God’s amazing glory transmitted in a smile or a Word. Have you had any glimpses of God’s glory lately?

We probably have some preconceived notions about glory that keep us from noticing it sometimes, or that cause us to miss it altogether. In Luke 2:9 the shepherds responded to heavenly glory much as any of us would: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Glory can be pretty overwhelming, and we probably most often think of it on an overwhelming cosmic scale. I know we see it in sunsets and mountaintop vistas, and when we gaze into the night skies, but it’s not often we see it literally in someone else. Take a minute to stop thinking of it in grandiose, majestic terms, and think of seeing it reflected in a person.

man glorious

When you think of God’s glorious grace, who do you think of? I know I think of my wife, Nancy, and the love and grace she has extended to me over the years; I see it in my children and grandchildren, who are to me living expressions of God’s love and hope for the future…I have seen it at church, moving chairs or rocking a baby in the nursery. I have seen it at Young Life camps, touching lives and offering glimpses of what’s to come. And I still see it in the Word of God, preserved for me in John’s marvelous narrative, reflected in Moses’ law, expounded upon in Paul’s amazing letters, and passionately expressed in David’s Psalms.

Have you looked into the Word of God lately; have you beheld his glory? Have you seen God’s glory reflected in a friend or family member? And by the way, did you notice something glorious this Christmas season among the Santa’s and the snowmen and all of the Christmas displays? You may have walked or driven right by it today! (HINT: it was tiny, and it was probably lying in a manger somewhere as Mary and Joseph hovered over it protectively…)

It’s more than what you’ve read, or heard.
Encounter this: the glorious Word,
The Bible, just not in a book,
But in a PERSON! Take a look
At all it says and you will see
Not Words, but personality.
It’s how he smiled, and where he walked,
What Jesus did, and how he talked;
It’s healing hands and promises kept,
It’s how he prayed, and when he wept…
The Word saw Adam’s fatal flaw,
The Word was Moses and the Law.
David praised the Word with song!
Paul presents Him, clear and strong,
The glorious word who came to earth
Disguised in a humble baby’s birth…
SO pay attention to this rhyme,
And look for Him this Christmastime.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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