Advent Day 18 – His Name Will Be . . .

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’” – which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

When my son was young, he loved to go to the playground at the local park which was almost always crawling with boys and girls.  He would join in with one or two children and for some reason he called all the other kids “dude”.  I told him over and over, “Ask them what their names are.”   One day on the way home I gently lectured him on the social grace of using people’s names.  He replied, “I only seen them today and I won’t see them tomorrow so I don’t need to know their name.”   Lecture over as I tried to stifle a laugh.  But he had a point – to know someone and call them by name indicates a relationship, ranging from playgrounds to the intimacy of lovers.

God spoke volumes in the name He assigned to His One and Only Son.  “Jesus” – Iesous in the Greek, yehosua in the Hebrew (translated Joshua) – carried the meaning “Yahweh saves.”  The Jewish people would hear Jesus’ name (and it was a common name at the time) and remember that the Lord had saved His people in the past and He had promised to save them again.  They recalled Joshua in the days of the exodus from Egypt, a mighty military leader and warrior who lead the armies of Israel against multiple enemies on the way to the Promised Land.  They clung to the hope of salvation and restoration from Roman rule.  Jesus was a name that spoke of the power of God.

But Matthew records another name that would be bestowed on this Child – Immanuel – God with us. This name speaks of God coming physically near to His people.  In the Garden, God walked with Adam, until sin came between them.  In the desert, God’s presence was in the cloud of fire, in Jerusalem His presence dwelt between the cherubim in the Temple.  But now God Himself once more walked among his people.  He shared the street with His creation, broke bread together with men, and laid the hand of God on their children’s heads.  He lived among men – and died among them.

In a perfect combination of names, He personally brought the salvation of God to all humanity.  He is the victorious power of God and the intimate love of God.  He is Jesus – Immanuel – the God who came near to save us.

Let the Name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore – Psalm 113:2.

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Advent Day 5 – God With Us

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew1:23).

God is all about relationship.  He created man for relationship.  Mind you, God didn’t need humans – there was perfect, unbroken fellowship between the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  But it is clear throughout the Scriptures that God created mankind to share in a unique and special communion.   From the earliest days of creation, God walked with man in a very intimate way. Genesis 3:8 draws a picture of God enjoying daily fellowship with Adam and Eve. But their sin broke that fellowship they could no longer be with God in that special way.

Though man continued to pursue sin and push farther and farther away from Him, God still desired that fellowship, so much so that He commanded the Israelites “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). Once again, God drew close to His people, dwelling in their midst in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later the Temple.  But, once again, because of sin and rebellion, God had to distance Himself from His creation.  Ezekiel 10 tells the sad story of the Glory of the Lord departing the Temple. But all is not forever lost.  Ezekiel 11 brings the hope of God’s promise of a new covenant and restored fellowship.

God who is forever faithful fulfilled His promise, and the Hope of the world was born.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  God came once again to live among His creation, this time as a flesh and blood man – Jesus.  He came as a baby, born as any other man, yet born with the divine nature of God.  He came to walk among us, to eat with us, and to touch His creation with the literal fingers of God.  And He came to die for us, to forever bridge the distance between God and man.  He came to restore the relationship that sin had broken, He came to be Immanuel – God with us – that we might be with Him – forever.

Read: 1 Kings 8:6-13

Christmas Presence

presence“I will put my dwelling place among you…I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”  Leviticus 26:11-12

God is all about relationship.  He created man for a unique and special relationship.  From the earliest days of creation, God walked with man in intimacy. Genesis 3:8 tells us that God enjoyed daily fellowship with Adam and Eve.  The second greatest tragedy of their sin was broken fellowship with God.  Their sin meant that God could no longer be with them in that intimate way.

Though man continued to live in sin and push farther and farther away from Him, God still desired that communion, so much so that He commanded the Israelites “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). Once again, God drew close to His people, dwelling in their midst.  But, once again, because of sin and rebellion, God had to distance Himself from His creation.  Ezekiel 10 tells the sad story of the Glory of the Lord departing the Temple. But all was not lost forever.  Decades before, God had promised to make a way that His people could still dwell with Him despite their fallen state.

God who is forever faithful fulfilled His promise, and the Hope of Christmas was born.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  God came once again to live among His creation, this time as a flesh and blood man – Jesus.  He came as a baby, born as any other man, yet born with the divine nature of God.  He came to walk among us, to eat with us, and to touch His creation with the literal fingers of God.  And He came to die for us, to forever bridge the gap between God and man.  He came to restore the relationship that sin had broken, He came to be Immanuel – God with us – forever.

Holy Father, the lights and carols and tinsel of Christmas are beautiful, but the true wonder of Christmas is Your presence among us, as a baby, as a man, as our Savior.  My hope is in your promise to be “God with me.”  Amen

The Joy of Emmanuel

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel* – which means, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23 NIV

Who doesn’t love a good reunion?  It gives us great joy to see loved ones who have been away: college students, military servicemen and women, missionaries, your brother who moved across the country, a granddaughter who lives abroad.  The best television commercials show a family member embraced loved one as he returns home. We all love the videos that show service personnel coming home to surprise their joyful families after being deployed far from away.  I remember running through the airport to welcome my own Dad back home after a tour of duty in Vietnam.

The Bible tells us that God finds great joy in reunions too.  In fact, that is the point of the Christmas story.  God wanted to be reunited with His beloved creation-mankind – you and me.  God created us for relationship, not that we might service His needs, and not to use us in some cosmic chess game.  But so that he could lavish His love on us, and we would respond with love back to Him.  The Bible shows us that God has continually drawn near to man.  In the garden, He had close and personal fellowship with Adam and Eve, walking through the Garden with them in the cool of the evening.  But sin broke that intimate fellowship, and a barrier was placed between God and man.  God commanded the Israelites to make a Tabernacle that He might come and dwell among His people, and He did for hundreds of years, until again, the sin of the nation of Israel became so great that God withdrew from the Temple.  The Old Testament records many visitations of God to Abraham, Jacob, Daniel and others who were devoted to Him.  But these were brief occasions, to impart a message or empower His servant for a specific act.  God desired a deeper communion with man.  And God had a plan.

Galatians 4:4 tells us “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son,” His Son whose is called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”  Jesus came as a baby, all of the fullness and deity of God wrapped in flesh and lying in a rough manger because God loves the joy of being with His beloved creation.   Jesus, the God-man, walked among His creation, though they did not recognize Him.  Jesus brought God near to us, a joyous reunion indeed.  “God with us” means you and I are never alone, if we are trusting in Him as our Savior and Lord.  We have the joy of His presence with us continually in the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Immanuel is with us in storms and darkness and trial and suffering.  He is with us in our times of doubt and fear and loneliness and emptiness.  The joy of Immanuel is knowing that there is no place we can go and no circumstance of life we will face that God is not with us.  Jesus made Himself on of us that we might know the joy of His presence now and for eternity.

I pray that the joy of Immanuel is with you this Advent season.

“Oh, Emmanuel*, Emmanuel, Your name is called Emmanuel God with us Revealed in us, Your name is called Emmanuel.”  Amen

* Some translations spell this word differently, the NIV uses Immanuel, the KJV uses Emmanuel – either way God is with us.

The Promise of His Presence

“I will put my dwelling place among you…I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”  Leviticus 26:11-12

God is all about relationship.  He created man for intimacy, a unique and special relationship. As we Hope in God’s promises this Advent week, let’s focus on the promise of His presence with us.

From the earliest days of creation, God walked with man in intimacy. Genesis 3:8 tells us that God enjoyed daily fellowship with Adam and Eve.  The second greatest tragedy of their sin was broken fellowship with God.  Their sin meant that God could no longer be with them in that intimate way.

Though man continued to live in sin and push farther and farther away from God, He still desired that communion, so much so that He commanded the Israelites “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). Once again, God drew close to His people, dwelling in their midst.  But, once again, because of sin and rebellion, God had to distance Himself from His creation.  Ezekiel 10 tells the sad story of the Glory of the Lord departing the Temple. But all is not lost.  Ezekiel 11 brings the hope of God’s promise of a new covenant and restored fellowship.

God who is forever faithful fulfilled His promise, and the Hope of Christmas was born.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  God came once again to live among His creation, this time as a flesh and blood man – Jesus.  He came as a baby, born as any other man, yet born with the divine nature of God.  He came to walk among us, to eat with us, and to touch His creation with the literal fingers of God.  And He came to die for us, to forever bridge the gap between God and man.  He came to restore the relationship that sin had broken, He came to be Immanuel – God with us – forever.

Holy Father, the lights and carols and tinsel of Christmas are beautiful, but the true wonder of Christmas is Your presence among us, as a baby, as a man, as our Savior.  My hope is in your promise to be “God with me.”  Amen

The Everyday God

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”  Psalm 68:19

 ”Believing in God is not practical in this modern world we live in.”

 “This is no big deal – it’s too little to bother God about.”

“God is way up in heaven; He is too far away to notice me.”

You may have heard – perhaps even said – statements similar to these.  I know I have thought and said some of them myself.  It is hard to believe that God, who created and ordered the sun, the moon, the stars and this earth, would concern Himself with human beings and our seemingly insignificant lives.  Is it even practical to believe that God will help us? Isn’t “faith” nothing more than wishful thinking?

While the three opening comments seem to come from different directions, they really are rooted in the same false beliefs about God; that He is outdated and impractical and far too removed to notice or care about you and me. It is the world and Satan’s favorite message. But I would like to share with you from Scripture and experience why I believe God is real, practical and intimately involved in our everyday lives.

Our post-modern society has pitched us the false theology of “self-empowerment,” that we have within ourselves all the power we need to overcome anything we might face and become anything we choose to be.  It is the world’s way of telling us that we don’t need God; that faith is for weak people who rely on superstition and religion as a crutch.  In fact, even within the church, we are espousing a twisted version of Philippians 4: 13 which says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  We focus on the “I can do all things” part, and forget that the source of our strength is the “through Christ” part.  After His resurrection, Jesus told the Disciples, “You will be My witnesses” and called them proclaim the Gospel “to the ends of the earth.”  But he also told them “wait…you will receive power.” (Acts 1:4- 8)  He was saying –“Don’t try to do this on your own – My Spirit will help you. Wait for it.”  Jesus even said “By myself I can do nothing;” (John 5:30)  If Jesus knows that He can do nothing without the power of His Father, what on earth makes us think we can? Friends, there is no verse that says “God helps those who help themselves.”  I have read the Bible through several times, and I cannot find any Scripture where God chastises people for relying on Him too much.  In truth, God chastises those who don’t depend on Him, those who think they don’t need Him.  He calls that pride, and pride is perhaps the greatest offense against Him. God created man for an intimate love relationship, for a unique oneness that He couldn’t have with any other creation.  He created us to love Him and to need Him. And that goes against everything the world wants us to believe.  It is only when we come to the end of our own strength that we realize we do need Him, and we find that He is more than able and willing to help us.

Then there is the thought that God should not be bothered with our insignificant problems.  We tend to put our needs into different boxes “too big for me,” and “too little for God.”  We call for prayer when Grandma is near death, our child is hurt in an accident, or when there has been a national or world crisis; but seem to think that God does not want to be bothered with our petty problems.  Does He really care that your washing machine has quit working?   Should I even bother Him about my boss snapping at me?  Why would God be concerned about a teething baby who has kept you up three nights in a row?   He does care about your everyday needs, He wants you to come to Him about your frustrations and the demands of your day that wear you down.  1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.”  In Moses’ address to the people of Israel, He reminded them “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, not did the sandals on your feet. (Deuteronomy 29:5)” If God was concerned about their clothes and sandals, I think it is right to say that He cares about your everyday needs as well. Jesus said “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things. (Matthew 6:25, 32) He knows what you need every day, and He promises to provide.  In the prayer He taught to the Disciples, Jesus said “Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11, emphasis mine)” Daily bread, daily needs – He is a daily God.

Proverbs 5:2 says “God is in heaven, and you are on earth.” So does that mean He is too far removed to notice us? Not at all.  Remember, God created us for an intimate love relationship.  He told Moses “Have [the Israelites] make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)  He said “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be mu people. (Leviticus 26:12) The very name of Jesus tells us God’s heart is to be with His people – “Immanuel – which means ‘God with us. (Matthew 1: 23)” It has always been God’s desire to be near us – even in the earliest days of man, “God walked in the garden…among the trees. (Genesis 3:8)” The original context of the words in this verse indicate this “walk in the Garden” was God’s daily custom, as He enjoyed fellowship with Adam and Eve.
It is easier to dismiss someone’s needs if we distance ourselves from them, but when we draw closer, when we get to know them, their needs become evident and our hearts are moved to help.  God, your Creator, wants to be involved in the “everydayness” of your life.  He has committed Himself to be with you, to care for you and about you.

God has not left you to manage this life on your own.  He has drawn closed to you and sees the big and small issues you face.  He cares about the most intimate details of your life.  He is near, as near as your next breath.  He is as near as your whispered prayer.

Holy Father, You are high and exalted in heaven; but you gave it all up to be my Savior and my everyday God. Please help me to remember today that You are near. Amen