God With Us

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The waiting is over! It’s Christmas.

Two thousand years ago, the nation of Israel had been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years. The waiting was over, the Messiah was born.

Living in the church age we miss the significance of what it meant to wait for Jesus. For us it is a historical fact.  

But when Jesus did arrive, many people missed him. They missed his coming because they were expecting something grand and earth shaking. Yet the moment God took on flesh was almost anticlimactic, and the nation missed the significance of the incarnation, they missed the Messiah.

Mary was a young mother, poor and desperate. She was not a household name; people didn’t notice her and Joseph walking into Bethlehem that night. They were non-descript poor folk from out of town.

Jesus was born in a stable and placed in an animal feeding trough. The smell of urine and dung was heavy in the air. There was no midwife, no sterile surgery, nor any attendants. The Messiah was born.

The religious leaders of the day, if they were even looking for the birth of the Messiah, would have looked to palace courts and wealthy homes, people of renown, people who would be worthy of raising the Christ Child. But Jesus was born in poverty, the most humble of births.

He was one of us. The God who created the universe by speaking a word, is now one of us.

I want to look at four ways Jesus identified with us.

Born as one of us.

 Jesus was born vulnerable, weak, and dependent on his family (See Luke 2:6-7).

God’s presence in the flesh, presented as simply as a baby in a feeding trough. Raised by the most unlikely couple.

Mary and Joseph were humble, but they both responded to God the same way, when He promised His presence through this miraculous baby, they believed!

Jesus was born, the one called “Immanuel”, which means, “God with us” (See Matthew 1:23).

Jesus was born like us, vulnerable, weak, and dependent on his family. In his perfect humanity, he needed others to care for him. Just like us.

Lived as one of us.

Jesus lived as “God with us”, enjoying life’s pleasures and enduring life’s moments of boredom and pain. The Bible tells us that in Luke 2, that he was strong and filled with wisdom. He had the favor of God on him, and he loved to spend time in the temple questioning the teachers. But he also lived a normal life.

Jesus lived like us, enjoying life’s pleasures, he played games, got bored, and enjoyed a good meal (See Matthew 11:19).

He fasted, he stayed up all night praying and then he also slept when others couldn’t. He spent years learning a blue-collar trade and worked with his hands. He made friends and lost friends, just like us. In fact, Jesus was so normal, that his own family thought he was crazy when he began his ministry and began attracting crowds (See Mark 3:21). They didn’t know at that time; he was God in the flesh.

Suffered as one of us.

Jesus suffered as “God with us”, getting sick, growing tired, losing loved ones, and fighting temptations (See Hebrews 4:15).  Just like us.

Jesus experienced the heartbreak of betrayal. He felt the brokenness of this world and the limits of his own body. Just like us.

Jesus has empathy for us because he suffered like us in this world. He knows the pain and struggles of these earthly bodies. He is not aloof and distant from your suffering. He suffered like us.

Died as one of us.

Then Jesus did something you and I haven’t done. Something very human, but still very foreign to us, he died.

We all will die one day, but we haven’t yet. Jesus has experienced something universally human—but that we living humans haven’t gone through yet. Jesus died as “God with us” (See 1 Peter 3:18).

Because Jesus died and rose again, we can approach our own death with confidence that death is not the end (See 1 Corinthians 15:19–21).

Jesus experienced the full weight of the curse, the loneliness and horror of death, so that we would be able to approach death knowing we are not alone.

Joining Jesus in his death, we will also join him in his resurrection life. Jesus became like us so that we could become like him— alive forever.

Christmas, the birth of Jesus is way more than significant than a baby being born, it is the reality of God himself, becoming like one of us to identify with us, to live, suffer and die as we do, so that we could know that He is real.

There are millions of people who go to church every year, who are attracted to the idea of Jesus, but miss out on the reality of the person Jesus. Do you know the reality of Jesus, the person who lived and died for you?

For everyone of us, we need to have the moment when we are drawn by the holy spirit into the reality of Jesus.

You see, we as church goers and good Christians can get so tied up with the idea of Jesus and the rote spiritual disciplines, all of which are good, but we can connect with the idea of Jesus and never really grow in relationship with Jesus.

You cannot have joy in a relationship with the idea of a person, you need to know the reality of the person (See John 15:11).

No other religion has a god who came down and humbled himself to invite us into a relationship that is life giving and full of Joy.

Every other religion is a series of steps to attain to, to become like their god or to seek approval from a deity. Only the one true God has become like us, to save us.

Are you one of His children?

Waiting on God

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Do you like waiting?

Waiting can often be painful, in fact, some of the greatest pain we face in life is because we are waiting. Waiting for dreams to be fulfilled, waiting for God to break through and answer our prayers.

But God is never in a rush, He is always on time, and we struggle with that.

Maybe you are in a season of waiting, and it seems that God is not hearing your cry.  

Before the birth of Jesus, Israel was waiting. They had been promised a messiah, who would redeem them and set them free. There had been so many prophesies about a messiah who would establish a new kingdom, and they were waiting.  

But as hopeless as the situation was, God was at work. God was orchestrating all human history to this one pivotal moment in time (see Galatians 4:4).

Zechariah and Elizabeth were also waiting, waiting for God to bless them with a child, a hope that they had given up on. There is so much in the account of Zechariah and Elizabeth that reminds us of Abraham and Sarah, almost 1800 years earlier. They were both old and beyond childbearing age, they both had angelic visitations and they were both promised a son who would fulfill the promises of God.  

Zechariah and Elizabeth righteous and devout people, blameless before God (see Luke 1:6), and yet they had no children. They had an unfulfilled dream; they were carrying pain. The Bible makes it clear that their pain was not because of some sin they had committed.

Many of us can identify with that kind of pain. Dreams of childless parents, yearning for a child. Dreams of being married when the years seem to be rushing by. Dreams of health when the chronic illness seems to linger on. The temptation is to think that maybe you did something wrong, maybe you disappointed God, maybe you missed what God had planned for you.

Sometimes our pain can be as a result of sin, but often it is not.  So, we stand before God, waiting, sometimes with feelings of bitterness (God, what have you done?), guilt (God, what have I done?), or both. Waiting on God’s presence, we find it hard to hope for good news.

Mostly, our struggle is because we have an expectation in mind, a timeline that we expect God to move in. But God works for His glory, and the greater the miracle, the more God gets the praise.  

Zechariah and Elizabeth were waiting, the nation was waiting. While they were waiting, they continued to be faithful (see Luke 1:10). Even a multitude of people outside the temple were waiting, expectant for God to move in power for them. Zachariah was faithful and even after all the years of silence from God, he was still burning the incense and obeying the law.

As we know, God heard their prayers and at the appointed time, the Savior, the light of the world was revealed, and their hope was fulfilled.

God sent the angel Gabriel, to announce the birth of John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for Jesus the Messiah. Finally, the four hundred years of silence was over, God has spoken!

But even with the incredible visitation of Gabriel, Zechariah didn’t believe (see Luke 1:19). In spite of this declaration and display of heavenly presence, Zechariah doubts. He explains to Gabriel that he is simply too old to be a father.

We must remember that Zechariah was a priest, and he would have taught the scriptures telling the account of Abraham and Sarah who were blessed with Isaac, even when Sarah was ninety years old. He knew the history, he believed God could do it, but he didn’t believe it for himself.

This is something we all struggle with. When we hear an amazing testimony of God answering prayer for someone, we doubt that God could do that for me.

There is a difference between knowing God’s promise intellectually and waiting on God’s promise personally.

God delivered on His promise and Elizabeth conceived. Her shame and decades of reproach were removed (See Luke 1:25).

But this was no ordinary child. This was to be John the Baptist, the one prophesied in Isaiah 40:3. And later Jesus would say that John was the greatest man ever born (See Matthew 11:11).

Not only was the promise fulfilled, but it was also way more significant that Zechariah or Elizabeth could have imagined. The waiting was over, the promise was about to be fulfilled.

What are you waiting for from God today?

Does it seem that God is taking too long? Maybe you feel that He is not hearing your cry?

“Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish. It is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, till the fullness of time, ere he sent His son. Our times are in His hands; He will make haste for our help speedily; He will make haste for our help, and not delay one hour too long”. Andrew Murray

God is never late in fulfilling His promises.

Is there an area in your life where you feel “barren,” failing to live up to your own (or someone else’s) expectations?

Why don’t you take that pain to the Lord today, wait on His perfect timing and trust Him for the outcome.

Salvation for Sinners and Sufferers

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As we celebrate this Christmas season, we celebrate our savior who took on flesh to free us from sin. But more than freeing us from the bonds of sin, Jesus also came to bring healing and restoration. Healing for the sick, the broken hearted, and the abused.

God sent His son to provide a way for sinners to be forgiven and for those who have been sinned against to be healed.

During our lives, we find that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and at times we need Jesus to heal our brokenness because of sin.

Have you ever considered that the salvation that Jesus offers is wholeness? Eternal life is glorious and starts when you give your life to Jesus, but there is more that Jesus offers, wholeness, healing, and restoration.

The account of king David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 is a story of brokenness and pain because of sin. David tries to cover up his sin and he has Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. Once Uriah is killed, David takes Bathsheba into his palace as one of his wives (2 Samuel 11:26-27).

David, one of the most celebrated heroes in the Bible, the second king of Israel, a war hero, and author of most of the Psalms, sins terribly.

As the account continues in 2 Samuel 12, we see that the prophet Nathan confronts David about his sin. Showing him that what he thought was hidden, was not hidden from God. David’s repentance is immediate, and it is proposed that the great repentance Psalm, Psalm 51 is penned as David cries out to God for forgiveness.

In response, Nathan declares that God has forgiven him and he will not die, but there will be terrible consequences for his sin. Multiple children died and a long list of pain and suffering followed David’s “private sin”. David realizes that his sin is a personal afront to God and he humbles himself in repentance.

The truth is that there are no secret sins and all sins lead to suffering. There are no private or hidden sins. Even if no-one knows about it, God sees, and it affects the body of Christ. The sins that we commit during the week, even if we think they are concealed, affect the entire church family.

As we gather to pursue the presence of God on a Sunday morning, we must come prepared and expectant. If we come in haphazardly or without any thought that we are gathering as the body of Christ to come and worship the Great I AM, not only will we miss out on a blessing, but we will impact the engagement of the church family.

Let us prepare our hearts and minds. Spend time on a Sunday morning in prayer and repentance, with the expectation that we will encounter the living God.

I guess the question is, how seriously do we take the privilege we have of gathering in God’s presence. How grateful are we for the truth of this season? Emmanuel, God with us!

David repents of his sins, and he is forgiven, but what about Bathsheba?

David needed forgiveness. Bathsheba was sinned against; her life was turned upside down. Her husband was killed, and she was taken against her will into the king’s palace as one of his wives. She experienced incredible trauma, and she needed healing.

The salvation that Jesus offers, not only offers forgiveness, but it also offers healing. Jesus came to bring healing and restoration. Healing for the sick, the broken hearted, and the abused.

God sent His son to provide a way for sinners to be forgiven and for those who have been sinned against to be healed. The Gospel is for sinners and sufferers alike.

The apostle Paul used the Greek word, “sozo” 29 times in the New Testament to define salvation. Like most Greek words, it has multiple deeper meanings, and it includes, salvation, saved, to be made well, cured, recover, and restored. “Sozo”, means wholeness.

When we hear the word salvation, we primarily think of forgiveness, but the Gospel also deals with the problem of suffering and restoring to wholeness.

The wholeness of salvation can be hard to measure. When we look at broken items, it is easy to see if they are repaired, put back together. Like a car that was in a wreck or a broken chair that is repaired. But wholeness in a person is much more difficult to measure.

The beauty of Christmas is that Jesus came as a baby, to live a perfect sinless life, he suffered a cruel death on a Roman cross as the spotless sacrifice for our sins, to pay the price that we could never pay. This same Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd day and now is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, praying for us, interceding for us. Jesus paid the price for us to be reconciled with God and to be made whole. Physical and spiritual wholeness is available to us because of what Jesus has done for us.

When Jesus walked the earth, he experienced suffering, rejection, abuse, and pain. He identifies with our pain when we are called to endure suffering at the hands of others. He is not removed from pain. By identifying with pain, he provided a way for healing. He provides healing for brokenness, for the pain of Bathsheba and for you and me.

What are you dealing with that needs the power of the Gospel to heal today?

We are a People of Hope

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Do you remember a time in your life when God felt distant. A season when you were tempted to wonder if God was even concerned about the things that you were struggling with. Maybe you are there right now.

The Bible frequently deals with the theme of God’s perceived absence. Many times, in the Bible, people wondered if God’s promises to them were still valid. Perhaps God had forgotten them.   

The beauty of the biblical narrative is that the Bible not only acknowledges this soul ache, it also provides an answer. Christmas is one of God’s clearest reminders that He intends to come and live with us. Christmas, the incarnation, is a reminder of God with us, the ultimate longing fulfilled.

Abraham was given an incredible promise by God. Abraham was to have a son and he would be the father of a nation that would bless all the nations of the world (Genesis 12:1-3).  God visited Abraham at least four times and reiterated this promise and Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6).

But the fruition of the promise took years and even decades. As the years ticked by, doubt may have begun to set in, had God forgotten His promise?

Many of us have felt the same way, when we have received a promise from God, or we have been praying for a miracle, but it seemed that maybe God has forgotten us.

Abraham and Sarah were keenly aware of their age and what seemed to be impossible, could God really deliver on His promise? Had He forgotten them?

Finally, when Abraham was almost 100 years old and Sarah was over 90 years old, God blessed them with a miraculous baby boy, and they named him Isaac. God fulfilled His promise and the family line that would lead to Jesus coming as the Messiah had begun.

Isaac was not only a joy for Abraham and Sarah, he was an integral part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world through Jesus who would be born 2000 years later as a fulfillment of many promises.  When God answers our prayers, we thank the Lord for the blessing, but we don’t always see the greater implications of God’s provision. When God blesses us, it is with a plan to bless others as well through that blessing.

When our daughter was born and miraculously given to us, we rightly thought that she was a blessing to our family, but little did we know how much of a blessing she would be to so many other people. God’s blessings are not for us to keep and hold on to, but they are to be given back to the Lord for His purposes so that others can be blessed.

Isaac, the son of the promise was dedicated to God, and through Isaac God would bless the whole earth. Generations later, through another miraculous son in this line, God would keep another promise. That child, Jesus Christ, would forever and finally prove that however slow God seems, his “slowness” is not a sign of his absence (2 Peter 3:9).

God is not slow; He is patient, and His timing is always perfect. That distinction gives us the ability to be patient too, waiting on him to fulfill his promises.

Sometimes, God will act immediately in answer to our prayers, healing an illness, reconciling a broken relationship, or ending an addiction as an example. But on many occasions, God may ask us to wait. Some people are called to carry the cross of pain and heartache for much longer than they anticipated.  

Either way, do we trust God for the outcome? Do we praise God in the waiting and the hoping? If we don’t walk in hope and trust in God, the waiting will discourage us, eating at us, destroying us if we lose hope.

The first candle of the Advent wreath is the hope candle. As we focus on the birth of Jesus in this season, we can look back and see hundreds of promises that God has fulfilled. And we can look forward with assurance, that God will fulfill His promises in the future in His perfect timing. We are a people of hope (Ephesians 2:12-13). And as His children, we have the promise of eternal life with Christ, a promise that is secure by the word of God.

But what about today?

This Advent, do you feel like God is moving too slowly, or not moving at all? Maybe you are in a season where God feels distant, He seems far off, and you wonder if God has heard your prayers. Does God really see you?

The promises of God’s word inform us that He does see you. If you have given submitted your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, He is intimately involved in working out the perfect plans that He has for your life.  

And as we trust and wait, we must avoid trying to do what only God can do. Our natural tendency is to run ahead of God and not trust Him in the waiting.

We are a people of hope, and we can trust in the immeasurable power and love of God over our lives.