Immanuel – God With Us

christmas-nativity-scene_455966Matthew 1:23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

Read Isaiah Chapters 6 and 7:  This is where the prophecy of Jesus being born from a virgin appears.  King Ahaz is being told not to worry or be afraid to stand firm on his faith, or not stand at all.  There are two kings planning to attack Jerusalem, but God tells Ahaz that this will never happen.  He says that before Immanuel is born both the kingdom of Damascus and the kingdom of Samaria will be in ruins, for more information about this invasion see 2Kings 15 and 16.

Also note that in King James the name Syria is used in the place of Aram.  Looking into a bible dictionary we find that Aram and Syria are interchangeable.  The word Aram  is the name of the youngest son of Shem who was one of Noah’s son’s making Aram his grandson.  Aram was the founder of the Aramaean nation and so the country of Syria is rightly called Aram, though the same Hebrew word means Mesopotamia and Syria.  The designation Syria as an abbreviation of Assyria and came into common usage after the conquests of Alexander the Great. During Ahaz’ time there were actually two separate countries/nations Assyria and Syria.  

In the story of King Ahaz, God was with Ahaz and God had Isaiah give a prophecy of when God would be with us in the flesh.  The prophecy was given to the people of the House of David.  Obviously, this part of the prophecy wasn’t taking place that day or being fulfilled in Ahaz’ life time.  Jesus wasn’t born for several hundred years after this,  but it was a promise from God, and these people knew that God keeps his promises.  

The thing about prophecies in the Bible is that God almost always gives a “short term – in their life time” prophecy whenever he is giving a long term “somewhere in the future, but not necessarily in your life time” prophecy.  One reason for this is to show that the prophet is legitimately a prophet and can be trusted that if he gives a prophecy it will eventually come true.  

In this case the short term prophecy was directly to King Ahaz and his people that God is with them in spirit “right now” and will take care of their problem…all they have to do is to wait on the Lord to act…they just need to wait faithfully.  The second half of the prophecy is that later on God will be with his people, literally, “in the flesh.”  Walking among them.

Sometimes, I don’t think that, as Christians, we really give enough thought to the idea of God walking around in the flesh and what that tells us about God.  He didn’t just send Jesus to “die” for us…he also sent him to “live” with us.  So that we would know exactly who God is, and what God believes is the best form of worship, and so that we can have constant communion with him….each and every day of our lives.

We could never reach up to God…so God came down to us…isn’t that just the most awesome thing?  Whenever, I think of it…how deep is his love for us that he would enter the hardship of living in a physical body with its daily needs and aches and pains just so that he can get close to us?  I know, you are thinking, but how can God house himself in a human body?  Well, I don’t know the specific answer to that question, except to just acknowledge that He is God..by the very nature of being God…shouldn’t he be able to do anything?  If there is something that God cannot do, then He would not be God, would he?!! 

We do not need to know how God does everything…we just need to know that he can and he does…God is able and he is with us!  What more can we ask for in life?

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Everlasting Father

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My maternal Grandfather and Aunt, and my youngest brother…even though we rarely attended church we had some awesome role models of people who sincerely believed in God and knew who he was and demonstrated that knowledge by how they lived day to day…in this picture are two of them from the two previous generations and you can see the joy on all three faces as they interact with one another.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Read Psalm 145 This discusses God’s relationship with all he has created.  Even though it doesn’t use the word father, the creator is the father of his work, and God is mentioned as everlasting, and caring.  In verse 4 we are told by King David (this is one of his Psalms) that each generation commends God’s works to another; they tell of God’s mighty acts.  King David understood that this was how it was supposed to be that from one generation to the next we are supposed to be passing down our knowledge of who God is and how much God loves us, and what God is expecting from us both toward him and toward each other.  In honor of the Everlasting Father we are supposed to be doing this to the glory of God.

The thing is that there is many times a failure to do this.  The funny (ironic) thing is that when you know who God is and how much he loves you, and you have a close personal relationship with him then you find it hard not to share what you know about God.  God is exciting…having someone who loves you so much is exciting!  The first thing we want to do when we are excited is to share our excitement with others. In light of this, then I have to ask…why are there so many people in the world who do not actually know and understand the love of God and who he is in relationship to them?  I mean there are more churches in this world than ever before?  If you attend a church I invite you to look around and observe…is your church and the people in it really truly teaching these things?  Are you within your family teaching and/or learning these things?

Self evaluation is always a good thing…but don’t beat yourself up if you find that you are not doing as well as you think you should be.  Just make a plan on how you can better pass on to the next generation your love and knowledge of God.  Note that the next generation doesn’t just mean your own children.

Don’t expect great things to happen immediately…remember that God has a long range plan for your life, and for the lives of each and every person he creates.  What you can take to heart is that God says that none of his Word goes out and does not accomplish what he sets out for it to accomplish. (Isaiah 55) It is just that it takes longer in most cases for us to see this than we would like.

Isaiah 55

Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 145:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which (including verse 13b) begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
  2. Psalm 145:5 Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text On the glorious splendor of your majesty / and on your wonderful works I will meditate
  3. Psalm 145:13 One manuscript of the Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls and Syriac (see also Septuagint); most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text do not have the last two lines of verse 13.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Prince of Peace

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Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Read Matthew 5: 1-12  The Beatitudes.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace…he tells us that he gives us his peace.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. (NIV)

When Jesus describes his peace he tells us that it is not like the peace as the world sees it or gives it.  So what is the peace that Jesus is giving us?  How do we get it?

I was having a discussion about this with a friend of mine.  We were discussing that there are blessings from God that only come from obedience to his will.  It was not a discussion saying that a person cannot be blessed by God while in a state of disobedience…as we are told in Matthew 5:44-47  “it rains on the righteous and unrighteous.” (rain is a blessing that makes things grow as indicated in this particular verse.)

 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even tax collectors do the same?…

The point is that some of the blessings of God such as Jesus’ peace that he is telling us about in John 14.  Salvation comes when you give your heart to Jesus Christ, peace comes through obedience.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you are on the “outs” with another person, or you have done something that is not quite in line with what God says is the right way to go on a matter, that your sense of peace and contentment are destroyed? …well, God isn’t just telling us to be obedient because he wants to spoil our fun.  He gives us guidelines for how to treat others, and how to treat ourselves so that we can have peace of mind and peace of heart, satisfaction in relationships, and life…so that we can be closer to him and hear his voice more easily.

When Jesus speaks of his peace and he says he is not giving it as the “world gives it”…think about how the world gives?  There is a reason that we have a saying that “there is no free lunch”…Jesus’ peace is a peace where nothing is held over you…it is not at some weighty cost to yourself that you get this peace.  This is a peace like no other.

The world’s peace is usually just a ceasing of hostility…true peace can only come through loving the other person.  That is how Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” because Jesus actually loved everyone…no matter who they were, what they were like, what they did to him, no matter what their sin….Jesus loved them all.  He still loves us all in the same way. (Jesus even loved Judas Iscariot…even while he was betraying him…he still loved him!)

The ultimate freedom for humanity is in the form of Jesus’ peace….once you know how to love others no matter what they are like to you, or to others, short, tall, fat, slim, smart, dumb, nice, mean, red or green, etc. love them all and have Jesus’ peace through your obedience.  That is loving Jesus…being obedient to him.  (John 14:15)

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us “blessed are the peacemakers…”  Be the ultimate peacemaker…love others and obey God…then have peace in your heart, mind and soul!

Wonderful Counselor/Friend

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A lot of valuable advice is passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. That is one way that we “honor our parents”.  Leviticus 19:32 says to “Stand up in the presence of the elderly and show respect for the aged…” 1Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 15:13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Read Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but wisdom was proved right by her actions.

Read Luke 10:38-42  Jesus counsels to Martha on the importance of working for the Kingdom of God.

When we think of a counselor many times in society we are thinking of someone who is paid to give us counsel…such as a lawyer, or psychologist, psychiatrist…etc.

However, we also get counseling from our friends about our problems, usually we don’t pay them – even though sometimes their counsel is better than that of the professionals. A lot of our best counselors in life are older people…sometimes, simply because they have lived longer they have a much calmer way of thinking than younger people…their way of looking at things is viewed through the lens of experience…many of the things that seem like a crisis just are not as much of one as we think they are…many times they are but a “bump” in the road of life.  Jesus is the ultimate counselor.

If we look at the qualities of a good counselor most of us are looking for someone who is

1.) able to keep a secret (trustworthy)

2.) able to give good advice (wise)

3.) compassionate and understanding(feeling)

4.) a good listener(attentive)

Now, if you have a counselor who fails in any of these areas it is really difficult. There is simply no point on which Jesus fails to be a good counselor.  Sometimes when we have a friend who is a counselor they don’t always give the best advise, isn’t that so?!!  It depends on the maturity of the friend, and also on the nature of the friend.  Sometimes, the friend may advise you to do something that is actually not wise at all, but is an indication in their mind of them being “on your side.”  A lot of the time a friend may get angry “on your behalf” when someone else has hurt you.

In those cases you need to pray that God will give you the wisdom to seek out the best counselor for the situation at hand, or that God himself will give you the counsel you need through his Holy Word.

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Remember that when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness what he used to defend himself against temptation was scripture.  That is an awesome lesson of wisdom to all of us.  Just about every problem known to man is covered in scripture one way or another.

A lot of times we hear people say, “oh, that doesn’t apply to today!” or “they didn’t know about all the modern technology we have today!”  Well, whenever someone says something like that remember that even though we don’t live the same way there are some truths that are simply true and timeless.

If you always take the time to ask yourself…what is the most loving thing that I could do toward that person in this situation…and ask God to show it to you…then you will know the Wonderful Counsel of Jesus Christ….and will make a good decision.  It may not be the only good decision, but it will be a good decision.  Frequently, there is not only “one” good decision in any given situation, but several, and a good decision in the same situation may be different and not so good if the people are different in the same situation.

For example…sometimes a good decision requires “tough love” and sometimes it requires “gentle love”.  In either case, the key is “love”.

The important thing is to remember that God has standards of behavior toward others and it is to deny yourself, and follow him in loving others.

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I am The Alpha and the Omega…

IMG_0089Revelations: 22:13  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, The Beginning and the End

Read Genesis Chapter 1, and Revelation Chapter 22.  This is about both the beginning and the end of Man’s life on Earth as we know it.  God was there to create us, and as Chapter 22 in Revelations states He will be there to separate those who are to get into the Holy city of God, and those who don’t. 

The Alpha and the Omega…The First and the Last, The Beginning and the End…Those are very strong images.  They are images of an everlasting, timelessness that we as humans cannot really grasp.  Just like trying to grasp the mathematical number pi…3.1416 onward to infinity.  It is simply beyond my grasp to understand.  I sit and think to myself back when I first heard of such a number that I wonder who came up with it and how they discovered it and how they know that it is infinite.  Obviously, God would be the inventor of that number as well as all others as he is the creator of all things.  He simply revealed it to us humans as it became something that a few of us could almost grasp.  Funny thing is that mathematical pi has been known to have been in use in some form since the time of the Babylonians around 4000 B.C.  You might say that it is one of the remnants of the great Babylonian empire, though their number was a bit inaccurate.  Now for any who are reading this who don’t know what pi is…it is the relationship between the circumference of a circle (that is if you walked around the circle), and the diameter (if you walked across the circle).  I know it is used in formulas for this purpose, but don’t entirely understand it, not being a mathematician.  However, back to the topic at hand…

God, who is infinite (like walking around a circle..no beginning and no end) took a lot of trouble to present himself to us in a very linear, straight forward way.  He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to actually show us who God is in the flesh. Jesus has a whole lot of names listed in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

God knew that we were not capable of understanding all of who he is, so he decided to come and meet each and every one of us where we are on this earth.  Now, as with all meetings, you can make a friend of the one whom you meet with…or you can reject that friendship by either making an enemy, or by simply ignoring the hand of friendship.

When we read about what God created in Genesis chapter one…it is an awesome thing….he “spoke” the world into existence.  Most of us are really impressed that we can speak into a gps and tell it to plot a route, right?!!  The gps is already in existence and is programmed for  this purpose…God spoke the world into existence from absolutely nothing…We are told in Genesis 1 that The earth was formless and void, and there was darkness…

A God who can speak the world into existence from nothing can most certainly handle my problems, right?!!  God tells us that he will be there from beginning to end…to me that is a comforting statement.  Why?  Well, that is because I love God and I know that God loves me and the he considers me to be very precious to him.  God considers us all to be his very precious creations.  It is just that some people chose to accept God’s invitation to have a close and very personal relationship with him and others don’t.

When you choose to have a close relationship with God everything does not suddenly become perfect and rosy in your life.  Just look at the lives of the Disciples if you don’t understand what I am saying.  You are probably saying, “why not?”

Well, that is the thing, although we are precious to God, so are other people.  Once you have God’s saving grace, he wants to use you to glorify him by bringing other people into close relationship with him also.  Sometimes the process of being used by God for this purpose can be painful and hard to bear…sometimes you don’t even know when or how God is using you.  That is where faith comes in, you just follow God and know that he is with you where ever you go….from beginning to end….he has a purpose for everyone.  Our main purpose is to glorify God, and we are to love people first and foremost even when they are next to impossible to love.  I am sure we all have met some folks who are like that!

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Just fill in the blank here….”I cannot love them because they are…or they did…”

Just remember that God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End…he is there for your beginning and end and he is also there for their beginning and end…he knows exactly what it takes to love each and every one of us.

Matthew 5:44-46  

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

 

He knows how to help us to love the folks who are unlovable…and we are all in some ways hard to love at different times in our lives.  The thing that I have found over the years is that if you can look at things from the other person’s perspective and try to understand why they are acting they way they are acting, then you are well on your way to being able to love them with the love of Christ.

Most of us have met people and thought…”I can never be friends with them…they are so….” (fill in the blank)…then something happens that is unforeseen and we find that we have a common interest, or that we actually believe something in the same way and suddenly we are best friends with that person.  I have learned that you can never write off a person because at first they are not someone you instantly bond with.  Each person has their own unique characteristics and gifts, and their own unique backgrounds and life experiences…their own pains and pleasures in life which make up who they are.

God knows all of it….the Bible says that God knew us before we were in the womb, though the verse is talking to Jeremiah, God knows all of us the same way.

Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” NIV

If you read Revelation Chapter 22 then you see that God is expecting something from us all…it says he will reward each according to what they have done…this is not talking about how much money you have given, or how hard you have worked at work, or how many fund raisers you have done for your church…this is talking about how much you have loved others and how many people have come to know God because of your actions and your words.  Teaching people about who God is must be done with both words and actions…it must be an intentional act…to love that person enough to want them to truly understand the love of Christ.

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Revelation 22 reminds us that people can be lost…because their focus is on themselves and their own pleasures and not on God.  This is a tragedy that God would like to avoid happening.

I read this verse in 2 Peter 3:9-12 about the type of people we should be as we wait for the Day of the Lord to come….we are to be conducting ourselves with godliness and holiness as we anticipate and “hasten” the day of the Lord.   

We are to “hasten” the day of the Lord by loving others and helping them to come to know who God is through knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.

As Peter tells us in verse 9, The Day of the Lord has not yet come because God does not wish anyone to be lost.  It isn’t because God doesn’t see the bad things that are happening, it’s because he wants to save as many as will turn to him.  God’s servants (that would be us) are those who can impact others to turn them toward God…that is what it means to hasten the coming Day of the Lord, or to move the Kingdom of God forward.

1Corinthians 1:18  18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.