God Most Nigh

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

God Most Nigh

Understanding the mystery of God with us
December 10th, 2018
Ann-Margret Hovsepian

As the calendar ticks closer to Christmas, one of the first carols we sing at church is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It always gives me goosebumps, not only because the tune is so beautiful, but because I’m reminded that this name (also spelled Immanuel), assigned to Jesus about 700 years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14), means “God with us.” Some people mistake the meaning as “God is with us” (which is also true) but it is important to note that it’s actually “God with us.” The distinction matters: Though God had been with humans since the beginning, for the first time in history, God became a human. When Isaiah called this human “God-with-us,” he was hinting at the mystery of what the church calls the incarnation: Jesus Christ was God in flesh (John 1:14). God’s great sacrifice began thirty-three years before Jesus ever died on the cross, when God left the glory of heaven to walk this earth as a human being and live a life of humility, simplicity, and selflessness.

Consider using this article as an aid to understanding the incarnation better through Scripture. Pause over the Scripture references and reflect on what they are teaching you about Jesus, God with us.

Fully God

Jesus’s deity—the fact that he is God—is paramount to our Christian faith. Many skeptics stumble over the claim that Jesus and God are one and the same. The Gospel writer John, one of Jesus’s closest friends, claimed that Jesus was with God at the beginning of time, and that in fact Jesus was God. John said that the whole world was made through Jesus. He called Jesus both “the only Son” of God (John 1:14) and “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18).

If John’s radical claims are true, they change everything. If Jesus was not God in the flesh, he could not have stepped in as the perfect and blameless sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. If he had been merely a human being, his death would have been tragic but fairly insignificant, especially because he would not have risen from the dead three days later. Jesus lived a human life, but he did not have a human father, so he did not inherit the sin nature we are all born with. Jesus lived in a way that perfectly followed all of God’s commands—something no human had ever been able to do. Thus, he was able to overcome death and offer salvation to all who believe in him. The book of Hebrews tells us that “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). (See also Hebrews 9:14-15 and 10:12-14.)

Read the rest here.

To Those Hurting Christmas 2018

You’ve probably seen this one here a couple of times before during the Christmas season. It is such a good piece that I have decided to share this as a Christmas post each year.

To Those Hurting This Christmas

by John Knight

I know some of you are praying you’ll make it through Christmas—just make it through—not anticipating anything good will come from gathering with extended family and friends. It has become a cliche—right next to the article on what second-graders are excited about for Christmas is the article on the rise in depression during this last month of the year.

You know the sadness is real. While you change the diaper of a teenager, or administer complicated medications, or prevent your non-verbal ten-year-old from hurting himself again, or explain yet again the complicated life of your five-year-old without a diagnosis for her disability, your nieces and nephews and young friends are playing and running and eating, happily talking about the toys they want or travel they’re excited about or things they are doing in school. They easily do things your child will never do, no matter how many therapies or medications or prayers are offered.

Or maybe the disability in your family member means you can’t gather with other loved ones, and the heartache is almost more than you can stand.

Jesus knows.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, italics added)

More than that, he endured and is victorious!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, italics added)

And there are some of you who can’t see it. There is still hope!

From Pastor John’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy,

It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness first.

Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his. Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian — and yet still be one. (216, italics added)

Jesus understands. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is the answer. May you find him, and in finding him, find hope and peace in these hard days.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)


John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.

Always Let Your Bible Be Your Guide

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Always Let Your Bible
Be Your Guide

It’s not wise to allow movies to inform our theology. I grew up with the Jiminy Cricket quote: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” In the children’s movie Pinocchio, Disney’s dapper cricket danced and sang, encouraging the wooden puppet—along with the magical Blue Fairy—to follow his conscience as a moral compass for life. “Take the straight and narrow path,” Jiminy sang, “and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Was Jiminy right?

Culturally, the conscience is thought to help with decisions, and the conscience is considered to be rooted in good morals and virtuous character. Yet in colleges today, morals and ethics students debate what good “morality” looks like, and practical applications are open to interpretation.

A guiding conscience, in some situations, is more like a “be true to yourself” mantra than a moral compass for choosing what is proper, moral, or right.

Following True North

When hiking, if our compass is only one degree off course, we likely won’t arrive at our destination. A good, functional compass won’t be skewed; it will point “true north.”

The Christian’s moral compass points “true north” to the Truth of the Bible. God’s Word is the foundation for the believer’s moral and ethical behavior, and consequences are serious when our moral compass is not correctly aligned with God’s Word.

The Westminster Confession says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” God has freed us from submission to “doctrines and commandments of men” that are contrary to Scripture, that go beyond His commands or conflict with His wisdom principles for living.

God’s Word must reign supreme in our conscience! Our moral compass must be captive to biblical truth, not the whims of culture or even the fluctuating leanings of our hearts. As Andy Naselli wrote, “That voice in your head is not necessarily God’s voice. Sometimes your conscience may be theologically incorrect.”

In the Bible, Adam and Eve were the first ones to follow their own conscience, but their moral compass was not aligned with God’s words—His clear command (Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 6). The result was disastrous! Deceived, their human conscience allowed them to make a faulty, rebellious choice.

Read the rest here.

Thanking God for Everything

Today I’m sharing from Lifeway Voices.

Thanking God for Everything

by 

Nestled among a long list of exhortations and blessings in 1 Thessalonians is a line we’ll see in plenty this month. Distressed on barn wood at your local craft store, printed on banners hung in the dining room, embossed on the ceramic plate the turkey is served on, and rife in sermons everywhere, “Give thanks in everything,” is the rally cry of November. But, like Aunt Jane’s consistently overcooked turkey, the truncated statement can also leave a dry taste in our mouths.

Gratitude will be on the rise for the next two months, followed by a sharp decline on January first when we resolve to change all the things our mere gratitude couldn’t change: love-handles, schedules, relationships, the project we’ve been putting off. There’s nothing like a full serving of gratitude to show us just how many things exist for which we’re still not thankful. We will give thanks for everything except all the things for which we’re still bent on changing.

I have a stack on my desk of books to read and review, menu-plans to make, a driver’s license to renew, and a book contract to fulfill within the first month of 2019. As grateful as I am for a job I love, the freedom to eat and cook whole, healthy food, and a license to drive, I’m decidedly unthankful for the work they all will require of me. I can trick myself into being grateful, topping my cake of grumbling with the frosting of thanksgiving, but it’s still a dismal cake beneath. I need the words with which Paul follows up his exhortation: “For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

For what is God’s will for me? This.

Read the rest here.

The God Without … A Thanksgiving Message

I have shared this message from Grace Thru Faith before, but it is so good that I decided to make it my annual Thanksgiving message. May you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

The God Without …
A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message by Jack Kelley

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.   For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Each year on the 4th Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US.  It’s a holiday begun by the early settlers to express their gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest, and it’s patterned after the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

After the harvest Israelites from all over the country would gather in Jerusalem for a week-long celebration. This was to commemorate the time God had spent with them in the wilderness and to give thanks for another good harvest. All year they saved up their tithes, the first-born of their flocks and herds, the first sheaves of grain, the first grapes, figs, olives and other fruit and vegetables and brought it all to Jerusalem in the fall where they cooked and ate everything in a national celebration of praise (Deut. 12:5-7).

After surviving a very difficult year in the new world, the Pilgrims of New England instituted a similar, though much smaller, thanksgiving feast, again with the intent of praising God.   This event finally became a national holiday in the US in 1863, but it took until 1941 to settle on the 4th Thursday of November as its official observance.

My parents made sure we never forgot that it was the Lord who provided for us and so Thanksgiving was a religious observance in our house. Prayers were offered and each family member gave thanks to the Lord for all the good things we had received.

Read the rest here.

Thanksgiving for the Thankworthy

Thanksgiving for the Thankworthy

By Pat Knight

In 1621, the first Thanksgiving in America joined culturally diverse Native Americans and newly arrived colonists for a feast of fresh produce, wild game, and simple baked goods to celebrate their first harvest in the New World. Since the 1800s, annual Thanksgiving feasts have been celebrated in the US. Congress passed a joint resolution establishing a permanent, annual, day of Thanksgiving, designated as the fourth Thursday in November, to commence in 1942. The legal holiday was founded as a religious observance for all citizens to express thanksgiving to God for His blessings during the previous year.

In centuries past, the Israelites observed mandatory thank offerings and specific feasts several times each year, commemorating the Lord’s gifts and blessings, a periodic reminder for worshippers to lavish their heavenly Father with thanksgiving for abundant harvests and consistent blessings.

Some people claim that a thank-you simply demonstrates good manners. For Christians, giving thanks exceeds etiquette and a yearly feast. Believers embrace a perpetually grateful attitude of the heart, a pattern as natural as breathing.

Thanksgiving emerges from a heart in tune with the heavenly Father.

Water surging headlong over a steep precipice reveals a picturesque waterfall as prisms of water droplets in sunlight produce scintillating rainbows; similar beauty cascades from a heart of thanksgiving.

In response to God’s miraculous rescue of His people following four centuries of slave labor in Egypt, Moses and the Israelites burst into songs of praise. During their escape, millions of Israelites traveling on foot stopped abruptly when confronted with the hopeless task of crossing the Red Sea.

“Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), who rolled the water upward, exposing a path of dry land for the people to walk through. As soon as the last remnant of God’s people safely reached the opposite shore, the pursuing Egyptian army was swallowed by the returning walls of the sea. The Israeli song praised God’s power, majesty, and mercy during His spectacular deliverance (Exodus 15:1-21).

Hannah and Elkanah were married but childless in a culture where barren women were often harassed until their spirits were crushed with shame and reproach. At the tabernacle, Hannah poured out her heartbreak to God in a passionate prayer, pleading for a son. Sometime later Hannah gave birth to a boy. As she had promised God in her prayer, Hannah delivered Samuel to the priest for a lifetime of dedicated service at the temple (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

Hannah’s song of gratitude proclaims that life and death, prosperity and poverty, humility and exultation, are all determined by the power of a personal God. Hannah professed that God functions in supreme ways we neither predict nor fully understand, but He always answers believer’s prayers in unexpected, extraordinary ways. Hannah’s song is prophetic, the first announcement of the Lord’s anointed in the Bible. Centuries later, her inspired words found fulfillment in the birth of Christ, the Messiah.

The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), is one of the most familiar songs of thanksgiving in Scripture, which Mary composed following the angel’s announcement that she had been chosen as mother of the promised Messiah. Mary glorified God, affirming His mercy, might, and magnificence; His unfailing love and goodness. As words of praise spilled from her grateful heart, Mary acknowledged that God had chosen His humble servant for an exalted assignment.

Adoration praises God for who He is. “Call to God who is worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3). Thanksgiving expresses gratitude for what God has done. Believers pray with confidence, assured our Lord will answer every petition. Since we attest to God’s faithfulness, anticipating responses to our prayers yields a spirit of thanksgiving, assured God’s replies will always reflect His perfect will for each of us. Trust then becomes a form of worship as we thank God in advance for his blessings. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT). Prayers of His people invite God’s extravagant blessings.

God’s plan of salvation and Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice His holy life for the redemption of our sins evoke prayers of thanksgiving. Praise is our method of offering heartfelt joy to the Father and Son. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57). It is important to recognize the myriad blessings our Lord bestows on us every day: maintaining wellness of body and mind, and provision of needs—restful sleep, reliable transportation, secure homes, family near and far, clean, plentiful drinking water. Gratitude naturally pours from a believer’s humble, joy-filled heart.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).The word, “all” is tiny but inclusive, enveloping the whole of one’s possessions, resources, energy, and relationships. God desires our gratitude at all times, through the good and the bad; in delightful and challenging situations, for the purpose of maturing our faith and offering God glory and honor. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Thanksgiving is the springboard to spiritual joy. 

Worship consists of praise, adoration, song, and prayer, aspects of thanksgiving that convey love and reverence to the sovereign Father and Son. The contemporary use of worship is derived from the old English word, “worthship,” denoting the worthiness of God. Thankworthy reflects gratitude through worship. No one exemplifies worship of the heavenly Father more perfectly than Jesus, who offered the ultimate sacrifice of praise, the motivation for a life overflowing with thanksgiving. Jesus is the standard of worship to the Father, a heavenly portrait of goodness and grace.

The very essence of thanksgiving compels jubilation.

 “Thank you! Everything in me says ‘Thank you!’  Angels listen as I sing my thanks…Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength. When they hear what you have to say, God, all earth’s kings will say, ‘Thank you!’ They’ll sing of what you’ve done: ‘How great the glory of God!’ And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us’” (Psalm 138:1-6,The Msg.).

Our Lord is the source of thankworthiness!