I know it is true…but I can’t wrap my head around it regardless of how much I try.
So, I accept it by faith.
The implications of God becoming man are truly awesome!
God took on humanity, came to earth as a helpless baby, became one of us, to save us!
That fact is so profound!
Yet, He did even more!
The fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on the likeness of mankind impacts me beyond salvation, it touches me TODAY, right here, right now!
When I am having a hard day, when I’m tired, when I’m tempted to give into sin, when I’m in need, when I’m grieving, when I’m wishing things could be different, when I’m hurt by the action or words of another…Jesus KNOWS and understands.
God became a man, experienced the hardships of life in order that He could experientially identify with what mankind goes through and be an understanding High Priest .
Jesus was tired (John 4:6)
Jesus battled with Satan’s temptation to sin. (Matthew 4:8-10)
Jesus experienced physical hunger. (Matthew 4:2)
Jesus lost a friend to death. (John 11)
Jesus struggled when He was on His way to the cross. (Luke 22:42-44)
Jesus was betrayed by His closest friends. (Luke 22:47-61)
He did not have to do that.
But He stepped into our shoes in order to be a Savior Friend who understands our struggles.
Though He is not marred by sin like you and I, He understands the temptations.
Jesus could have come to earth, died for our sins and returned to heaven.
But He did so much more than that for us.
He experienced the hardships of life from beginning to end.
Hebrews 4:14 – 16 says
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Understanding these truths helps in our day to day; realizing that our Savior understands, experientially, what we are going through. He knows how to take our requests, struggles, burdens to God. Because He KNOWS!
Let’s come before the throne of Grace with every need, desire, heart ache and thank Him that He knows!
Christmas: that time of year where we celebrate the Little Baby, born in a manger.
In some ways, Christ was just like any other baby ever born, for He went through the physical birth process every baby must go through. He had the same physical needs every baby has: He needed clothing, food, shelter, and care. And unlike some folk-tradition, He did cry and need a mother’s arms to comfort Him, just like every other baby who needs a mother’s arms to hold and comfort them.
But in other ways—very significant ways—Christ was unlike any other baby ever born.
Indeed, He was God made into the form of a man.
He laid aside His divine glory so that He might clothe Himself with the garments of human flesh and human limitations, yet He never sinned.
And with His birth, Christ set in motion the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan, designed since before the foundation of the world.
What exactly was this plan?
Way back in the Garden of Eden, God declared to Satan and promised to Adam and Eve that He would “put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
God promised that one day, One would come who would conquer Satan, the tempter, the arch-enemy of God. This One would deliver mankind from sin’s penalty that has hung as a death-sentence over us since that critical day in the Garden.
God’s promise of a coming Deliverer was the seed of hope planted in the hearts of the first two people on planet earth. This was the seed of hope given in the midst of hopelessness.
As time went on, God unfolded more details of His divine plan to crush Satan and conquer sin.
We learn a description of who this Promised One would be:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Then we learn of this One’s name:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:7)
Just one verse later, we learn of part of the greater purpose for the Promised One: He will establish an everlasting kingdom, unlike any this world has ever known.
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom,
to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
And then, as the prophets of old spoke according to the Word of the Lord, we learn where this Promised One would come from:
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel;
whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
Generations passed and still no Deliverer had come.
Undoubtedly, many gave up on God ever making good on His promise to send One who would set all things right.
But then that quiet night, as the humble shepherds watched their flocks under the dark night’s sky, the glorious, magnificent, long-awaited news came!
An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and joyously proclaimed to them:
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day
in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
The Savior, Christ the Lord, had come!
This is the One who was promised on that fateful day when man rebelled against God and sin entered the world.
This is the One who would redeem mankind from the curse of sin.
This is the One who would crush the Serpent’s head.
This is the One who would establish His kingdom forevermore.
This is the One who had come!
God’s promise of redemption and deliverance was no longer just a promise: It was beginning to unfold, even as the shepherds stood there in wonder at the angel’s announcement and joyous refrain of praise to God!
Christ’s birth declared to all those who believed that God was fulfilling His promise: He had sent the Deliverer.
However, while we rejoice in the coming of this baby, we still await the complete fulfillment of God’s promises concerning this Deliverer, for we continue to await the day when Christ will set up His eternal Kingdom and rule with divine justice and judgment.
This Christmas season, as we exult in the birth of Jesus Christ, let us rejoice not only in the celebration of the beginning of God’s unfolding plan, but also in the glad confidence that He is going to fulfill the rest of His promise by one day setting up His Kingdom to reign forevermore!
“I thought we could all go around the room and share something we’d like to thank or praise God for” said Pastor Josh.
I found myself slightly panicking as I tried to quickly think of something I could say.
Other people in our connection group were starting to share but not
much was coming to my mind. “Quick! Think of something!” I tried to tell myself.
“My kids. I can say I’m thankful for my kids!” I felt a slight moment of relief before the next thought of “No, too generic, too generic” flooded my brain.
My husband, Mike, shared that he was thankful our newborn was starting to get into a schedule and sleeping better at night. Someone else commented about the good timing of that with Mike just now going back to school.
I quickly managed to squeak out that I was thankful he had been home over the summer to help with the transition of adding our third. I felt slightly embarrassed that I couldn’t think of anything else to say and wondered if other people thought it was odd that I wasn’t sharing either.
What was wrong here? Well, while I’d like to blame it on a bad case of “mommy brain” I have to admit that I think the problem goes deeper than that.
The problem is that I haven’t been doing much to cultivate a thankful heart lately. And that is sin. God clearly states many times throughout His Word that we are to be thankful and I just haven’t been doing it. I’ve been rather content to overlook His many blessings; either claiming them as a product of my own labor or complaining about the things I think I deserve to have, but don’t.
Why should we be thankful?
1. For the glory of God.
Psalm 31:11 – 12 – “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou has put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever.”
Psalm 50:14- 15- “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay vows unto the Most High: and call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify Me.”
2. To display God to others.
Psalm 35:18- “I will give thanks in the great congregation: I will praise Thee among much people.”
Psalm 69:30 – “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”
I love this! One of the ways we can make God bigger to those around us is through much thanksgiving! I’m not sure I had really made that connection before. I know that I’m supposed to be thankful but usually I connect it more with the fact that it makes me a less miserable person to be around. And yet right here in Psalm 69 we see that our thanksgiving is a way of magnifying God.
Our thankful hearts can be a means of pointing not only ourselves but other
people back to God as well.
Ok, so I get it. We are supposed to be thankful. Thankful for what though?
Psalm 68:19 says “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.”
Really? Daily loadeth us with benefits? Sometimes I find that hard to believe. I can think of some obvious things like food, my family and my home but beyond that sometimes I honestly have a hard time coming up with much more.
My children have been good for me in this area. Over the month of November we’ve been doing a “thankful tree.” We started with an empty tree trunk and each day we’ve been writing things we’re thankful for onto leaves and taping them onto the tree. And you know what? My kids haven’t been giving me complicated lists of things they are thankful for. They’ve been saying things like “socks, pumpkins, leaves, milk, cereal, cheese, books, forks, cups, bibs,
jammies, etc.” And sometimes they are even repeating themselves and saying the same things they said the day before.
In some ways I think they have a better grasp than me of how God daily “loads us with benefits.” Little things like warm/soapy water to wash dishes in, a cup of coffee, a special song, a chat with a friend, a child’s smile, an encouraging text, a couch to sit on or a pillow for my head, etc., etc., etc., are all things I could be giving God thanks for!
Wow. I’ve been missing out on a lot of opportunities to give thanks.
Within scripture we find even more gifts.
“He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” –(Acts 17:25)
There are times where I’ve watched my children sleep and with every rise of their stomach I’ve thought “that’s another breath that God just gave to them.” Something as simple as breath is a gift from God.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” -(Acts 17:24)
As we drive in the car, go for walks or play in the back yard we can be taking the time to notice the creation all around us and be pointing our children to the Creator. “What a beautiful sunset God painted just for us!” or “Lets see how many different shades of green we can find that God has created in our back yard.”
“Love is of God… for God is love.” – (1 John 4:7-8)
Our ability to love is linked directly to God. When is the last time we thanked God for those we love and for those who love us back?
“My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto Thee; and my soul, which Thou has redeemed.” – (Psalm 71:23)
How often are we taking the time to verbally share with our children, friends and families about the story of our redemption?
5. Spiritual blessings.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” – (Ephesians 1:3)
Sometimes I personally find it easier to thank God for the material things around me while overlooking the many spiritual blessings He blesses me with. What would our lives look like without His grace? Without His Spirit? Without direct access to our God? Without eternal security?
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.” – Psalm 68:19.
Let’s recognize these daily things as coming from His hand and look for ways to give thanks!
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14) (ESV)
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Psalm 50:23) (ESV)
The words jumped off the page at me and I had to read them again:
“Sacrifice of thanksgiving.” “Glorifies me.”
As believers on this side of the cross, we tend to confine sacrifices to the Old Testament law system, from which today’s believer has now been freed. Yet the sacrifices of thanksgiving are not the bloody sacrifices carried out in the temple worship during the time of the Bible.
No, we no longer offer animal sacrifices as a means of finding favor before the Lord, for Christ took care of the sacrifice for sin once and for all on the cross: We are fully accepted in the Beloved before the Father.
While these verses were written during the Old Testament time-period, I believe they provide valuable instruction about giving tanks that that can be applied to the believer.
Observation #1: Such sacrifices are a way to worship and glorify God.
The Psalms clearly state that a thankful heart is a sacrifice that renders glory to God.
Why is the attitude of giving thanks called a “sacrifice”?
The New Testament discusses the believer’s relationship to sacrifices with specific language, for Romans 12:1 tells the believer to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)
While Christ has done away with the need for offering the sacrifices of bulls and goats, we are now called to offer up the sacrifice of our own bodies, our own living bodies.
Did you catch that? The acceptable worship that we are now called to offer to the Lord takes place with our bodies–our physical bodies.
How then, do we offer our bodies as a sacrifice? If this is not a literal, physical, blood-shedding sacrifice, we must be called instead to offer some form of a spiritual sacrifice.
It is here that we often get stuck: the concept of spiritually yielding our physical bodies as a living sacrifice feels ambiguous and the implications of such are difficult to understand on a day-to-day basis. How does “offering up the spiritual sacrifice of my living body” impact my morning that is filled with soiled laundry, a sink filled with dirty dishes, and a fussing toddler’s oatmeal-smeared face?
I believe Hebrews 13:15-16 gives us a glimpse into how offering up our bodies–the members of our physical bodies—as a living sacrifice plays out in a very practical way: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (ESV)
All these things are very practical, concrete things that we do with the physical members of our bodies: the acknowledging His name with ourlips, the doing good (with our hands, feet, and mouth), and the sharing of our goods. These verses help us connect the spiritual with the physical and show us how we can do spiritual sacrifices with our physical bodies.
Such a connection makes the concept of offering up spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to Him somewhat easier to grasp.
So, if our spiritual sacrifices consist of using our physical bodies, then these spiritual sacrifices are carried out with the very members of our bodies: our hands, feet, mouth, mind, and heart.
This gets very practical, does it not? We use these members of our body every minute of every day. Every day, we have opportunities to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are pleasing to God, and in turn offer up a living sacrifice pleasing to Him.
Or at those same moments, we can yield our physical members as instruments of unrighteousness and choose to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are not pleasing to God.
Observation #3: We offer up sacrifices every day
And it is here that we learn what a sacrifice of thanksgiving looks like:
How often throughout the day are we not tempted to be irritated about having to pick up the fork our toddler threw off the table for the tenth time or annoyed with that person we talked to yesterday who always seems to “have it all together”?
How often are we not tempted to have a pity party for ourselves because we haven’t had any “me” time or to text to a friend to complain about something?
How often do we tend to fail to see that choosing to be content and thankful in even the most mundane ways is in fact the very significant form of offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord?
Suddenly, the insignificant becomes very significant.
To offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving now becomes very clear: yield up those moments of temptation and turn them into moments of sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. Instead of grumbling and complaining about the particular situation that is planting seeds of ingratitude in your heart, turn it into an opportunity to offer the specific sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing to the Lord.
This past year our Pastor has been teaching through the book of James and I have spent a chunk of personal Bible time in this epistle.
Today let’s look at Jesus in the book of James.
Though James talks about the Christian more than it talks directly about Jesus, there are two names of Christ that we find in James and they gives us a bold picture of who He is and His dramatic contrast to sin!
LORD OF GLORY
This is the first descriptive name we see of Christ, chapter two verse one.
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”
Jesus Christ, in His essence IS glory! The audience that James was writing to knew about the glory of God! In the Old Testament the Shekinah Glory in the tabernacle and temple was the very presence of God Himself! In this verse, James says that Jesus Christ IS the Lord of Glory, an undeniable truth that Jesus IS God.
Though He is God, Jesus Christ humbled Himself and died for the sins of the WORLD; old, young, rich poor, dark, light, male, female. He shows no partiality in His offer of salvation!
The application which James is drawing here in chapter two is that a believer, one who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ ought not to show partiality. Favoritism is NOT glorious. Partiality is NOT in line with the character of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, the One who saved us from our sin. Romans 2:11 says “God shows no partiality”.
James drives his point hard in verse 5, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” God has chosen to give great faith even to the poor of this world.
In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul the Apostle writes,
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
God’s ways are not our ways and in His sovereignty has saved the weak, unlovely, and in our eyes, unusable.
Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world! We wore the “vile raiment” of sin, we should have been given less than the “lowest stool”, we should have been given HELL! Instead, the Lord of Glory gave us salvation!
Partiality is not in harmony with our identity as children of the Glorious God.
I’ll be honest, I can look back and see how I have shown partiality, sometimes not even meaning to. Showing favor to another lady or mom who I know better, or I click with, or am just more comfortable with. In my life, partiality is often driven by fear. Fearing what another woman might think of me or my kids. Fear of what other lady’s life story might look like and not knowing how to relate. This name of Christ convicts me and challenges me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to others who are different, yet are loved by God just as He loves me!
THE CHALLENGE! When we are tempted to judge and show favoritism let’s remember who we were apart from Christ. Remember how unlovely our sin was and is. Remember that favoritism does not reflect the Lord of glory who died in our place. Revel in God’s grace and in turn reach out to those around us!