God is with Us

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” –Isaiah 7:14
What’s your favorite expression of love? I mean, if you were to boil love down to one phrase or
even a word, what would it be?
You could say commitment. Married love is a commitment to one another, a resolve to stay
together through thick and thin. Or you might think of the word affection. Love is a strong
affection, a feeling of caring for someone else. Those are good words. And there are others.
Words like fondness, warmth, devotion, and compassion—all of them express the concept of
love in different ways.
But I’d like to suggest another word as perhaps the greatest expression of love—with.
A wife says to her husband, “Would you like to go with me to the grocery store?” A sick little girl
says to her father, “Daddy, stay with me.” A young man asks a young woman if she will go
through life with him.
There’s something special about with. Teammates say, “I’m with you,” and you know they’ll do
everything in their power to help the team. Friends say, “I’ll be with you,” and you know that
they’re going to be there for you in good times and in bad.
God also expresses his love in terms of with, but sadly, the people he most wants to be with
sometimes act as if they’d rather do without him in their lives.
That’s where King Ahaz stood. He tried to live his life without God. It was to him that the Lord
made the promise through the prophet Isaiah that, “the virgin will be with child and will give birth
to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Immanuel. In all of scripture, only Jesus is given that name. It means “God with us.” And God
with us is the ultimate expression of his love.
That’s what makes our celebration of Christmas more than just a mid-winter break. God came to
be with us. He knows what life is like. He understands hurt. He’s experienced rejection. He
knows pain. He knows what it’s like to lose sleep. He knows betrayal and hatred,
disappointment and grief. He knows…and he cares.
  • To the student for the first time away from home, he says, “I am with you.”
  • To the newlywed husband and wife wondering about their future, he says, “I am with you.”
  • To the discouraged resident of a nursing home, he says, “I am with you.”
  • To the single parent and her child…to the recently divorced…to the financially strapped…to
    the grieving and the sick, he says, “I am with you.”
  • To the tiniest child and the most elderly among us, he says. “I am with you.”
Before he ascended into heaven Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”
(Matthew 28:20). He loved us too much to leave us to ourselves. And one day he will come
back to take us to be with him forever.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for coming to be with us. Keep us faithful to you, that we may live with
you forever. Amen.

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What will we do with this book?

“Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” –2 Kings 22:10
It must have been like a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie.
 
In the eighteenth year of his reign, good King Josiah ordered the repair of the Temple in
Jerusalem. For years worship of the true God in Judah had suffered under a long parade of evil
kings, and by now the magnificent temple Solomon built three centuries earlier had fallen into
disrepair.
 
During the course of the restoration, Hilkiah the priest made an astonishing discovery. It was a
scroll—one that had not been touched for some time. He carefully examined the delicate book,
and his heart must have raced when he realized what it was. He hurried off to tell the secretary,
Shaphan, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord!” (2 Kings 22:8).
 
It was Shaphan’s job to report to the king on the progress of the restoration project. He began in
fairly undramatic fashion, “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the
Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple” (2 Kings 22:9).
 
Then he dropped the bombshell. “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book,” (2 Kings 22:10).
Shaphan unrolled the scroll and began to read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders…
“Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what
is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD’s anger that is poured out
on us because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD; they have not acted in
accordance with all that is written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:19-21).
 
Do you wonder, as I do, how the Book of the Law could have been lost? How could it have been
lost and not missed for so long in the temple of the Lord?
 
That day began a great reform. Josiah vowed to follow the Lord and keep his commands with all
his heart. And all the people pledged the same.
 
We, too, have been given a Book—the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. But it
is in danger of being lost. Biblical illiteracy is soaring. Worship attendance is on the decline. Our
nation is quickly transforming from a post-Christian culture into an anti-Christian one.
 
We have a choice. We can follow the trend and drift ever-so-slowly away from our God. Or we
can re-commit ourselves to living our lives by the Book of the Lord. What will we do?
 
The Word of God is “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). It exposes our sin and shows us our
Savior. May we treasure that Word, and each day commit ourselves to holding on to its truth.

Prayer: Lord, give me insight, peace, courage, and strength through your Word. Amen.


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What speaks, yet has no words?

What speaks, yet uses no words? What beautifully and eloquently declares the power, wisdom and glory of God, yet does so without employing human language or speech? 

God’s creation does. And we’d better pay attention. 

King David must have been musing on the wonders of a star-studded key as he wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).  

All creation testifies to God’s power, wisdom and glory. The “voice” of the heavens reaches out into the remotest parts of the world. Yet the world, it seems, refuses to listen. It’s considered the height of wisdom to reject the very idea of a Creator—to act as if the world is all there ever was and to say that there is not and never was a Maker. But the stars in the night sky shout it out. There is a God! He is the Maker of all. He is awesome. And he is real. 

Still, nature can only reveal so much. It cannot tell us who this God is and what he did to save us. For that, we need another revelation—the Bible: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. . . The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).

Only God can tell us who he really is, that he is Triune—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Only he can tell us how deeply and dearly he loves us. Only he could have revealed his plan to save his fallen world. Only he could have told us that he so deeply loved the world that he sent his Son to live among us and die, so that we might live with him in unending peace and joy. 

When this God speaks, I need to listen. Sin is so deeply ingrained in my heart that I sin when I know better, and even when I don’t want to. “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me” (Psalm 19:12,13). My sin is not a minor corruption. Only God can undo its awful effects. And the heart and core of the Bible’s message is that he has! 

As amazing as the heavens are and as eloquently as the stars speak about the power of our Creator, we rejoice even more in the wisdom and love he has revealed to us in his Word. 

We pray: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Amen.


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Come, Follow Me

Matthew 4:19
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people” (NIV11).
 
Come, Follow Me
 
I wonder what they were thinking, don’t you? Jesus sees two brothers, Peter and Andrew,
casting a net into the lake to catch fish. He tells them, “Come, follow me.” And they leave their
nets to follow him. Now, understand: he’s met them before. This isn’t a first-time cold call. But
when Jesus calls, they’re ready. . . and they go.
 
Then he comes across James and John, who are also fishermen. They’re in a boat with their
father preparing their nets. Jesus calls them, too. “Let’s fish for souls,” he says. And they drop
everything. They leave their boat. They leave their father. And they go and follow Jesus.
 
Who does that? Who leaves it all behind to follow Jesus, not knowing what the future holds in
store? Who leaves behind job, family, and home just to be with Jesus and learn from him? I
guess you could say: only somebody who really wants to. Only someone who sees Jesus for who
he is and knows the peace and blessing only he can bring.
 
What these men did makes sense only when we see that. Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God
and Savior of the world. Yet he took on the nature of a servant. “He humbled himself by
becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). He did it to cancel our
debt of sin and give us the joy of everlasting life.
 
How much of that did Peter and Andrew and James and John really understand? Not all of
it—at least not at this time. But what they did know about Jesus made them want to give
something in return. And so when they hear his call to come and follow him, they answer that
call with joy. They give him their lives.
 
Jesus is calling you. He’s calling you to follow him just as he called them. He’s calling you to be
his disciple—to learn from him, to walk in his ways, and to share the good news with all. He’s
calling you to get involved in his work—to go out and “fish for souls.” How will you respond?

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You Know What’s Coming

Matthew 24:36
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the
Father.
 
You Know What’s Coming
I love a good movie with a surprise twist at the end, don’t you? The plot draws you in, you
begin to really care about the characters, you go through all kinds of emotional ups and downs,
and just when you think it’s all over. . . something happens that makes you say, “I did not see
that coming!”
 
That’s similar to what Jesus says the end of time will be like. It will take us all by surprise.
“About that day or hour no one knows. . .” he says. He explains that at the time of the flood,
people went about their lives as usual, “up to the day Noah entered the ark. . . until the flood
came and took them all away.” Jesus’ arrival on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead
will be a shocker—the kind of thing that makes you say, “I did not see that coming!”
 
People have made all kinds of predictions about the end of time and have tried to calculate just
when it will be. None of them has ever proven to be true. That’s no surprise, because that day
is known only to God. But there is one aspect of the end that we do know. We know that it’s
going to come. That is certain. And when it comes, we need to be ready.
 
This Advent season, get ready for Jesus. Come to worship and listen to his Word. Recognize
your sin and trust in the blood that washes it all away. You know what’s coming. Grow closer to
your Lord, so that when he comes you can say with confidence and joy, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
 
Pastor Thomas Fricke

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