Saturday, December 26, 2015

Where God Dwells

He is the One we celebrate this month: this Word-made-flesh, who arrived in our midst to shine light where before only darkness had been. But God’s desire to walk among us did not begin with the incarnation. In fact, God’s desire has always been: to dwell with mankind. 

"In the beginning," God created man in His image. Surely it was paradise to walk with God through His garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). But man’s choice to heed his own desires, instead of His creator’s, exiled humanity from God’s paradise (yet not from the hope of His presence). 

Even as man abandoned Him, God did not abandon His desire to dwell with man. He chose Israel, an insignificant nation by human standards, to be His own treasured possession. “I will be their God, and they will be my people” is the common refrain of the Old Testament prophets who spoke God's desire to His people, again and again. 

After rescuing Israel from slavery, the Lord provided a blueprint for His dwelling place, the tabernacle, among His people.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them,” the Lord instructs Moses atop Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:8). A holy God longing to live with His people, God made a way by which He could dwell with His sinful, but nonetheless chosen, family. 

Then Jesus Christ was born. Never was God’s heartfelt desire more clearly seen than in the face of Christ: the Word - God - in the flesh. And that divine flesh dwelt among us! The word translated “dwelt” in John 1:14 is the same word used for tabernacle in Exodus passages. Literally, Jesus “tabernacled” among us. One modern translation puts it this way: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."

 But what about now that Christmas is over? What about now that Jesus no longer walks the earth? For those who belong to Christ, His physical absence actually means a more intimate dwelling with the Lord! Paul writes, “For you are the temple [tabernacle] of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We are now God’s dwelling place. Those who accept Christ into their lives, and who are in Christ, having been united to His resurrected life, are told that “the Spirit of God dwells within you” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

He dwells in His children, in the heart, in the spirit, in the mind, in the very essence of our being. We are transformed by our union with Him and share in His life (Colossians 3:4). We are tabernacles of the Lord; our bodies are His temple; His dwelling place is in and among His people.

In this post-Christmas season, my prayer for you is:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sharing and Savoring the Story

When [the shepherds] had seen [Jesus], they spread word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. ~ Luke 2:17-20

Can you imagine the joyful ruckus those shepherds made, as they shared with others what the angels had told them, what they had seen with their own eyes in the stable? A Savior had been born, Christ the Lord! Those who heard their report marveled, and surely many believed Jesus to be the Son of God. 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” 

Most every mother can recall the precious events surrounding the birth of her child — perhaps, the moment she discovered she was pregnant, what time she had her first contraction. Then baby’s first steps, first bottle, first word become memories to treasure.

How much moreso would Mary, the mother of Jesus, who knew from even before his conception that He was the Son of God! He was to fulfill every Old Testament prophecy that pointed to the Messiah. Surely, she savored the special moments that Luke records: his unusual birthplace, the shepherds and their stories of countless angels filling the skies, the wise men who traveled and brought regal gifts in humility, Anna and Simeon’s prophecies and declarations in the temple.

But Jesus’ mother did not announce His birth from the rooftops. Instead, she silently savored what God had proclaimed and performed, cherishing each memory in her heart.

“The truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to ponder them. Meditation is the best help to memory,”  writes Matthew Henry.

For us, too, there are those sacred moments with God, where He speaks in His “still, small voice” through His word, and we hold onto and meditate upon that precious gift. Then, also, there are those moments to share with a shout what the Lord has done, through the marvelous miracle of His love and grace to us.

This season, may you savor (as Mary did) the special times you spend with Jesus. This Christmas, may you share (as the shepherds did) the joyful story of His birth and life with all who will hear! 


Monday, December 14, 2015


Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace to those upon whom His favor rests. (Luke 2:14)

“Peace on earth.” We sing it so often this time of year that we may not stop to ponder it. So I’m inviting you to stop and ponder:

What does this pronouncement of peace really mean? Do you see peace on earth?

It only takes a day’s worth of newspaper headlines to remind us that the planet has not called a ceasefire. Far from it: War, domestic violence, hate crimes, divorce, strained relationships reach all corners of the globe. As Christians, we trust the Lord, who has said that at the end of all things, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:4). Oh, the marvelous hope that we have for a future overflowing with peace!

But what about for now, for today, for this very moment? After all, the angelic army declared peace on EARTH, specifically. Did they have their heads in the clouds?  Worse yet, were they just plain wrong?

To start, let’s confess that our common concept of peace may differ from God’s. It takes only a few Scriptures to see that clearly:

Jesus has reconciled everything to Himself, having already made peace through the blood of His cross. (Col 1:20)

Having already been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Jesus has already given His peace to His people. (John 14:27)

For Jesus Himself is our Peace. (Eph 2:14)

In summary:

Peace is found in Christ. Peace IS Christ!
I am in Christ.
I have peace with God by faith.

Or an even shorter summary might go like this:

Peace is JESUS.  And peace is NOW.

So the angelic peace proclamations weren’t primarily about eliminating global conflict or relational disharmony or even our own unsettled emotions. The gift of peace was Jesus Christ Himself: presented in the humble, mind-boggling wrappings of an infant. God with us, Emmanuel, is our peace. Jesus’ life in us (Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:27) and our life in Him (Colossians 3:4) is peace.

Peace is not beyond our grasp any more than Jesus is; peace is a gift – a package deal - that accompanies our salvation. The more we fully live in and look to Jesus in every circumstance and for every relationship, the more fully we live in and experience the peace that the multitude of angels proclaimed to those awestruck shepherds, all those years ago.

(Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the “favor” part of Luke 2:14, be assured: God’s favor and pleasure and delight rest upon you, because they rest upon Jesus. Read Ephesians1:5-6 and Matthew 3:17.)