Advent at the Chapel: Jesus is Human

Jesus is Human.

by Ruth Siebring

“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find find our rest in Thee.”

I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus walked this earth. 

Jesus came in the lowliest of ways, born to poor parents, born in borrowed, lowly accommodations, and was, no doubt, the subject of much gossip back home in Nazareth. 

He experienced all the normal childhood maladies. He stepped on thorns, bled when he fell down, he caught cold, became tired, and felt the normal range of human emotions: joy and sorrow, friendship and loneliness, frustration and satisfaction. 

And He knows us. He knows that we are dust. He made us, knows our innate weaknesses, our strengths, our struggles, our triumphs, our failures, our passions. He knows when we’ve reached the end of our rope. And because He loves us, He knows just how to best encourage us to hang on.

He knows that our hearts struggle to find rest. He knows what temptation is all about. And He knows how to overcome it. We can rest in Him in our trials, for He is sympathetic to them. And when we fail, we can rest in His forgiving love. He isn’t stingy, he loves and forgives in abundance, poured out, overflowing. 

Come, Lord Jesus; may we truly find our rest in Thee.

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advertisements

Advent at the Chapel: Jesus is God

rose826172

by Lois Poppema

“And can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” (C. Wesley c1739)

“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God” (Isaac Watts c1720)

Did Wesley and Watts get it right? I think so. A brother once asked me how God could sacrifice His own Son; he couldn’t hurt his son – he loved him. Another brother, a Jehovah’s Witness, had insisted I read any Bible; when I did, I found lots of evidence for the Trinity, so I answered that since Jesus is God in the flesh, God was sacrificing Himself for us. He became the Lamb of God whose blood was required to make atonement for His sheep and He became The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. Is anything too hard for God? No! When He was crucified, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom – opening the way for everyone to come directly to God (Mark 15:38) – to “Our Father.”

But what do I know? I needed to offer my brother more than nine pages of verses that had persuaded me. A friend recommended John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. My heart sank when The Essential J.S. arrived: it’s 2 inches thick! But I opened – amazingly – to “the conclusion toward which this [6th] chapter will argue” (as summarized by Dr. Charles E.B. Cranfield):

“God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.”

Does the refrain “God in three Persons” contribute to understanding God (Spirit) as Subject and Jesus (Flesh and Spirit) as Object? Do Abraham and Isaac give us our picture? How about three manifestations? Otherwise, we’re regarded as polytheists who must be opposed – or worse.

In going to the Messiah for many years, we heard a lot of Isaiah, so when I discovered that a complete manuscript of Isaiah (written in c700 BC) had been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls when Israel was made a sovereign nation in 1948 – and that it is unrolled in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem – it seemed to me God was telling Israel: “Happy Birthday, now read this Book.” What/Who would they discover if they did? It’s not seeker-friendly, but after the opening rehearsal of their rebellion, they would read:

“Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah” (1:9)
– how relevant in 1948! Then, they’d hear God’s invitation:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (1:18).
How? They, better than we Gentiles, would know that a lamb had to be sacrificed at Passover, but the temple had been destroyed in 70AD. How could God accomplish this?

Isaiah 59 was the key for me:
“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save… But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear…. 4 No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies….7 Their feet rush into sin; and they are swift to shed innocent blood…. 8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths…. 9b We look for light, but there is darkness…. 11b We look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us….our sins testify against us. 14b Truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. [Sounds like today!] The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene, so His own arm worked salvation for Him.… (Past tense.) 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; [and] garments of vengeance….19 So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun…. The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob…. “ (NIV & NKJV blend; I cap NIV pronouns)

I had forgotten that John quoted Isaiah 53:1: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (12:38) as Jesus was about to go to the cross. Of course! The crucifixion is clearly described in Isaiah 53 – as in Psalm 22 (c1000 years BC).

Isn’t Jesus the Arm of the LORD – the means of His accomplishing His will in our material dimension? Yahweh is Spirit, but when He came down as a baby, His name was to be “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). In Matthew we learn that His name is to be Jesus – “Yahweh saves” – because He will save His people from their sins (1:21); and, as Isaiah also foretold, they will call HimImmanuel, which means God with us” (v 23 quoting Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8&10). Jesus called Himself “Son of Man” – did the Pharisees remember Daniel 7:13 and realize what He was saying? When “God with us” accomplished His purpose, He returned to the side of His Father, and God sent us His Holy Spirit. God reached down again in giving us His Spirit so that we could also become children of God (Spirit and flesh, like Jesus). His Arm is the only Way to Him.

Now I see confirmation everywhere:
Paul tells the elders, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
Timothy says God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (I Tim 2:3).
Peter boldly confronts his own “brothers” in Acts 2:22-25: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Then, “…let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v36). Peter’s “brothers” are cut to the heart, ask what they can do, and he says to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call“ (Acts 2:37-39).
*“ …all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer….” (Is.49:26b)*
***Isaiah cried, “O, that you would rend the Heavens and come down (64:1)” –
and He did!***
*****(Read David Lambourn’s But is He God? for an extra-special Christmas.)*****

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

 

 

Advent at the Chapel: The Gospel is Ultimate Rest

moonrise10117

by Bethany Hilt
Silent Night, Holy Night
All is calm, All is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.



When thinking of the topic “The Gospel is Ultimate Rest”, Silent Night kept popping up in my head. I think that some of the words of this first verse give such a relaxing feeling, words like calm, silent, mild, sleep all invoke a feeling of restfulness. The song reminds us that Jesus came so we can rest in his peace.

I like to imagine that on that holy night, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds felt pure, absolute joy and gladness, knowing that the Savior they had been waiting for – God’s own son – had come to live among them. It would be hard to feel the weight of sin on that joyous night, rejoicing over their promised Messiah. I wish it was easier to have that same joy and peace in these days, but we wake up every morning to reminders in the news of the evil sin in our world and each day having to deal with our own and others sinful struggles. It is so easy to feel completely helpless and discouraged.

But in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

When we feel overwhelmed by sin, when we feel like we can’t possibly get everything right, Jesus tells us to come to him and he will carry our burdens. That is the only way we can possibly find rest in this earthly world. And it’s comforting to know that one day, when we’re with Jesus, every night will be calm and bright!

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

 

Advent at the Chapel: God May Take His Time But He Keeps His Word

quilt1617

by Katlyn Heck

God may take His time but He keeps His word.

Ooof-dah. This isn’t a eloquent compilation of Bible verses with keen insight (though I wish it were), it is instead some of my story. My whole life has been a testament to God doing so much good for me, but on his own timing.

Even just there it sounds a little like I am complaining, complaining that God can’t manage to keep this schedule I worked really hard on. It’s not like I just threw the thing together. Research! Much research went into the making of this plan I have for my life. Not only that! Calculations! I did calculations, and anyone who knows me has a good idea how little I love calculations. And here I am, living in a place I didn’t pick, building a family in a way I didn’t anticipate.

And let me tell you, my life is so rich. I wouldn’t change a thing. I love the community we have built here in Bellingham. My son is the sunshine in my life and now that he is part of our family it seems as if there was never a time he wasn’t. The relationships I have been able to build as a parent have brought so much goodness into my heart. God heard the kernels of desire in the plans I made for my life and He knew the when of truly achieving them. Since we are celebrating and meditating on the coming of a long awaited and infant Christ, I feel the desire to share a bit about the long awaited infant in the Heck household. Here is a story in part, the parts that are mine I shall share and the parts that are Paxson’s he may choose to share once he knows them.

God knew when I had in my plan to have children at 26 that it wouldn’t work. He didn’t tell me “no, no children” because He gave me the desire for children. He just said “no children yet.” He knew David and I were about to enter the hardest two years of our life to date walking through cancer and loss with David’s family. Driving two hours south every weekend, being on opposite shifts, forgetting how to really talk to each other. God ALWAYS has the big picture, the greatest perspective. He was able to see all the ridiculousness of me reasoning “I’m 26, I wanted kids by 26.”

Even I can see that now.

Fast forward three years. We were on the same schedule, connected, in a house we bought and our schedules ripe for parenting. We had realized our path to parenting would be through adoption and it felt like the right fit. We were excited to continue forward on our God ordained path towards growing our family. There obviously wouldn’t be any more hiccups and it would be timely because we were ready and The Lord was on board. We began our paperwork on July 17th with our agency. In October we had our home study. In December we attended the requisite classes and gave them our completed “book of us” to go up on their shelves for perusal. The first week of February we were elated to receive a phone call that we had been chosen. It had all happened so quickly but it made sense to me because God was moving in our lives and AMEN! The baby’s due date was April 8th, we were going to be parents!

So the middle of March, when the match fell through, we were shaken. I found myself wondering if I still had it wrong, if it would ever happen and why weren’t we becoming parents when it had so clearly felt God had told us we would? These are questions you can’t actually answer for yourself when you have them, you can only choose to continue to trust God. It took me a few days but I got there. So on April 8th, the due date of the match that fell through, my phone rang. I figured it was the agency checking up on us as we had thought this day would make us parents. I was glad to answer and share with them that David and I would continue in trusting God on this journey and that we were good. Before I could say anything she shared we had another match. Excited to start this journey again I asked when the baby was due. That is when she said the five words that would forever change my life: “He was born this morning.”

God took his time with me. For my sake. For David’s sake. For Paxson’s sake. But in the end, He was there telling me; “but Katlyn, I told you today you and David would become parents.” So 38 weeks from when we started the paperwork we became parents, right on time.

Now to widen the picture. This Christmas we think about a people begging God for the Savior they were promised to save them from their worldly plights, and wondering why God was taking so long in answering their pleas. Instead of a warlord, God bestowed upon the world an infant, His own Son. Jesus didn’t come at the perfect time to secure the safety of their persons because His purpose was to save their souls. Thus eternally saving God’s people.

God may take His time but He keeps His word.

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: No Room for Him!

by Steve Joostens

there was no room available for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7c  and 
Luke 4:16-32, & 9:51ff

We approach the story with the eye of faith and see what the carnal eye cannot see once again. The GREATEST of all wonders set in very few words. So marvelous! We too will see the signs as the shepherds and rejoice when we return home!

Several details are told us and some are not regarding the scene. There was no room for Him in the inn. The inns were square structures with a center courtyard. Two stories with the 1st story reserved for the servants who took care of the animals in the courtyard. And they found themselves in the 1st story with servants and animals. There was no room for them in the inn, but only in the courtyard. Why no room? We literally read here “no place for them in the inn.” This is not happen stance, but God who guides the circumstances of history as HE controls ALL things! His mighty hand was right there and the scene set in place by the Almighty God Himself! It was brought about by His good pleasure.

What does all this mean? Our Lord had a RIGHT to a place in the very world He created! Of the house and lineage of David mind you…and He should have a place! And yet, the heir of Abraham finds no place! His birth however was only indicative of His entire life…even though even the birds have a nest! Christ never owns or owned a house. There was no place down below and there is no place with God as we see it in the cross…suspending Him between heaven and earth with no place! A curse of God with no place for Him is the heart of the matter. Despised and rejected of men and none desired Him!

The cruelty of the Roman empire and just the times in those days and it would be different today in the age of enlightenment would it not? The moment you tell them about Christ and take them to the prophesies and to His very words there is no one that would put that baby in their manger scene and bed! Everything to do with the carnal mind that stands in hatred against God and His Christ in its sin and corruption. And we too would have no place for Him in our lives! They want a manger scene, but do not want the Lord of Glory!

Wonder of all wonders. The Almighty God makes place for God who makes place for Him and sets Him in His history among a world that writes Him out of “their” history! Almighty God instills Himself in the heart of such a sinner to give them appreciation for such! Not us….but because God gives Him place with Him in our heart.

No place. No place for Him in order that we may have a place with Him eternally! No place so that we may have a PREPARED PLACE FOREVERMORE!

The wonder of God’s grace!

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

 

Advent at the Chapel: Good News, Not Good Advice

by Lee Mielke

Seems like I just finished writing last year’s Christmas meditation and here we are again. Time flies when you’re having fun and even if you’re not!

I chose the December 1 topic, “The Gospel is good news, not good advice.”

It reminded me of one of my favorite radio/TV preacher’s statements. Adrian Rogers said
“The Ten Commandments are God’s commandments, not His suggestions.”

But, that’s how the world sees them as well as the good news of the Gospel. I dare say some Christians believe that as well.

In my year thru the Bible reading program the week before Thanksgiving, I read Luke 2’s account of the angel of the Lord “suddenly” standing before the shepherds who were “keeping watch over their flocks by night” and it says that they were “terribly frightened.”

Ya think??

But, the angel’s words to the shepherds start with “Do not be afraid.” Let’s not skip over that too quickly because WE need to hear those words today, even though they’re not coming from an angel suddenly standing in front of us.

Don’t be afraid because “I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;” he said, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, Who is Christ, the Lord.”

So there’s good news……….great joy………and it’s for all people.

Contrast that with what most people today would regard as good news of a great joy for all the people.

It might be Kim Jong-un meeting with Donald Trump, a new high for the stock market, or a cure for cancer. You might have some of your own, I’m sure.

But THIS good news which was given to the shepherds far far exceeds ANY other good news because this good news is from the Almighty, Everlasting, Perfect, Sinless, One True God, and the good news is that HE has paid the price, my price, your price, in full, the cost of RECONCILIATION with His rebellious, disobedient, perverse, treacherous children.

AND, it’s “for ALL people!”

Unfortunately, the vast majority of ALL people don’t care.

And to tell them that a Savior has been born for them “Who is Christ the Lord,” means NOTHING to them because they don’t even have the eyes to see their NEED of this Savior…..and it surely doesn’t rank with LG’s new H-102 Ultra Billion-Meg Smart Phone that even makes cappuccino in the morning which was on sale on “Black Friday” for half price!!!

The angel goes on to tell the shepherds the specifics. There’s a baby, wrapped in cloths (how cute) lying in a manger…..a WHAT? A manger!

And, after that news bulletin; “Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host SAYING (because it can be argued that angels do not sing) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

So the bottom line is “The good news is not good advice…..it’s the only advice!”

I hope you take it this year, in fact, wrap it up and then give it to someone else as well!

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: The Light of Grace

sunrise10171

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 
so that, just as sin reigned in death, 
so also grace might reign through righteousness 
to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:20-21
sunrise11171
Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am your sin.
You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours.
You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not.
~Martin Luther
sunrise10173

The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.
~G.K. Chesterton

by Emily Gibson

Advent is not like randomly creating two opposing teams in grade school, numbering off one-two-one-two until everyone knows where they stand, the weak and the strong all thrown together by random chance.

Advent is not like an explosive election year where choosing sides means being aligned with a political candidate with whom I vehemently disagree, simply to avoid supporting an even worse option.

Advent is not like a Lincoln-Douglas debate tournament where I might represent one viewpoint for the first round, and then be asked to represent the opposite viewpoint in the second half.

Advent is like being chosen, even if, klutz that I am, it means being the last to be picked for any sports team with all my limitations, my poor coordination, my weakness and my flaws.

Advent is being chosen not for an hour or a day or a year, but for eternity; whether I’ll stand in the light of grace as it shines on my dark, glum, sullen head or will stay unexposed and hidden in the shadows.

It isn’t about choosing, but being chosen,
my flaws being taken on and covered by Christ,
just as I am,
so that I might become what I was not before.

 

Though the light shines on things unclean, yet it is not thereby defiled.
~Augustine

 

sunrise10172

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas