Monday, February 25, 2013

Jesus Is God With Us

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Christ Jesus (the Messiah), who has been preached among you by us, by myself, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not yes and no; but in Him it is [always the divine] Yes. 20 For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their yes [answer] in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God.

All of God’s promises are fulfilled in and through Jesus, who has always been the one mediator between the Father and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5) as the unchanging God-Man (Theanthropos – Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is the eternal Word through whom the universe was spoken into being, the sinless substitute who lived perfectly and gave His life completely for us, as well as the unique, resurrected, and glorified first fruits of the new creation yet to come!

No wonder we can proclaim a wholehearted AMEN to our heavenly Father in response to His powerful and wondrous promises to us.

The one greatest promise and gift from God proclaimed for us throughout the entire Bible, from which all the other promises spring forth to us, is that Jesus is IMMANUEL - always with us, our living God close by and intimately available through every trial, tribulation, and triumph:

Matthew 1:20 (Mary) will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means Savior, God saves], for He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent them from failing and missing the true end and scope of life, which is God Himself22 All this took place that it might be fulfilled which the Lord had spoken through the prophet, 23 Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel—which, when translated, means, God with us.

The book of Revelation has been seen by many as a series of graphically depicted judgments, primarily or exclusively negative, terrifying, and mysteriously difficult to comprehend. While elements of this definition may be somewhat relevant, they must be presented and balanced in conjunction with the greatest revelation of this book and the whole Bible, which is expressed openly in the first verse of the first chapter, and at the concluding chapter and verse as well: 

Revelation 1:1 [This is] the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The unfolding Revelation given to us in this book, crowns and completes the full Scriptural unveiling of God and His communication to humanity. In it we find an especially strong focus on Jesus Himself, in all His splendor and glory as the exalted King of Kings and glorified Lord of Lords. And yet His infinite Lordship is always intimately connected to His people.

Jesus is glorious and exalted, yet He is in the midst of and walking among the golden lampstands. Each of these lampstands symbolizes gatherings of His followers in various communities and regions, and Jesus sojourns with them!

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see [whose was] the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands (which are the seven churches), 13 And in the middle of the lampstands [One] like a Son of Man, clothed with a robe which reached to His feet and with a girdle of gold about His breast. 

Revelation continues to bring us understanding of how Jesus is glorified at the center of the spiritual universe, yet continues to be with us always. In chapter 4 and 5 John the Revelator has been called by God to “Come up here” and to actually experience heavenly realities. God’s throne in heaven is fully revealed, and Jesus is depicted as the Lamb who had been slaughtered for our sakes.

Jesus’ absolute unity with the Father is shown by His seven horns, which represent perfect shared authority over all things. Jesus is shown to have absolute unity with God the Holy Spirit, through His seven eyes, which symbolize both His omniscience (knowing all things) and omnipresence (being ever present everywhere). The sevenfold nature of the Spirit of God also represents His divine attributes (Isaiah 11:1-10) and the divine virtues or fruit that flow from His love (Galatians 5:22 – 23).

This passage from 2 Chronicles shows us that His omnipresent and omniscient activity is on our behalf, even as Romans 8:31 – 39 reminds us that if He is for us, no matter what our circumstances look like, no one that stands against us will ultimately succeed. More significantly, nothing in either spiritual or physical creation can separate us from the love of God, which is resident in Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 5:6 And there between the throne of the living God and the four living creatures (beings) and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are [the sevenfold Holy Spirit of God] who have been sent [on duty far and wide] into all the earth.

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him. 

That Jesus dwells within and among us and stands with us, brings great comfort and joy, to all those who have been called out from the control of this present world system. It is by dwelling together in His love (Ephesians 3:14 – 21), in whatever number we may be, whether two or many more, that we can know that Jesus is with us and desiring greater intimacy and fellowship with each of us. He also leads by His Spirit, into greater realization that we are the children of God (Romans 8:14), and that He is leading us into triumphs and victories (2 Corinthians 2:14 – 16) beyond our comprehension.

Matthew 18: 19 Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as my followers) in (into) my name, there I Am in the midst of them.

Jesus ended His days on the earth with His apostles, by commissioning them in His delegated universal authority, to go into all the world and share His good news. Most of the time we focus on what Jesus told us to do, as He desired us to. However, we can also easily forget that our going forth and doing all these marvelous things is based in three elements of spiritual reality:

1. We have been commissioned and authorized by Almighty Father God to go and make disciples, by baptizing them (this represents the whole process of being witnesses and introducing people by word and deed to Jesus), and by teaching them (this represents the correct communication and transmission of all that Jesus said and did, plus how and why He said and did it).

2. We must actually be obedient to the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit to do these things as Jesus did.

3. We have to remember we can only do the first two fruitfully and lovingly, if we remain consistently connected to Jesus, who also has promised to be with us constantly until the end of time!

Matthew 28:18 Jesus came to them (the apostles waiting on the mountain) and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).

We can trust Jesus not only to be with us constantly, but to be the same person He was revealed Himself to be throughout the Old Testament, as well as the same Friend and Master that He proved to be as He walked and interacted with His disciples in Galilee and in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Jesus is exactly the same as He showed Himself, through the Holy Spirit, to be to those first generations of devoted early followers. Jesus’ love and power is undiminished, as He focuses on us with all His compassion and care when we face difficulties and obstacles in this present hour.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is [always] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages).

Jesus knows the forces arrayed against His children and the struggles they must endure. His promise to be with us always, in every way, until the end, is underlined by this amazing text of Scripture, using the most emphatic language possible to be mustered in the Greek language of the time the New Testament was written.  We are given divine encouragement and strengthening, as we receive these Biblical promises by faith, and internalize them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 13:5 For He Himself has said and this statement is absolutely true: I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] never, [I will] never, [I will] never in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] 6 So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?

Jesus is present with us always, beyond any other human relationship or ability. This is not something He chooses to do now or must do out of obligation. It is an eternal decree Jesus made before time, which unfolds His many graces and promises to His body, His bride, for which He has already given His whole life as a human being, and His willing death as the Savior of the world. We are already carved on the palms of His hands and will never ever be forgotten, abandoned, or neglected in any way!

Isaiah 49:14  Zion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me  15 [And the Lord answered] Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. 16  Behold, I have carved [engraved, inscribed] you on the palm of each of My hands.

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Bridge

There was once a bridge which spanned a large river. During most of the day the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river paralleled with the banks, allowing ships to pass through freely on both sides of the bridge. But at certain times each day, a train would come along and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river, allowing a train to cross it.

A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place as the train crossed. One evening as the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come, he looked off into the distance through the dimming twilight and caught sight of the train lights. He stepped to the control and waited until the train was within a prescribed distance when he was to turn the bridge. He turned the bridge into position, but, to his horror, he found the locking control did not work. If the bridge was not securely in position it would wobble back and forth at the ends when the train came onto it, causing the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. This would be a passenger train with many people aboard.

He left the bridge turned across the river, and hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a lever switch he could hold to operate the lock manually. He would have to hold the lever back firmly as the train crossed. He could hear the rumble of the train now, and he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. He kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on this man's strength.

Then, coming across the bridge from the direction of his control shack, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. "Daddy, where are you?" His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him. His first impulse was to cry out to the child, "Run! Run!" But the train was too close; the tiny legs would never make it across the bridge in time. The man almost left his lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety.

But he realized that he could not get back to the lever. Either the people on the train or his little son must die. He took a moment to make his decision. The train sped safely and swiftly on its way, and no one aboard was even aware of the tiny broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the onrushing train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed.

They did not see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked: to tell his wife how their son had brutally died.

Now if you comprehend the emotions which went through this man's heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of our Father in Heaven when He sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son died? How does He feel when we speed along through life without giving a thought to what was done for us through Jesus Christ?

~ Author Unknown

Monday, February 11, 2013


    I have been an avid reader for a long time. When I was younger I loved to read stories where the "knight in shining armor" came along, rescued the maiden and then "they lived happily ever after." I was certain that my life would turn out like that. My husband would be super romantic, be able to read my thoughts and know how to make all of life easy and sweet.

     Now that I have been married more than 30 years, I have come to believe that no one lives those fairy tale lives. Marriage can be wonderful, but it takes a lot of work and communication.

     As we come to Valentine's Day we think a lot about romance. We often want February 14 to be a magical day. When it is not, we get disappointed. But, real love is about much more than romance. My husband shows me he loves me every day. He gets up before me and tries to be very quiet so that I can sleep a little longer. He turns the heat up so it is warmer when I get out of bed. When it is time to clean the house, he volunteers to clean the bathrooms--which I do not like to do at all. For my part, I usually try to make something for supper that I know he really likes and I encourage my husband as often as I can.

     Most importantly, we pray for and with each other. We share our deepest fears and ideas with each other. And, we value the other despite our weaknesses.

     Our life together has been full of ups and downs, disappointments and triumphs. But, we have fought to work all things out and held onto each other through better or worse. And so, while my life has not been a fairy tale like I read about in the books, my "knight in shining armor" is just right for me and has loved me well for a long time. I do thank God often for the wonderful husband He provided me with so many years ago.

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Monday, February 4, 2013


                Sometimes when I haven’t thought ahead and I need to have something on the table to eat in less than 15 minutes, I will go to the cupboard, grab a can of store-bought soup, open it and dump it into a kettle on the stove and heat it up.  When the family (which includes my husband, 24-year-old son, and 18-year old daughter), sits down to the table I will apologize that all I have to offer is soup.  Without fail, my son Josh will say, “I like soup.”  He means it as somewhat of a joke but it is also true that he does like soup. He and Megan both consider soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to be the perfect combination for a complete “two-course” satisfying meal.
                At the beginning of the year, I announced that I would be making and serving soup once a week for our evening meal throughout the winter months. I have to chuckle at how much excitement this has brought to everyone.  At the beginning of the week, one of them will ask, “which day are you making soup?” When one of them sees the signs that I have begun the process of making a homemade soup, they will text the other, “Soup tonight!”

                You have probably heard of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books, compiled by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. These books feature a collection of short inspirational stories and motivational essays. The name “Chicken Soup for the Soul” was chosen because of the use of chicken soup as a home remedy for the sick, and therefore it was “good for the body.”  The stories included in this series are meant to be “good for the soul.”
                The only reference to soup or stew that I could find in the Bible was from Genesis 25:29-34.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” ….34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
                I think soup leaves us feeling satisfied and comforted. I believe the stew that Jacob gave to his brother took away the hunger that had been gnawing at Esau. We know that on this occasion, the story does not have a happy ending, as before Jacob gave the soup to Esau he made him promise to give up his birthright.  Nevertheless, the stew still fulfilled the need that Esau had at that time, and was good for his body.

                As one who really hasn’t made that many homemade soups in my life, I am enjoying looking through cookbooks and browsing the internet to come up with a different kind of soup to make each week.  I am finding that these soups are not only feeding my family physically but they are also filling our lives with fun and laughter around the dinner table as we discuss the “soup of the week” and share with each other the various activities that we have participated in throughout the day. 
                So, as we endure the cold of the winter, I am glad for nourishment that is good for the body and soul and that also warms the heart and mind.

Mary Lehman