Emmanuel: God with Us
ACC hosted an amazing women’s breakfast earlier [in February]. In addition to a delicious breakfast prepared by a team of ACC ladies and fellowship with one another, we participated in amazing worship, Pastor Mandy delivered a powerful message about belonging (guess what? You do belong!), and we all got to choose one out of six available break-out sessions. For those ladies who haven’t had an opportunity to attend a women’s camp, or even for those who have, but who can’t wait until October, this was a wonderful event. If you weren’t able to attend the February breakfast, don’t worry! There will be another one [in April]. You won’t want to miss it.
As one of the six break-out session presenters this time around, God was able to take the things He had begun showing me in January during my devotional time and unfold them a bit more as I put the extra time and effort into preparing (don’t worry guys, this post isn’t just for women). In fact, as I was reading in the book of Matthew I came across this very popular Christmas scripture:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.” Matthew 1:23
As I scanned it fairly quickly, which I am apt to do with familiar texts, I felt God interrupt me and say, “it’s not just for Christmas.” Now, I don’t know about you, but when I feel like God says pretty specific words to me under any circumstance, I feel my senses become heightened, my stomach sort of feels like it’s filled with butterflies, and I am stopped in my tracks. So, I read it again, and I could clearly feel, “it’s not just for Christmas” begin to sink in. At that moment I paused and prayed a bit. Using the notes at the bottom of the page in my Bible, it was easy to figure out that the scripture in Matthew is a quote from Isaiah 7. If I’m being honest, after meditating on it for a bit, I kinda just went, “Cool. Jesus is not just for Christmas.” I felt encouraged and that was that.
However, when I started to spend more time with God and this scripture, I was struck by the paradox of this great God who is not only perfect, but omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere all at once), omnipotent (all-powerful), and unchanging, but who is also Emmanuel, God with us. It occurred to me that, in light of His unchanging nature, God was not suddenly “God with us” when Jesus was born, and that didn’t change when He ascended to heaven. It is easy to comprehend “God with us” when we read about Jesus walking around with His disciples in the Gospels, but throughout the Old Testament we can also clearly see “God with us.” He walked through the garden in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve, He very physically cut covenant with Abraham, He wrestled with Jacob, He placed His hand over Joseph’s life, and met Moses in the desert – and this is just Genesis! With a simple cursory review of the Old Testament, we can find so many more stories of God showing up.
Personally, I had the opportunity to allow God to show me where He was throughout the “old testament” of my own life. As you may know, ACC offers a number of classes on Wednesday night, aptly called Equip Nights. Two classes I took that specifically impacted my understanding of God’s presence in my life were Freedom Basics and WILD (Women in Leadership Development). God was able to take these two experiences and give me the tools and the opportunities to process some of the traumatic and painful experiences where I mistakenly considered Him absent, and He showed me where He was in each instance – right there with me. Since I’m not special in experiencing trauma and pain, I encourage you to ask God the hard question of “Show me where You were, God?”; and I can assure you, He is eager and willing to show you too.
So, I said all of that to make these three points:
First, God IS with you! From the very beginning of time, throughout the Old and New Testament, for the entirety of your life, and until the end of time, God IS with us!
Second, God WANTS to be with you! Creation itself is proof that God wants to be with us. Our story really begins in Genesis when God formed Adam from the dirt and breathed life into him. Then when Adam and Eve sinned, God did not just strike them dead right there, which He could have done. No, He continued His pursuit of us. In fact, that pursuit took Jesus to the cross, where we see the clearest example of God’s desire to be with us – His sacrifice.
Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”
Rick Warren puts it this way, “God is love. He didn’t need us. But He wanted us. And that is the most amazing thing.”
Finally, since we know that God IS with us and that He WANTS to be with us, the question we must answer is, do we want to be with Him? The fact is, God has done His part and we must choose Him. We choose with whom we spend or time and what we spend our time doing. So I challenge you today, if you feel as though God has abandoned you, ask Him and He will show you where He has always been; if you feel far from God, He promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him; and if you do feel close to God, you can always draw closer.
Zephaniah 3:17 tells us, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save, He will delight in you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”