Chasing the Surprising Geography of the Presence of God

How can God be somewhere and everywhere at the same time?

It’s hard to imagine an omnipresent God dwelling in one place. And yet, every December we celebrate the fact. God dwells in the confines of a human body. And He is also everywhere.

But the incarnation isn’t the first time God has localized His presence among His people.

Presence of God

(Photo: Olive groves near Bethlehem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God is both omnipresent and present. King Solomon summed up the seeming contradiction when he prayed:

Will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built. —2 Chronicles 6:18

From creation to Christmas—and from today to eternity.

Let’s take a quick geographical journey and follow movements of God’s dwelling place among us.

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Merry Christmas

Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

I’ll be taking it easy until next week, and I hope you do the same! Until then . . .

Merry Christmas from the Stiles home!

The Power of God’s Providence in Your Life

Christmas shows us our chances are really God’s choices.

The first Christmas looked like a coincidence. From a human perspective, politics set the agenda: Caesar took a census of his people. Period. End of story.

The Power of God's Providence in Your Life

(Photo: Camel caravan. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But from the divine viewpoint? God orchestrated ordinary events for extraordinary outcomes.

Think about this past year in your life. Many ordinary events occurred. Most you don’t remember. But God has been working. It isn’t just the Christmas story. It’s your story too.

God uses the power of providence in your life as well.

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When Finding Favor with God Makes Life Tough

What was true of Mary is also true for you—why that's good news.

Sometimes finding favor with God makes life much harder. When Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God, many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.

When Finding Favor with God Makes Life Tough

(Photo: by Jolanta Dyr. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0-pl, via Wikimedia Commons)

What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an of God and not an act of passion? Finding favor with God meant she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins.

But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much. It comes from this amazing young woman.

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Ein Kerem—Waiting on God’s Promise a Long Time

God had something special planned for them—and you.

When we think of the Bible’s Christmas couple, of course we picture Joseph and Mary. But there’s another couple in the Christmas narrative. In fact, they appear even before Jesus’ parents do.

Ein Kerem terraces

(Photo: Tradition places the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth at Ein Kerem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God had been silent for 400 years. No additional Scripture. No more prophecy. No visions. Just waiting for the Messiah. 400 years! Then, God spoke to an old man in Jerusalem. God had been silent to Zacharias and Elizabeth as well. They were elderly and had no children. They prayed for years. But nothing.

God’s Word makes the point that they were righteous in God’s sight—blameless in God’s Law. In other words, their childless home wasn’t because of their unfaithfulness.

Times of waiting on God can even come to a point of what seems impossible. Most times of lack are like that.

Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. (Rom. 8:24, The Message)

God had something special planned for them. And for you.

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Why You Should Give Books for Christmas

5 Reasons Your Best Gifts Include Good Books

One of the best gifts you can give someone is a book. (Someone over 17 years old, that is.) I always love getting books, and I’m convinced we should give books for Christmas. Here’s why.

Why You Should Give Books for Christmas

(Photo by Photodune)

I remember when I attended the University of North Texas, I had a professor who assigned us a lot of books to read, the largest of which was A History of Western Music by Donald Grout. (A great book for insomniacs.)

One day a fellow student dared to raise his hand and ask the professor a question.

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Augustine on the Mystery of the Incarnation

For years I have loved this quote by St. Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation (quoted from his Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany):

Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. . . .
In [the Father] He remains,
From [His mother] He goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless;
filling the world, He lies in a manger;
Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant,
but so that His greatness is not diminished by His smallness,
nor His smallness overwhelmed by His greatness.

From the Stiles home to yours, Merry Christmas!

Question: What fascinates you most about the Incarnation? To leave a comment, just click here.

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

(Photo: By Wolfgang Sauber. Own work. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus—God’s Ultimate Missionary

Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.

Jesus—God's Ultimate Missionary

(Photo: The Moscow skyline, by Dmitry Azovtsev)

The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).

But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)

The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.

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Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

On a wintry day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade—the long, covered, columned portico on the east side of the Temple—overlooking the Kidron Valley.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

(Photo: Solomon’s Colonnade lay along the eastern wall of the Temple. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The conversation Jesus had that day occurred at Hanukkah—a celebration the Jews referred to as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22).

The feast had historical significance, which heightened the passion of those in Jerusalem. They encircled Jesus to ask Him a simple question.

His reply gave them more than they bargained for.

Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.

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3 Wise Men and Age-Appropriate Gifts

My birthday is in December. Growing up, I often heard: “Wayne, this is your birthday-Christmas gift.” I thought, Hey, gee, thanks. December birthdays are tough on kids.

3 Wise Men and Age-Approprite Gifts

(Photo by Photodune)

As a boy, I also felt a little disappointed getting clothes for Christmas (though now I love it). Some people just don’t know how to give age-appropriate gifts to kids.

When we read the Christmas story, it seems the three Wise Men didn’t have much experience shopping for children either.

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