Now may our joyful tongues,
Our Maker’s honour sing:
Jesus the Priest receives our songs,
And bears them to the King.
Before His Father’s eye,
Our humble suit He moves:
The Father lays His thunder by.
And looks, and smiles, and loves.
No fiery vengeance now,
No burning wrath comes down.
If justice calls for sinner’s blood,
The Saviour shows His own.
Immanuel – God with us. Jesus Christ, our Saviour is Immanuel; Jesus is with us.
Unfortunately we have confined the presence of our Lord to few places like Gentiles do. In the places where we worship, Jesus is with us. If two or three gather in His Name and pray, then Jesus is among them. And there are few more places where, depending on your denomination and your spiritual background, Jesus Christ is with us.
But our Lord Jesus Christ is Immanuel – He is with us. Wherever we go, He is with us. It is not the place that matters to Him; it is our hearts that matter. HE resides in our hearts and whether we like to take Him to certain places or not, He is with us.
Does Jesus love to be with us wherever we go? Yes, He does. Is He pleased with certain places we go? Now, that is a question I wish every Christian asks before going and I am sure, if we sincerely ask this question before we decide to go somewhere, we will be saved from lots of sins, temptations and sufferings.
The psalmist puts it in a very elegant manner: “If I go up into Heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8, MKJV) Sheol here is not Hell as some translations say, but the place of the dead. And the psalmist says even if he makes his bed there… he is not talking about his death, but lying peacefully among the dead, just like sinners, even then the Lord Immanuel is there with him.
You may not agree with me in this. But there are times, deep in sin, with no hopes left, I have heard the silent whisper; I have felt the tender breeze; I have realized the wounded hand of my Redeemer. More than anything, this realization, that even in my worst moments, moments I have ever been ashamed of, moments I would never share with anyone, my Lord Jesus was with me, with that one look that broke Peter’s heart on that night when he denied knowing the Lord… yes, my LORD is Immanuel. Jesus Christ has always been there, even though I deliberately chose to ignore Him.
Dear friend, if the temptation of sin overwhelms, know that Immanuel is with you. The God Who overcame is with you. Because He is with you, you can also overcome this world and its lusts. You can win this battle and the war – for our Immanuel is also the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Immanuel – God with us.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us.
When I was growing up, in our boarding school, we were taught that if you are good, God would be with you; otherwise, He would forsake you. I understand that it was said to keep the kids in order. But it took years for me to accept that Jesus is Immanuel – God with us.
There are no qualifications, no conditions to be met, no stipulations to be fulfilled and no clauses attached. God with us. The revelation is one of the most glorious revelations I have received so far in my life. That God is with us.
Are there times when He won’t be with us? Absolutely not. HE is with us from the beginning to the end. Till the world ends. Even after the world ends. Every single day, God is with us. Every single moment, God is with us. We may fail to recognize His presence in the mundane life that we live; we may neglect Him because of our “busy” schedule; we may even reject His holy presence for some earthly things. But He is with us. God is with us. Jesus is Immanuel.
When things go wrong, we often feel that the Lord has abandoned us. When failures become routine part of our life, our heart feels as if we are forsaken by God. When afflictions, pain and sufferings increase manifold, we feel no presence of the Most Almighty as we look unto the heavens. Only darkness is there and it is, at times, difficult to believe that Jesus is with us. But dear friend, He is Immanuel. And look beneath. Underneath are His everlasting arms (Deut.33:27), holding you and sustaining you during these tough times.
Yes dear friend. It is not the situation that dictates whether God is with you or not. Do not look for signs to know if the Lord is with you or not. Do not let the external circumstances to tell you whether Jesus is with you or not. JESUS is IMMANUEL – God with us. With us always.
May His everlasting presence bring abundance of joy to all of us during these holidays. Amen.
“And Patience was willing to wait.” – Pilgrim’s Progress
I longed to walk along an easy road,
And leave behind the dull routine of home,
Thinking in other fields to serve my God;
But Jesus said, “My time has not yet come.”
I longed to sow the seed in other soil,
To be unfettered in the work, and free,
To join with other laborers in their toil;
But Jesus said, “ ‘tis not My choice for thee.”
I longed to leave the desert, and be led
To work where souls were sunk in sin and shame,
That I might win them; but the Master said,
“I have not called thee, publish here My name.”
I longed to fight the battles of my King,
Lift high His standards in the thickest strife;
But my great Captain bade me wait and sing
Songs of His conquests in my quiet life.
I longed to leave the uncongenial sphere,
Where all alone I seemed to stand and wait,
To feel I had some human helper near,
But Jesus bade me guard one lonely gate.
I longed to leave the round of daily toil,
Where no one seemed to understand or care;
But Jesus said, “I choose for thee this soil,
That thou might’st raise for Me some blossoms rare.”
And now I have no longing but to do
At home, or else afar, His blessed will,
To work amid the many or the few;
Thus, “choosing not to choose,” my heart is still.
… and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land. – Acts 27:44 (NKJV)
As the ship faced the wrath of tempestuous head wind, Euroclydon, everyone in the ship lost their hope. It had been nearly two weeks since they saw sun or even a star, and they had no idea where they were. Amidst all those who had lost hope, Paul stood like a light shining in the dark, and declared that they all would be saved; not one man would lose his life. And he proclaimed, “I believe in God, and it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25)
The Word came from God and it was believed by the man of God, and soon it came to fruition. Except not in the way we would describe as the majestic manner in which God delivers those who trust Him. The Bible says that some of them held on to boards and others to broken pieces from the ship and escaped.
How often in our life we have faced such circumstances? We were in a very tiring situation and the Lord gives His Word to us. That He would deliver us from evil. That He would not let us be ashamed because we put our trust in Him. That before the eyes of our enemies, He would exalt us, and show to them that He is with us and He loves us. And we are jubilant, waiting for that moment of great glory to come, where the Lord in His majesty, comes down from the Heavens, lifts us from our troubles and anoints us before our enemies.
But nothing of that sort happens. As we are waiting for the mighty arm of the Lord to appear, we see some wooden boards, some broken pieces passing by. Of course, we could take hold of them and reach land safely. But did not the Lord promise great things? Nah, these broken pieces and boards are for mere mortals. Not for the righteous who lives by faith. I will not use such mundane means to escape; no, no, I have suffered so much to escape in such a whimpering fashion. Let those broken pieces and boards pass. See the salvation of God. I wait. I wait. I am waiting. I am still waiting. I am wondering why God has not delivered me yet. Now, I am waiting, but confused. I am waiting, but my faith is shaken. A little. Okay, a lot. Now, there are doubts in my heart. Did I misunderstand what the Lord told me? Or did God lie to me? No, no, He does not lie. Have I lost something in the translation? I am wondering.
But as I wait with tired eyes, all I see are more boards and broken pieces. And a still voice telling my heart, “This is the way out. Grab it.” But I refuse. It cannot be the voice of the Almighty. It has to be the devil, trying to deceive me. I know that the Lord will deliver me in a spectacular fashion. That will shut the mouths of all my enemies. That will vindicate all my silent suffering.
Yet, all I see is more and more boards and broken pieces of wood, and that voice still telling me, “Grab it. Don’t ignore the little things that God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided you.” Now slowly, I realize that it is the Spirit of God talking to me. But, then, what about all the promises? Yes, they are still there, safe in Christ Jesus. They are “Yes” and “Amen” in my Savior and Redeemer. Then how come I have to be delivered in such a prosaic manner?
Then the Lord teaches me that lesson I must have learned long back. My faith must never feed my ego. My faith must make me humble. My faith must not fill me with pride. All those spectacular escapes I was dreaming about, those were to satisfy my ego, not for the glory of my Father. I was waiting for them, because my pride wanted such a great show for me, not for the Son of God Who loved and gave His life for me.
Oh, somewhere along being filled with faith, I have fallen prey to the oldest sin – pride. The broken pieces of ship represent what I have to be. The ship, though majestic and grand, could not take me to the land safely. But when it is broken into pieces, one of the smallest pieces is all God needs to fulfil His promise for me, and it will take me home safely.
When I am full of myself, like that ship, I may falter in reaching the destination. But when I am broken, tossed around by the wind and the waves, I know that I will reach the shore safely; and I will also help someone else to reach safely, by just hanging on to me.
Oh Lord, break me into broken pieces, so that my pride sinks in this sea. Break me, so that I can learn humility. Break me, so that You can fulfil Your promise and Your Name alone be glorified. In Jesus’s Name, I ask, Amen.
And not being weak in faith, he (Abraham) did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. – Romans 4:19 (NKJV)
God visited Abraham when he was 99 years old and gave him a more pointed promise this time – that Abraham and Sarah would have a child of their own in the span of normal time of life. That is, within 10 months, they would be holding Isaac in their hands, filled with joy.
When God says this promise, we see that the first time, it was Abraham who laughed, and the next time, it was Sarah. The promise was meant for them, and the fulfilment of the promise depended on them, and yet, they both laughed because they knew the ground reality. Abraham’s body was dead as he was close to 100 years old and Sarah’s womb was also dead. But once the Lord repeats His promise, the Bible says this: Abraham did not consider.
How could he not consider? It was going to be his own seed, and his body was dead. It was going to be born out of Sarah’s womb, and her womb was also dead. Yet, Abraham chose not to consider the dead things in his life.
There are three things Abraham teaches here.
He chose not to consider. It was not like he did not know. He knew the circumstances, but he chose not consider. Often, believers who are filled with faith, who are waiting upon the promises of God, are accused of living in a dream world, not facing the realities of life.
Yes, it is true that some live in a bubble, not ready to face the realities of life. They do not want to know the harsh realities of life, they do not want to face the troubles that surround them.
But for those who faith are genuine, it is not like they do not know the realities of life; it is that they choose “not to consider” them.
He chose not to consider the “dead” things in his life. On the one side, Abraham had the Word of God, the Living Word of God – the Word that gives life; on the other side, he had his dead body and Sarah’s dead womb to consider. And he chose not to consider the dead things in his life.
For our Lord God is a Living God and He is the Author of all life. HIS Words are mighty and omnipotent; before His Words, nothing on this earth has any stopping power. When Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come out”, neither death nor the grave had any authority or power over Lazarus. When the Lord declared, “There be light,” there was light.
So, dear friend, what are you going to consider? The living promises of our living God or the dead things in your life that are against those very promises? God’s Word has power to give life. So, do not look at the circumstances of your life. Don’t look at how “dead” the chances of the promises being fulfilled. Look only at the Word of God. Look only at the Lord.
Finally, Abraham did consider only one thing. That God Who promised is also able to do what He had promised (Romans 4:21). That was the only that mattered to Abraham. Who gave the promise? The Almighty God. Would He lie? No, He does not lie. Was He able to do what He had promised? Yes, He is able to do.
Dear friend, that must be our only consideration. Who gave this promise to you? Is it our Lord Almighty? Have you received those promises through Jesus Christ? Then those promises are “Amen” and “Yes” in Him. Has the Lord ever lied? No, He cannot lie. And is He able to do what He has promised? Yes, He is the Lord Omnipotent, and He is able to do what He has promised.
Then let us not consider those things that are dead, and consider only the Lord and His promise. And in His time, in due time, we will rejoice with our father Abraham, that our faith in the Living God and His promises through His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ, has been rewarded as He has told.
Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. – Luke 18:16-17 (NIV)
As I wrote earlier, God gave me a chance to go out with my nieces a day before my birthday. One of the reasons we chose our destination is it has a wonderful beach and our nieces have never been to one. Especially the elder one, Irene Charlotte, is a sweet heart and is very close to me.
When I first met her, she was afraid of almost everything, because her parents wanted to safeguard against anything happening to their first child. But, I and my wife taught her to be brave and above all, kept telling her how Jesus is fond of her and He is taking care of her.
On August 9th, as we went to the beach, I was already exhausted and had trouble walking in the sands. So, I chose to stay back near the boat house and everyone else went ahead to the seashore. It was sort of hard for me, because I always wanted to be with Irene when she faced the ocean for the first time, but I was very tired and did not want to be a kill-joy. So, when they came back from the beach, I wanted to know how my favorite niece faced the waters and everyone was talking about how fearless she was and how much she enjoyed playing in the waters.
As we were coming back, she was sitting next to me. I asked her why she was not afraid of water, and she said, “Uncle, but didn’t you teach me that Jesus created the waters and found that it is good. So why should I be afraid of water that Jesus created for us?” I could not help but smile. Then I asked if she felt the water pulling her and she said yes. “Weren’t you afraid even then?”, I asked. She looked at me, and said, “But, uncle, didn’t you teach me that Jesus is watching over me and He will protect me?”
Oh, how I used to have such simple faith. Like my niece, I used to believe the Word of God. Now, it has become so complicated. And as I go to sleep tonight, my wish that I have that simple faith – believe the Word of God, without any qualifications. So, help me, God.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. – Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)
And the stops also. – George Mueller, in the margin of Psalm 37:23
Have you ever waited for the Lord? If you have, you will attest that waiting for the Lord is much more difficult than walking in the wilderness. Waiting needs patience and an absolute faith in God. Being active for the Lord needs faith, but waiting for the Lord needs faith with perfect patience. If you don’t believe me, ask Noah.
The toughest days of Noah were not when he was building the Ark. Yes, he would have been ridiculed by everyone. They would have mocked him. Even his great grandfather who was alive just a year before the Flood, that grand daddy of all, Methuselah, would have been wondering, “But what is a rain?” Nevertheless, in his faith, Noah was also busy working for the Lord. But his toughest days would have been those 7 days he was locked inside the Ark, with his family and all those living beings, without an inkling of rain. How hard it must be, shut inside by the Lord Himself, with no rain, and everyone making fun of him, and he was shut. It needs faith and absolute faith in God and His Word, and it needs perfect patience.
When the Lord builds a hedge around us, initially we are happy, because we know the purpose – to keep our enemies away from us. We rejoice in the Lord, knowing that this hedge is impenetrable. As the hedge grows higher, we magnify the Lord for this great fence He is building around us, that no enemy can breach. Then suddenly one day we realize that the hedge has gone so high, that we cannot see the other side. We do not hear the growling of our enemies anymore; if at all, we hear only their whimpers in being defeated. And, we want to see our enemies whining and whimpering; we want to get out and celebrate. Only then we realize, that those hedges are meant for our protection, but also to keep us inside.
But how can I be of any service to the Lord in such a small place, we wonder? How will the Name of the Lord be glorified if I do not have a larger audience, a larger environment, where I can proclaim the Majesty of His Name – Jesus, and His glory? Didn’t God call me for a greater purpose than being held up in this hedge, I wonder aloud.
The Bible says that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. And in his Bible, George Mueller had written in the margin “And the stops also.” Yes, dear friend, just like our walks are ordered by the Lord, our holdups are also ordered by the Lord. Just like our ways have a greater purpose, our stops also have a higher purpose. If our calling builds our faith, our holdups strengthen our faith and make our patience perfect.
If the Lord has built a hedge around us, let us not try to break through them. Let us focus our eyes on Jesus, and the Pillar of the Cloud will move at the right moment, and then let us follow Him to our destiny. Amen.
Soon after I was admitted to the emergency ward, a nurse came in and was shocked to see me in such a condition. After sometime, I came to know that she is a Christian too, and once I was stabilized, as I was talking to my wife, she came to us, and in mock anger, slapped my hand, castigating for coming to the emergency ward in such a perilous situation. She also scolded, albeit mockingly, my wife for not taking care of me properly.
Later when I was shifter to the ICU, she would visit me twice a day, and with the other Christian nurses there, she showered so much love on me and my wife. Not only that, she even brought more Christian nurses (who were not part of ICU or emergency ward) and they would pray for me and say encouraging words. I was told that they all attend the same church, in a nearby area.
This showering of love continued even after I was shifted to the Special Ward. But the special ward was a little far from the emergency ward where she was working, so slowly the frequencies of the visits reduced. And then for nearly four days, she was unable to visit us, but she would call twice every day to make sure that everything was okay with us. Then four days later, she called us to inform that she was going to bring some more nurses to visit me that evening and if that was okay with us. Of course, we had no problem.
When I got admitted, I was noticeably rotund, especially my face and all my features. But after nearly two weeks, I had lost lots of weight and looked like my normal self. That evening, she came in with few more Christian nurses, and as soon as they saw me, they stopped walking and looked at her with a disappointed look: “He does not look like what you told us”, they told her. Then she told me that I had lost of lots of weight and did not have any resemblance with how I looked on the day I was admitted to emergency ward. Then they stayed for few minutes, and left. There was some sort of disappointment in the way all those nurses talked with me, but I could not understand what was wrong. That was the last time I met that nurse. Though she stayed in touch through phone, she did not visit us after that. So what happened? I finally got that answer on July 24th, 2016, the last Sunday I was there.
By then, I was able to stand up and move freely with little assistance. So, we decided to let the believer brother who accompanied us to the hospital to go to the Sunday service that day. Since he had also become friends with those nurses by that time, he decided to go to the same church where they go; of course, their church sends a minibus to pick up believers from the hospital and drop them off again also helped. When he came back, he told us about the worship and sermon. Then I asked him about the pastor and he hesitated for a moment. Then he said, “Please don’t misunderstand me. He exactly looked like you, when you were admitted to the Emergency Ward. He is quite rotund, and obese – and even the facial features were quite identical. But that was when you were sick.”
It was then I understood why those nurses took care of me so much – they all are attached to their pastor and I reminded them of him. So, they treated me as if they were treating their pastor. That was why so many nurses visited me and prayed for me. And, it was why they were so disappointed when I had lost weight and looked my normal self. We burst out laughing when we realized the reason for their disappointment.
Unfortunately this was not the first time it was happening to me. During the days I was doing my Masters in India, I was a Christian, but I also followed the ways of the world. And it made me very popular and I had many friends. I never had time to read the Bible, or to pray or to spend time with Jesus, because my friends took up lots of my time. Then I hit a rocky road, and one day, I realized that I had gone far away from my Savior. As I started to read my Bible and spend time with our Lord, I noticed that slowly many friends disappeared from my network as they were disappointed to find that I am after all a “Christian.” Then came a day, I suddenly realized that I had no friends left at all. No one to talk to, no one to laugh with. The weird part was I was still spending the same amount of time for them; I was not preaching the Gospel to them. It was my inner spiritual journey, yet they sensed that I am different than before, and some of them openly expressed their disappointment and disappeared from my life.
Isn’t it sad that even our best friends have their own vision of who we are; and the moment they realize that we are not the same person as in their vision, they are disappointed. Some try to change us to that image, but some move on to other better images.
But it also made me think. The Lord does have a vision for each one of us. In His great wisdom, He has chosen us to be His vessels, to show the world His love and grace. I don’t know about you, but I had fallen short of His vision so many times. I had failed our Beloved innumerable times. There were times I failed so miserably, I felt that He would simply forsake me, and go ahead with someone else with His plan.
But God’s love for me has not changed a bit. No matter how many times, His vision for me has tarred by my foolish acts, His love takes hold of me, in the same way He took hold of me when I was a small kid, seeking the love and shoulders of a father. For me, the vision may look blurred, but from the view of God, it is as if nothing has happened to blur that loving image He has carved of me in His forehands.
Yes, there were times I had displeased our Lord greatly; there were times, He was disappointed in me. But, then my Brother and my Friend Jesus, the Son of God, is there at the right hand of my Father; the great Advocate, the High Priest, Who understands my weaknesses, Who is willing to wash away any blemish that I am willing to confess and own up, with His own blood. And, the anger of my Father lasts only for a second, but He loves me with an eternal love. A love that is not disappointed with how I am changing. A love that keeps the glorious vision that the Lord has for me in its sight. A love that transcends all human love and all human understanding. The eternal love of the Eternal God. Oh, I am so blessed!
You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.
– John 19:11 (NKJV)
It may seem that your enemies are increasing by day; that they are becoming more and more powerful every moment. Your situation may go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds. Probably, the clouds of darkness that is engulfing you has become impenetrable and you don’t see any rays of hope. All seems to be lost at this moment.
Oh, dear friend, I was there just this morning. In despair. Running out of energy. My body wilting under constant weaknesses. Unable to stand even the least amount of pain. Seeing my loving wife watching me with pained eyes, and suffering in silence. It felt like there is no way to be unshackled from this bondage. The darkness felt too much to bear, and then the Word of God broke through.
You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Our Master’s words to Pilate, as an excruciating death on the cross was waiting for Him.
Are you surrendered to the Lord’s will? Do you trust and obey Him truly? Then no matter what happens in your life, remember that it has been sanctioned by your Loving Father in Heaven. No one can have any power against us. It may seem like others have power over us, because of the power they have, their wealth or influential status in the society. Or just because they are in majority over us. Or probably they are vociferous against us, calling us names and accusing us of so many things just because we are Christians.
But in truth, what they have is a fleeting power that has been entrusted to them, by our loving Father. It can be taken away from them at any moment, or will be held in check at the command of God. Without His consent, no man can be a weapon in the armoury of devil, or harm even a hair of a believer’s head; and even that the LORD will consent, only if it is going to bring some good to us. Yes, for all things work for good to us, who love our Father.
Any arrows that are pointing at you, dear friend, do not panic. Do not be despaired. There is no power against you, unless our Father permits it; even then, nothing is allowed to overpower you, as long as you have surrendered yourself to His will completely. And the arrow that is sent your way, trust that by the time it passes through the pierced hand of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, it will become a blessing to your soul. Be blessed, dear friend and be a blessing unto others. Amen.