One of the many titles for Jesus is Immanuel. That title has a lot of meaning for us. El was the common name for God back in the days that Isaiah wrote the prophecy about a virgin being with child. That was over 700 years before Jesus was born. The word Immanuel means God with us. God with us in relationship with us everywhere we go.
It makes me think of the word together. How good we feel when we are together with friends or family. How we feel comfort when we are together with others in times of difficulty. How we enjoy holidays much more when we are together with friends or family. Work goes much better when we can do it together with people we get along with.
Jesus is God with us. God together with us in every part of life whether it is a celebration, a holiday, a time of difficulty, not matter what situation or circumstance Jesus is with us. He is Immanuel- God with us.
Today is Black Friday in America and many people are out shopping braving the crowded malls and stores. This time of year it is so easy to get caught up in the hectic preparations for Christmas. This morning I am mindful of what the bible calls the greatest. In the bible it says to abide in faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love.
It was from the love of God that Jesus came. Jesus said- “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”. From the heart of God full of love for us, He gave us Jesus. God wants us to receive His one and only Son and then live a life of love for God and others.
Interesting thought I had today. I can’t remember most of the Christmas gifts I received as a child. I remember every year I would receive a hand made sweater from my grandmother Pierson. I can’t describe any of them to you. I don’t remember what they looked like. I do remember her love and how happy I was to receive a sweater from her every year. I was always excited about Christmas when I was a kid, but the best memories are the ones that represent love.
This year I want to show the love of God to others as we go through this holiday season. The only reason I am still alive is that Jesus spared my life to share God’s love with others. My hope is that anyone who reads this will remember that the greatest gifts ever was Jesus and how He showed us His love by dying for us on the cross.
Psalm 100 says “Enter His gates with Thanksgiving in our hearts”. It is easy to enter His presence when things are going well. Sometimes things do not go well for us. Things happen such as sickness, death of a loved one, financial troubles, and relationship problems. It is at those times that we really need to enter His gates with Thanksgiving in our hearts. That is because the antidote for a spirit of heaviness is praising God. It helps us to not sink into the valley of depression when things are not going well for us.
I understand how tempting it is to not want to enter with Thanksgiving. I have been though the valley of sickness and recovery and all the work of restarting life afterward. My father died this past year after we finally reconciled due to issues involving his alcoholism.This life is not easy. Jesus even told us “in this life you will have troubles, but cheer up I have overcome the world”. That is the reason we can be thankful no matter what. Jesus is alive and overcame the world and all of its struggles.
Psalm 100 also gives the reason to enter with Thanksgiving in our hearts. It says “His love and faithfulness endure forever”. No matter what happens in this life we can rest in the fact that God’s love last forever and we will be with Him forever. Corrie Ten Boom realized this when after being held in a Nazi concentration camp and watching sister die due to the terrible conditions. She said “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still”.
In the bible it says that one day every knee will bow and every tonuge will confess Jesus Christ is Lord. What a wonderful day that will be when Jesus fully reveals Himself as Lord of all. That means no more war, sickness, poverty, or any of the other troubles that plague us.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to experience a little glimpse of what that day will be like. We read from Psalm 100 in 7 languages in worship service. We had Chinese, English, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese read in the worship service. It was a beautiful peek into what that day will be like when Jesus fully reveals Himself to us and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
That moment also underscored for me that God truly does love the world. He loves all people. He wants all people form all languages to know Him as Father. That is why Jesus said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not persih but have eternal life”. The question is do we want to confess Jesus now and experience His love asnd forgiveness now or wait until it it too late?
This past few weeks have had the pleasure of giving rides to a woman from Brazil who is here visiting her son and his wife. The first time I picked her up she heard the CD playing in my van from Jesus. It is from the musical My Utmost for His Highest. One of the songs if “Blessed is the Holy Name”. She smiled and said “in my church”. In her church in Brazil they sing the same song in Portuguese. we have talked about how she prays for her family. Today she told me that when her husband died she called out to Jesus and He came to her. She has a relationship with Jesus. She enjoys worship music and worshiping Jesus.
I have had the pleasure of worshiping in other countries and in church services in other languages here in Lincoln . Each time I come away with the wonderful realization of how Jesus is for all people from every culture. It causes me to think about what the bible means when it says “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not persih but have eternal life”. God loves all people and showed His love through Jesus.
These experiences also cause me to think about that wonderful day in the future when as the bible says “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord”.
In the world today many people talk about peace, peace of mind, and peaceful feelings. When I look at the world or the news, it is difficult to see the world as a peaceful place. The bible promises peace that surpasses all understanding. There have been times that I have experienced this kind of peace.
When I was sick and dying in 1995, one night I thought I was going to die. I prayed and said to Jesus that if he wanted to take me home to heaven it was okay, but more people needed to hear. I felt His presence come into my room and I was filled with a deep peace that I had not experienced before that time.
This past Spring on April 20th I was with my father when he died. I ha dbeen able to share with him about Jesus and prayed with him. He was spiritually ready. The morning he died I was with him reading from the bible to him. I felt at peace with where he was. I had so much peace that I taught my class that night and kept my normal schedule that week. It was not easy. I do not want to give the wrong impression, but I had peace in the time of need.
The world does need peace. We need peace in our hearts and souls. The peace we need is the peace that surpasses all understanding. That is the peace that Jesus will give to anyone who comes to Him.
I just finished chatting on line with a young person. I enjoyed the chat. During the chat she wrote that she wished she could be half as good of a writer as me. I replied that my goal for her is to be better than I am. She replied I can’t. I quickly replied that I have one rule- never say I can’t. Say I will try.
The reason that is my view of life is because of what it says in the bible. It says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. There have been times in my life that others gave up on me or told me that maybe I could not do something. I heard that so many times when I was sick and dying and the early months of recovering. When they would say that to me, my thought was “you must be reading a different bible than I am” or “you must believe in a different Jesus than I know”. I went from losing memory and not recognizing people to being able to remember how to greet people in 30 languages. I went from not knowing if I would have a future in this life to helping others build towards their future.
That is why I never let my friends who come to the classes at my church say “I can’t”. I know that if they try they will reach higher than where they were before. We may not always make it, but we will reach higher.
Yesterday morning in my Sunday morning class we looked at what Paul wrote to the Phillippians when”I thank God always for you” and then we looked at how the church started there. Paul was annoyed by a slave girl who followed him around saying “These men are servants of the most high God”. The girl was demon possessed and Paul freed her from the demon. The reaction of the town was that the girls owners had Paul arrested, whipped and thrown in jail. Paul and his friends sang to God and prayed while in the jail and an earthquake shook the jail. Paul could have left but chose to stay. The jailer was about to kill himself but Paul shouted “we are still here don’t hurt yourself”. The jailer took Paul and his friends to his house and the church in Phillippi was started.
Paul also wrote in the same letter “I am content in all situations ….. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. Paul’s secret in the good times and bad was to keep his focus on Jesus. He was thankful to God no matter what his situation was, whether he was experiencing good times, was in jail, was in danger, no matter what the situation Paul was thankful. When I think about Paul’s example I realize I still have some growing to do. The issue is not what situation are in currently because those can change. The issue is that no matter what happens nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.
In the bible it says that God causes all thing to work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. That is easy to see when things go well for us, but when disappointments come into our lives it is difficult to understand how it can be for the good. This morning in my class I asked my friends what the all things meant and one man answered the good, the bad and the ugly. All thing includes our failures, mistakes, and misfortunes not just our successes.
I will never forget the day in June 1997 when I was in Romania. My original purpose for being on the team was not to teach English. I was playing basketball with some kids when I hurt my foot and could not walk. I ended up spending four days helping in the classes. I could not walk, so I hopped from class to class to help out. It was not a good thing to have an injured foot, but the bible verse doe snot say all things are good it says God causes all things to work together for the good. The bad, hurting my foot, led to me having my first experience teaching ESL. That injury led me to what I am doing now.
Our disappointments can lead to God’s appointments if we give them to Him and let Him guide us. We need to be willing to be led and not worry about the results because God will take care of the results.
The disciples asked Jesus to each them how to pray. He gave them a model of how to pray. It is ironic to me that in the Church I grew up in we repeated the prayer every Sunday but no one smiled. In fact it seemed like it was just empty repetition. Jesus told the disciples to not just repeat words before He gave them a model to follow.
The first words Jesus taught them were “Our Father”. When I think about this, it still fills me with wonder. God reveals Himself as Father. Father is a relationship word. We begin prayer in relationship with God. Jesus constantly called God Father in front of His disciples. He said to them many times- “Your Father in Heaven”.
Could I encourage you to come back to the simplicity of prayer today? That prayer is talking with God who is Father. Do not worry about having the big words. Do not worry about having the ritual correct. Come back to the simplicity of God is Our Father who wants to hear from you. He already knows everything. He wants us to come to Him and tell Him, so we grow in our relationship with him.