The idea of Immanuel, God with us, has been something that I’ve largely overlooked. I knew it was another name for Jesus Christ, but I didn’t like it was something significant to me. That is, until the pandemic happened. Suddenly, God’s promised presence through Jesus Christ became the source of much needed hope.
One of the primary questions I had when I was a young Christian was why Jesus had to come as a helpless baby. After all, He could have appeared as a man, done His ministry, and died on the Cross to save us without having to go through the added hardships of infancy to adolescence. But just as lab experiments are tangible proof of a concept or theory, Jesus Christ becoming man, from infancy to death, is the greatest tangible proof of God’s existence, presence, and love. He was no longer a concept or idea or even a remote divine Being. We are assured that He truly understands what it is to be human—with all our limitations and fallibility.
However, the birth of Jesus Christ was simply the highlight of an entire narrative that actually proves God has been with us since the beginning of time.
In the beginning, God . . . (Genesis 1:1)
Even when the earth was formless and void, God was already there. The Holy Spirit was already hovering over the surface of the waters. What this assures us of is that God permeates His entire creation, even in the darkness.
In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve fell into sin, God did not abandon them. He could have. After all, because of their sin, they could have not withstood His holy presence and died on the spot. But He looked for them, atoned for their sin with the blood of an innocent animal, and clothed their nakedness with its skin. Even when He banished them from the garden of Eden, it was with a promise that sin and the devil do not have the final say.
What a great promise for you and me! That even in the depths of the darkness of our soul and our minds, God is committed to offer the gift of His presence. He does not abandon or neglect His promise. He assures us that darkness does not have the final say.
In the midst of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, God assured Moses in Exodus 3 that He heard the cries of His people, that He had been watching them closely, and that He will rescue them from the oppression they experienced in the hands of Pharaoh. And indeed, with miracle after miracle, He staged one of the greatest rescues of an entire nation in the history of the world.
What great comfort for those who are struggling in an oppressive environment or for those experiencing injustice! God is with you. He has heard your cry and is watching over you closely. He is assuring you that injustice and oppression will not have victory in your life.
It wasn’t a bed of roses for the Israelites after God rescued them from Egypt. For forty years, they went through a season of waiting in the wilderness—waiting for God to lead them into the Promised Land. Yet, despite the challenges and difficulties of the wilderness and despite the agony of waiting, God was their pillar of cloud by day and their pillar of fire by night. Never did He abandon them even in their most rebellious moments.
In the same way, God sees our struggles in the waiting and in the wilderness. But He is committed to be with us and to go ahead of us in this journey of life, whether in the wilderness or in the promised land.
In the reign of King Solomon, the nation of Israel finally built a temple for God—a sure sign of success and prosperity for God’s people. And God honored their sacrifice in building the temple by gracing it with His Presence. Yet, the irony is that this was the very time when the people of God deliberately rebelled and turned away from His presence, obsessed with trappings of worldly pleasures.
In the same way, God is with us and desires for us to fellowship with Him in the midst of our highest moments. Yet it can be so easy to be captivated by good things. They can be a snare to us if we’re not careful to intentionally walk with God and keep a humble and contrite heart before Him.
5. IN REDEMPTION AND SALVATION
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel
which means ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:23, NLT)
The birth of Jesus Christ is the highlight of the narrative that God has been with us from the beginning of time to eternity. His birth was the fulfillment of God’s promise that He heard His people’s cries, that He has been watching closely even as He kept silent, and that He has a plan for the redemption and salvation of mankind.
We have tangible hope in Him, not just because He showed power through His miracles, but because He demonstrated that God wants to be known.
Christ’s calling for us as His church is not simply for us to enjoy His presence together. Yes, He is with us as we take time to fellowship with Him, in prayer, in worship, and in meditating on His word. Yes, He is with us as we break bread with each other and study the word together. But more than that, the Church is called to send out the message to every tribe and every nation that God is with us in Jesus Christ!
May we not miss out on the joy it brings to be His hands and feet to those who feel alone, forgotten, and rejected.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we know that we will be likewise raised from physical death to be with God for eternity. That is why death is not the end for us. It is merely the beginning of fully knowing God without the barriers of our sinful nature.
We have something to look forward to in the afterlife! It is only for the followers of Jesus Christ that death is not something to be terrified about but to look forward to for God’s promise of wholeness and fullness of His presence.
No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3–4, NLT)
From the beginning of time, God’s presence permeates and prevails.
It is our reminder and our hope that life in the present is not all there is. We have more than enough reason to celebrate Immanuel, God with us, whatever circumstance we may face today.
September 16, 2021
“Have mercy on me, O God,” David cried out.
“Scrub away my guilt, and soak out my sins in your laundry.”
His hands were crimson red, stained by the blood of his prey
His heart was disfigured by his crime
And he was caught red-handed
Surely, there’s no escaping God’s judgment—
But David was shown mercy
And though his heart was severely disfigured,
He was given a new heart
A new identity—
“Man after God’s own heart.”
Just like David, our hands were soaked in blood and our hearts were marred by guilt. But the blood of Jesus—the perfect Lamb of God—had washed away our guilt and shame. His sacrifice has made us white as snow and restored us to himself.
But this new life means more than just the mark of a new beginning.
God has put a fresh wind in our sails—
New wings to soar on greater heights
The storms that raged within us now lie beneath us.
New wind to take us to places we’ve never been in
To places we never thought we’d be
To behold new things from a higher perspective—
so much higher than our dreams for ourselves
As David cried out for mercy, he pleaded for one more thing:
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.
As we receive God’s mercy, we become a channel of mercy to the lost and the broken. As we behold Jesus on the cross, we hear the labored drumming of his heartbeat—
For the lost
For the oppressed
For the abandoned and neglected
For the sick
For sinners like you and me
But how can the lost find their way home, unless somebody comes to find them?
How can they call on Him, unless they believe?
How can they believe if they have never heard about Him?
How can they hear unless somebody tells them?
As you go and tell others, remember that you are not alone. Jesus promised to be with us always—to the very end of this age.
“I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Let the new wind in your sails take you to where God is calling you today.
September 14, 2021
Who am I?
A question always asked.
A question so simple yet so hard to answer.
Our perceived identity dictates our lifestyle. So who are we, really?
Are you the “perfect child?”
The “most honorable” student?
The “best among the rest?”
Or maybe you are
the ignored one. The unnoticed. The chaff of this world.
The world says, “Look around!”
We are only loved when we are useful, they say. We grind so much so we can feel valued and appreciated. We do our best to meet people’s standards and expectations to make us feel deserving of love. We hang on to our achievements (or try so hard to achieve something) to prove our worth, so it breaks us when we fail.
The world says, “Look at others.”
We consume too much social media and get into the trap of comparing ourselves. We think that our security comes from other people’s validation and are ensnared by the idea that our followers determine who we are.
The world says, “Look inside of you!”
But when we look at ourselves, we often see hopelessness, emptiness, or our own lack. We feel inadequate and insecure—someone who’s only strong on the surface but broken beneath.
We hear many voices, but only one voice matters.
While the world says look around, look at others, or look inside of you, the Bible says, “Look to your Father.”
“For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our Father,
our Redeemer from old is your name.”
Isaiah calls to God as Father, for God called Israel His children. He understood that they weren’t defined by the world! They looked around and they weren’t useful! They looked at others and saw their shortcomings! They looked inside and saw their own failures and disappointments.
Isaiah ran to the Father in heaven—the LORD who has chosen them and is on their side. The Father who truly cares. God chose them!
If God gives an identity, nothing can take that away! We are children of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Left to ourselves, we are sinners and rebels who deserve to be punished. But God, in His perfect love, sent Jesus Christ—the perfect Son—so we can be made perfect through Him!
The One who held the oceans in His hand and measured off the heavens with His fingers—He is our Abba, Father!
This is who we are.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
September 15, 2021
Like rivers flowing freely to be one with the sea;
Like different colors coming together to create a masterpiece;
Like puzzle pieces being joined together to form an image;
In the kingdom of God, we are undivided.
Because of our pride and sinfulness, we live in a broken world where conflicts break relationships, differences divide people, and the separation that skin color creates is more than just skin-deep.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of a different kind of world—a world where prejudice and discrimination are but a distant nightmare of a sinful past. It’s a world where goodness reigns and love binds people of all sizes and colors. It’s a world where all people are accorded dignity and respect because they mirror the beauty of their glorious Creator.
Such is the blueprint of the kind of community He has called us to be.
“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.“
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Jesus has paved the way for this on the cross. Through His death, He restored our honor by taking away our shame. He brought us back to God and destroyed the wall of sin that separates us. And He brought us together in one community—God’s own household—where we can find strength and refuge.
“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”
Ephesians 2:14 NLT
Jesus is the starting point and the center of our church community. It is only through receiving forgiveness, grace, and truth in Jesus that we are able to fellowship together in peace.
We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19
September 13, 2021
Can you hear the sound of rain?
It quiets down the noise and becomes the only thing you hear
As it mercifully falls upon hard ground and makes its way through every dry crack caused by pain
We can finally say that life and healing is here—
Can you see the streams of water flow?
It follows a path that man can no longer reach
To teach these places ways that our own minds do not know
For it is today we can finally believe that we are no longer in a state of siege
For there is a promise that we can receive—
“…until at last the Spirit is poured out on us from heaven
Then the wilderness will become a fertile field,
and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops.”
Life, peace, and rest. These are difficult things to find lately. It has been so tiring trying to make things happen on our own, trying to grow things with our own might, teach things from our own wisdom, and build things on our own strength. We become too tired to expect, too exhausted to obey, and too dry to continue being faithful when we do not see any fruit in the things that we put our life’s work into.
But, what if there is a greater promise and a stronger power that is beyond all our strategy and ability? A Promise we can only receive when we start to surrender and allow God’s Spirit to lead. A Power that offers rest when we set our eyes upon what we don’t see just yet.
In Isaiah 32, a Kingdom of Righteousness is promised where new life, peace, and rest are found. Yet, we must realize that when we walk in the light of this Kingdom, there is a new power available for us—the power of the Holy Spirit.
Know who I am, He says
with hearts and feet that have gone to places unspoken of
and receive me not because of who you are,
but because of who I am.
For today you are held and guided by the hand of God
Say, “it is no longer I
who lives in me.”
For the time awaits
for the Spirit of God to come upon you.
The thing is, this new power has already come—
Here and now, all you have to do is come
This is a new power
that seeps through the darkest parts
and makes a way through every “cannot” and “what if,”
never hindered by the hands of man
He restores sight to call you child
He heals every part of you to call you free
“Never alone,” He says “Never on your own”
but held and guided by the very hand of God
For righteousness to rule and justice to prevail, it cannot be by man’s own might.
For a desert to become a place of harvest and dead spaces to come to life, it cannot be by man’s own strength.
For a nation to be saved and complete peace to exist, it cannot be by man’s own power—but by the Spirit of God.
So what if we start living more by the Holy Spirit’s power than our own might?
Perhaps we will see the promise that is yet to come
Not by power, nor by might, but by His Spirit who is with us forever.
Migrating from one location to another always carries with it the challenge of adjusting to a different lifestyle.
The same is true with our spiritual journey. When we transferred our allegiance from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, we received a new heart and a new spirit within us.
On Day 4 of this devotional workbook, we will talk about a change in lifestyle as we become citizens of God’s kingdom.
Have you ever travelled to or lived in a new place?
What laws or local customs have you observed or encountered that are unique to that location?
Travelling to different places is probably one of the greatest joys many of us experience.
On Day 3 of this devotional workbook, we will talk about the new constitution that sets our standard of living.
Allegiance and love for one’s country is one of the innate characteristics of a responsible citizen. In fact, our nation has a rich history about our forefathers’ love and devotion to our motherland.
But this human characteristic is not unique to Filipinos. It rings true to the citizens of any nation, because the human heart is specifically designed to be devoted to something or someone.
As Christians, whom do we pledge our ultimate loyalty to? What is our citizenship and what does this mean for us?
Have you ever experienced going through a major transition in life?
It could be a change of address when your family moved to a new city, province, or country.
It could also be when you transferred to a different school or shifted to another course.
Day 1 of this devotional takes us to a journey, a story of migration that you and I have taken once in our lives.