Fourteen Lessons From 2014

  1. Forgiveness is more than saying someone saying “I’m sorry” and the other saying “I forgive you.”
  2. Sometimes I worship the Bible instead of worshiping God.
  3. A pool floatie can make an excellent air mattress.
  4. Garlic bread tastes best at midnight.
  5. Never print double-sided worship music.
  6. It’s okay to change your mind.
  7. Brace yourself as you pray “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
  8. Small towns are lovely.
  9. You can have a beautiful, vulnerable, and powerful worship experience in the back of a 15 passenger van.
  10. There may be millions of churches, but there is only one God.
  11. Never let your public anointing become more than your private devotion.
  12. The stories I tell have power and can make a difference.
  13. Living out of a suitcase is very possible and dare I say enjoyable.
  14. Prayer changes things.

2014 was a beautiful year; perhaps one of the best yet. I can’t wait to start a new chapter in the year 2015. Here’s to new lessons, stories, and memories that will created, collected, and gained in the coming year.

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Immanuel

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From the Hebrew name עִמָּנוּאֵל (‘Immanu’el) meaning “God is with us”

It’s not that God wasn’t omnipresent before Christ; He’s been there since the beginning of time. The Psalmists as the question “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Jonah learned the hard way that you can’t hide from God. God has been there from day one.

But we messed it up. Daily we face the consequences of sin and darkness in the world. Racism, human trafficking, discrimination, sexism, starvation, poverty, suicide, you name it. We encounter on a day-to-day basis the effects of the sin in the world and it is tiresome. The weight of our own sin is too much to bear, and after awhile we give up trying. My pastor said in his sermon this week:

We see so much in our society that needs cleaning up. “Come on, Lord, put an end to the cocaine traffic, shut down those abortion clinics, overthrow the mafia, and the drug cartels and send the money to World Renew!” an we see plenty of things wrong with the rest of the world as well: “Bring a halt to the senseless killings, Lord; continue to confound and bring down the remaining atheistic communist governments, fill the bellies of all the hungry, shot down the gun shots, put a stop to the tragedy of airline accidents, stop all the terrorist attacks, renew and revive your church. And while you’re at it, could you cure cancer in the next few weeks, Lord?”

We cry out in moans and groans similar to the the people of Israel did whilst in captivity in their exile. We as God “Where are you?” and He responds with “I’m right here.” When God sent down His son, Jesus Christ, He sent Himself down to reside with the people. Jesus is fully God and fully man. God is with us, and God is with us.

God comes down and fully intervenes in our story. He enters into the sin and the dark places. He lives it; He experiences it. And then He took on all sins on the cross, paid the full price for them, and conquered them through His perfect sacrifice.

This is what we celebrate at Christmas time. This story that we hear year after year isn’t a fairy-tale or something nice to recite for nostalgia’s sake.This is our reality. We no longer need to suffer in the muck and the mire of our sin, but because of Immanuel, redemption wins.

God set it up. We messed it up. Immanuel. We must respond. It’s the gospel in four simple, yet crucial sentences. He was always there, but sin entered into the world. Therefore, God responded by sending down His son. Now the question is how will we choose to respond to Immanuel, God with us?

O Come, O come Immanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice, Rejoice
Immanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderest all things mightily
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go

Rejoice, Rejoice
Immanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel

O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Thy Spirits by thine advent here
And drive away the shades of night
And death’s dark shadow put to flight

Rejoice, Rejoice
Immanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel