Sunday, December 23, 2007

Emmanuel: "God (STILL) With Us"

The anticipation is building as I think about the Christmas Eve service tomorrow (which I will be performing in!). As I expressed in last night’s blog, you are all invited to come and see it at 2:00 or 4:00 p.m. tomorrow! But, for those who can’t make it, I will see if I can upload it to You Tube once I get the DVD of the service. ;) But, of course, it will be much better LIVE,…….PLEASE COME!!

Meanwhile, I will just enjoy the events of today; which so rightly begins with today’s church service…..

Chad had a unique way of talking about the Christmas story today. He shed some light on the fact that so often, that’s all it is…..just a story. He said that sometimes, “Jesus gets stuck in His stories.” We read it, hear it, talk about it, but we don’t always take it in or really experience God. Many times, that’s the only way we really connect with God is through visiting the “stories” on Sunday and we keep Him at a distance. We go back into the past and spend our time thinking about how things were and who God was THEN rather than bringing Him forward to the NOW.

However, that isn’t how it is meant to be. In Matthew 1:22-23, the Bible says: “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Do you see that? God WITH us!! And, just like Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” He was here in the beginning, He was here 2,000 years ago, and He is STILL here NOW!!
Jesus is meant to be known and experienced NOW! He didn’t simply exist “then.” He has always been here. He’s the beginning and the end; as well as the “middle” that we live in right now.

Chad shared a few stories about how Emmanuel, “God with us”, is still here today. He STILL works wonders!! He explained that by talking about a missionary named William Marcus Young. He went to a remote part of Burma in the 1890’s with the intent of reaching a specific people group with the gospel. However, while he was there, a different people group ended up really coming to God! To make a long story short, when they encountered Mr. Young, they said, “You are the one we have been waiting for.”

Similarly, another tribe was seeking out God and the leader of their tribe saddled up a horse and told his tribe to follow the horse to see where it would end up and then bring back whatever they found there. He said that he and his tribe would be praying that the God they knew had to exist, but did not yet know, would guide that horse where it needed to go. Amazingly, that horse ended up coming to the place where William Marcus Young was, so that tribe also received and accepted the one true God into their lives as well!! AMAZING ISN’T IT??!

There are lots of amazing stories of lost and wandering souls coming to Christ through miraculous circumstances. Some were actively searching for a God that they knew had to exist, but didn’t know how to find Him. Others encountered God when they hit their lowest point in life and didn’t know where else to turn. And then, there are others who wanted nothing to do with God and yet, God was able to break through the hardness of their hearts to reach them and bring them to Himself. I personally know people who have testimonies that fit into each of those categories. Indeed, “God with us” is STILL as relevant and real today as it ever was!! God IS with us and drawing us to Him!!

There have been many testimonies that have touched me in my lifetime. I am continuously awed about the way God transforms peoples’ hearts through their encounters with Him!! Some of these testimonies include that of my best friend, Susan Stafford (visit her myspace and website and/or watch her videos on my page), Brian “Head” Welch (formerly of the band Korn….whose testimony I just watched yesterday), and that of another close friend of mine who used to be a hard-core atheist (sorry everyone…I don‘t have a link to this one - yet - ….I wish I did!!).

All of these stories fully illustrate the fact that God is STILL with us and working among us! He is STILL changing lives! In fact, my friend, Jasmine, shared her own testimony at church today. I can’t WAIT until she writes a book on this one! My gosh, she has been through SO MUCH!! She didn’t grow up in a very loving home, and she doesn’t even have contact with them anymore since she became a Christian. There are just so many things I could tell you about her, but wow…..there is just so much to tell!! I don’t even think I could possibly articulate her testimony as well as she can! But, needless to say, she overcame a lot of pain, darkness, and anguish in her family to be who she is today. Praise God for His love!! (I love you girl!!)

Well, I have a family get-together to go to today. Then, I suppose we will come home and let our children open their Christmas presents. Everything we got them came from the Christian bookstore. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the fruits of their Christmas presents for years to come!!

I hope you all have a blessed Christmas!! I hope to see many of you at the Christmas Eve performances tomorrow!! God bless you all!!

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