Archives For Jesus



Second Student Ministries: December 19, 2012

Christmas Words: Immanuel


Introduction: Think about a time when you were very afraid or very upset. Were you alone? Who came to be with you in that time and support you?

Word Meaning

  • Immanuel/Emmanuel (spelled both ways) translates to mean “God with us.”
  • Immanuel is a Hebrew word, the language of the Jews, God’s chosen people. The Old Testament is largely a narrative story of the Jews.
  • Appears in both the Old Testament (more than 700 years before Jesus was born) and the New Testament

Part One: “Immanuel” for Isaiah

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a song, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14


Isaiah is speaking to Ahaz, the king of Judah regarding his decision about an impending war with two powerful neighbors.

The climate in Judah was full of fear and terror. Earlier in Isaiah 7 we read, When the house of David was told, Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz (the king) and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.  Isaiah 7:2

God sent Isaiah to the king to give him this prophecy or message from God. He uses the word Immanuel to remind the people of Judah that even in their most fearful, dangerous moment he is still with them. They don’t face the danger or the heartache alone.

Part Two: “Immanuel” for Matthew


Matthew is written 750 years after Isaiah, and the Jewish people are under the control of the powerful Roman Empire. They are being oppressed by Roman tax collectors and officials and don’t have legal rights as Roman citizens.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means God will us). Matthew 1:18-23

To Matthew, and the Jews living in the first century under Roman control, the word Immanuel meant that God was still with them, even in their time of suffering.

It also meant that God had kept the promise he made in Isaiah, had sent the sign that he was, literally now, with them.

Part Three: “Immanuel” for Us

2012 has been a great year for some of us. Eli Manning and the Giants defeated Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The USA Olympic Swim Team made a video of “Call Me Maybe” and delighted viewers everywhere. Taylor Swift reminded us all that “We are never, ever, ever, getting back together.”

2012 has been a terrible year in some other ways. Innocent people were killed at a movie theater in Colorado, and more than twenty people, including children, lost their lives last week in a shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut. This kind of evil and pain can be so hard for us to process.

2012 brought some of you some personal heartache too. Some of you faced disappointments in your personal life, people may have let you down in some big ways, or you lost someone close to you.

In Matthew 28 Jesus has already been crucified and has risen from the dead. He has appeared to many people following his death. Now the disciples of Jesus are gathered on a mountain and he speaks to them again.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:8-20

The fear and the evil didn’t end for them that day. Most of Jesus’ disciples suffered, and were even killed for their testimony. Jesus didn’t promise that our lives would be free from pain here on Earth.

But his last words on earth were a promise that he would be with us, even to the end of the age. “Immanuel-God with us.”

Conclusion – Bowed heads

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Doesn’t always feel like God is there in the pain. In the shootings, in the darkest hour of yours.

For Isaiah living in ancient Judah, for Matthew living under Roman control in the first century, and for us in 2012, the word Immanuel reminds us that right in the middle of our pain and fear God is with us.

Think back to that moment you when you were upset of scared. I hope that there were people who loved you and supported you through that. But the message of the word “Immanuel” is that you are never, ever alone, even if it seems that way. Just like he promised, God came at Christmas to be with us. And this Christmas we celebrate Immanuel, our God is with us.

I’m not sure if it’s that I only watch my tv shows on Hulu and they only rotate 7 advertisements per year (seriously, Hulu!), or what it is, but after watching the Verizon commercial with the crying Mom try to leave her daughter for the 400th time, it is getting rough for me. In fact, I walked out of the room last night watching it with my wife because I couldn’t take the same ad one more time.

And maybe I’m crazy, but this experience did get me thinking.

In our churches, how often do we “over-saturate”?

Do we over-sell every event or activity the church puts on?

Do the words “life-change” flow out of every announcement we give?

Do we over-hype programs rather than invest in individual stories?

Are we saying the same thing over and over?

Are we driving our church members *crazy* because we continue to over-hype and under-deliver on our promises?

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to be that annoying advertisement for a church function. But I do want to build buzz for what God is doing. Because I believe more than ever that He is active in our world.

See my tension?

What do you think?



I was reading a blog post earlier today that asked young adults “what was it about Jesus specifically that attracted and captured you to the point that you decided to follow Him with your life?”

I was struck by Josh’s answer:
April 26, 2012 at 7:49 am #

From the earthly, practical standpoint: In high school I decided to follow Christ, largely because the youth group and youth leaders at my new church were the most welcoming, friendly, forgiving group I had ever encountered. Their warmth and depth of friendship blew me away, as they took me in as a newcomer and welcomed me. As I saw their pursuit of Jesus and how it transformed their lives, I realized for the first time how important it was to follow Christ rather than simply giving a verbal assent to His existence.

The response reminds me of a student in our youth ministry’s story – of knowing all about God – but not knowing God and having a relationship with Him. To now see this student have grown into one of our primary student leaders – who is thriving in their walk with Christ – is incredible to witness.

So I just wanted to encourage you – that what you do each week, month, and throughout the year – really matters in the Kingdom. And I’m thankful for the gifts and call He has given so many of you, my friends, to minister to young people.

Blessings to you as you serve!


“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  1 Corinthians 15:17

Creation could have happened in 6, literal days or over 6 billion years. If science were to prove something either way tomorrow, it would have no affect on my faith.


The Flood could’ve covered the whole Earth or it could’ve just covered where Noah and humanity inhabited.


I could be really wrong on a variety of my own interpretations of Scripture. I could have some mixed up views of who God really is. In fact, I am sure I don’t know a whole host of things about God.


But if Jesus doesn’t rise up from the grave, my faith is worthless. It all hinges on one moment. One piece of history. One moment of redemption – God making it so I could have a real, living relationship with Him – and have a full life here on Earth.


But I recently read that nearly 1/3 of Christians don’t believe in a physical resurrection of Jesus. And so I’m wondering – What is the basis of our faith with the resurrection gone?


Tim Keller writes, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said?”


Why live a radical life of sacrifice if Jesus wasn’t really the son of God? That wouldn’t make any sense.


It’s all or nothing for me when it comes to the Resurrection.


Jesus is either a nut job or he is Lord.


Without the resurrection, I’d enjoy a couple of quotes on peace and love from Jesus, but I’m not going to follow Him with my life. In fact, for me, I may not even believe in God’s promises. Or His love. Or His care for me. Or that I could be experiencing resurrection from all the death in my own life – or that I could be made whole.


I don’t know where I’d be, but I do know that my entire life trajectory has been altered by God’s son.


I believe it.


And I’m in.


I’m all in.

“God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” Acts 2:24

Where are you at?


Yeah. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this might be the most incredible poetry you’ll hear all year. David Bowden does an unbelievable job.

Just hit play. You’ll be impressed at the 2:50 mark. Or at least I was.

And I saw him: Death, with his mighty sting, exhaling in every breath the plight he brings. To the grave he gave victory…

Triumphing over life with the fear of endless sleep. Endlessly, we hide from our mortality. Mortally wounded from birth

We lie to ourselves from infancy, infinitely investing time in a life that will inevitably be taken by this incredible creature that stands before me:


He manifests himself on ordinary days. His 6-foot stomach growls with hunger pangs.

For his meal, he cannot wait. So we are forced to taste him even before the grave.

We are all dying, there is no other way. I see him in Haitian and Japanese earthquakes. He’s hating the escapees of his cruel wakes.

I see him in poverty impoverishing the quality of life for regions that are reachable, and in those with the

reach who find reason not to reach out to treat what is treatable. I see him in disease taking life out of uninfected yet affected families.

I see him in oppression, pressing down on the oppressed and the oppressor.

I see him in depression, in Prozac and pain pills, in razor blades and bed-side wills. I see him in abuse: physical, mental, emotional misuse.

I see him in spiritual confusion, material obsession, physical possessions. I see him in marital transgressions, childhood remorse from an ugly divorce.

I see him in our slavery to appearances, appearing to care more about our images than those in dying villages.

I see him in our ignorance, ignoring truth for some comfortable inference.

I see his emergence in our churches as we pull out emergency verses as deterrents to religious differences, going on the defensive, defending our way of worship, making community worthless.

Death is killing us before we even enter the surface of the earth. We are in the service of his words, “It is finished”; the end of our birth.

We cannot hide from his wretched curse. For death and his grave we constantly rehearse.

Even God himself was coerced. Divinity immersed itself in humanity, humbly taking on flesh, scorning vanity.

The world saw his way of life as insanity. Insisting he cease speaking of his radical Christianity. But Man found him guilty, accusing God of blasphemy.

Performing the ultimate usurpation by slaying Christ on Calvary.

But through their cowardly cross, Jesus embossed mankind with amnesty, championing over death with the beauty of his fatal injury.

And I know, many still doubt, and rightfully so, bringing up this inquiry? What does that poor Jewish man dying on a Roman tree 2,000 years ago have to do with me?

I reply simply: Christ came and died to marry his bride to be.

And though death could kill the groom, it could not kill the ring. God made us one with Christ and life in matrimony’s cling.

Now, the undying church, his ever-living wife can sing.

Oh Death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory? For we have risen above your misery! We will not succumb to your finality!

We have overcome your infamous mystery! In the infinite reign of Christ’s ministry! For we are the resurrection!

The insurrection of fatality! We are the risen deity, the intersection of a dead yet living body! We live through imperfections, for we died to become holy!

We cannot be contained by the mouth of the grave. We are the willing slaves to the one who rose from the garden cave.

We have passed through death to new birth.

We gave the grave to the earth, and we claim today the cross’ worth! The body of his rising!

We are the risen church.

Christ is Risen. Amen?

Kindness vs. Ugliness

July 7, 2011 — 2 Comments



“More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all of the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.”
-William Barclay

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (NLT)


Agree or Disagree? Are our theological arguments worthwhile conversations, or do non-followers of Jesus view that as disunity?

“How do I want to be remembered?  Not primarily as a Christian scholar but rather as a loving person.  This can be the goal of every individual.”

Elton Trueblood

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

(HT Paul)

What would you say is the goal of a Christian? What is your pursuit to be remembered by?