Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.
I say it all the time, but the beginning of a new year is my favorite time of the year. When the calendar year rolls over, it makes looking back so natural. 2019 is behind us and the only thing left to do is thank God for all the ways He displayed His unfailing love and faithfulness to us!
But as we do, let’s not forget that the year brought heartache for many of us. We walked with family members through great pain and tragedy. We lost loved ones and walked together through some agonizing circumstances. Some of these still continue today. It is important for us to remember that, as Jesus' people, thanking God for His steadfast love and faithfulness never means running or hiding from the brokenness in or around us. In fact, it's exactly the opposite!
We face evil and all its implications head-on, knowing that Jesus added humanity to His divinity to deal with the root of all of it on our behalf! Now we can look around us and see a redemptive thread pulled through all of life, even the pain. I’m not saying that every bad experience reveals an obvious redemptive purpose–a lot of the time, we can't make sense of the evil. However, every ounce of our pain has been accounted for at the Cross and all things will ultimately work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). That is a promise we can always hold onto.
We should not be amazed by the brokenness of this world, but rather wonder at how much good we get to experience in this life–especially the good that God the Spirit has worked over the past twelve months!
2019 was a year of new life–physically and spiritually. It was a time of change and transition, of growth in our love for Jesus and our love for each other. It was a time of greater activation of the parts of the body than ever before. 2019 was a year where we became a people more willing than ever to surrender to the words Jesus taught us to pray, 'Your Kingdom come, Your will be done'–and He's responded to those prayers!
We've had new staff and elders join our team, and many others raised into new levels of servant leadership. We've watched as prayer groups and new initiatives to love and serve the poor have sprung up. We've witnessed evangelistic passion and effectiveness growing in many of us. Monthly worship nights have created space to share with each other what the Spirit has put on our hearts. We've had Westsiders respond to God's call to church plant and give their lives to the work of making disciples. We've seen making disciples become less extraordinary and more normative in our church. We've known healing through the confession of our sin. And, ultimately, we’ve experienced the awe of Jesus in our gathering and scattering.
By God's grace, 2019 was a year of amazing blessing!
Part of me feels like this would be a good spot to put some kind of challenge for the year ahead. But I don't really want to challenge you right now, we do that enough on Sundays ;). No, all I want to say as we enter 2020 is look to Jesus. He is our King and He is so near. He has good works that He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in this year (Ephesians 2:10).
Trust Him. Love Him. Set yourself apart for Him. He is the greatest, fullest, most world-impacting life-altering joy any of us could ever have. May 2020 be a year of unmistakable joy in Jesus.
We love you, Westside.
– Matt and Missy