Week 3 of Advent

15 Dec

What do you think of when you hear the word “joy”? Perhaps this Christmas present reveal from 1998. Or this cartoon.

But to me, the word “joy” almost instantly triggers a few Christmas songs: Joy To The World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (“tidings of comfort and joy”), and Angels We Have Heard On High (“joyous strains”). So what is joy and how is it different from happiness?

I believe the difference can be summed up by the N64 kid above. Whereas your average child may have been happy to receive an N64 console, this particular child was filled with much joy! Joy by definition is a feeling of great or extreme happiness. And if happiness is a reflexive emotion, then I’d like to think that joy is our choice to take the next step and have a happiness that much greater. The birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Christmas justifies this kind of joy – we then make a choice to be joyful and, in response, we rejoice (to feel or show great joy)!

So when we hear “tidings of comfort and joy”, it’s the news of comfort, peace, and joy in the birth of Jesus. Our reaction and reflex then is made up of “joyous strains”, joyful songs of praise!

We may be glad to receive certain presents this year and that feeling may even last a while. But nothing gives everlasting joy like Jesus Christ – the whole reason for this time of year! In this third week of Advent, think about how Jesus brings you joy and in what way you can rejoice in His birth in these final 10 days.

Reflection Song: Only You

Week 2 of Advent

8 Dec

Does anyone else feel like Christmas snuck up on us this year? It’s already Week 2 of Advent and there’s something about this time that makes it feel like the “calm before the storm”. Parents are still figuring out where to buy their children’s presents, bigger sales are about to take place, holiday traffic hasn’t really hit yet, etc. It just feels rather peaceful… for now.

But this kind of peace isn’t what we’re singing about when we say, “peace on earth, good will to men”. The peace that God supplies through His son Jesus Christ is so much greater: Jesus came to the earth to save us from sin and death once and for all! That’s a peace that can’t be matched because we have this peace now and forevermore.

Do you feel that peace in your life today?

It’s like that popular bumper sticker: No Christ, No Peace. Know Christ. Know Peace! As we continue this second week of Advent, be encouraged that the birth of Jesus on Christmas is also our peace. He isn’t called the Prince of Peace for nothing! Trust in Him and remember that nothing can separate us from the peace He gives, not even death!

Reflection Song: You Are Greater

Week 1 of Advent

2 Dec

In this time of year where you see Thanksgiving products coming off the shelves and Christmas products overwhelming your favorite stores, we sometimes lose sight of what’s really going on around us. This year, Advent began in November, which makes it difficult to imagine that Christmas is around the corner (though we waited until it was sure enough December for this post).

In this first week of Advent, how are you preparing for Christmas? That could mean a lot of things… who you are buying presents for, what you are planning for Christmas Eve/Day, etc. But as we wait expectantly for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how are you preparing yourself?

John the Baptist reminds the people of Judea in Matthew 3 that we need to prepare straight paths for the Lord. Consider the things that are in the way in your life today and how we can prepare a way for the Lord to come. One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Holy Night, which has such a poetic line:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease

How ironic that Jesus came so humbly to the earth, yet He is a King. As we continue with Week 1 of Advent, let’s prepare the way for Him as He breaks us free from the chains & distractions that may cause us to stray. Let’s look to Christ this Christmas season!

Reflection Song: Prepare The Way

What Am I Worth?

21 Nov

What do you base your self-worth on? We look around and see competitions on television, whether it’s for singing, unique talents, funny videos, or even “beauty”. We see online posts and determine their merit based on the number of shares or likes… And this culture of ratings affects us.

When we start to come up with unrealistic expectations for ourselves, we start to feel disappointed and unworthy. Perhaps you feel that way right now because your week wasn’t what you expected or things just didn’t pan out the way you had hoped today. But instead of hanging onto the disappointments and things that bring you down, consider those in your life that lift you up & encourage you; consider the moments that bring you joy, the things that actually make you feel valuable. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Don’t get hung up on the value of material things and how they can affect your worth. With Black Friday just a week away, we look so far in advance all of the deals and promotions going on… how to get the best bang for your buck – for great discounts you’d stand on line for hours. You see this kind of desire and may feel like you’re not “worth it”, but God will tell you otherwise.

The Lord your God is with you,the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17

Whether it’s something someone said to you, or the way you feel about yourself after a long hard day at school/work, know that you are loved by our almighty God in heaven! See yourself the way that the Father sees you. It may be hard at first, but be encouraged that the amount God loves you far outnumbers any racing negative thoughts you may have. “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17).

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, start by looking to your family, your friends, those that are close to you… they love you too! You’re probably thinking of a few people right now. And, of course, don’t forget to look to God! You were bought with a price, you are worth it – God showed His great love for us with the sacrifice made on the cross with His son Jesus Christ, our Lord & Savior. So in this Thanksgiving season let’s be grateful, giving thanks and praise to God our Father who has redefined our worth. It’s because of Him we have life and everything within it, so going forward let’s continue to give Him our lives and everything we have, showing Him that He is worthy of it all!

Reflection Song: Unending Praise

Endless Love

10 Nov

How amazing is God’s love? It is everlasting. It is unconditional. It knows no bounds.

We recently led worship at IN2 Church’s Crosswalk lock-in where they had the banner above, representing God’s neverending love for us. Throughout the night, people wrote on heart-shaped post-its with what they are thankful for and posted it on this banner. This should get us thinking… especially in this Thanksgiving season, what are you grateful for?

Lamentations 3:22 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” One thing we can count on is God’s never failing love for us. And with His one and only son, Jesus, and the cross, we see His love displayed for us and making a way for us. This endless love is not something foreign or alien, but familiar and given freely to us by the grace of God. Because His love is endless, so should be our response! This reminded us of our song Unending Praise:

Lord, I live for You… Lord, I give to You unending praise, unending praise. More than anything, be my everything. We give You praise, unending praise.

Just as how we are the recipient of God’s unending love, may God receive unending praise from us – that our response to His love may be worship, that our lives would be worship, and He would be the object of our worship.

No matter what hardships you may be going through & experiencing, remember your relationship with the Lord and who He is. For starters, Psalm 145 says He is gracious, compassionate, loving, and good… so you are not in this alone. God is for us and Jesus Christ is the sign of His perfect love for us. Be encouraged today as you begin a new week for His glory. Be thankful and find peace & joy in His endless love for you!

Reflection Song: Here Today

Masks And Make-Believe

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!

For many, today is a fun day to spend time with friends & family, probably dressing up as your favorite superhero or TV character, collecting candy along the way. Costumes, capes, masks… but who are we, really? Are we make-believing?

We have the privilege to know God, who is for real and has no secret identity! It’s all fun and games today, which is great, but when it comes to our relationship with the Lord, let’s not forget who we ought to be. John declares in Romans 1:16-17 that he is not ashamed of the gospel because of the power of God. So how are we living? Are you living unashamedly for Christ?

I’m reminded of John 1 which says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”

We are children of God! No pretending there… This is who we are and how we should live. But instead of getting a bag full of candy, we’ve got much better in store for us when we take off our masks and live for Him. Thomas asks Jesus in John 14, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” and Jesus responds, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Today, if you are feeling lost or even unidentified, proudly know the Lord and know who you are in Him. Let’s not be like the false prophets who are like wolves that wear sheep’s clothing or the hypocrites who honor Jesus with their lips but not with their hearts. Let’s take off those masks, believe, and be true to God & one another.

Reflection Song: Here I Stand

The In-Between: Transitions In Worship

3 Oct

Recently our frontman Andy joined The Church Collective, an online collective/community to equip & empower worship teams worldwide. His first entry titled, “The In-Between: Transitions In Worship” is for all you worship leaders who are looking for ways to go from song to song. Check out some of these helpful tips!

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