Changing Of The Seasons

Fall is officially arriving next week yet halfway through the month of September we’re already getting a glimpse of leaves changing color, school being a couple weeks in, and Halloween merchandise rolling into stores. The seasons are changing!

And I don’t know what it is but the closer we get to winter, the more I think about how life is constantly in motion. Maybe it’s sentimentalism or nostalgia, but I’d like to think of it as a sense of maturing – that we can gauge where we were, where we are, and where we’re going. And there are times where I like this feeling, and others where the feeling isn’t so welcoming.

There’s nothing we can do to speed up the changing of seasons.

Psalm 104:19 reminds us that the Lord our God “made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.”

God knows what’s going on: He set the days and nights since the beginning. He knows how things are continually evolving in your life. It’s already set in motion but He’s got it all under control. Do you believe that? Your season may be changing, whether it’s a new school, changing jobs, or getting ready to tackle parenthood. And as painful or painless as some of these seasons will be, we just don’t have the capability to fast forward or “get it over with”.

The question is: Do you trust that God’s will and way will work out in the end?

A pastor I know once pointed out that people who think of “back in the day” will often dwell too much on what happened in the past – the how and the why. They put so much effort on how things were better/worse, or simply different, without giving a second thought to what’s going on in the here and now. Athletes, scholars, your average Joe… even Christians! Maybe it’s “what church used to be like” or “how God moved so powerfully through me back then”.

But the past is the past and he said that instead of fixating on the how & why, just accept that it did and move forward. I totally agree with that today as the seasons start to change for all of us. Whatever already happened, whether it was good or bad, I pray that you’ll be able to keep maturing as you trust the days ahead into God’s hands and that all things will work for your good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Reflection Song: Christ Is

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What Is Love? (A Valentine’s Day Blog)

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more). For those of you who don’t know the reference, I’m talking about the 1993 hit song “What Is Love” by Haddaway, which you may recognize from the Will Ferrell/Chris Kattan comedy “A Night At The Roxbury“.

Where am I going with this today and on Valentine’s Day, of all days?

Haddaway was recently interviewed and was asked the question, “So, what is love?”. He responded, “People always ask me what I meant… I meant that ‘what is love’ needs to be defined by everyone by his own definition. It’s unique and individual. For me, it has to do with trust, honesty, and dedication.”

And that’s the truth, isn’t it? People want to be loved specific ways and they also express love to others in different ways. I was reminded of a story I heard on Christian radio not too long ago. Last summer, Nabisco released limited edition Swedish Fish Oreos across the country… Chocolate cookies. Fruit flavor. Cream filling.

I know.

To each his own, right? Everyone enjoys something different, even if that “something different” is actually something disgusting. Likewise, you might love to receive Godiva chocolates today. Or Lindt because of the colorful wrappers. Or Russell Stover… because you like to inflict pain upon yourself. Whatever the reason, the point is that in the end you’re satisfied… for the time being.

So why is it so hard to be satisfied by love? It’s because we all carry our own definition and prerequisites for love. We have our own expectations and bars set in place. But as Christians, it’s simple. No matter what, God is the very definition of love. He’s the epitome of satisfaction. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

If today’s a day where you can spend time with a loved one, fantastic! Love selflessly and in a way that brings glory to God.

If you find yourself “alone” today, you’re not! God is always with you despite the Hallmark holidays that may make you feel unloved. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Show & share that love to someone!

It’s easy to think that love is an individualistic mentality of feelings between one another, but the love we should be focusing on is the all-encompassing, multi-ground covering, completely satisfying love of God. You might respond differently to love, compared to others… in fact, people might not even know what it takes to make you feel loved! But God’s love is a perfect match every time for every person’s unique needs.

Love isn’t in the number of roses you receive or the enormity of a teddy bear. It isn’t in titles or cute nicknames you give someone. What is love? God is love.

Reflection Song: Here Today

New Year, New Store!

Hope everyone’s 2017 is amazing so far! Hard to believe that we’re already 8% through the new year already.

But we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce our new store! People have been asking us about new apparel and today’s the day we launch our latest design:

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For all you fans of the Netflix series Stranger Things, our latest t-shirt design is sure to turn things Upside Down! As always, the purpose of our apparel isn’t just to make clothes with our band name on it… the purpose is to allow the design to break the ice with someone so that you can tell them how Jesus is your shameless plug!

What better way to start a conversation than with Stranger Things?

Currently, this is the only t-shirt available in our store… You guys totally wiped us out of all our other shirts & hoodies (another popular item)! So for now, our only apparel are the ugly Christmas sweaters and this new Stranger tee. We’ve also added a new stock meter so that you can see how close things are to selling out. Don’t miss your chance to get these limited designs! Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

And if shipping isn’t your thing, you can always pick up any of our merch in person at an upcoming event in 2017 (dates coming soon)!

Top 10 Posts Of 2016

2016 was an interesting year, wasn’t it? It was full of ups & downs for entertainment, politics, and, I’m sure, for your personal lives as well. But it’s important to stay rooted in what helps you stay rooted in God. And so we thank you for joining us for another year of quick thoughts on our site. We hope to bring you new music in 2017, but in the meantime please enjoy our ten most visited entries of 2016:

1. Lent, Week 5: Prepare The Cross
2. Lent, Week 1: An Early 40 Days (Prepare Yourself)
3. Christ Is Risen!
4. Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart
5. Almost God
6. Good Friday?
7. Advent 3: JOY
8. Prepare The Way (Palm Sunday)
9. Lent, Week 6: Prepare Resurrection
10. Advent 4: PEACE

And here are our top posts from previous years. Thanks, everyone, and Happy New Year!

2015
2014
2013

Advent 4: PEACE

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

If you’re a Christmas carol connoisseur, you’ll recognize this verse from a popular one: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. In the song, the line is actually:

Peace on the earth, goodwill to men. From heaven’s all gracious King!

Because of Jesus, we have peace – peace with God, peace in God, and peace with each other. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and because of His selfless sacrifice, we can have a relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He fills us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

We can have confidence and assurance that whatever comes our way, we can be at peace because of who God is and what He says He’ll do. It isn’t a peace we need to go searching for, but it’s a peace that’s within us thanks to Jesus.

Uneasiness, trials, tribulation, and anything else we face has nothing on us! The Bible says that nothing (not even death) can separate us from the love of God. Jesus is proof of that because He was sent by God to the place we’d least expect Him… here with us. So have peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7) this week as you can rest assured in the love that came on Christmas day…

Jesus.

Reflection Song: God Our King

Advent 3: JOY

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” – Luke 1:46-47

Parking for Christmas shopping. Trying to pick out the right gifts. Standing on line to checkout.

Some things during this season (or other times) just don’t make us so happy. But Christmas isn’t about being happy. It says in Luke 2:10 that the angel brought good news of great joy that Jesus is born! So what’s the deal with joy?

Happiness could be more of a feeling or an emotion. It’s temporary and mostly momentary. But joy is more of a state or attitude of the heart. It’s a bit deeper. We can be happy and grateful for who Jesus is but because of what Jesus did, we are filled with great joy inside and out. Knowing Jesus brings us joy, so you could even say that joy is happiness in Christ.

The fact that Jesus lives in us (and us in Him) should bring us great joy because not only did Christ arrive in Bethlehem but His Spirit resides in us as well. What an amazing truth and honor! Emmanuel is God with us, and Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. That’s the kind of power that doesn’t just make us feel happy, but causes us to live out lives of joy… joy that is an outcome of a humble baby changing everything. A baby who is our Savior.

If you’re looking for joy this week, spend more time with God & get to know Him more. The Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord! So maybe you need to allot more time for Him. Or if you’re finding it hard to be joyful because of difficult times, give them up! James said to consider it joy when we face trials. Having faith and trusting in God fills us with joy and peace. We’re given so many reasons and so many opportunities for joy.

So be more than happy or “merry”. Be joyful so that the world would see the true source of our joy: Jesus Christ the Son of God is the Messiah!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!”

Reflection Song: Only You

Advent 2: LOVE

The holiday season is known to some as the “Season of Giving” because there are so many opportunities to give to those who are less fortunate. Clothing drives, food drives, toy drives, you name it. There’s always a way to help make someone else’s Christmas more memorable.

It reminds me of 1 John 4:8 which says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Hopefully during this Christmas season, you aren’t kind or generous for the sole purpose of it being Christmastime, but because inside you is love. This stems from the One who loved us first, our great & mighty God. A couple of verses later says just that: that it isn’t us loving God but because He loved us that He sent Jesus Christ. (1 John 4:10)

In fact, O Holy Night touches upon this as well… “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.” Wow!

It’s amazing that not only has God shown love, but He IS love!

So this Christmas, let’s remember that God’s perfect love in the form of His one & only son Jesus is born as a sign in your life. Not because of our love but because of His great & massive love. As we get to know God more through Jesus Christ, let’s spread that love we get to experience firsthand. Let’s be filled with gladness from that fact as we continue to prepare & anticipate His birth. Keep trusting in Him and love others just as He loves us.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.1 John 4:16

Reflection Song: Because Of Your Love

Advent 1: HOPE

With Christmas on the way, have you thought about what you hope for?

Hope is an interesting topic because it gets tossed around a lot, as we hear it on a regular basis in TV shows & movies (“We have hope… Rebellions are built on hope!”) or even our daily conversations (“I hope they have that game in stock at Best Buy!”). But the hope we focus on during the Advent season is a little more.

As Pastor John Piper has once said, hope is a desire for something good in the future, the thing in the future that we desire, and the basis or reason for thinking that our desire may indeed be fulfilled. There’s great anticipation for this kind of hope, the same anticipation we should have for Jesus on Christmas.

We can hope for a specific gift on December 25. We can hope that we get accepted into the school of our choice. We can hope for a lot of things to happen for us. But true hope is waiting for something good to happen in the future, and actually expecting it to happen with confidence.

It’s the kind of confidence that aligns hope with faith. What I mean is that true biblical hope is founded in God because we can have that kind of assurance, confidence, and faith in things to happen for our good. (Romans 8:28)

What do you hope for?

As we wait during Advent, I want to challenge you not to wait mindlessly but with intention. We have hope in God, which means we can hope for big things from the God who is who He says He is and from our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, the hope of glory! So let’s put our hope in Him!

Reflection Song: Christ Is

Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

So often in life we say, “thanks”. We instinctively reflex and it comes out, or we say it begrudgingly, or sometimes (sometimes) we really mean it. But just as many of us grew up reading, the Bible gives us one really good reason to be thankful:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…”Psalm 107:1-2

During Thanksgiving time, it’s easy to “give thanks”. Going around the dinner table sharing what you’re thankful for, or going to church and giving a little more for offering during Thanksgiving. I mean, what’s not to be thankful for?

Plenty, actually!

We can count our blessings, be grateful for all the stuff we own, or the people we know, but what about the difficult situations? What about the difficult people? For some of us, what about that difficult job, or that difficult family member? Are you still thankful?

I was reminded of the story of the Israelites fleeing from Pharaoh’s men in Egypt. There was no guarantee of safety. There was an army chasing after them. It seemed like the worst day in the world. How can they give thanks? How can they be grateful?

We all have storms in life. We go through things where it feels like there’s no hope. But just as the Israelites did, we need to trust God even in the rockiest moments. And maybe you’ve had that kind of moment already where you can look back and realize that God was working on a solution for you, where God pulled you to safety so that you too would have a story to share. …Maybe you’re going through that moment even now. But that shouldn’t stop us from praising the Lord or offering a heart of thanksgiving.

It’s easy to be thankful for the great & fluffy things. But look at the trials & storms around you. Can you be more grateful for these as well, for how God is using them and using you to give you a story of His faithfulness? I know I need to work on this as well! So won’t you join me this Thanksgiving and shift your perspective a little bit so that we ask God for His clarity in order to see that indeed He is always good & that His love endures forever. Let’s truly give thanks for everything with a grateful heart…

Reflection Song: All To You

Almost God

So close… but God, if you just answered these prayers you would really be God!

Isn’t that how we think sometimes? This is one of the challenges from Pastor Sam at this past CYG Summer Retreat. “Oh God, You are almost God.” That on our journeys, we ask of God but we see that things don’t always go our way… We forget that what we have with the Heavenly Father is relational, not transactional. In fact, for any healthy relationship it’s important that you’re not keeping score or treating it like a vending machine relationship, and it’s the same with God.

And as we continued to dive deeper into the retreat theme of “Stepping Out”, it was good being reminded (with the stories of Zacchaeus in the sycamore-fig tree and Peter walking on water) that sometimes we need to take a step of faith and trust God – from where we were to where He’s leading. But so often we box God up and limit our perspective of Him, not allowing Him to be all that He is. So what a refreshing sight it was to see so many clenched fists open during worship, lives being changed for a new future, and hope being restored all across this church!

God is good all the time and He always has the perfect plan for your life. We hope that whether you’re reaching & stretching to get a better glimpse like Zaccaheus or you feel like you’re reluctantly taking a step of faith like Peter, you’ll be blessed as you strive for more in your walks with the Lord. Don’t put a cap on who God can fully be in your life. He isn’t almost God – He is always God. Open up your heart and life to the new possibilities only possible through Jesus!

Reflection Song: Here I Stand