Anchored

Another year has come and gone… Recently coming back from a retreat with a theme of “Anchored”, we remember that Jesus is our anchor in the storm. Our hope is anchored in Him, especially when we’re faced with uncertainty or when oceans roar!

A lot can happen in a year and I’m sure we all had our fair share of ups & downs in 2018. Isn’t it always so easy to thank God and trust in Him when everything’s going your way? But when things start getting a little shaky, who do we hold onto? When our path starts to waver, who do we lean on?

Hebrews 2 challenges us to keep our hope in Christ and not on any other future hope. Jesus is our solid rock & firm foundation! In a construction sense, Isaiah 28:16 says that Jesus is a tested stone, or a cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. And those who believe in Him will not be disturbed. What a great promise that is!

You see, we have an assurance in our anchor, Jesus Christ. We won’t drift away or be shaken because like an anchor, what Jesus has done for us through His death & resurrection is the steadiness and security we desperately need! Without Him, we’re relying on our own strength and surely we’ll fail… Why wouldn’t we trust in the One who keeps us grounded in His never-ending love and consistently provides for us?

So with 2019 just around the corner, our hope & prayer for you is that you will be anchored in Christ. That could mean more Quiet Time during the week, keeping a steady Bible reading plan, attending an early morning prayer gathering, or maybe something else that the Lord is tugging you toward! But may next year be filled with much hope in Him as you continue to grow in the Word and seek Him more!

Happy New Year!

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 6:19

Reflection Song: Christ Is

The Color Of Love (A Valentine’s Day Blog)

“Roses are red… Violets are blue…”

We’ve heard it time and time again. People even customize their own ending to that rhyme. But why are Valentine’s Day’s colors red, blue, pink, etc.? I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer.

What is clear is that today is about love. Maybe you’re thinking “romantic movie love”. But as believers, we have God’s unconditional love selflessly given to us by the blood of Jesus… The blood that makes even the foulest clean, the blood that makes us white as snow.

It’s ironic though because red, as an emotional color, has a different impact outside of the blood of Jesus (or even Valentine’s Day). A red light, red flag, red bullfighter cape, code red… It’s often associated with stopping, or alarming news, or even danger.

But with today also being Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, let’s consider Jesus’ death and resurrection leading up to Easter Sunday.

Imagine the day that Jesus bled and died on the cross for us. To spectators, it was alarming and even seemed like the end of the line. But to much of the world’s surprise, that red blood would be fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah and cleansed us, making us white as snow! That very “red” led us to a new life in the Lord, resurrected with Christ! Praise God!

So yes, today will be filled with much chocolate and red roses, nice dinners and surprises. But during the next 40 days of Lent, we invite you to also pray and prepare for the Easter season, thinking about the significance and impact in your life by what Jesus has done. He deserves it all!

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”Isaiah 1:18

Reflection Song: Nothing But The Blood

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

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

Lent, Week 2: Prepare Others

Last week we looked at the difference between giving something up and preparing ourselves for Easter. We need to constantly ready ourselves because simply not doing something doesn’t help you anticipate this Lenten season.

This week, I’m reminded that Jesus not only prepared Himself for death on the cross but also those around Him. All throughout the gospels, the disciples constantly heard Jesus foreshadow His coming death, preparing them as well. What about those around you?

Hopefully you are part of a church community where there is accountability and follow-up. It’s difficult to walk the Christian life alone! Hebrews 10:24-25 is a great reminder of how we should be spurring & encouraging each other on to do good.

Let there be purpose in everything we fast and/or add to our lives. The same goes for those who are preparing around us. We shouldn’t have to wait until Easter Sunday to hear about how our brothers & sisters in Christ did during this Lenten season. So if you know someone who’s trying to read through the Bible for the first time in these 40 days, help them out! Spur them on. If someone you know gave up social media, hand them a Bible or a journal.

And don’t stop there! If you plan on inviting a friend to church on Easter, start thinking & praying about it now. Don’t spring it on them last minute – really put thought into the intention and how you can prepare them for what Easter really means.

Everybody prepares differently. How can you help prepare others?

Reflection Song: All To You

Lent – Prepare: Yourself (Week 1) | Others (Week 2) | Discipline (Week 3) | Your Heart (Week 4) | The Cross (Week 5) | Resurrection (Week 6) | The Way (Week 7)

Lent, Week 1: An Early 40 Days (Prepare Yourself)

Yes, I looked it up. There won’t be an earlier Ash Wednesday for 19 years (February 7, 2035), or Easter for that matter. And it’s an interesting thing, that we expect Easter during this time but aren’t always exactly sure when it’ll come. So, for many of us, I’m sure this Lenten season really crept up on you!

And it’s around this time that many of us scramble for things to give up… late-night snacking, sweets, watching TV/movies, etc. Or the opposite, you find ways to supplement your daily spiritual life by reading more of the bible, attending an extra worship service or early morning prayer, etc.

But how are you really preparing for Easter?

Every Ash Wednesday we go through this routine of giving something up, maybe even going to church, and wearing a cross of ash on our foreheads. But all of these things are just actions, motions, and gestures if underneath them all there is no purpose.

Take Easter, for instance. The days leading up to Jesus dying on the cross, His actions weren’t meaningless. He prepared and He was ready. Luke 9:51 even says that Jesus RESOLUTELY set out for Jerusalem! If we’re to prepare ourselves for Easter as well, we need to be determined, have the right intentions, and get ready for the cross.

We hope that whatever it is you choose to do (or not do), you do so with purpose and do so with resolve! Do it intentionally and prayerfully for the journey ahead.

What do you intend on doing in these 40 days? Stick with it!

Reflection Song: Because Of Your Love

Lent – Prepare: Yourself (Week 1) | Others (Week 2) | Discipline (Week 3) | Your Heart (Week 4) | The Cross (Week 5) | Resurrection (Week 6) | The Way (Week 7)

Preparation

Winter Storm Jonas – aka Snowpocalypse 2016, Snowmageddon 2016, Snowzilla 2016… A lot of records were broken with some cities on the east coast reporting over 24 inches of snow, wind gusts over 85 mph, and unfortunately even deaths.

So you tell people there’ll be a major winter storm and what do they do? They stock up on food, water, supplies, flashlights, a full tank of gas in their cars… What do you do? You prepare!

And when it comes to what we do at church, it’s no different. The preacher prepares the sermon, the worship team prepares the songs, the fellowship committee prepares the refreshments, etc. But what about the rest of us? We come to church to worship God and how do we prepare? By waking up 30 minutes before worship, scarfing down whatever breakfast we can find, and barely making it to the first song?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were prepared to do what they needed to do when they chose to worship God instead of King Nebuchadnezzar. And Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman at the well and emphasizes that how we worship is very important, which means the way we do the how is also important. That means it’s very possible to come to church and still completely miss the whole purpose of worship!

Everything we do from the moment we step outside of Sunday worship to the very moment we step back in the following Sunday is still worship. These gatherings of “corporate worship” on Sunday are an opportunity to turn our cries of private worship into a public one… the culmination of a whole week of worshiping turned into a response when we gather together.

All that we do leading up to Sunday worship is critical – from what we watch & read before going to sleep, to the music we listen to on the car ride to church, even our attitude & spirit as we walk into the sanctuary. As the church, we have a duty to prepare for worship just as much as the preacher and worship team. Let’s not simply go through the motions and “get away” with it. Let’s constantly be in the mindset of worship so that we can be ready when we meet together again.

Reflection Song: Prepare The Way