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

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Advent #4)

Isaiah 53 tells of a Savior who comes to pay the ransom of the captives. We know now that this is the Savior we rejoice in, our Lord Jesus Christ. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is an invitational song that calls us to acknowledge the coming of this Savior. It is said that there are 7 verses to this song – one verse per day to be sung leading up to Christmas.

I love this song because its lyrics are so poetic and the music has different possibilities as well. For us, we often sing it in the major key which makes it feel more hopeful and expectant of Jesus, though you may be more familiar with the style that is a bit more minor, which I think draws a tone that is more desperate and longing for Jesus. Either way, the idea we are looking at on this fourth and final week of Advent is how we look forward to the arrival of Christ the Lord.

And it’s finally here.

With Christmas just a few days away, I’m reminded of the lyrics in one of the verses: “O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

This is what we’ve been waiting for! “Dayspring”, meaning the dawn, has come and the darkness is no more because Jesus is born.

All the preparing, all the readying has led up to this moment. What we’re asking of Emmanuel (God with us) is big. This same God who has made the promise to deliver us from sin has fulfilled it by sending His one and only Son. There is no better news than this Good News, and though a baby, He is our King!

You may not be singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” every day this week but I hope in your heart you are preparing a way for the King. Though it’s often associated with Jesus’ birth, this song also hints to His second coming. I think this is a great way to tie together this Advent series… On the outside, much of what we have done (and are doing) this month may feel like “Christmas cheer” but in the end it should still be worship for the Savior of the world.

May your Christmases be filled with rejoicing as we celebrate the birth of the Lord who has come to set us free and bring joy to the world!

Reflection Song: Because Of Your Love

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Advent #3)

“Hark” means “listen” or “pay attention”. Isn’t it so easy to get distracted during Advent? We may not have the privilege of hearing angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King” like in this song but we do get to join with them and with all of creation in praising our Emmanuel, God with us!

Take a look at Luke 2:10-15. God grants us peace, just as we sing “peace on earth” thanks to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. So what does that cause us to do?

Not only is the song saying we should listen to the angels, but it actually invites us to “join the triumph of the skies”! What I’m saying is this: Christmas isn’t a passive, bystander, sideline-type event. Just follow the example of the shepherds in the passage. When they listened to the angels, it didn’t stop there – they acted upon it!

So what action is it for you today? Is it spreading the Gospel to frantic shoppers at the mall? Is it joining your local church’s caroling group? Is it helping the less fortunate on Christmas Eve/Day?

We always take this season to be a season of giving and receiving. But take a moment to “pay attention” and look further & deeper. In this season, what is this incredible peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), causing you to do?

Let’s give glory to God in the highest!

Reflection Song: All To You

O Holy Night (Advent #2)

This week at our home church we sang “O Holy Night”, which may seem out of the ordinary since it’s a song typically sung on Christmas Eve. But the message of the song is something we can carry throughout all of this Advent season, isn’t it?

We’re always looking for a way to have a “holly jolly Christmas” when it is, in fact, a holy Christmas.

Is it holy when we get frustrated when another shopper takes our parking space? Or when you flip out when the item you’re looking for is out of stock?

While most of the time we may be running around like a headless chicken, checking off items on our shopping list, going from point A to point B to point C, etc., “O Holy Night” reminds us that we need to stop and give glory to the King. How are you spending your time leading up to Christmas?

Who knows? You could be having a great Christmas season. Or maybe you’re feeling nervous, concerned, or distressed. But consider this: we get to take part in something incredible together; looking forward to an event that is indeed a holy moment… the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Luke 2:8-11 says:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

What great news! We hope this truth brings you peace as you continue this second week of Advent. Christmas Eve may still be weeks away but that doesn’t make this song any less meaningful to us. Let’s keep preparing the way for Emmanuel, God with us, as we continue to shift our view of these popular Christmas carols.

Reflection Song: Here Today

O Come All Ye Faithful (Advent #1)

Right before the Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping craze, I saw stores starting to sell Advent Calendars (these are charts with numbered flaps, revealing a special message, picture, or prize as you count down to Christmas). And every year, without fail, I debate whether I should buy the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. But this year, before I could even decide, it had already sold out online and in stores. Wow!

On this first week of Advent, we wanted to ask… How do you prepare yourself for Christmas? For many, it means getting your shopping done. Others might go all out with their lawn decorations. But the word “advent” is defined as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. What are we counting down to?

To Christians, Advent is the coming of Christ. We’re preparing the way and getting ready to adore our Savior whose birth we celebrate on December 25. That’s the whole “reason for the season”! I hope you’re anticipating this celebratory moment as this special day approaches. In Luke 2:15-16, the shepherds were anxious for Jesus’ birth! They couldn’t wait to come and see, to greet Him, to honor and adore Him.

So for Week 1 of Advent, feel free to begin enjoying the festivities and jolly celebrations (after all, tonight is the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting) but don’t let that eclipse what this season is to our faith. Let’s be joyful and expectant this Advent Season:

Make a way for Jesus! O come, let us adore Christ the Lord!

We hope these short weekly excerpts will help you see these Christmas “carols” in a new light as we count down to Christmas together!

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.Psalm 95:6-7

Reflection Song: You Are Greater

Week 4 of Advent

I don’t know about you, but our Christmas Sunday was filled with Christmas worship songs, new and old. It was a wonderful time of glorifying and loving our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we draw nearer to Christmas in this last week of Advent, let us focus on the love and presence of the Savior. His arrival is that much closer today – and since Week 1 of Advent, what have we done to prepare the way?

We’re very much looking forward to the birth of Jesus! As you may already know, Jesus is called Immanuel/Emmanuel (God with us, Matthew 1:23). In what ways are you allowing God to be with you this Christmas season, and how will you open up new avenues in your life for Him to be more present in 2015?

In this world, doors of opportunity are constantly opening and closing but remember that His love is unfailing and true. Presents are great and a fun way to show “holiday cheer” but while these presents that come & go, God’s presence is always with us. We pray that you have a great Christmas this year with your family & friends, remembering the significance of Jesus’ birth, and have a happy new year as well!

Reflection Song: Here I Stand