Christ Is Risen!

He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. (Matthew 28:6)

Jesus is alive! He’s conquered sin & death and we are alive in Him. We hope that wherever you are today, you will be able to celebrate the risen King – it’s something worth celebrating!

Death couldn’t hold Him down!

We glorify King Jesus Christ
Who died for all our sin
He came to save, conquered the grave
Now we’re alive in Him
He Has Overcome

Happy Easter!

Reflection Song: He Has Overcome

Prepare The Way (Palm Sunday)

I think it’s great that today is both Palm Sunday and the first day of Spring. Something a lot of us do around this time is a little spring cleaning. Tidying up, making room for summer, preparing for a new season… And in a lot of ways, that’s what Palm Sunday is too.

The Bible accounts the crowds in Jerusalem making a way for Jesus. And even us today, we may have given some things up for Lent in order to make more room for Jesus in our lives. It’s our own version of spring cleaning. What better day to recognize how Jesus can enter than Palm Sunday!

Whether you’re at church or unable to attend, today marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final days leading up to Good Friday and Easter. But we all have obstacles in the way. Take a moment today to re-prioritize so that there’s nothing obstructive in our lives. Let’s start today off right and invite Jesus. Clean out the things we don’t need so that He can fill us instead, as the one who satisfies.

Reflection Song: Prepare The Way

Lent, Week 6: Prepare Resurrection

Easter is a time to celebrate the empty grave!

It’s a time to proclaim, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” from the Mystery of Faith. And I love what Charlie Hall does with this proclamation in his song, Mystery: “Celebrate His death & rising. Lift your eyes, proclaim His coming. Celebrate His death & rising. Lift your eyes, lift your eyes.” And the death & rising truly is a mystery, but it’s a mystery worth celebrating.

It doesn’t end with Jesus’ death & resurrection! In fact, the Bible says that we too have been resurrected with Christ! Romans 6:1-14 is titled “Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ”. We were buried with Christ through baptism into death so that we could be raised with Him to live a new life for His glory.

Easter is easily a time where we can contemplate the cross, Jesus’ sacrifice, and His death & resurrection. We may have even heard/read/recited John 3:16 more than we can count. But don’t let the power of the resurrection in your own life continue to be buried. We have been raised with Christ!

Colossians 2:13-15 says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Brothers & sisters, prepare for that very resurrection as we draw even nearer to Easter. We are alive with Christ and if sin & death are no more through the power of Christ, continue to be steadfast in your Lenten journey and in your lives. Glory to God!

Reflection Song: Unending Praise

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 5: Prepare The Cross

Shortly after Valentine’s Day, stores were marking all the red & pink chocolates on clearance and slowly stocking the shelves with purple & blue chocolates… eggs, bunnies, and for a second I got thrown off by chocolate crosses.

“What’s that doing there–oh wait, that’s right…” Last I checked, Easter is still an important holiday in Christianity. Often times we associate the cross as means to Jesus’ resurrection, which overshadows the actual purpose of a cross: death.

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

What does it mean to prepare your cross? When Jesus says to take up your cross daily, it means to be ready to die in order to follow Jesus. That’s pretty heavy! But it’s part of surrendering ourselves to the Lord. And that’s what we should be doing in this time: intentionally living each moment, preparing that cross.

Billy Graham once said, “It is possible for us to stand on the wrong side of Easter and look at the cross all our lives and never be redeemed or saved.” Don’t let the cross be overshadowed by all the things going on as we approach Easter. Remember the cross, its meaning and its significance for us.

Reflection Song: He Has Overcome

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 4: Prepare Your Heart

We’re about halfway into Lent (today is Day 17, for those of you who keep count). You might find yourself to be in autopilot mode by now, possibly numbed to the reason why you started fasting. But hopefully not!

I’ve discovered that halfway into Lent is the easiest to get stuck in a routine, continuing just because you already started. Even those around you may have picked up on it by now: “Oh, he can’t have soda.” But I believe right now, in the in-between, is a crucial point for our fasting and our Lenten journey as a whole.

You may remember in Luke 10:38-42, Mary & Martha opened their home to Jesus. Notice the difference in their attitudes? Both want to honor the Lord but for some reason, the busyness takes over Martha. Some of us have an urge to stay busy, especially if it’s to distract us from thinking about what was given up during Lent! (Right?)

We think because we gave it up, that’s good enough for the Lord… but our hearts need to be in the right place. Don’t let the actions of what you do overshadow the heart of the actions. In your fasting (or supplementing), take time to think about what God has done for you so that you can appropriately reflect and celebrate with the time you have. Give Him your heart, your life, and attention over your gestures and actions.

It’s easy to bury Lent within Lent. But dig deep and keep the purpose strong. Bless the Lord who continues to bless you and strive to make the rest of this time a time to make it count. The things we consider precious are so dull in comparison to Him!

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)

Lent, Week 3: Prepare Discipline

When I think of “fasting”, my gut reaction is to think of the word “haphazard” because so often I hear people last-minute fasting, or fasting without thought. But the reality is that fasting requires discipline and obedience…

In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights but He didn’t do it on a whim! It’s said that He was first led by the Spirit to head to the wilderness. Fasting isn’t a time to give something up haphazardly (or casually) because we thought in that moment “oh, that’s a good idea!”. Fasting requires preparation and understanding so that it isn’t just a hollow gesture.

We need a constant reliance of the Spirit to be led during this time. If we try to do it on our own without intentionality, we’ll find ourselves swaying and being tempted. But this passage reminds us that disciplining ourselves to be in the Word and being with the Lord will assist us in resisting temptation. Isn’t that why we’re doing what we’re doing, anyway? Not to lose weight or to save money, but to draw attention away from those bad habits in order to pick up a good habit or two for our spiritual well-being?

Lent isn’t a time to be easy-going! Cut back on the indulgences and the extravagance – the things we don’t need, the things that can potentially detract glory from God. That’s why I love this verse on obedience in Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

Let’s be intentional and proactive with our fasting! The less we emphasize the significance of obeying & working on disciplining ourselves spiritually, the easier it will be to stray from the course and fall into temptation to quit or even “cheat”. It’s not too late! God deserves better, brothers and sisters… let’s follow & obey!

Reflection Song: Christ Is

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 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

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