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

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

Goodness (A Good Friday Blog)

Why is it called Good Friday if Jesus suffered and was crucified?

“Good” in this sense can also mean “Holy”, which is why you may also hear it as “Holy Friday”. And goodness in Greek, agathosune, can be defined as an uprightness of heart and life (for the benefit of others). So when we think of today and all that happens, we see that Jesus lived a life and died a death that shows this kind of holiness in action.

We could not have Easter without Good Friday (because death is needed before resurrection) and, likewise, we could not have Good Friday without Easter (because His story doesn’t end with tragedy). So when we take a step back and look at this day as a whole, we see the significance and necessity – that Jesus, with the love of God, was sent to the earth in order to take our sins to the cross, suffer, and die. We could take James 1:17 quite literally when it says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” Jesus Christ was the perfect gift and the perfect sign of love.

All the way to His death, Jesus was humble and obedient. He exemplified this holiness, this goodness, this agathosune, for all to see. He was selfless. And as we prepare ourselves to be the same, especially today, we look to the cross where Jesus died for our sins. In fact, 1 John 2:2 says that as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world!

So even though Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday) is right around the corner, let’s pause for a moment today to contemplate the cross. Jesus, the perfecter of faith, endured the cross and scorned its shame (Hebrews 12:2). It’s a suffering and death we deserve but He bears it all for us, even descending into hell before raising up from the dead.

What an amazing sacrifice made for us today! It always amazes me when I think about the meaningfulness and symbolism of this day. And even though it would be easy to see today in terms of tragedy, suffering, death, and all-around horribleness, we know that leading up to Resurrection Sunday it really is a Good Friday.

Reflection Song: Here I Stand


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 (Palm Sunday) | Good Friday | Easter

Shine A Light On Slavery Day

P6 (enditsquare)

Shameless Plug is #InItToEndIt. Today is Shine A Light On Slavery Day. You may have heard of the #ENDITmovement – perhaps from TV, online, from Passion… but what they started this year is called 27×7 to help put an end to modern day slavery – about 27 million people are trapped today: children, women, and men all around the world. This isn’t a third world problem. Join our team of 27 and give $7 that will go to 16 coalition partners to help END IT. And then you can create your own team of 27 and watch the ripple effect! Make an impact, join Team Shameless Plug, be FREEDOM FIGHTERS!

https://secure.enditmovement.com/team/shamelessplug

Temple Of Legos

We attended the first night of the Re:New Conference by the Luis Palau Association, here in Wayne, NJ. There were some great leaders leading the night such as Luis Palau, Francis Chan, and worship led by Kristian Stanfill and the Passion band. It was a great night of worship and prayer, as well as being fed by the Word and being inspired & informed of the things going on in our NJ/NY/CT region.

But during Francis Chan’s talk, the part about Jesus’ prayer from John 17 stood out in particular:

“…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

That “oneness”… that “unity in the Trinity”, if you will, is what was the center of the night. Uniting all peoples of all races and of all denominations and backgrounds to be one. Francis Chan illustrated this by taking out a single Lego piece (and if you aren’t familiar with Legos, maybe Mega Bloks are more for you?) – saying that we, you & I, are like a Lego piece. On our own we are individual and separate but, like Legos, we are meant to be built together as the temple – attached to each other so that those attached will see the glory of the Lord.

Francis Chan
(Francis Chan holding up Legos)

And, mind you, that’s not the physical temple like what’s mentioned here in 2 Chronicles 7 because now we are the temple. And I love what he said next because it really drove it home: In 1 Corinthians 3:16 it says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

The “you” in that verse is actually plural like “y’all” but the “temple” is singular. We are to be one in the Spirit. What a massive idea! We may each be a Lego piece but each of us are part of the same temple – you may be a bottom piece, a middle piece, or a piece that goes on top, but we’re all singular… one.

So we need to function like the way Christ wanted us to function. By ourselves, Legos aren’t all that great… it’s when they come together that they build something more and something better. Right now you may feel alone and may be going through something or maybe it’s something as imminent as being anxious about Lent. But we need to be patient and continue to build this body, this community, this temple. We’ve been saying here that 2015 will be a big year – and we truly believe it. It’ll take time, but we pray that the church would be undivided and build up for something greater in the Kingdom of God!

Stay attached and stay united. Jesus is coming soon!

Reflection Song: Prepare The Way

Smiling Galaxy Cluster (SDSS J1038+4849 from Hubble)

You may have heard on the news of the recent finding by the Hubble Space Telescope… a smile found on galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 seen here :

hubble
(Taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope)

Much like last year’s Hand Of God, you can’t help but think of God smiling down at us. It’s funny how all the “stars aligned” to bring us this image. But it’s a great reminder to know that we give God pleasure and make Him smile.

How do we make Him smile/happy? Some ways are by making Him a priority, obeying and serving Him. We should have faith and hope in Him, revering and honoring Him. Psalm 147:11 even says “the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

God created all and it is for His pleasure that everything exists and was created. How are you doing in your walks with Him? Where can you grow in your life to continue giving God reasons to smile? Remember that He takes delight in His people (Psalm 149:4) so as you live faithfully and humbly for Him and His glory, worship Him and enjoy the close & intimate relationship He offers us all!

To quote our song Here Today: “His love is intimate, His power is infinite”! We get to know this mighty and awesome God and He wants to be a part of your life. We hope today you are reminded of His faithfulness and presence in your life as He smiles on you and makes His face shine upon you (Numbers 6:25)!

Reflection Song: Here Today

Jesus Saves

There’s an old joke where Jesus and Satan have an epic debate and try to settle the matter with an essay, where God would be the judge. Jesus and Satan got on their computers and began typing with all they had in order to finish on time… but just as time was up, there was a power surge. God then decided that Jesus had won. Upset, Satan asked, “How can that be when the power loss erased both our work?”, failing to see that Jesus’ work remained intact. God announced, “Jesus saves!”

Not too long ago, my trusty USB flash drive malfunctioned (which, to this day, I have no idea of how it happened). It’s fine – I bought a replacement and now I know to be careful with the files that I save on it. But it got me thinking… We put so much of our trust in things that fail all the time, no matter what kind warranty or return policy it has. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. This means if we are for sin, then the only outcome is death; death is the end-result of sin. But because of Jesus Christ, God granted us eternal life and our sins were washed white. There’s no need to worry when it comes to the faithfulness of God!

Today is exactly one month following Easter, and still we’re reminded of Jesus and the life He gives. Often times we fall short and lean on something that’s bound to fall, when we ought to be trusting and leaning on Jesus’ name. Let’s not take for granted the precious blood that Jesus spilled for us to display the free gift of grace by God. Whenever you experience something breaking or life feels like it’s collapsing around you, remember that Jesus saves and one day Satan will ultimately be defeated!

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours! (1 Chronicles 29:11)

Reflection Song: Nothing But The Blood