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)!

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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

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)

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

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