Happiness Is Like A Bad Friend

Happiness, is this magical thing that we think will happen when life goes the way we want it to, but think about it. How many times have you heard someone utter the phrase, “All I want is to be happy?” Yet, how many people do you know who actually are? Few, if any. The reason for this is that the “happiness” so many of us search for, is not something that will bring us peace.

See, when you boil it down, happiness is a form of contentment that is the result of things working out in our favor. The problem is, when happiness is based upon things that are ultimately outside of our control. Though we may be “happy” during certain parts of our lives. Happiness can’t be trusted. Why? Because circumstance cannot be trusted. As soon as we think life has finally gone our way, a close friend gets into a car accident, or a relative develops cancer. Then what? The happy state of being we fought so hard for leaves us again, and we realize we are once again not happy. It’s like having a fun, but ultimately fickle friend. You know the type: You share inside jokes. You party together. You create memories. But when life gets real and you need someone to get in the mud with you, they are nowhere to be found. And here is the final truth about happiness: The more we make it our goal, the less likely we are to find it.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13

Joy, however, is something entirely different than happiness, even though the two terms are often used as the same. Joy is a state of the soul that has nothing to do with circumstance. It is based on the knowledge of a God that does not change. Because He never leaves us hanging, we can count on Him. He never bails on a meet-up, never forgets to return a call, and never bats an eye at getting into the muck and mire with us. He will be there when we need someone to shed a tear with, and he will be there when life works out in our favor as well. That is His character.

This simple knowledge, actually produces joy, which is a reaction to unchanging truth. Joy defeats the sorrow we are promised to face in this life, no matter how dark and insurmountable those moments may seem to be. It is the reminder that although we will wake up one day soon with wrinkles beyond imagining, aching joints and poor eyesight, there is something beyond this life. It is a reminder that although death may creep at the bedroom door, I know that my Jesus died for our sins and that I'll go to a place that far surpasses this one. Therefore, joy is something that is possible to have in every season of life and is greater than even our most pleasant days, even our most perfect circumstances.

Happiness is Circumstantial. Joy is transcendent, supernatural, and therefore, far better.

Search for happiness and you will not find it. Search for God and you will find joy, a fruit far more satisfying than the temporary “happiness” that so many are fighting fruitlessly to find.

-Austin

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOUTH

This year, I turned 22 years old. It’s an odd feeling being in my low 20’s: I start having thoughts such as “back in my day” and “kids these days don’t know” (or something of that nature), the repercussions of past injuries remind me to be more careful, and I see the responsibilities of an older life waiting for me. Surely, older readers will see this and chuckle, scoff, or something in between. “Try being insert age here!”

Although I have these thoughts where I see myself as “older”, it only takes a minute to think about just how young I really am. The Lord has allowed me 22 long years of life, and I still have a great amount of physical energy and time. Those are gifts that many people my age and younger have, but they are gifts that will not last forever. What we do with those gifts is an important decision. Do we use those gifts correctly? Do we use them efficiently? Do we use them to get what we want for ourselves, or to help others with what they need?

Young people such as college, high school, and junior high students have enormous opportunity to serve God and others. Hopefully, you the reader have been surrounded by other followers of Jesus, who have taught you what the Lord says and have been positive role models to follow. Hopefully, you have given your life to Christ, and are willing sacrifice your time and energy to serve God. If so, I challenge you to find a way to do that. It can range from sharing your faith with unbelievers, to serving your church or community, or even to serving your family.

Maybe you are unsure of exactly how you can serve the Lord. If you are like me, then you sometimes struggle with feeling “qualified” to serve God because of a lack of experience or knowledge. But the apostle Paul wrote of a way that young people can serve God successfully in 1 Timothy 4: 10-12. He told a young Timothy to be an example to other believers through how we talk and act, how we love one another, and how we faithfully follow Christ. Paul tells Timothy to set this example for everyone, including believers older than him, so that they don’t look down on him while he proclaims the Gospel.

In Western culture, young people are expected to be immature and rebellious, and therefore can be easily dismissed by older people. I encourage you to rise above this standard that our culture has of young people, and to show the people around you that you serve the Lord and are willing to be used by the Lord in the way he chooses. It doesn’t take a degree from a university or Bible college, nor the experience of raising a family, nor the leadership traits of a rugged five-star general to love Christ, emulate Christ, and to tell others about Christ. Everyone can follow the example of humility, patience, and love that Jesus Christ set for us.

In Jeremiah 1, when the Lord called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah responded by saying, “Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” But God responded with the following:

Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.

The Lord can and will use anyone who is willing to serve him, whether you are young, old, or somewhere in between. He will guide you through the struggles and difficulties that you will face as you serve him. If you are younger, use your energy and your passions to serve the Lord. If you are older, pray for and encourage young believers, and help walk beside them throughout their life and struggles. If you are older, but still feel young at heart, well…lucky for you, you get to do both! God bless you all! -Christian J

What Do You Abuse?

Have you ever abused something? Silly question, of course you have. GASP “Me? I would never abuse something!” I know, I know, I use a scary word like abuse and everyone loses their minds. Hear me out. The definition of Abuse is “To use something to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.”

It’s human nature, when we find a loophole, we abuse it. We abuse silly things like finding a rule in a game that you can get around, or maybe you just change the rules because you’re in charge. Which, of course, I have never done… okay, maybe once… or twice... this isn't about me! However, we also abuse something more serious.

We abuse grace.

How can you abuse grace? It’s quite simple really, anytime you know the right thing and choose to do the opposite, you are abusing grace. Paul says in Romans 5:20-6:2

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

God has done an amazing thing, He has given you the free gift of grace. He has forgiven the sins that you have committed in the past and He has already wiped away the sins you will commit in the future. All you had to do was accept the free gift of salvation because of Christ’s sacrifice for you.

Now because we know our sins are forgiven we think we have found a loophole. “I mean, I know it is wrong, but I’m human, I’m going to make mistakes, so what’s one more? After all, I’m saved by grace.” Or we give excuses like “I just couldn’t bare the temptation, it’s to strong.” Or “The devil is really attacking me right nowWe abuse grace for the instant gratification of our sin, and we think it’s okay.

1 Corinthians 10:12 says

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

You still think you have a good enough excuse? God says he will provide a way of escape, that He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle with Him.

There are no excuses for your sin because God has freed your from it. 1 John 1:5-6 says

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, "We have fellowship with him," and yet, we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth."

You cannot be in fellowship with God if there is sin in your life. The good news? There is redemption.

I don't say these things to condemn you, I say them to encourage you. Scripture is clear, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. John tells us to repent so we can be cleansed of sin and restored to true fellowship with Christ. This message shouldn't be one that discourages you, you should only be encouraged because our God has freed us from sin so we no longer have to be a slave to it. God calls us to holiness, it's time for us to start acting like it.

Love you guys,

-Luke K.

With And Without Passion

Most of us remember the time that the Lord first spoke to our hearts and called us to repentance. The feeling is absolutely indescribable, and I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried for days on end. Sometimes the Lord speaks to us so palpably that we cannot deny his physical presence in the room. Those moments are incredible, aren’t they? The feelings they invoke - overwhelming love, inexplicable peace, indescribable joy - there’s nothing better, right?

But...what about when those emotions fade? No matter how amazing those moments are, time has a way of causing emotions to fade. What do we do then? It’s easy to walk alongside the Lord, remember to pray and read His word, and follow His commands when you have just had one of those moments. But it gets tough when things go back to “normal”.

Marriage has been something God has used to teach me so many things about Him on a smaller scale. I have been with my husband for almost six years. We have gone through the “honeymoon period” - emotions are high, love is flowing, and the only place you want to be is where that person is. But that fades as well, and then what happens? The Lord has created marriage for life, and we don’t get a free pass to just quit when we don’t feel as emotionally connected to that person as we did before.

The same applies to our relationship with Him. The words that come to me are “persistence” and “consistency”. In both marriage and our relationship with God, we are called to be persistent in the pursuit of the other person - our spouse, or the Lord, respectively.

"Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith."
Hebrews 12:1-2

Just because the emotions fade does not mean you are doing something wrong or are a “bad Christian”. How you feel emotionally is not the judge of your relationship with God - it’s your actions. When things are easy in life, do you still remember to pray as much as when life is hard? Does your Bible start to collect dust when you don’t feel the Lord speaking, or do you still sit down and spend that time with Him? Just as we don’t ignore the other person in a marriage or other relationships when things aren’t as exciting as they have been, so we must continue to acknowledge the Lord and who he is, even when he isn’t feeding our emotional high.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
James 1:12

This week, I encourage you to persist. Spend that time with the Lord even if your devotional time is feeling dry. Pray to Him even when you don’t feel like you “need” him at the time. Sing that worship song simply to remind yourself how much he deserves your praise. Invest in that relationship just like you would a human person. He is glorified when you choose to persist in your relationship with him! He is everything, not just in the hard times or when we are on a “spiritual high”, but in the everyday, small moments that don’t seem to matter. He knows every strand of DNA, counts every hair on your head. Praise Him!

-Liz

Chronically Dehydrated

Did you know that about 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? In other words, they are constantly, or are continuing to be dehydrated for a lengthy amount of time.

I am a person who drinks a lot of water, I usually have my water bottle with me just to ensure that I have water to drink. But, every once in awhile I have a day where I do not drink much water. I usually don’t notice until the end of the day, or sometimes even the next morning…. And then it hits me. Headache, crankiness, fatigue. I know, I know… all that because I didn’t drink enough water! But, statistics show I am not alone in this.

“Jesus said to them, “ I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
John 6.35

“ Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
John 7. 38

Part of me wonders, what it would look like if we could take an honest poll from believers on our habits and consistency when it comes to our daily reading and spending time in our Bible. From Christians around the world, America, our community… or even just our church body in Rathdrum Idaho. What would those statistics show?

I fear that 75% of Believers are chronically spiritually dehydrated. What are the symptoms of that? Greed, lust, insecurity, pride, anxiety, anger. Each of our symptoms are going to be a bit different, but the root of our issues are the same. When you “forget” or intentionally prioritize other things over your time with the Lord, you are harming yourself and allowing room for the enemy to work. God does not need us, He wants us. We not only need Him, but we should want Him. We should be desiring to spend time in His presence, we should be eager to be refreshed by our time with Him.

As humans we can only live without water for so long…. The same thing goes for our need for Jesus. If you are a believer, recognize that you cannot be a believer without going to the one in which you believe. My challenge to you is to be a part of the 25%. Be one of the few who are not only well hydrated, but entrenched in the Word of God.

Love you all,

-Ellie

Something About Ninjas and Tasers?

Riddle me this: where do our bad conversations go after they die?...

Perhaps buried in our subconscious , only to unexpectedly pop up and zap us in the gut with self loathing, like a ninja, with a taser?

Maybe they’re more like invisible millstones, hanging around our necks, unseen by those around us, yet, dragging us down all the same?

I’d say that the reality is much worse, notice how the examples listed above are all centered on how they affect us

What if the way we communicate with others, has that long lasting-silent effect on someone else? What if our foolish words are more like seeds that bury deep in a person and grow like weeds into things like bitterness, depression and a mean spirit… What if that ugliness could grow it’s roots around a beating heart, petrifying it too stone? Could it have a lasting effect on a person's future family and friends, or worse, their own soul?

It’s true that people are responsible for their own thoughts and actions, but what if we could have an effect, positive or negative, on another person’s thoughts and actions, would that change our mindset about what we say and do to others? I bet it would for most of us. In fact, the Bible says that we are no longer able to view people with a worldly perspective:

"From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way."
2 Corinthians 5:16

But how are we supposed to know what is good, uplifting and helpful? Humans are so complex with so many experiences, what one person finds funny or encouraging, could deeply hurt another. We can’t see as deep as the roots that entangle the heart, but we have access to something that can.

“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

If we desire to uplift the souls and hearts of people, the answer is simple... speak the word of God

God’s word is living and effective. God’s word not only cuts out the old roots, it also plants new seeds, seeds that if are allowed to grow, will produce fruit… As before, people are individuals, the are responsible for maintaining good soil that is receptive to God’s “Word Seeds”.

For our part, we should be encouraged to sow God’s word with endurance, after all... weeds are so much easier to grow than fruit.

Love you guys! :D

-BJ

Scaredy-Cat

Fear is tricky.

Fear can be a very rational thing to feel. Then again it can be very irrational at times in the same breath.

For example…

Fear of Bears = Rational.

Fear of Beards = Irrational. (“Seriously...Beards are happy”, said the bearded devo writer)

Fear can keep us alive. Fear can kill us.

So how do we find balance….

“Am I afraid of the right things?”

“Are there things in my life that I should be afraid of that I’m not?”

If you think you’ve got a handle on this then you’re way ahead of me...cause striking balance in this vein is something that I’ve struggled with over the years, (see for example the extensive injury/surgery records of the devo writer).

When we talk about fear I think that we can all agree a number of different physical fears that we all have...but what about spiritual fear? Like the kind of fear that pertains to reverence, rather than quivering in our boots.

When the subject switches from “What”.... to “Whom” do we fear; this is a question of greatest significance.

Arguably one of the wisest men to ever walk this planet….King Solomon, said this after trying life God’s way and trying it his own:

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” - Ecclesiastes 12.13-14

The bible is clear throughout...there is a comfort and intimacy that God wants with us, yet there should always be a healthy fear on our part that reveres His holiness and His power.

There is a blessed balance of fearing God. We fear Him because of His power and holiness, but we also fear Him through our amazement and awe of all He has done and has promised to do in us.

To fear God is wise. But not in a way that causes us to run from Him…

...Appropriate fear of God should cause us to run to Him.

When we recognize that God is all powerful and Holy and requires holiness from those who desire relationship with Him….we must in the same moment realize that He knew we could not achieve that holiness on our own...so He sent Jesus to die in our place and exchange our sinfulness for His holiness.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God.” - 1 Peter 3.18

When we fear God it means that we run to Him because we understand not only that He is the judge...but He declares us innocent of all charges when we are in Christ Jesus.

I guess when it comes to my Father in heaven, and the salvation He has given me in Jesus…..well….just call me a Scaredy-Cat saved by grace!

Love and Peace,

-Pastor Mike

The Hearers, The Doers and The Hearers Doers

Mark 4:21-23
And he said to them,
“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?

For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Do you want to experience the abundant life that God made you for? (Jn 10:10)

Do you want true contentment; real satisfaction; and lasting peace? Do you want to live a life that matters - that will matter even after you’re gone?

Well, Jesus says - that the way to “the good life,” the way to a life that “matters,” is to live a life that is focused on spiritual truth.

Here in Mark 4, Jesus says something that should be blatantly obvious: when you bring a lamp into a room - you do so, to use it, to light up the room. Of course, the lamp Jesus was talking about was a clay oil burning lamp

No one would bring a lamp in - and put it under a basket, or under a bed No - you put it up (on a stand) where it can light up the whole room… you use it!

So too the spiritual truths that Jesus teaches. They are to be used - to be personally applied - to be put into action.

The parable of the soils (Mark 4:1-20) stressed that we need to accept, and to understand, and to retain the truths of God’s Word.

Now here, in the parable of the Lamp, Jesus builds upon that truth God’s Word is to be put into action, it’s to be lived out - it’s not mere philosophy or inspirational slogans- it’s how we’re to live!

And so Jesus says (quite literally): if you’ve got ears, you better listen!

Don’t you think that we’d do well - to take this to heart? Both the context of this passage - and the greater context of Jesus’ teaching, point us to the fact that the goal here isn’t just right doctrine - but right living.

Not only do I need to agree with the teaching of God’s Word - I’m to live it. …and by the way, that’s a lot harder. It’s much harder to do what’s right, than it is to merely know what’s right.

As James 1:22 says: “We’re to “…be doers of the Word, and not hearers only…”

Or as Jesus says in John 13:17
if you know these things, blessed are you if you do them

-Pastor Cory

Light Up The Room

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
Psalm 119:105

Sitting on the floor in the middle of my bedroom, I took in the long awaited sun while my cold toes began defrosting. I watched as every corner was filled with the warm light God had granted that morning. With the sun and the silence that doesn't happen often in my home, I began thinking.

What kind of light am I?

When God created all the Earth, the first thing that was spoken was "Let there be light." And so it was. Along with that light came automatic separation from darkness, just as when you accept Christ into your heart and become a Christian, there's an automatic separation from the world.

A light in the darkness, that's what we have been called to be... With that being said, what are you shedding light on? Paul instructs it well here when encouraging the church of Phillipi:

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain."
Philippians 2:14-17

This metaphorically punches me in the face.

How many times could I count throughout the day that I did things that I didn't want to do, while grumbling or arguing? It's easy to obey and to serve when you feel like it, when you want to, but that's not what it says. He says do ALL THINGS, meaning the things that you just loathe, as well as the things that you enjoy. He goes on:

-Be blameless and innocent -Without blemish -Hold fast to the word of life...

These are aspects about you that people who are both saved AND unsaved should see, so do they? Are you giving light and glory to the objects and lifestyles around you, or to the One who placed that light into you? Mathew says it this way:

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

He hand crafted every single piece of you down to the most microscopic cell and knit you together Himself, so to reiterate, what are you shedding light on? What do people see?

A sport? Relationship? Humor? Talents? Etcetera.

All these aren't necessarily bad by any means, but at what point does said thing become our identity? If there's something or someone so precious or important that it takes precedent over God and our relationship with Him, we should evaluate our priorities, because the moment that we are unwilling to give something up to Him is the moment that we should... Picture your mind like a house, and the Lord comes in and cleans out room after room, opening windows to reveal the dust that's been accumulating, making things beautiful again. Imagine if you open that cluttered closet or that cabinet and allow Him to clean it out, and cascade light everywhere.

Just as John 8:12 says, He IS the light and we will never be in darkness if we follow him. Can't we also reflect that light that loves us enough to not only die, but to rise and live and give us hope in our own lives?

I hope this encourages you through the week and you have countless opportunity to shine God's light into someone's darkness...

With hopeful thoughts, -Dakota

Are You Worthy?

The notion of worthiness in scripture is one often mentioned but less often fully realized and recognized. It is a concept which can wrongly bring about the idea of salvation by works rather than by faith alone. We sing in songs of worship, “Worthy is the, Lamb!” and “I am unworthy but still you love me” but what are we really saying?

“Worthy” is defined as: “having or showing the qualities or abilities that merit recognition in a specified way,”

which breaks out into two similar but distinct components:

1: “deserving effort, attention, or respect”

2: “good enough; suitable.”

Often the idea of worthiness, in our cultural understanding, is limited to simply being deserving of something, but the definition of the word allows us more broad usage which can clarify how we who are so undeserving of grace are still called “that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—“. 2 Thessalonians 1:5

Paul mentions his ministry and the way he’s called people to repent In Acts 26:19-20,

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”

Not to go all “Ancient Greek” on you, but the original Greek word “axios” is the word translated as “worthy of” in some versions but also as “appropriate to” in the NASB or “in keeping with” in the ESV. Using this, we can clarify our understanding of how worthiness can be applied to our relationship to God. We are not considered to be “worthy of the kingdom of God” in the sense of earning it by our actions. We know this is totally impossible or else we could be saved by our works.

Romans 3:20-26 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Likewise, we find our value is completely apart from our own merit, and is based solely on how much God loves us. If our own earnings had influence over whether God chose to offer us salvation, not one person would find themselves on par.

Ephesians 2:4-10 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

All of Ephesians 2 is great at explaining how God sees us, but these verses in particular highlight not only how God sees us, but how we are to live in a manner worthy—or appropriate of—what our purpose is. We were created for good works, that is our overall purpose in this life. Despite this, in our natural state of sinfulness, we can never accomplish the kind of good that honor God and our motives can never be perfectly pure. This is why the Gospel matters so greatly! To draw our attention to the fact that we are not worthy and still must be. And moreover, God found it fitting to restore us in his deep and perfect love to a place where we can live according to—or worthy of—our purpose through him! So we find ourselves in this great and complicated place as Christians: We are wholly unworthy of God’s love and sacrifice by our own merit, yet he found us to be worth loving and sacrificing himself for. We are wholly unable now on our own to live in a way that is suitable of the identity God has given to us as his children and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), yet he not only commands us to be, he gives us the ability to do so through his Holy Spirit!

So what can we make of this divine, beautiful, and seemingly contradictory position? The answer is clear.

1: You are loved and worth being loved by the perfect God of the Universe though you didn’t do anything to earn it, in fact you did everything possible not to earn it.

2: You are commanded to live in a way that reflects God and the love he has shown which you can’t do on your own.

Therefore, because we have been shown such great love with such a high worth and have been given such a great task with such a high standard, we must stay close to God and be in constant relationship with him so that we may live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. Ephesians 4:1

Our living in worthiness has nothing to do with our own ability to earn or lose ranking or value to God. It has everything to do with our understanding of God’s own worth and the worth of what he did to save us. Living in a way that is worthy of redemption is living in a way that knows the high cost it took God to buy our freedom from damnation, the perfect sacrifice in our place. It is understanding what James talks about in chapter 2 where he explains “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17

The takeaway I hope you come to after reading this is, if anything, that you know your place and your simple, infinite purpose.

Obey God. Love everyone.

You were given grace that you didn’t deserve so that you can do the things you were made to do. Know how truly loved you are and in turn love God and those around you with the same kind of demonstrative and active love.

If you have any doubts about what was done for you and to what degree you are loved, read the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, I promise you there is no truer love than that which is described there.

I hope this blesses you, that you have a great week, and that you take time to think and talk with God about how you can live worthy of what’s been done for you.

Love you guys!

-Andy

A Love That Never Ends

A few days ago, I needed to go to the store. That week we had had so much snow, I hadn’t been able to get out at all. But, desperate measures lead to desperate things, and I needed cereal and milk. So out we went! Now of course, it was Valentines Day, so finding a parking space was nearly impossible for my jumbo bumble-bee truck I was driving around for safety’s sake. At last, I found a space, and my children and I made our way into the store..for cereal and milk. Almost every basket I passed had flowers and chocolate. All the men looked insanely stressed out. And I thought, how nice of them.. but I wonder.. how many of the wives would love to just have their husbands make dinner or clean the kitchen that night, and maybe throughout the year, instead of flowers once every February. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates. I love both! But, being as it was Valentines Day, it did get me thinking about what love really was. And, because God is the Creator of love, the origin, let’s look at what His definition is.

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful. It does not boast at wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Does love get irritated when your sibling or spouse is asking you a question while you are trying to get something done? Does love get envious when someone gets to take that trip to Europe that you have been DYING to do for what feels like a lifetime? Does love get resentful and bitter at words that were said and not want to forgive? Does love give up and just stop praying for someone who you just feel like is never going to humble themselves to the Lord? Quite the opposite.

Love is setting aside your emotions, your desires, and even what may feel like is an impossibility, and bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring ALL THINGS.

You know God saw the numbers of those who would choose to follow compared to those who wouldn’t when He thought it all through at the beginning. Did that stop Him? Did He say, “Naw. It’s not worth it. Too much pain involved, not enough numbers to make it worth it..” Not at all!

A love that never ends? Does the world teach us about a love that never ends? Certainly not! ‘This friendship/marriage isn’t working for me because my feelings or needs aren’t being met. Peace! I’m out!’ That’s what our society teaches us. And even we, as the very people that God created, have mocked, spit, denied, and rejected His Son Jesus, whom He sent as a gift of love, to offer forgiveness for our sins if only we would admit to those sins, and believe that He died and rose from the grave. And His response to our rejection? “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” THAT my friends is a love that never ends, that endures, that isn’t resentful, and that hopes...this is the love we need to show the world.

If you don’t have a Valentine to show this kind of love to yet, allow Him to love you now. His love surpasses any love you will ever have here in this world! He is the perfect standard of love, because that's what He is! ( 1 John 4) And in order for us to have this love in us, we need to abide in His love, then it will just pour right out of us! So, think and ponder on His love, my friends. It will make your heart overflow with thankfulness.

Blessings friends!

-Sarah J.

Read Me

No. I don’t mean the devo, I mean, Read ME. BJ, The person writing this devo. These words aren’t merely written words, but thoughts of a person. A person with an eternal soul, created by God, in the likeness of God, this is true of anything that you read, the words are actually a peek into the mind of a person.

Everything you read, is written by an eternal soul that has beliefs, hopes, fears, insecurities, desires, goals and an intended message… Have you ever read something and really thought about the mind and heart of the writer, why they’re saying what they’re saying?

The things that people write, reveal who they are and where their heart is at, this is because writing is usually the act of putting a person’s own words and thoughts, into the most organized and clear way possible. More importantly, people usually only write about the things that matter to them the most, or are most passionate about at the time.

In every writing, there is both the message that the writer presents, and if you want to look for it, a little view into the heart of the person writing. So that brings us to the obvious conclusion of how we read our Bible.

We know and believe what the writer was inspired to say in 2 Timothy 3

"16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,"

We know what he’s asking, but what about God’s heart do we see in that command? Do we see a harsh God that doesn’t want us to have a good time? If that’s what we see, the we aren’t reading enough of the Bible, if we had, we would know that God wants the absolute best for us.

Even the very next verse in Timothy 3 says it.

"17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

God wants us to be complete! He wants us to lead a full, successful and worthwhile life in Christ! And because he made us and everything around us, he actually does know what’s best for us. He knows what will drag us down and destroy us... the things that, like candy, taste sweet, but rot out our teeth.

He also knows what will grow us into confident, effective people, filled with real joy, joy that doesn’t decay like the rest of this world.

Let’s read the scriptures and look for the heart of God in them. Not just what he’s telling us to do, or not to do, but why a God who loves us enough to die for us, is telling what to, or not to do.

Love you guys!

-BJ

Afraid To Let Go

Life changes and its ok. Sometimes God calls us to make changes in our lives. Some of them big, some small, but changes nonetheless.

Change can look different for everyone. Sometimes it’s an attitude change, or a call to get rid of things in our lives that are causing us to sin, or even basic life decisions, like moving to another city. There are endless ways that God may ask us to change.

Sometimes change sucks, it takes us away from the things that we are comfortable with and challenges us to go through uncomfortable situations. Change forces us to think outside of the pretty little box we thought we were comfortable in. God calls everyone to change. God doesn’t call us to be the same forever, he calls us to learn and grow more. We’re never going to grow and learn more, if we don’t get out of that box we put ourselves in.

Let’s personalize this, because your relationship with God, is between you and God. This is where you need to decide how God is calling you to change. How are you going to respond to God’s calling in your life? Are you going to go to God and let him be in control of the change, or are you going to hold onto the way things are?

If you decide to ignore God’s call to change, that area of your life will end in disaster. You are not meant to live this life without God. Without him is a lonely dark place where nothing turns out the way you meant it to. Because, as it turns out, we can’t outsmart the one who created the moon and the stars. He really knows what’s best for your life. With him, comes a peace that passes all understanding Philippians 4:7

“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Is your relationship with God good enough, or strong enough for you to feel this? If not you may want to take a good hard look at your life and find where you might need to make a change. Romans 8: 28

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those are called according to his purpose."

Praying for you guys.

-Hailey

When Practical Answers To Our Problems Aren’t Enough…

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. Here is a summary of the passage:

There was a great famine in the land of Israel under King Ahab, who had led the Jews into a period of idolatry. The prophets of Baal, who numbered four hundred and fifty, were made the spiritual leaders of Israel under Ahab’s leadership. The prophets of the true God were banished to live in caves in the surrounding mountains. God sent word to Elijah to confront the king to rectify the situation…

So, Elijah headed off to speak to Ahab face to face. He was not greeted warmly. Ahab insulted him upon arrival, calling him a “troubler of Israel.” Unfazed, Elijah let the king know that he was the one who had brought trouble by leading the people to idol worship.

Elijah then decided to lay it all on the line. He told Ahab to assemble all the people in the surrounding region to Mount Carmel. Then, he issued a challenge to the prophets of Baal. He basically said. We are going to make two altars. You call on your god, and I’ll call on mine. The one who sends fire from the sky is the true God, then everyone will know who they should be worshiping.

I know. Elijah was a freaking gangster.

So, the masses assembled for a great spiritual bout. The prophets of Baal were given the floor first. They proceeded cry out to their false god day and night, cutting themselves and dancing around their altar like morons. Nothing happened... Not so much as a single spark or ember comes from their altar.

To build the drama, Elijah decided talk a little trash. He asked the false prophets if (paraphrase) their god was traveling or asleep or on the toilet. Then, Elijah decided to get serious. He told them to cover his altar with hundreds of gallons of water, just to make sure everyone knew there was nothing even remotely flammable on the altar.

Then, Elijah prayed to Jehovah… And God answered by sending fire from the sky. His inferno was so all-consuming that it burned up everything, even the hundreds of gallons of water surrounding the altar. Everyone in attendance turned back to the true God. The false prophets were then killed, and rain came to the land. The people were saved from the famine.

Awesome.

I read this story and it seems ridiculous at first glance that Israel ever worshiped Baal. When I looked deeper into this passage, I realized Baal worship actually may have made “sense.” See, Baal was a weather deity, and the true God had yet to end the famine. So rather than wait patiently on Jehovah, Israel took a more “practical” approach to solving their problems. Unfortunately, they put their faith in a man-made answer (Baal), and one who would ultimately let them down.

Idolatry is just that, trusting in man-made answers. And though science or reason or man-made philosophies may make some sense on paper, we are men who must walk by faith, not by sight. In every aspect of life, though some may think it foolish, we call on a God who always provides for us, and who will always prove idols to be false.

What problems do you face currently? Are they financial? Are they physical? Are they relational? Walk as Elijah did. Defy the trends, philosophies, and “reason” of this age. The one true God will show, with fire if necessary, that He is the only solution you require.

-Austin

Time Well Spent

Do we over-glorify being busy? I think this is a fair question to us as believers. It seems not a day goes by where I don’t have a conversation, or read a social media post about Christians being “sooooo busy” and struggling to stay sane and emotionally healthy in all of the chaos. What’s more, I sometimes hear people who aren’t living their lives that way criticized for their “lack of work ethic”.

Trust me, I get it. Between work, family, church and trying to have a social life, things can feel like a never ending stream of to-do lists and expectations, but I think that as believers, we have a responsibility to carefully consider not only what we spend our time on, but HOW MUCH time we spend on them.

No, it is not healthy to run yourself ragged every day, even if you are filling your time with good things like ministry and work. No, you shouldn’t feel constantly overwhelmed and unable to get your thoughts straight. Don’t get me wrong, life is like that sometimes, but allowing this to become a pattern can have the opposite effect from what we intend to happen - exhausted and unable to handle all we have taken on, we can become ineffective in our goings on.

We see several examples of rest in the Bible, starting with the Lord himself resting on the seventh day of creation, but Exodus 23:12 tells it straight up:

“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”

When you are feeling the strain, take some time to rest. Rest is an excellent time to reflect on what the Lord has done in your life and ask his guidance as you go on. We are restricted to these earthly bodies for the time being, and they need rest. The life of the believer requires balance to be lived well; when it is time to work, work 100%. But, when it is time to rest, you must do so. Not only do we need rest, the Lord commands it! Set aside some time this week to reflect on the Lord, get off of your feet, and have a moment of quiet time. Be refreshed!

Thanks so much,

-Liz

I Need Less, To Do More

Next month, I am going on a missions trip to Kenya. I decided a few months ago that I would only bring a backpack to carry all of my things, so that I did not have to check in a bag. I decided to do a trial pack, to see what could fit in my backpack, and what I would need to take out. As I was packing, I realized that there were a few things I could take out. By taking out an extra pair of shoes, or bringing one less pair of jeans… I would lighten my backpack and make traveling there and back a lot more enjoyable. Those items were not necessary, but I still wanted to bring them.

I think that sometimes we complicate life, and make things so much more difficult than they really need to be…

“ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on Him, because He cares about you.” - 1 Peter 5.6-7

Jesus tells us to cast our cares upon Him.

Lately, I have not been doing that. I have been holding onto anxiety and stress. Jesus does not tell us to cast our cares upon Him, temporarily, and then take them back.

This is not a, “ Hey Jesus, can you hold my anxiety for a minute while I tie my shoes?” type of situation. Rather, we should be giving these things to Him and NOT taking them back… All the things that are weighing us down, that make our days less enjoyable, and more complicated.

When you finally decide to hand whatever stress, anxiety, or burdens over to Jesus… Don’t take them back. This week, take all your unnecessary burdens out of your “pack” and lay them at the cross where they belong.

Love you guys,

Ellie Stephan

Contentment in God's Plan

Why do you think people make a New Year’s resolution? It comes from a desire to change something. A dissatisfaction in the way things are. It comes from a lack of contentment. Sometimes there are things that we shouldn’t be content with. Maybe you feel like you don’t read your bible enough, or don’t fellowship with others enough. Those are just a couple of things that maybe you shouldn’t be content with. Though often times, I think, that our resolutions come from things that we should be content with.

Some common ones are get a new job, travel more, move to a new place. None of those things are necessarily wrong, but we take this time to reflect on things that we want. What we should be focussing on is what God wants for us. Sometimes, He might want you right where you are and that might be hard to hear. I myself tend to like change, I’m always looking for the next big thing to do, the next job to get, the next place to live but I have realised that God has me where I am because that is where He wants to use me.

We can trust that God is going to guide us and that He will take care of us. We can be content where God has us. Paul shared this with Timothy in 1st Timothy 6:6-8

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”

Paul even says as long as we have food and clothes we will be content! He didn’t mention a house! If we have put our trust in Christ, if we have chosen to follow Him, then He will take care of us, but He is going to do it his way and sometimes we might not like that. That is us, not being content with Him providing for us.

Ok, great, so how do I be more content? I think this is a pretty simple thing to put into practice. Be thankful. Stop complaining, no matter how good things are, we always find something to complain about. All that will do is make you unhappy with where you are. As you go through the day today, take a few moments and thank God for the things he has provided for you. Pray that He will give you contentment. It can be hard, but I think if we just change our outlook, and start thanking God for the things He provides, then this is something that will come easier.

Luke K.

Noisy Night

Silent night Holy night All is calm All is bright

As we approach Christmas Day tomorrow I was thinking about the words to this well known carol we sing at this time each year. As I was humming the tune and going about my daily routine I was struck by the lack of silence and calm that surround the Christmas season. It’s more like “Noisy Night” and “All is Chaos”.

I know that left unchecked, I tend to fill my time with noise and activity, and it’s no shock that when a holiday comes along I’m more frazzled and more frustrated than I ought to be. As I write this I realize that God is constantly reminding me to slow down and take time to reflect, pray and consider not only the seasons but also my approach to them. Take a look at Philippians 4.6-7:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Maybe the reason our nights lack silence and our lives the calm we should have, is due to our focus being on the wrong thing. The coming of our Savior should bring us Joy, Peace, Comfort and an overwhelming reminder of the love that God has for us.

My challenge to you on this Christmas Eve is to set aside some time this evening to be silent...to allow the Lord to bring you to a place of calm. Find a quiet place and focus on Him and consider how much He loves you. Then thank Him and share with Him from your heart how much you love Him back. Start your time this evening with the following from Luke 2.14 as the Angels declared over the Shepherds:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!”

Merry Christmas Everyone! Love you all!

-Pastor Mike

Sad at Christmas

Christmas lights. Christmas music. No school. Presents coming and going.

The stage is set for everyone to overflow with “Christmas cheer.” Everything is merry and bright. Everyone is happy. Except you. Or maybe, except someone you know.

Maybe you, or someone around you just isn’t feeling it this year. Maybe you (or they) have experienced a great loss this year. I lost my sister. Or maybe you (or they) are facing a scary future. One of my friends has some weird cancer - he has to have a bone marrow transplant and there are no guarantees. Maybe for absolutely no reason, things in your world just aren’t merry and bright. Maybe home is tense, relationships are messed up. Maybe you’re alone - or just feeling alone. Maybe reading this is getting you depressed…

Sometimes we’re sad. Let me say this - it’s OK to be sad. It’s normal and healthy to be sad for a while when we’ve lost someone, been hurt, are afraid or are just wore out by life. It’s OK to be sad. Even at Christmas.

King David felt sad, his world seemed dark and hopeless - and he wrote about it in the Psalms. In Psalm 42 he says things like:

“My tears have been my food day and night” “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” “I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?” “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” “my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

David also knew where to go and what to do with his sadness. It’s OK to be sad - but we don’t have to be sad, and we shouldn’t just stay sad. Like David, we can go to God. In that same Psalm David says:

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you”

We need to learn how to take our hurt, our sadness to God. He gets it. He understands. Jesus felt great grief. Greater than we will ever know.

God promises us that He: “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Ps 147:3).

And that He : “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18).

Take your hurt to Him. Ask Him to be your comfort, to heal your heart, to give you hope. Then listen to Him, accept what He says about our hurt, take His perspective on it - and let Him turn it into a blessing. That, after all, is what He promises: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mt 5:4). He will grow us strong, wise and kind through the things that we suffer (Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 5:10). And though that might not seem worth it right now, though right now you might not want anything except for the darkness, the hurt, the sadness to go away - he promises us, that in the end, it will all be worth it (Romans 8:18).

-Pastor Cory

All Lemons, No Juicer

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

"Life's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." A saying that many people know, or even something like "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Meaning, be ready for what life throws at you and make the best out of the circumstances given, even when they're completely unexpected. Sometimes that's easier said than done right? Sometimes life gives you a box of chocolates... but they're full of old lemons and you have no juicer.

When circumstances are out of your control, often times, the tendency is to lash out, but what if God is doing something in the pain, in the storm... are you trusting Him enough to let Him do it, even if it doesn't make sense to you?

I think of Moses in Exodus when he was leading the people out of Egypt and he reached the Red sea. There were no boats, nor bridges, no way across, and a lot of scared people. It was a dangerous situation, but Moses trusted that God would do something and as the story goes, He did.

Sometimes God brings us to hard times so He can get us out.....not because He wants us to suffer but He wants us to lean on Him, submit to Him, and that's the only way he can get our attention. Are we trusting the Lord enough to seek the his council, in order to do the right thing and let God take care of the rest?

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7

I hope this week is encouraging and it brings countless opportunities to glorify the most high God.

-Dakota