The Silver Lining To A Dirty Dish

“Hey, thank you for doing that earlier. I really appreciated it.”

These are the words pretty much anyone wants to hear, but being newly married and coming from my wife, they meant a lot to me. The funny thing was that I wasn’t even trying to be particularly helpful, I just knew that I was going to need to eat and need something clean to eat off of and that I’d have to do the dishes to make that happen. But since I found out that doing dishes was a way I could bless my wife, I’ve made it a goal to do them as soon as I can. Not out of obligation, but because I love her and love serving her.

It got me thinking about how our actions affect those around us. How, somewhat selfishly at first, deciding to do the dishes resulted in making someone’s day brighter and conveyed love. If I can accidentally be a blessing, how much more can I serve others around me by going just a little more out of my way? How much more can I represent Jesus, who went far far out of his way just for us?

We especially as believers are commanded to live like this:

John 13:34-35A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

To love one another as Christ loved his disciples is far more than just sharing a meal and being friendly. This kind of love is servitude. It is unconditional, regardless of differences or disputes. It is active, it seeks out ways to serve. It is sincere, it comes from a sense of compassion rather than obligation. It is selfless, it gives without seeking gain or benefit besides the benefit of others.

I know it isn’t a natural life pattern to love like this, especially when you may not gain from it. But we don’t rely on sheer willpower or peer pressure to treat people nicely. We as Christians have been given the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us to empower us and to give us insight into how to love like Jesus did to his disciples.

I encourage you to find a way to serve someone whether they realize you did it or not. Look for a need and meet it for someone so that they will be blessed. The goal isn’t to be seen but to serve. It will give you more perspective into how Christ sees us and into what our calling is.

Have a good week!

-Andy

Hope When Plans Crumble

With any new adventure, any new start - whether it’s the first day of school, or the first day back to work after vacation - really any kind of a first day back, we tend to come with some great hopes, some ambitious goals - and maybe some unsettling anxieties.

Will it be different this year? Will I be better than I was? Will “things” go better than they did last time?

We make big plans, we have great intentions, high hopes - but life doesn’t follow our plans. Life doesn’t respect our boundaries, it doesn’t value our goals! Somehow - in the midst of that, we’ve got to maintain hope. Hope keeps us moving through adversity, difficulty and pain - hope gives us the willingness to keep going until we get where we’re going.

Understand this: hope isn’t a feeling. It’s not an emotion. Hope is a perspective. It’s seeing life and its difficulties - in light of the sovereignty and goodness of God.

In 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 Paul says something that sounds odd to us, even contradictory, he says: “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

We might ask Paul - which is it, is it good or bad?
Is it a good opportunity - or are you experiencing opposition?
Paul would answer: Yes!

Paul knew that he was doing the thing that God had called him to do. He wasn’t just doing his own thing - he was doing what God had called him to do (look at 1 Corinthians 1:1Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…”). And so, Paul knew (since God is sovereign, since He is King of all Creation) that if he was doing God’s thing - even if there is opposition - it is a great opportunity. Even if things go badly - in the end, God will have His way, in the end, God wins. So if we choose to do “God’s thing” instead of “our thing” - we can have hope, confidence, assurance that (no matter how things are going now) in the end God will achieve whatever He sets out to do.

Being able to live out that kind of confidence in God - only comes when we live in close connection with God. It only happens when we are coming close to God each day, and seeking to stay close to Him throughout the day. It happens when we “abide in Christ.”

It’s a great way to live - it changes us from anxious to joyful, from defeated to hopeful.

John 15:9-11As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Draw close to the Lord, invest yourself in His thing, abide in His love - and trust (regardless of any opposition or difficulty) that God will do what He has said that He will do.

-Pastor Cory

Struggling with Shame

For a little less than a month, many people I know, as well as countless others that I don’t know, have been struggling with the loss of an incredible young man who took his own life. As always, this was massively unexpected. At the funeral, hundreds of devastated people gathered, not only to mourn, but to celebrate this man’s life. After a tragedy such as this, it is easy to think, “What could I have done to change this?” It is heartbreaking to see the hundreds of people affected by the tragic, life ending action of just one person. If only he had known how many people care about him.

This event made me think of those who have tried, successfully or unsuccessfully, to commit suicide. What pushes humans towards this? It could be depression, shame, guilt, abuse, or a million other things. Often have I witnessed people react in negative ways due to feelings of shame or guilt, perhaps because of something they did. It breaks my heart to know that there is someone out there who feels so ashamed of what they have done, that suicide is considered the only option.

I was then reminded of this set of verses:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
‭‭Romans ‭8:1-4

If you call Jesus Christ your Lord, you have been freed from sin, and you have a God that you can trust in. God takes our sin, our shame, our guilt, and makes us clean. He fixes us, heals us, and uses us to help other broken people find him. If you ever find yourself in a dark place, please know that God is more than capable and willing to heal your heart.

One final point: check up on the people in your life, INCLUDING those who you think are “doing pretty good”. Ask them how they are, pray for them, and stay in contact with them. Humans are professionals at faking joy and happiness. Don’t be afraid to ask people how they are, and to let them know that the Lord loves them.

Peace, be still/ Say the word and I will

Set my feet upon the sea/ Till I'm dancing in the deep.

Peace, be still/ You are here, so it is well.

Even when my eyes can't see/I will trust the voice that speaks.”

Words Into Actions

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15

makes it seem so simple, doesn’t it? As we all know, human relationships are often anything but simple. Sometimes, our gentle answers do nothing to assuage the anger that is being directed towards us. What then?

I think of Romans 12 to answer this question. Verses 9-10 say,

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

That sure sounds like we are to treat others like they are precious and valued by God (they are), and to show honor to all, regardless of how they treat us.

I love how the wording talks about “outdoing one another in showing honor”. One definition of honor is described as “an adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct”. We are to behave in the right way to everyone – and God is our standard for what is the right way.

Think about how Jesus interacted with people. He was so very kind to those who were hurting, but was firm and straightforward with the religious leaders (Matthew 23). He was very honest with his disciples when they needed correction (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 4:35-40), but he also cared for them deeply, and that is evident throughout the Gospels.

He was (and is) ultimately sacrificial and utterly loving in his interactions with others, even when they hated him completely. He said what they needed to hear, not what was going to make them happy, or what was going to give himself smug satisfaction.

These things give me pause, and make me evaluate if I am really treating people the way I should be. Are my interactions with others reflecting Christ totally? Or am I inserting my own agenda into my conversations in order to benefit myself?

I encourage you to take inventory of your own relationships in this way. We will never be perfect, but are we striving to improve our behavior every day?

I am going to set aside some time to pray for the Lord’s intervention in my relationships – specifically, for my own behavior, since that’s all I can control. I encourage you to do the same! We are all in this together, as family, in Christ. I am praying that the Lord brings things up in our lives that he can correct and change in order to make our treatment of people look more like Christ’s.

Love you all!

-Liz

New Creation

Do you often feel yourself replicating patterns in relationships? It happens a lot. I notice it in my own as well as other people's lives. What I mean by that is, we usually learn by following a pattern that is shown to us by those around us in our early years of childhood. It’s how we learn how to treat others, what to do in situations and relationships, and what not to do. These patterns we are taught can be negative, or positive… but there is one thing almost all of them have in common.

From a young age, we are taught to learn how to be independent. We learn to feed ourselves, dress ourselves, and take care of ourselves. Not soon after that, we learn to drive ourselves, so our parents don’t have to, ultimately we move out on our own. Eventually we will repeat the cycle with our own children. We are taught and trained from birth to depend upon our parents less and less, as we grow up and become more capable to take care of ourselves.

This pattern can easily become replicated in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, if we are not aware of it. Isn’t it funny? When we are born, and in those first few months of our life we are as dependent upon our parents as we'll ever be. But as life goes on, it is just a slow and continued separation from our parents. In an Earthly sense, that is a healthy relationship. You probably shouldn't rely on your parents to brush your teeth or support you until your 30, just saying, but on a more significant/eternal level…. It’s an awful pattern to adopt and live out.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God
John 3:3

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come
2 Corinthians 5:17

The term “born again”, means to become that new creation that 2 Corinthians talks about. That new creation that has been bought and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. If you have been born again, you have been given a new chance. A new chance to live out His love and righteousness, and a new chance to be totally dependent upon Him for every need you have. He has adopted you into His family, and so, that means that you have access to Him in a special way. You have the ability to call upon the name of The Lord, anytime and anywhere! But, recognize that He is not just a lord, or a god, or a father. He is The Lord, The True God, and Your Heavenly Father. Don’t allow that earthly pattern of separation enter into the most important relationship you will ever have. Enter into this relationship with Him in a fresh way this week, knowing that you belong to Him, cherished by Him, and are freed by Him.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!
Romans 8:15

Love you guys!

-Ellie

Flowers In Asphalt

When was the last time you didn’t like what you were doing? Things like, working in fast food, or sitting in math class. Maybe just work or school in general, or maybe it’s a family vacation. Maybe it’s reading my devo... We have all had to do something at one point or another we didn’t like, and we have all had thoughts like “I’m better than this.” “This can’t be what the rest of my life looks like.”I’m going to die of boredom.” “My talents are being wasted here.” All of those thoughts have crossed my mind at one point or another in my life and I’m sure they have crossed yours. When you are doing something you don’t like it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of misery. It’s hard not to think “This can’t be what God is calling me to do.”

I have good news for you! It’s not what God is calling you to do. By that I mean, He is not calling you to whine and complain about what you are doing. He is calling you to something greater. He is calling you to serve Him where you are. Often I find myself looking for the next big thing, which causes me to miss the little things. I tend to look at the things I don’t like doing, as temporary circumstances until I get to the good stuff. That causes me to miss out on what God is actually calling me to do. God has you where you are for a reason. Instead of looking at how to get out of where you are, you should look to serve God as much as you can while you are there.

God calls us to serve Him where we are. Believe it or not, God knows what He is doing. Paul says in Philipians 4:12-13

I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul went through a lot of stuff that he didn’t enjoy, but instead of complaining about it, he allowed God to strengthen him to endure it. On top of that his circumstances were much worse than yours or mine.

We need to allow God to strengthen us, in order to build endurance in our circumstances, so that we can redirect our focus from ourselves and put it on serving Christ. I would encourage you to dig in a little bit more and spend some time in James 1:1-18 and 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 both passages are great encouragement, to focus on where you are and to serve God where he has you.

-Luke K.

Hidden Strength

Think of a time in your life where you felt you didn't have enough, or were just shy of meeting that mark, either physically or mentally. How about a situation where your brain freezes up and suddenly it's a destitute barren land. For me I don't have to think very far back before a number of examples pop into my mind, (like writing this devo!) Sometimes it feels like a sledgehammer just hit my stomach and soon I'm flooded with the overwhelming realization that I'm a total failure.

But where are those thoughts coming from? More important is there truth to that? When left to itself the mind is a very destructive place to be, even a battlefield at times. The thing is everyone has come up short in some way in their lives, but what expectation are we looking for? What are we trying to accomplish?

Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

How often do we bank on expectations of people or goals in life, and it's such a let down when THEY come up short? Not only is that unfair to those people (because they are flawed and will mess up) but it's also unrealistic. Let’s take that deeper. How often do we put those worldly expectations on the Lord himself, and He "comes up short" for you? "But it's God, he provides all and is all powerful!" Why yes but we still think that about him don't we?....when He doesn't do what we think or want. We put these ideas in our heads and expect God to provide, which He does but not always in the way we think. If you keep reading Romans 3 you see that.

24-26
"They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus"

God presented Jesus to atone for our sins, his blood as the full payment for every short coming we have. For me that's when I start feeling inadequate, I'm not a good enough Christian or the right fit. I've come up too short. Next thing ya know I'm backing myself into a corner of my brain and getting a left hook to the jaw by my own expectations and failures. That's all wrong.

See, God didn't make any mistakes when creating you nor was He coming up short, and if you allow it he will use you in ways you'd never imagine. A commonly known example of this is the first part of Gideon's life in Judges 6 and 7

Judges 6:11-16
The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.

As the story goes God reduced Gideon's army from 32,000 men to 300 and they defeated the midianites in a very unique way. Gideon wasn't some amazing powerful warrior, he was a coward that God loved and used greatly, through faith. (For another fitting example read about Jonathan and his armour bearer in 1 Samuel 14)

Our lives aren't about the things we have or can accomplish, they're about what the Lord does through us. We literally just have to show up and be willing, we're not like a puppet or have to perform special dances or something in order to be worth any of His time, though that might be entertaining! We're his children, and He loves us. Just give yourself to Him and trust what He'll create.

See ya around (:

-Dakota

A Psalm

God, save me! I’m in over my head,

Quicksand under me, swamp water over me;
I’m going down for the third time.

I’m hoarse from calling for help,
Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.

I’ve got more enemies than hairs on my head;
Sneaks and liars are out to knife me in the back
.”

At one point or another we’ve all felt like that.
Everything is closing in on us, everything is falling apart. And so, we cry out to God - until we’re hoarse. But nothing happens. And we wait. And we cry out some more.

Eventually - like King David (that’s who wrote this),
we feel tapped out, spent, done.

David said:
I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

That’s when I find that it’s good to remember why I’m calling out to God.

David puts it this way:
as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.”

I pray to God - because God is abundantly and steadfastly loving. I pray to God because he will never run out of or hold back on - His love for me. God loves me - and He will never withhold His love from me.

I pray to God - because God is faithful to save me. I may not understand what He’s doing or why - but He has proven His love for me, He has shown that He’s committed to saving me, I can trust Him.

Then, after I remind myself of God’s faithful love for me - after I choose to leave my situation in His hands, then, I bring my heart into line with my brain - through worship.

Again, listen to David:
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

Next time you feel like you’re in over your head, the next time you feel like you’re going under… Try turning to Psalm 69.
Let David lead you along a path that he walked with the Lord many different times. Be reminded that God’s love is abundant and unfailing - He won’t fail you.

No matter how desperate things seem and no matter how desperate we feel.

He loves us. He hears us. And He will answer.

-Pastor Cory

Work and Leave the Rest to God

Picture the last time you passed by someone you knew. Did the short conversation sound anything like this?

Them: “How’s it going?”
You: “Oh, not too bad. Just tired is all.”

For me, that is the script for just about every single passing interaction I have with an acquaintance. And usually I mean it, I’m usually pretty content and decently tired.

But why?
Why are we so tired?

The seasons can play a role, less daylight and colder weather in the winter can leave us feeling lethargic, sleepy, even depressed sometimes. Lack of sleep is an obvious one, it is sometimes even cited as a brag among the chronically tired, especially when I was in high school — who could show up having slept the least was a twisted badge of honor in some circles. Having a particularly hard day at work or school, maybe finals week is approaching, any one of these could be why we can feel so tired.

But I believe there is another aspect which is less considered by most people. It’s an aspect which I most often neglect despite feeling like it’s my goal.

It’s called “rest.”

At the end of the day you probably have some sort of routine you do to “relax.” You may watch TV, or if you’re in my demographic you watch YouTube, you may play a sport or go out with friends, you may even isolate yourself with a book for hours and find that to be relaxing. None of these things have inherent positive or negative qualities, but I think the misuse and misunderstanding of their purpose can lead to unrest and exhaustion.

What we call relaxation is often really recreation. We don’t settle our minds and spirits, we merely redirect our energy and attention.

God knows we need rest and even made it the law to his people. This is commanded in several places in the old testament, namely Exodus 23:12

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 servant born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”

When we rest, I think we end up making ourselves even more busy. We pursue entertainment and distraction, but rarely do we truly rest. Jesus demonstrated a real and profoundly different style of resting than what many of us do. He would often get alone to pray, even before the sun rose. Jesus understood that the presence of God is more refreshing and calming even than really good sleep.

Mark 1:35
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Often I find I don’t rest because I feel like I don’t have time. I sometimes don’t even give time to the things I distract myself with, which could sound like a good thing except for that usually means I’m just extra exhausted. If you’re like me, you convince yourself that you have to always be working or things won’t get done and some terrible cataclysm or another will befall you. I have overworked myself lately with two jobs, trying to graduate, helping to plan and prepare for my wedding, and of course regular chores and errands. Even when I take a break, I feel like there’s more to be done, even when there isn’t a single space left to put more on my plate.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, the sense that you’re both doing too much while feeling like you’re not doing enough at all. We live in a world that praises “The Hustle” and “The Grind.” Lately, God is showing me how this can make me lose faith in him. It’s an important mark of a Christian to be diligent and reputable in their work, but the Bible warns about trusting too much in your work and not in God to provide for your needs. We can and should work at something and see to it that we do our part to do well. But when our only focus is working to acquire comfort or status or even just to feel secure, we eliminate God from our equation. We trust our own strength or skills to be all we need to get by when really, working without resting in God and trusting him is a recipe for burnout and exhaustion.

Luke 12:15
"And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Luke 12:22-23
"And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing."

Hebrews 13:5
"Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Timothy 6:17
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy."

Remember if you’re exhausted, discouraged, or afraid of the future: God will sustain you. Trust in him. Learn to rest in his peace. Whether you have much time or little, God is faithful to give us rest when we trust in him.

If you are in a season of hard work, do it well. But don’t put your hope and trust in it. And don’t trust in distractions and comforts to give you rest. Peace comes through knowing God and being full of his Holy Spirit.

Take a day to rest each week. Take time each day to meet with God and be refreshed. It’s something so easy to forget but so vital to living a life seeking God.

Have a wonderful week!

-Andy

Be in the Moment

Imagine yourself in a situation. You have just been thrown in prison for commanding an evil spirit to come out of a girl. Your buddy and you are then beaten, and thrown into prison with your feet bound. In pain, unable to sleep, you start to sing songs to the Lord at midnight. All the prisoners around you are listening. Then, all of a sudden, a great earthquake shakes the whole prison and every ones bonds, including yours, are unfastened!

Now...question. If you were in the shoes of these men, do you think you would worship the Lord after a beating and being put in a prison cell? And then when the earthquake hit, do you think you would see that as God’s provision for release? Don’t you think even a few of those prisoners would’ve made a mad dash for the door? In Acts 16:25-34 you can read the entire story. And believe it or not, not one of the prisoners or Paul and Silas tried to escape. These guys, in their moment of suffering, worshiped the Lord and it was a witness to the other prisoners. Not only was it a witness to them, but when the prison guard (who had fallen asleep during his shift, oops!) awoke and saw the doors open, assumed all had escaped and was ready to kill himself. Paul called out to him and said, “Don’t hurt yourself, we are all here”. They were then able to present the gospel to the jailer and his family! What an amazing story! These guys, in that moment, knew God had a plan, and it wasn’t an escape.

Are we still seeking for opportunities to be witnesses for Christ when the day gets ugly, or people are treating us poorly? Or do we just get upset, give up, and feel sorry for ourselves? Do we see the trials as curses, when God’s plan could be blessings and lives saved for eternity? We need to walk in faith and trust that He will make things (that could be terribly painful in your life) work out for good! Let’s be people who live in prayer, moment by moment, ready to love and share when opportunities arise.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Romans 12:12

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15

Blessings friends!

-Sarah J.

Are You Afraid Of Growth?

Isaiah 12
Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust him and not be afraid, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.” You will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation, and on that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD; proclaim his name! Make his works known among the peoples. Declare that his name is exalted. “Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things. Let this be known throughout the earth. “Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in his greatness.

Joshua 1: 7-9
"Above all, be and strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t i commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Is God calling you to do something, that you’re dragging your feet on? Do you have that feeling deep in your gut, that you should be doing or going somewhere that you aren’t? Do you have that feeling, but don’t know what it is for, are you listening? Or are you ignoring the pull till it hopefully goes away, because it’s so far out of your comfort zone and you’re to scared to trust that God has a plan for you, that is greater than yourself?

I think this is something we all struggle with.

Psalms 40: 4-5
"How happy is anyone who has put his trust in the Lord and has not turned to the proud or those who run after lies! Lord my God you have done many things- your wondrous works and your plans for us; none can compare with you. If i were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told."

How often are we afraid of what God is doing in our lives, instead of trusting that God will walk you through any situation and provide for you wherever you go?

We get scared, we don’t trust him enough to walk through those doors and trials he has set before us. But instead we turn away and try and do things our own way. Has this worked out for anyone? Probably not. I know it’s never worked out for me.

I find myself so far from where I thought I could get myself, but when I trust in God, when I keep my relationship with him strong. When I make Him the first one I turn to in my times of trouble. Whether it’s in prayer or reading my bible. I find myself in the place that God wanted me to be. Wherever or whatever it is.

Sometimes he wants us to grow in ways we didn’t know we needed growing in. Sometimes being in a place where someone needed someone to listen, or someone who needed to hear a little bit about Jesus, someone who just needed someone to sit down and pray for them, right in that moment. Or through that door to something completely new in our lives. Like quitting a job you have had for a very long time and starting a new job so far out of the field of what you were doing, that you feel like a child learning to walk again for the first time.

Don’t be afraid of God working and doing things in your life. He is growing you and giving you wisdom and knowledge for the tasks you can’t see yet. This won’t always be easy, it won’t always seem fun, but rejoice in the fact that he loves you enough to work in your lives, that He cares so much for you that He wants you to be better and to know more. So that He may use you for those who do not know Him. He will take care of you if you let Him. and remember we live these lives for His glory, that everyone may know Him who loved you so much that He died for you. All you have to do is believe and have faith.

I want to encourage you guys to keep moving forward. You will get through whatever you are going through. He is teaching and growing you for the tasks ahead.

Praying for you guys always.

-Hailey

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