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Photo Credit eberhard grossgasteiger

Be still and know

By | Blogs

Ryan Connelly // Psalm 46:10 // “Be still, and know that I am God…” – Psalm 46:10

At the end of the day, Is God everything you need? Is He enough? Our natural response to any sort of trouble in life is to ask “why?” Why did the results come back positive? Why is my marriage failing? Why does evil exist?

Earlier this year, I lost a dear friend. He was on his way to London to record an album, but later fell into cardiac arrest while on the plane and passed away shortly after landing in London. I will never forget the moment I received that text message. I was fuming on the inside. I knew my friend was face-to-face with Jesus, but it just wasn’t right. It was in that moment I made a decision that I was not going to allow these other voices in my head to take over my emotions, heart and mind. This was the moment my faith got real.

I drove to our worship space, turned on worship music, grabbed my Bible and began to declare who God was in the midst of the storm waging in my heart. I told God that I wasn’t leaving until his peace fell upon me. I ended up on my knees listening for His still voice.

The first verse in Psalm 46 says that God is not only our refuge and strength, but that He is our PRESENT help in times of trouble. Did you catch that? He is PRESENT in your circumstances. Even now as you sit reading this let God be your refuge and strength. Don’t fear the storms just because you hear it roar.

God met me in that moment when I was fearing the storm. He will do the same with yours. Be still and know that He is GOD.

photo credit fireskystudios.com

Reclaimed

By | Blogs

Dillon Barber  // Ephesians 2:10 // As a hobby woodworker, I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent trend of using reclaimed wood for furniture and home decorating.  Barn wood, fence boards, even pallets can be reclaimed and repurposed in thousands of creative ways.  As much as I like the rustic reclaimed look, I am even more attracted to the metaphor it offers. 

Just as a carpenter or craftsman salvages an old piece of lumber, God is in the process of reclaiming human beings.  Each of one of us was created to live in a loving, intimate relationship with God.  We were created with purpose and intent.  Yet sin has broken that relationship and disrupted God’s purpose.  We bear the scars of that sin in our lives and stories.  Just like rusty nail holes, dry rot, and deep cracks, we have broken hearts, broken relationships, hurts and hang-ups that have become a part of who we are. 

The good news is that God is reclaiming us.  By the blood of Jesus on the cross and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we are being made new again.  God is removing the dry rot, sanding down the rough edges and reshaping us into something different, new and beautiful.   We are being reclaimed and made into something useful for God’s kingdom work.  We may carry some of our scars through the rest of our lives, but instead of ugly wounds, God uses them to demonstrate his power of redemption in our lives.  By God’s grace, our wounds become part of the character that makes us beautiful and usable by Him. 

“For we are Gods’ workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”- Ephesians 2:10

Suffering & God’s Promises

By | Blogs

Jordan Randall // 1 Peter 5:10 // Some years ago while I was in college, I experienced what you might call a crisis. I lost my job, my apartment and my car. With the thought of homelessness looming over my head, I dove into God’s word searching for answers.

For months after that, night after night, I read through scripture page after page. Then one night, I opened my bible right to this verse:

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”- 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)

In that instant, I knew I had my answer. As I read it over and over, I came to realize that God has just promised me that I am going to walk through difficult circumstances. However, He followed it up with another promise. That God himself is going to be the one that brings me out of the turmoil.

I’ve held onto that as a life verse ever since.

What about you? Have you walked through suffering? More importantly, have you discovered any one of God’s promises, like 1 Peter 5:10 that will sustain you through rough patches in life? If not, I would encourage you to adopt 1 Peter 5:10 as yours.

Live in the reality that while we will have to suffer, you can be encouraged that the God of all grace will be there to walk through it with you. It’s a promise.

Photo by Jeffrey Wing @jrwing

Welcoming the Stranger

By | Blogs

Leviticus 19:33-34 //  Immigrant: a person who comes to live long term in a foreign country. This is the definition of the word but in our culture it has become much more. National security. Political positioning. Cultural Identity. Walls.  Fear. Immigration is now a buzzword in our society. But what does God’s Word say about it?

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34

We may have never seen the word immigrant in Scripture, but many times we see the terms sojourner, alien, stranger in Scripture. All of these come from the Hebrew word ger. The meaning of this word in Hebrew is “a foreign-born inhabitant of Israel, a newcomer lacking inherited rights.” This word occurs 92 times in the Scriptures, and the command to welcome the stranger is one of the most repeated in the Old Testament.

As we look at the command to welcome the stranger in Scripture, may we look for practical ways to love our neighbors, protect the vulnerable, and welcome the stranger.

The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

Psalm 146:9

Soul Rest

By | Blogs, Brian Long

Rev. Phil Christiansen  // Matthew 11:28-30 // Balance is a myth. Who do you know personally, that’s living a balanced life? Who isn’t frantically running from one thing to the next, ceaselessly pushing to achieve, accomplish or acquire more? Who isn’t longing for some sense of stability and assurance that the hurry-scurry is worth it?

Whether you’re a student racing from class to class, extracurricular, work, homework, interspersed with heaps of social media…or you’re a parent raising munchkins, shopping, changing, picking-up, playing, hauling to the doctor, school, practice, game, or dance and still find time for you spouse…or you’re an empty-nester working harder than ever, trying to figure out how to lovingly guide young-adult children, care for aging, ailing parents, and nurture your marriage (now that you have all this “time”)…balance is elusive. There’s always a stretch in a new direction and balancing it all is fleeting, at best.

What if it’s not really about balance, but about rest? Not lazy-day, sunny afternoon, vacation kind of rest (though that’s great!)—but SOUL REST. Only Jesus makes that possible. When He says, “Take my yoke upon you…” it’s an invitation to intimate relationship and the deepest rest possible. Even while the world swirls around you, Jesus promises that if you will stay very near to Him—like oxen yoked together, teamwork style—that you’ll find rest: SOUL REST.

Stop chasing the myth. Instead, stay close to Jesus and find the rest you long for as you partner with Him each day.

Prayer During

By | Devotionals, Josiah O'Loughlin

Josiah O’laughlin  // Ephesians 3:16 // Nobody likes conflict. There isn’t a time in my life where I thought; “You know what… I think I am going to make my social life harder.”  I believe we all strive to have deep worthwhile relationships, but one thing that keeps us from that goal is the “drama.”  If we had just the good parts of the friendship it would be so much easier right?

As a friend, I believe we experience greater bonds when we choose to engage in conflict with Godly help. I cannot control the other persons response or feelings, but I can add value to the conflict in real time as it’s happening. How? I find that if I am praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us, something supernatural tends to happen.  If my heart in conflict can align with God’s heart the outcome will be far greater than either person could’ve made happen. The verse that comes to mind:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”- Ephesians 3:16

You hear that?  Call on His spirit and we will be strengthened even in the moments of conflict. It works… Try it.  Pray for peace.  Pray for each of you to not see it as a win or lose.  Pray to let the spirit work in you both, and to communicate as God would have you. Pray your relationship would be fortified. Watch what God does.  God wants it and so do you.

Spirit Filled Living

By | Devotionals, Mark Shoquist

Mark Shoquist  // Ephesians 5:18 // Have you wondered why some professing Christians don’t look any different from unbelievers? It’s likely because they aren’t living a Spirit-filled life.

The moment we come to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately comes to dwell within us. Being indwelt with the Spirit is a one-time, wonderful event that lasts for eternity.

However, the Bible also tells us to continually be filled with the Spirit, which means to allow the Spirit full access to empower and direct us. It’s different from being indwelt with the Spirit.

Since I’m a chocolate lover, I’ll use the analogy of chocolate milk to explain the difference. Think of your life as a glass of milk and the Spirit as chocolate syrup. Being indwelt is like generously pouring chocolate into a glass of milk. All the ingredients are fully present to make a delicious glass of chocolate milk. However, unless you stir the chocolate, enabling it to have full influence over the milk, the milk will only continue to taste…well, like milk. Stirring the chocolate is like being filled with the Spirit.

To take the analogy further, notice the milk doesn’t “muster up” the taste of chocolate on its own. Instead, the chocolate does the work. The milk merely needs to make itself fully accessible to the chocolate.  Same goes for the Spirit in our lives.

Just how chocolate can quickly resettle at the bottom of a glass moments later, we need to continually be filled with the Spirit, moment-by-moment, asking Him to empower and direct our lives.

Ask the Lord to fill you and empower you right now, as you go about your day today.

Finding Security in God

By | Devotionals, Patty Herrera

Patty Herrera  // Psalm 46:1-2 // “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

One of our most loved and used toys in Sunday school is an old durable set of cardboard bricks. The kids love fencing themselves in forts and walls.  It becomes both a place of security and adventure.  The best part is exploding out of walls when the teacher is not looking!

But kids aren’t the only ones looking for security. As adults we also are drawn to build walls of security and refuge. Sometimes we seek refuge through relationships that offer love and acceptance. Other times we rely on our own capabilities and strength. For some it is building a strong bank account. But in the end, these sources of security are as sturdy and reliable as cardboard bricks.

The only sure refuge in life is found in God.  Throughout scripture God has called us to explode out of our flimsy walls of self-made security and to embrace a true and lasting refuge in a relationship with his Son Jesus. The great thing is that he has done all the work for us through Christ’s death on our behalf. Trading our crumbling facades for his strong, life-giving embrace offers us freedom from fear for the future and a peace in the storms of today. Let Him be your refuge and strength.

Are You Becoming a Better You?

By | Brian Long, Devotionals

Dr. Brian Long  // 2 Corinthians 3:18 // My wife Cindy and I are avid Fixer Upper fans. We actually went to visit the Silos, Magnolia Market, Clint’s wood shop, we even ran into Jimmy Don the metal guy.

Truth be told, we nerd out on a number of different “home improvement” type shows on HGTV and DIY. I’m not sure of the roots of our addiction, but there is just something about seeing the beauty that can be created out of neglected, outdated, overlooked homes.

What’s more thrilling however, is experiencing the beauty that God can create out of bruised, banged up, broken lives. The God of the Bible is a life renovator! When you surrender your life to his capable craftsmanship as forgiver and leader, he brings beauty from ashes, strength from shame, and a fruitful life from those who feel lost.

The Bible says, As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18-The Living Bible). In other words, God is remodeling your life to look like Jesus.

I love the “big reveal” at the end of the show. What’s more profound is God’s big reveal of redemption in our lives. Philippians 1:6 promises, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (The Living Bible).

Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

True Present Connection

By | Studio Discussions, Video Podcast | No Comments

VIDEO // We live in a culture that is distracted. Bombarded by countless to-do’s, caught up in work or pursuing our dreams, our phones stealing our attention everyday, we are consumed. Pastor Sam comes into the studio to talk about the plague of endless business and what we can do to stop, breathe, and become more present in life.