Monday, October 26, 2015

A Boat Out of Water

Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to make wise choices sometimes? I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, but I know on plenty of occasions I have wanted to head in one direction, but instead, for some reason, I headed in a completely separate direction. Let’s take McDonald’s for instance. For the past year and a half, I have been trying to crack down on how much I eat fast food, but then comes along “All Day Breakfast” at McDonalds! Are you kidding me? You mean to say that I can get those tasty, one-dollar sausage burritos ALL DAY? As I drive past those golden arches, it seems like it would be almost fiscally irresponsible not to stop in. I mean, it’s only a dollar! I think you can see the struggle.

            I think one of the reasons that it is so hard to make wise choices is because we hear voices. I know that sounds crazy, but we often find ourselves in situations where we hear voices trying to pull us one way or the other. Have you ever seen a TV show or movie where the main character is in a bind and a little angel appears on one shoulder, and a little devil appears on the other shoulder…the angel and devil, both trying to convince the person to make the good or bad decision? It’s like that a lot of times. We hear voices or see influences that try to pull us in one direction or the other.

            One example of these voices came to me when I was at an auction with a couple of my buddies. We were just browsing, hoping maybe to pick up some cheap tools, but instead, we ran across this beat-up old fishing boat. It seemed to be in decent condition, but it certainly wasn’t fancy at all. As we were looking at this boat, one of my buddies leaned over to me and said, “You should bid on it.” Being the wise and financially prudent person that I am…I said, “OK!,” and I threw in the starting bid for this boat, and we were off. A gentleman and I got into a little bidding war, and before I knew it, I was bidding with money I really couldn’t afford to spend, for a dumpy boat that I had absolutely no need or desire for. I may have forgot to mention that the boat was sitting on a trailer, but the trailer was not part of the auction, so if I won, we would have to find a way to tie the boat to my friends truck to get it home, and then we’d be stuck with this boat that nobody needed. Lucky for me, I was outbid, and I decided to bow out of the bidding war. But I wouldn’t have been in that situation at all if I hadn’t listened to a little voice pulling me in a direction. 

     In our culture, there are so many voices pulling us in so many different directions, that it can be hard to know which one to listen to, and which is the wise path to take. But luckily we have a little help. The Psalmist says in Psalm 119, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105 NASB) The word of God has been given to us to help us in those times when we’re not sure where to go. We just need to lean into God’s word, and trust in Him to guide us. He will illuminate our path, and help us find our way so we don’t find ourselves like a boat out of water.

~Jake Houf 

Monday, October 19, 2015


Let’s just jump right in. This life, OUR EARTHLY LIFE, is temporary.  Ignoring this fact does not make it any less true.  I feel that we often acknowledge that this truth obviously exists, but do we really process it and expect it?  I don’t feel that most of us do. 

What’s good about this?  Right now you’re probably thanking me for a nice, pick-me up in your day, but seriously, just hear me out. 

Our pain in this life is temporary.

Our struggle in this life is temporary.

Our exhaustion in this life is temporary.

Our fragmented joy in this life is temporary.

The flawed beauty of this life is temporary.

This life we lead apart from God will not be the only reality we ever know.  One way or another, we will be face-to-face with the glory of the Creator. 

Maybe we have trouble with concept of death because deep down our souls were not made for a temporary existence.  I really feel that we can’t imagine “not being” because we have an eternal component of who we are that was based in the one, true, eternal God, the God whose image we are made in.  So if we have this eternal soul, why am I making such a big deal about grasping the temporary?

It is important to recognize the importance of the temporary.  The temporary is where we determine our eternity.  This life we know that is ever moving toward our death (I know, another ray of sunshine) is the only chance we get to know what a relationship with a self-sacrificing Savior is and accept this gift to experience the grace and safety in that love.  This life is the only chance you have to impact those you love for Christ.  You have an opportunity to choose NOW.  You have an opportunity to impact NOW. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

I think it is also important to recognize that this life will end because at times, it is just simply painful and draining.   When we feel exhausted, it is good to remember that no matter the depth of the pain or the seemingly ceaseless struggle, it will end.  Christ has already won and he will triumph again!  If you put your faith in Jesus, there will be a day where you struggle no more, grieve no more, fail no more. (Alright, now that really is some joy in your day!)

I believe that knowing that this life is temporary is energizing and comforting.  Not only is there an end, but a perfect end.  With Christ’s strength, I can run this race all out because it won’t be forever.  I can eventually accept the pain I feel for missing someone I can’t hold right now, because I know that because of their acceptance of grace, they are in perfect peace and joy, and I will be with them again. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:18, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” As wonderful as this life may be, I am inconceivably grateful that it is temporary.

~ Ashley VanDam

Monday, October 12, 2015

Feeling Overloaded

We all have those days when we have so much to do.  At night, we lay down in bed and eventually fall asleep after wrestling with thinking about all the stuff we have to get done. Maybe you’re getting ready for a big presentation, putting off homework, or just overwhelmed with making sure the house is perfect before your big party. When I feel this way, I feel so overwhelmed and weak. Times like this always make me think about a man named Paul who wanted to shout for help.

II Corinthians 12 is where Paul is talking about his sufferings from a thorn given to him by Satan, to torment him.  Paul says “I must go on boasting.  Although, there is nothing to be gained” (II Cor 12:1).  This is where I relate; I can complain about all the work that I have or the tests I have to study for, but even after I grumble, the tasks will still be there and they will be until I actually do it.

Paul continues to tell us that he talks about his weaknesses and his problems. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me,  but He said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (12:8-9).

When I read this passage I pause and think to myself, “Don’t focus on the bad things like how much I have to do, but focus on the good that will come out of it.”  When I have a test for school I always moan about all the work that I have to put into a test to actually pass the test.  I never stop to think about all of the good that can come out of me taking the time out of my day to actually pass the test.  If I pass the test, I can finish the class.  If I finish all my classes, I can graduate.  If I graduate, I can get a good job.  I forget to focus on the end goal.

I often receive this reminder and thank God.  He is the one that has placed me here and has given me the tasks to do.  If I follow this path he has before me, not complain and strive to complete the work I have, then I will be rewarded.  Paul continues to say in Verse 10, “This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I receive this reminder from God, I take a step back and pray.  I lay everything down before Him.  Release any anxiety, weakness, and stress to Him.  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” We can’t live our lives obsessing about all the work we are tasked with.  We need to invite the Lord into our lives and realize that what we do, we do for Him.

~ Nathan Andrus

Monday, October 5, 2015

In a Dry and Desert Land

There are days when I wake to have my quiet time with God and I feel nothing.  Maybe you’ve experienced this too.  I know I should be knocked-over with awe at his majesty and humbled by his mercy, but I go through the action of “quiet-time” without feeling much at all. I don’t know about you, but this experience is somewhat troubling – a feeling I think King David in the Old Testament also experienced.

When David writes Psalm 63, he’s living out in the desert.  He’s no doubt thirsty, hungry, and in need of provision.  Even though his body is deprived of nourishment, he acknowledges it’s his soul that is in the greatest need of satisfaction:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Ps 63.1)

These words comment on my experience of going numbly through my quiet time.  This numbness I’m feeling is really thirst, this apathy is really hunger.  My appetite at this moment is to know and be known by God.

But it seems I often come to God looking for some nebulous feeling of “fullness” or encouragement.  David’s words correct and remind me: I need to go to God for God.  I must seek Him because He’s worthy and pursue Him in order to praise Him. 

Over the next 10 verses of Psalm 63, David reminds us we’re satisfied by God when we seek God. We go to Him to worship and to adore Him.  And when we do, He often chooses to satisfy us with Himself. Or as David puts it, “as with the richest of foods” (Ps 63.5). 

So how do we do this?  David’s next words are helpful.  He states, “I have seen you in your sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Ps 63.2-3).  He remembers his times of worship and knows he has experienced the incredible love of God.  Because of this David determines: I will praise God.

The next time you set into your quiet time and you feel dry and empty, forget about obtaining some feeling or sensation. Set your heart on God.  Remember His love in your life and recall his acts of faithfulness to you. Meditate on Scriptures that talk about God’s character and reflect on God’s story of faithfulness in your life. This is worship. And when we do this, the God of all the Universe with reward you with Himself.  

~ Ben Vaught