Category: Devotionals

Trust: Full Send pt 1

Written by Various Authors
on January 15, 2020 in Devotionals

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you ever tried to do a trick and then at the last second decide you aren’t going to fully commit? You pause in the middle of the air end up bailing because you weren’t confident in your ability. You might ride away fine or you might end up breaking a bone. If we don’t commit to Jesus with ALL of our heart we also start to set up our life for the recurring bail. We won’t ever get anywhere and we won’t see any progress in our relationship with Him. What ends up happening if we only give Christ part of our heart is that we end up remaining stagnant in our relationship with Him. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 say that we need to trust in the Lord with ALL of our heart. Did you notice how it didn’t say trust in the Lord with some of your heart? The Lord is calling you to trust in Him with everything you have. Are you willing to give God your whole heart?

I encourage you to give the Lord ALL of your heart. This is so hard to do, but I have found it has to be done daily. Wake up each morning and ask God to teach you how to give Him all of your heart. If we are consistently giving ALL of our heart to God we no longer have to worry about the future of the present because in this verse it says if we look to Him; He will make our paths straight. He will lead and guide our life in a way we would have never of dreamed for ourselves. Even though it might seem like He is calling you to do something sketchy you can be confident as you trust in Him. If we decide to trust God will all of our heart we might not know the outcome of our life and it may be quite the ride! 

What I do know is that if you give God All of your heart you will live a life filled with peace, joy, excitement. There might be some “sketchy jumps” along the way but He will make your paths straight directing you to where you need to go; and He will give you the ability, strength, and wisdom to do what He has called you to do! Don’t be that person who always second guesses mid-trick! Trust Him with all of your heart and He will lead you where you need to go!

CHALLENGE


How can you be trusting God more in your day to day life?
Is there anything big in your life that you are trying to overcome on your own strength? 
How can you be pointing other people to Christ so they don’t lean on their own understanding? 

By Michael Dyck | Capernwray, New Zealand

Posted in Devotionals

Trust: Trust Me

Written by Various Authors
on January 8, 2020 in Devotionals

“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job‬ ‭38:1-4‬-23 

At first glance, this verse appears like God is upset with Job. But when you see it as a loving father speaking to his son type relationship you start to see it in a new light. I believe what God is saying here to Job and to you and me is this;  “If I made the Earth’s foundation, then trust me with what you have going on in your life. If I created all, then is your health issue out of my control? If I conquered the grave, then is your financial burden really that great? If I loved you so much to send my son, then is your past really beyond me?  Brace yourself and tell me the answer if you know.”

I would challenge you today to take a few moments, read Job 38-40 and look at all the wonders God has done. After doing that, ask God to put into perspective your requests compared to who He is. You might just have a new outlook on what you are facing today.  

CHALLENGE


How does contemplating God’s handiwork help you trust him with your life?

By Josh Knipple | Johnstown, PA

Posted in Devotionals

Trust: The Lord is Not Restrained

Written by Various Authors
on January 1, 2020 in Devotionals

1 Samuel 14:1-23 

Ever been in a fight? The people of Israel we outnumbered 10 to 1 and without weapons. Their leader, Saul, just sinned against God and literally the Israelites were trembling, hiding in caves and under rocks in fear for their life. Then Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, hey I have an idea! “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us.” Now when he says cross over, he means walk through a ravine, climb up a rock wall to the military base that is strapped to the hilt with pro military men. Not the best attack plan. But hey, perhaps the Lord will work for us. Here is the kicker. The rest of verse six explains Jonathan’s reasoning for this idea: “the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.” So they send it, slay 20 guys and take the garrison! Jonathan is such a beast, but truthfully the Lord is the hero in this story. The Lord is not restrained! If the world is beating you down right now, know this truth. The Lord is not restrained! Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God loves you and is not restrained to save you. So take a moment and turn to him, trust him. The Lord is not restrained!

CHALLENGE


What challenges are you facing today externally? How about internally? 
What is holding you back from trusting God completely with these challenges? 
Who can you encourage with this message of hope today? 

By Jonny Nelson | Minnetonka, MN

Posted in Devotionals

Advent: Christmas

Written by Various Authors
on December 25, 2019 in Devotionals

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Advent is a time of waiting for something notable. At Christmastime, we await and celebrate the birth of our King. Merry Christmas! Jesus is born! Emmanuel, God with us! 

Isaiah spoke these hopeful, prophetic words to the Israelites in a time of darkness. They had to wait 700ish years for these words to be fulfilled through the birth of Jesus. Yet when Jesus arrived, people had difficulty accepting a mere baby as the fulfillment of this weighty Old Testament promise. Many were convinced they were awaiting a warrior, a hero, a king. They were so convinced of their own interpretation of the promise, that they refused to accept Emmanuel, God with us–Jesus–when He arrived as a humble infant rather than an adorned king. 

We wait for promises from our Father, prayers to be answered. But when He does finally answer our prayers and our waiting is over, sometimes we go on waiting because the answer He gives us isn’t what we wanted. The Pharisees, who knew Old testament scripture like it was their job (because it was…) refused to accept the coming of their Messiah because it wasn’t how they had pictured it. It didn’t fit right with how they thought things would go. 

Our Father answers our prayers too–just not always when or how we think they should be answered. Sometimes we are still waiting because God is still working. Or, sometimes we are still waiting because we didn’t like His answer when He gave it the first time. If he’s answered, you should proceed in trust. Or, if he’s making you wait, then wait patiently in trust. Either way, God will be with you. Emmanuel! The promised Christ has come! And he has promised to come again!

CHALLENGE


What promises are you waiting to be answered this year?
Have you already gotten an answer that you have dismissed because you didn’t like it? 
Why is it so humbling to receive an answer to a prayer that you didn’t want or expect? 

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Advent: Love

Written by Various Authors
on December 18, 2019 in Devotionals

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 (NIV)

The word “Love” is overused to the point of unimportance. I would argue the same is true for John 3:16. Most people have heard, or are familiar with this verse. We are regularly desensitized to these common, yet indispensable words.

The Bible says huge things about love. Google it. The scripture references, the different perspectives, and the lessons don’t end. Yet, John 3:16 is so famous because it summarizes the entire plot of the Bible in one go. Jesus’ birth that we celebrate during Christmas is the beginning of God’s redemptive love for His people, His children, YOU! Jesus was born in Bethlehem and died in Golgotha because God loves you.

But what does that mean for us and how we love? As Christians, we are called to love each other how God first loved us–through selfless sacrifice. For “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

My parents always encouraged the proper use of the word “love” in our household. “MOM, I LOVE THIS PUMPKIN PIE.” “You want to serve your pie?” “No…I think this pie is utterly delectable and I wish I could eat it every day.” “That’s more like it, here have another slice.” You get the idea. Love is the act of laying down your life for your friends–serving them. You can’t serve pumpkin pie… (unless it’s on a plate).

If we love someone as God loves us, we put their needs before our own. We honor them with our actions. Laying down your life for your friend is heroic and feels right. We all think deep down that we would have the courage to take a bullet for someone. But it’s a bit harder to weave this concept into the normalcy of everyday life: letting people drop in the park before you, not getting frustrated when someone cuts the lift line, opening doors for others, holding your tongue from gossip, cleaning up after yourself, and respecting ski patrol. C.S Lewis has been quoted saying, “Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.”

CHALLENGE


What/who are you serving right now?
Is it something valuable enough to serve, or is it “Pumpkin Pie”?
How can you love someone by serving them today?

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Advent: Joy

Written by Various Authors
on December 11, 2019 in Devotionals

Luke 2:1-20, NIV

In this passage, the Shepherds go through an emotional rollercoaster. First, they are terrified but commanded to be joyful. Obediently, they decide to take action and seek joy instead of turning their backs in fear. Once they find the source of joy (Jesus), they cannot help but spread the word regarding what they have seen! In the end, the shepherds glorify God for everything.

Sometimes in life, we feel more “terrified” then joyful. Our situations play a considerable role in how we feel: happy or sad. ⁣Here-in lies our problem–we aren’t always in control of our situations. This often makes people feel anxious, and sometimes even terrified. How then are we guaranteed to feel “merry & bright” around the holidays? Well, we aren’t. We shouldn’t hold ourselves to that expectation either. ⁣⁣

While joyfulness and “merry & bright” are often grouped together in this season, they couldn’t be more different. Merry & bright is a transient feeling–and sometimes a little “fake it ’till you make it”. Joy is an attitude, a choice⁣–a “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” Put another way, “Merry & bright” is conditional. Something happens and we feel happy or sad as a result. Attitudes like joy, on the other hand–they condition us. They establish a baseline of how much or little you will let the “something” effect you.⁣⁣ 

We assume, in order to be joyful, we must have full control of our situations. If we can control what happens to us, we can control our consequential feelings. But this sets ourselves up for failure. Even with a “positive life events only” guarantee, we couldn’t even be sure we would always feel happy.

Instead, consistent and enduring joy comes from seeking the Lord and His will. Not trying to control everything ourselves. By submitting ourselves to His plan, we allow ourselves space to put effort into the attitude of joy instead of trying to fabricate a happy situation. By seeking God, we seek joy. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”  When we make the choice to seek Christ we will find His joy. We won’t be able to stop ourselves from “Spread[ing] the word.” 

In this season I pray that whether you feel terrified or joyful, you find the courage to seek Jesus just as the Shepherds did. Happiness is amazing, but it is also transient. Joy is constant, but we must seek it. To seek joy we must seek Jesus! How else are we supposed to find joy in terrifying circumstances? In God, all things are possible. Even discovering the joy in your scary situation.

CHALLENGE


What is terrifying you this season?
How can you find joy–despite your circumstances–by seeking God?
What action or “Let’s go” do you feel called to this December?

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Advent: Peace

Written by Various Authors
on December 4, 2019 in Devotionals

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

Feeling peace in December seems counterintuitive. Snow makes our commutes longer and more dangerous, students have exams, broken families try to plan Christmas parties, and broke parents try to buy Christmas presents. How the heck is all of that suppose to be peaceful?⁣⁣

Christmas is not an altogether peaceful time. Externally, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and simply feel overworked and tired. (ANOTHER pow day?? I have to hit the hill!) Internally, we can feel overwhelmed and anxious–definitely not peaceful.

December can feel contradictory. We feel the longing for peace, the requirement of peace, yet cannot quite seem to catch our breath. Peace, as advertised, includes fireplaces, cozy blankets, falling snow, and a cup o’ coffee (or tea, or cocoa, let’s not drink discriminate). While these are peaceful things the season brings, they themselves are not where or how we find peace. For that, we must look elsewhere. 

“And in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said…Then rang the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead, nor does he sleep…The world revolved from night to day⁣; A voice, a chime, a chant sublime⁣; Of peace on earth, goodwill to men”⁣.⁣

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

The peace that Christians celebrate (yet not always experience) around Christmas is the peace we inherit along with salvation–with the birth of our Savior. ⁣⁣Because God so loved this word, He sent us Jesus, to be born like you and me, to live a perfect human life, and then undeservingly die on the cross thereby taking our sins, our hurt, our pain, and our distress to the grave with Him. This is the peace that can never be taken away–it persists through apprehension, distress, and suffering.

⁣⁣Within the anxiety of a year coming to a close and a new year beginning–we listen for the subtle bells– “a voice, a chime, a chant sublime” that everything is going to be okay. ⁣⁣We find rest in our faith. In Christ, we find peace despite our situations, not because of them.⁣⁣

CHALLENGE


What is stealing your peace this season?
How can you find rest in Jesus?
Where in your life do you feel peace?

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Advent: Hope

Written by Various Authors
on November 27, 2019 in Devotionals

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:31&33 (NIV) – “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:26 (NIV) – “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Currently, we are in the advent season of HOPE. But what is hope? In the English language, we can use the verb “Hope” to mean both Desire & Trust.

DESIRE: “I hope-for/desire a mouthwatering Crunch Wrap Supreme at Taco Bell.” As we enter into the Christmas season, it is easy for us to “Hope-For.” We desire our treasures on earth–writing our Christmas lists, praying for snow, envying each other’s holiday vacations. In thinking about hope, our thoughts easily wander to the things for which we Hope-For.

TRUST: “I hope/trust you to keep your promise.” We cannot hope for something without putting our hope in someone. We write our Christmas lists in hope that our family or friends want to get us a present, and we pray for snow while hoping/trusting in the consistency of the seasons (shout out to Genesis 8:22). This is the second kind of hope: Hoping-IN. Spoiler alert, this type of hope points straight to Jesus. How do we get there? By seeking first his kingdom.

Hoping-IN Jesus unlocks a new capacity within us. Putting trust in Jesus has the powerful ability to over-write our desires. When we rely on Jesus to provide our daily bread, we care a little less about what fast-food taco chain it comes from and more about the Who behind it. By putting our Hope-IN Jesus, we rely upon Him for the things we Hope-For. By trusting Jesus’ provision, we discover the freedom of letting our desires go.

I know what you are thinking: “Time out, I like Taco Bell? Why can’t I just have that?” Well, you can settle for Taco Bell if you want… but settling for Taco Bell simultaneously tells Jesus that not only do you not trust him to provide for you, you also don’t think He could do any better.

C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory,

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Or as JJ Heller summarized,

I had an image of the life in front of me, and how I was gonna build it on my own. I’ve been settling for mud pies and microscopic dreams. You want more for me.

Jesus loves you infinitely more then you could ever imagine. He also has way bigger dreams for you then you have for yourself. It is scary to push pause on our instant gratification culture and step away from our desires. Putting our hope-IN Jesus, while a difficult journey to be sure, rewards us in ways we could never fathom. You are more valuable to Jesus then you could ever believe. Stop settling for microscopic dreams and start hoping in Christ’s great love for you.

CHALLENGE


What do you need to surrender to Jesus in this season?
How has Jesus shown you in the past that He wants more for you?
How can you put your hope in Jesus into action? What do you need to lay at His feet?

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Seasons Part 2

Written by Various Authors
on November 14, 2018 in Devotionals

Genesis 8:22 (NIV)
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Let’s talk about seasons once more.

There is something comforting about routine. C.S. Lewis says that the rhythms of life are God’s little way of giving us consistent change. Different enough day-by-day to keep us engaged, yet never straying too far from the safety of stability. There is a warm beauty in the rhythm of everyday life, but when we go too fast, we miss it.

Seasons are a good example of this–God promises us an annual stability of the weather. (If you live in MI you know this is a very loose stability, but we take it nonetheless). As long as the earth endures, spring, summer, fall, and winter will never cease (Genesis 8:22). There are things we come to expect in winter: snow, snowsports, numb fingers and toes, warm hearts and company, Christmas, Holiday cheer, and hot cocoa. (I guess chestnuts roasting over an open fire is a thing for some people too). You catch my drift.

But, if you read Seasons pt 1, you know how easy it is to get annoyed with seasons that outstay their welcome. Out with the old, and in with the new–right? Society today is very future focused. Have you noticed that the professional skiers/snowboarders these days ride the latest and greatest 2019 gear when we are still in 2018? What’s with that?

Sometimes, we get sick of the seasons we are in because we convince ourselves there is something better around the corner. We spend our time just waiting for the future instead of enjoying the present. We neglect to stop and enjoy the season we are in, because we are certain tomorrow holds something better. But, since when do we know what is good for us?

God is very intentional with His children. He calls us to lean into the situations that He places us in, the people He places us with, and the projects He puts us before. We fill our lives to the brim with “what-ifs” for the next second, day, month, or year, instead of entering a place of gratitude for the moments we are given today. Finding joy in the ‘Same Old Thing’ is something that the world looks down upon. (Get with the times!) But, Philippians tells us to think about whatever is true, noble, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Not what is next, tomorrow, bigger, or better.

Enjoying something we are desensitized to is difficult. How do you find a new beauty in something you have long since considered outdated? A marriage, an education, a career, a friendship, a relationship, a project, a faith…

Ground yourself in God’s truth and purpose for the present.

Challenge

    • Is there something in your life that you’re just really sick of?
    • How might God be calling you to recommit yourself to this season of life you are in now?
    • Are your plans for your future based on God’s truth or your current dissatisfaction with the now?

 

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Seasons Part 1

Written by Various Authors
on November 7, 2018 in Devotionals

James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Many people enjoy fall: the pumpkin flavored everything, beautiful colors in the trees, cozy sweaters and flannels, warm drinks, etc. Skiers and snowboarders often have a more difficult time enjoying this pleasant and mild season because they know what is around the corner.

Snow.

I live in a magical place called Michigan, where we get a taste of all 4 seasons. Whether we like it or not, it’s a small taste of spring, a little helping of summer, a dash of fall, and a WHOPPING DOLLOP of winter. However, come liquid-ice-pouring-out-of-the-sky in March, both skiers and snow-haters alike eagerly await Spring.

Seasons aren’t always fun.

Maybe you’re struggling through something in your life that seems to drag on and on: a project, a broken relationship, an addiction, boredom, unemployment, or even an unknown. Whether we like it or not, God uses our sucky seasons for His glory. The church calls this Redemption. I like to call it ‘being joyful when trouble comes your way because you know that when your faith is tested you are given a chance to foster resilience and strength for the next time trouble comes around’ (aka James 1:2-4).

Hillsong’s lyrics alway manage to hit me where it counts. If you have a second, I encourage you to sit and listen to the words of their song, Seasons. If not, I’ll give you this taste:

You’re the God of seasons
I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting

God has you where you are for a reason. You might be sick of the season, you might be sick of waiting, but it comes down to trusting that God knows where you need to be–better than you do.

Challenge

  • Are you stuck in a sucky season?
  • How have you seen God use “trouble that comes your way” for His good?
  • What season of your life do you need to surrender to God and say, “you know what I need better than I do”

 

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals