Category: Devotionals

Friends and Dreams

Written by Various Authors
on June 30, 2020 in Devotionals

“Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”  – Proverbs 27:9 (NKJV)

I just came back from Japan where I lived for almost a year.  Before I left Canada, a good friend challenged me with a question:  “Would you be ready to die there? Away from family and friends?”  I know Psalm 41 and 55 like the back of my hand (God is faithful–check ’em out!)–so after two long seconds I answered, “Yes”. My intention was to establish myself and make disciples. It was my second time in this country. (I spent the winter of 2016/2017 serving at Northstar in Nagano). But, I only had one contact–a snowboarder/surfer missionary named JP, in Hokkaido. 

I studied the language over the summer in Sapporo. For work, I made beds at a hotel in the morning; for fun, I hung with the skaters at Odori park during the weekends.  These skateboarders immediately welcomed me in, even though I can hardly skate and could barely remember their names. I would dig into their instagram to avoid the shame of not being able to reply properly each time they shouted my name with enthusiasm. I would go to the Sapporo International Church–but I had a hard time with my own theology then, and connecting with people took a lot of effort. I was inconsistent with reading my bible. Intentionally praying was rare other than lamenting over how boring my job was.  

Although I was proficient at work and snowboarding was surreal (if we look at the stats, the average yearly snowfall of Copper Mountain is 8 meters, Kiroro is 21), I was not on top of my game spiritually.  I even got to take a few laps and a couple drinks with Heiki Sorsa and Eero Ettala which added to my winter stokedness. 

What I am realizing now is that I would rather do something I don’t like with friends than doing something I love alone. When I look back, the highlights of my time in Japan were the 4-5 moments I had with JP, moments in which we would pray, share the gospel, encourage one another with stories, laugh, have fun and just be real honest with our struggles. If there is one thing this trip to Japan taught me, it is that I fooled myself thinking I was strong enough in my faith to go alone. I need friends. I willfully put God on the back burner and got sucked up doing things I will later be judged for. My advice is this  If your dreams do not involve your most valuable relationships, those dreams are most likely going to turn into nightmares.

To end on a good note, I do not regret going. Mercy triumph over judgement. God is not surprised and it is humbling to remember mistakes can be a part of being out of focus or just learning. Both are human. I am grateful that I still believe Jesus Christ is my savior and there is nothing that can separate me from His Love. Maybe one seed of the few I was able to sow will take root?

CHALLENGE


Take time to ask God:  
1)  Which are the most important relationships in your life?
2)  What are you passionate about in life, aspirations, dreams?
3)  Is there anything you can initiate or join that puts your answers from 1) and 2) together?

By Benjamin Poitras | Montreal, Quebec 

Posted in Devotionals

Valuable

Written by Various Authors
on June 23, 2020 in Devotionals

John 4:1-26

We live in a world of partiality. Whether or not we believe or acknowledge it, we all live with certain biases that affect the way we view and treat others. We give leniency or preference to some, while others we criticize and set aside. By our words and actions we deem who we believe to be worthy, accepted, and valued, and who is not. 

In John 4 we see Jesus go against every societal bias in that day. Jesus, a Jewish man, sits at a well and strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Not only was it uncommon then for a man to show any sign of respect for a woman, but the Jews despised the Samaritans. You would never have seen a Jewish man reach out to a Samaritan woman. Ever. Even the woman thought it strange (John 4:9). Jesus, however, is not bound by societal norms and expectations. Instead, He is moved by the heart of God to show God’s love to His children. 

This woman had a fairly colored past, one littered with brokenness and shame. To herself, she was worthless; to the public, a disgrace. It was likely that at every turn she was met with looks of disapproval and disgust. Then she met Jesus, a man full of mercy and compassion. 

In every interaction–with every word and deed–Jesus showed people their true value. A value based not on the subjective biases of the cultural, but on the intrinsic value established by their Creator. Every human possesses great value, not because society says so, but because God says so. Jesus knew this and He lived it. 

Like Jesus, we should be moved by the love of God to show all people they are worthy, accepted, and valued, especially the oppressed and rejected. Every word and action should be directed toward this end. Unfortunately our sinful hearts get in the way of seeing and treating others in this way. Our own prejudices fight against the very heart of God for His children. May this be no more! We must battle against our sinful nature and strive to show honor, respect and love. In doing so, our broken and suffering world will be drawn to its Savior, in whom it will find perfect healing and restoration.

CHALLENGE


What makes you feel valued?
How are you showing others that they are valuable to you?
In what way can you act like Jesus to bring healing and restoration?

By Chris Willett | Springville, UT

Posted in Devotionals

In the Spotlight

Written by Various Authors
on June 16, 2020 in Devotionals

John 3:22-36 (NASB)

“He must increase, but I must decrease”. These words are not common to us. Certainly not in a world that regularly exalts personal status. Sure, we love the idea of rooting for others, that is until they start to invade our territory. We want others to succeed so long as they don’t supersede. Rarely one willingly takes the backseat to another that comes after them.

But this is not so with John the Baptist. He was one who was specifically called to prepare the way for the coming Messiah (Isaiah 40:3; Mk. 1:2-5). He came preaching a message of repentance–a turning of heart back to the one true God. Accompanying this as a sign of one’s repentance was baptism (hence the name John the Baptist). So whenever you see John in the gospels you generally find him both preaching and baptizing. In John 3:22-36 we see John the Baptist doing just that. 

One of John’s disciples hears word that Jesus has also been baptizing and comes to John with a concern. He says, “the one who you testify about is also baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” Or in today’s words, “John this Jesus guy is stealing all our clients. He is taking all our followers. We are being overshadowed by him.”

John’s response is beautiful. He depicts a wedding saying, “The groom is who the bride is for. But it is the groom’s friend who rejoices for the groom to receive his bride.” John had never forgotten that in God’s story, Jesus was the focus. While John had a very important part to play in this story, his role was to proclaim and rejoice in Jesus. John had not mistaken his place before God’s anointed Son, the Messiah. Because of this, we see John exclaim with great joy, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Could we, like John the Baptist, say “Jesus must increase and I must decrease”? Or are we the ones who would say “Jesus, you can increase, as long as it doesn’t come at an inconvenience to me, as long as I don’t lose my comforts and securities. You can increase as long as I don’t have to sacrifice.” I pray that we would have such a view of Jesus–of His greatness and majesty–that we would harold “Jesus, no matter the cost, no matter the sacrifice or loss, no matter the inconvenience, You must increase.”

CHALLENGE


In what ways do you hold onto the spotlight?
Why is it so difficult for us to let Jesus “increase”? To let others “increase”?
How can you act in healthy humility?

By Chris Willett | Springville, UT

Posted in Devotionals

Lament

Written by Various Authors
on June 9, 2020 in Devotionals

“At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over” Daniel 10:2 (NIV).

Skiers and snowboarders are tough. After taking a rail to the shin or catching an edge on a landing, we get back up and start riding again. Yeah, it hurts, but we’ve trained ourselves to be resistant towards pain–to ignore it.

While this sentiment is very helpful when it comes to hitting massive jumps or hand rails–it’s not necessarily the best rule in every situation. When we are hurting, sometimes it makes sense to ignore it and push on. While it goes against our “tough guy” nature, sometimes the best response to pain is sorrow. 

There is so much darkness in the world. Our world has experienced much of this darkness these days–sickness, hurt, pain, and injustice. We are doing our best to keep up. 

Get beat up, but get back at it. Right? You’re a skier/snowboarder. Be resistant to pain! But what if you wreck yourself trying a switch-backside-double-cork-12? Should you keep riding or should you go to a hospital and get that crap checked out? (For you super-shredders, the answer is go to the hospital). Resilience is important. Preventing sickness and death is essential. Fighting against injustice is mandatory. But sometimes when you are very broken, you need to give yourself time to heal. Right now our world is very broken.

Mourning isn’t enjoyable, but it is a necessary part of healing deep hurt. Jesus sets this example for us in a time of deep pain, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jeremiah summarizes the importance of sorrow in Lamentations 7:2-3: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting…Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart (Lamentations 7:2-3). A sad face is good for the heart. If you don’t give yourself time to mourn, you don’t give yourself time to heal. However, if you DO give yourself time to mourn, you equip yourself to be a stronger agent of renewal. 

Taking time to mourn, (in whatever way that looks like to you–weeping, exercising, napping, sitting in quiet solitude, etc) is not a cop out. Mourning is not being complacent. In mourning you grow stronger. Weep, reflect, listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and act on them. Don’t forget that you need to act. Let your mourning lead to a genuine outpouring of positive change for you and others. If you need time to be sad, that’s okay. Take a break, reach out to friends, and get the support you need. And then, when you feel strong enough, do everything you can to help your fellow brother & sister. Let’s be in this together.

CHALLENGE


What does allowing yourself time to mourn look like?
How can you take time to listen to the Spirit?
How do you feel the Holy Spirit specifically calling you to act?

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Repentance

Written by Various Authors
on June 2, 2020 in Devotionals

Luke 7:36-50

Most of us haven’t enjoyed quarantine, but we have enjoyed receiving our stimulus checks in the mail. However, that stimulus check won’t do you any good if you don’t take it to the bank and deposit it. So much potential wasted if you don’t make the choice to put it to good use. (Yes, I know that some people got their stimulus via direct deposit but please quiet down that doesn’t fit with my analogy). What if you have a $1,200 debt from a pair of designer pajamas you bought for the stay at home order, and you receive a $1,200 stimulus check that you don’t even take the time to cash? Or what if you receive the check and promptly rip it up and throw it in the trash. Seems a little silly, doesn’t it?

Last week we talked about debt and the fact that God has sent His Son to pay off our debt. Why do some people receive Jesus & salvation, and some people “rip it up and throw it in the trash”? Why is it so difficult to let someone pay the price for our sins? Well, pride for one–but mostly because of this thing called repentance. Repentance is the process that we go through to “accept the check”–aka, accept Jesus’ death on the cross as a payment for our sins. And, repentance sucks because we have to admit to ourselves, our peers, and our God, that we have sinned and fallen short, that we are not good enough, that we are sinners, and that we are in need of a savior. Our shortcomings are not often something we are proud of, or want to make public–in repentance, this is necessary.

How do we go about repentance? C.S. Lewis explains in his Mere Christianity that fallen mankind “is a rebel who must lay down his [or her] arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, and saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor–that is the only way out of our ‘hole.’” Why is repentance hard? “It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.”

So if repentance is really this difficult, why does anyone do it at all? (Maybe my debt isn’t looking so bad anyway…) Although repentance may be hard work, it’s the testimony of people who have already repented that make you curious. They share their newfound freedom, security, and joy! You start to wonder, maybe this repentance stuff is worth a try?

In Luke 7, Jesus explains how it is the people who are rescued from the greatest amount of sin who are the most thankful for the freedom of repentance. No matter how deep a hole you have dug, Christ wants to help you in your process of repentance and give you the freedom only found in loyalty to Him.

CHALLENGE


Are you curious about others’ post-repentance joy? Curious enough to try it out yourself?
Do you feel trapped by a specific sin? 
Who can support you in your process of repentance? It is not something you have to go through alone!
Are you currently benefiting from the freedom of repentance? Tell someone about it! Support someone in their journey!

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Debt

Written by Various Authors
on May 26, 2020 in Devotionals

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” Matthew 18:23 (NIV)

How many of you are in debt? Student loans, car payments, mortgages, credit card bills, etc. Or perhaps you are totally debt-free! (Dave Ramsey would be proud). That would feel pretty good wouldn’t it? To be totally free of debt? Despite how much money you do or do not owe the bank, I’m afraid that we are all in debt in one way or another. (Remember that one favor you promised your friend? Yeah, they haven’t forgotten. You might want to get on that). 

Monetary and social debt is something that we can tangibly understand. Because of that, it is actually a good point of reference when we think about salvation. You know when you get a statement in the mail that says, “this is how much you owe, and this is why”? Romans 3:23 does that for us regarding our debt to Christ: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are indebted to Christ because of our sins, and we–by our own means–have no way of paying it off. This is where Jesus comes in.

But wait, hold on!–why are we in debt in the first place? If God really loves us and is planning on forgiving our sins through Jesus anyways, can’t he just save some time and agony and cut us some slack? While this seems like a reasonable suggestion, no–God cannot. 

There are some humanly impossible contradictions–like how Starbursts are somehow both solid AND juicy like a liquid?? In the same way, it’s impossible for humans to be simultaneously just and merciful. God, on the other hand, is perfectly both: “For I, the LORD, love justice” (Isaiah 61:8) & “delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18). Because God is perfectly just, it’s impossible for Him to shrug his shoulders and say “eh, whatever, your debts are forgiven.” But, because God delights to show mercy, it is in His perfect character to maintain justice while still offering forgiveness. This beautiful contradiction is what I am now dubbing the “Jesus loophole.”

In God’s perfect justice, He cannot “forgive” our debt. God does not “look the other way” at our sins. There is still a price to be paid for falling short of the glory of God. Yet, our Father knows that we, by ourselves, are not capable of crawling out of the hole we have dug ourselves into, so He sends His son to bail us out. (John 3:16-18).

God extends grace to us through His merciful gift of Jesus Christ even while we are stuck in the bottom of a self-dug, sinful pit. We have fallen short, we have fallen into a mess that we made ourselves. In doing so we have transgressed against our perfect God and are indebted to him in ways we cannot pay. Because God is just, the debt must be paid. Because God is merciful, he sends his son to pay the price for us (Ephesians 2:4-5).

As C.S. Lewis summarized in Mere Christianity, “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.” This fresh start is continually offered to you, no matter what situation you find yourself in (or how many times you find yourself there). What accounts do you have that need to be settled up with the King? He is extending you mercy and opportunity to start fresh, take it!

CHALLENGE


How have you sinned and fallen short of the glory of God this week?
How have you seen God extend his mercy throughout your life?
Have you taken His offer to start fresh? If yes, how? If no, why not?

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Missed Messages

Written by Various Authors
on May 19, 2020 in Devotionals

John 2:13-25

Signs and riddles–what an interesting way to communicate truth. You would think that if someone has something important to say, they would say it in the clearest way possible. Yet these tend to be Jesus’ go-to teaching methods. 

In John 2 we see Jesus get into a little confrontation with the Jewish leaders. He catches them defiling the temple, God’s House and the Jewish holy place of worship. Enraged by such a terrible offense, Jesus drives everybody out of the temple, flipping over tables and dumping our money bags. 

Imagine this from the standpoint of the Jewish leaders. They’re thinking, “who in the world does this guy think he is? What gives him the right?” So they ask Jesus, “By what authority do You do these things? Prove yourself!” Little did they know they were talking to the Son of God.

Jesus could have just come right out with it saying, “Guys, I’m literally God in the flesh. You know, that one whom your teachers have been speaking of for centuries, that’s me.” and then give them sign after sign as He was standing in their midst. Instead, He spoke of a sign that was to come. He says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” The Jewish leaders–certain He is crazy–responded, “This temple took decades to build, you would rebuild it in three days?” Clearly they had no idea what He was talking about. 

Luckily we get some behind the scenes commentary on what Jesus is really getting at. John tells us that Jesus was speaking of the day when He would be crucified and then raise back to life three days later. He was pointing to His death and resurrection as a sign that proclaims Him to be the Son of God, the One who came to take away the sins of the world. 

I believe many of us are like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day–constantly missing God’s message to us. God has gone through incredible lengths to draw us to Himself and to our Savior. Unfortunately we miss what He is trying to tell us. There is an easy solution though! The Bible is God’s megaphone through which His love and grace is shouted to the ends of the earth. Let’s turn to its pages and dive deep!

CHALLENGE


Do you have a riddle that you are working through in your life right now?
What is confusing about it?
Where have you looked for answers? How can you look for answers in the word of God?

By Chris Willett | Springville, UT

Posted in Devotionals

All In

Written by Various Authors
on May 12, 2020 in Devotionals

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” Mark 1:16-18 (NIV).

In order to be a successful skier/snowboarder, you have to be all in. In fact, in order to truly master any endeavor, you have to give it all you have. A moment of hesitation could cost you the game or cause unnecessary injury. 

Full send. All in. Don’t look back. 

What if we translated our athletic endeavors into our Spiritual lives? All in. Full send. No hesitation. That is exactly the way the disciples reacted to Jesus. He said, “Come follow me.” Immediately they dropped what they were doing and followed him. They left their nets on the beach. Their nets were their means of providing for themselves and their families. Fishermen spent hours cleaning and mending their nets after each catch. Yet, they just left them lying on the beach. The disciples didn’t waver and say, “Jesus, wait, let me go talk this over with my family.” They didn’t weigh a pro/con list or ask for a day or two to think about it. They were all in because Jesus was that compelling. He was so worth leaving everything behind for. 

What would our lives look like if we followed this example? Did the disciples waver in their faith? Yes, sometimes. But they dropped everything and immediately followed Him. What is holding you back from following Him today? Imagine what our world would look like if each and every one of us committed to being all in, and following our Savior without hesitation. 

CHALLENGE


What is holding you back from releasing all control to Jesus Christ?
How would your life change if you were “all in” with your faith?

By Jordyn Edwards | Kentwood, MI

Posted in Devotionals

Undefiled Worship

Written by Various Authors
on May 5, 2020 in Devotionals

John 2:13-25 — “Jesus Clears the Temple Courts”

Worship is something that God takes very seriously. We see throughout much of the Old Testament God’s specific directions on how His people are to engage in a relationship of worship with Him. He stresses over and over again how worship is to be pure and undefiled. So then, what happens when the religious leaders, the ones who are supposed to be leading the people in proper worship of God, turn the holy place of worship into a “house of thieves”? 

Well, in John 2:13-25 we see just that. 

This story takes place during Passover, which is an incredibly significant time for the Jews, God’s chosen people. It was a time dedicated to this pure, undefiled worship of God. Jews would travel hundreds of miles to the temple in Jerusalem to partake in the week’s events. During Passover, the temple courts should be filled with beautiful offerings of worshipful repentance, but instead, Jesus finds people trying to make money off of this sacred occasion. 

Jesus is not pleased with what He sees taking place in His Father’s house– like overturning-tables not pleased.  But Jesus can’t get angry, right? Well, in this moment Jesus was filled with righteous anger driven by a zeal for the holiness of God. It turns out the religious leaders and money changers were taking advantage of those who had come to worship and were actually robbing them of their money. They had turned the house of God into a house of thieves. Now, Jesus showed endless grace to the masses but one thing He would not allow is the defilement of the worship of God. So He puts an end to it. 

I think oftentimes we are tempted to think little of the worship of the one true God. We can easily take it for granted and can even turn into an opportunity to be more self-centered than God centered. We look to see what we can get out of it rather than looking for what we can return back to God. We may not be robbing people of things that belong to them, but we can certainly rob God of the things that belong to God. 

Like Jesus, let us be zealous for pure, undefiled worship of God, and drive out anything that gets in the way. 

CHALLENGE


In what ways do you focus on yourself instead of God during worship?
What is a practical way that you can drive out anything that gets in the way of undefiled worship? 
What are your favorite ways to worship your King?

By Chris Willett | Springville, UT

Posted in Devotionals

Life of the Party

Written by Various Authors
on April 28, 2020 in Devotionals

John 2:1-12

At the beginning of John chapter two, we see Jesus do His first miracle: turning water into wine. Jesus was at a wedding party when catastrophe struck–they ran out of wine. Jesus’ mother comes to him in search of help. Sitting next to them are six stone pots large enough to hold over 20 gallons of water each. So, Jesus tells His disciples to fill them with water and serve it to the wedding guests. When the guests receive the water and drink–instead of tasting water–their mouth is filled with the most delicious wine. Everybody is stoked and goes back to the party. 

This miracle, just like every other miracle Jesus would do, was to be a sign to the world. Verse 11 says this “manifested His (Jesus’) glory”. This miracle was a sign that showed that Jesus was not just an ordinary man, but much, much more. In fact, all the accounts recorded in the gospel of John of Jesus’ miracles, and even teachings and other public and personal interaction, are intended to do this very thing–to communicate that Jesus is God. The God of the heavens in human flesh. 

The thing is, not everybody saw this sign. It was only Jesus’ disciples who watched this all go down. The rest of the people at the wedding were totally oblivious. They had their party and celebrations to attend. But, for the people who did see, what an incredible opportunity! They were able to see a manifestation of Jesus’ glory, and it says they believed in Him, that is, they believed that He was the Son of God. 

I wonder, what are the ways in which God is at work today that we are totally oblivious to? How many of us are so distracted by the “party” that’s going on around us that we miss the King of kings and Lord of lords? How many of us live in fear of missing out on the “party” that we end up sacrificing time to be with the Giver of Life? I believe God is still at work doing amazing things all around us, trying to get our attention, saying, “Hey! I’m here! I’m real!” Maybe it’s time for us to set aside some of those daily distractions so that we can be ready to behold the majesty of God. 

CHALLENGE


Is there something in your life you feel God calling your attention to?
What is distracting you?
How can you take time to give thanks for the miracles you witness in your life?

By Chris Willett | Lindon, UT

Posted in Devotionals