Category: 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 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

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

Be Content

Written by Various Authors
on October 24, 2018 in Devotionals

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11 NIV

“Be content.” I have heard too many times; I was/am supposed to be content. After 3 years of being a missionary, I had a moment of contentment one summer. I was driving with the wind on my face, little money in my pocket, and the clothes on my back and remembered the words of Paul: “I am content whatever the circumstances.” For the first time I felt it for real. I thought I was content before but not like at that moment. And it made me wonder.

Is it because I once lived with a good salary and a comfortable house, but spent a night under a bridge, cold and hungry? Is it because I once had a title and a position but became a servant for the sake of God’s calling?

Stepping into this life of dependance on God has brought many challenges but not always satisfaction.

What brought my heart to a state of contentment now after walking with God for 10 years? My trust in God! After learning about and from God and spending time with Him, I am starting to understand a little of His character. He is trustworthy and faithful. If I listen and obey, I shall be content. I had a revelation: Trust God and you will be content!

I will think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Thank you for being my God. I trust you.

I then took the time to read all the letters from Paul. He talks about longing for Christ, living like citizens of heaven, working together, thinking about others has better than ourselves, and living a life of offering to God. He tells us to rejoice in the Lord to become one with Christ, stay true to the Lord, settle disagreement, and to pray about everything. He shares, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV). What if this was a prerequisite to the contentment he brought after talking about needs?

Challenge

  • Am I content? Why?
  • What are your current concerns? Bring them to God.
  • How am I thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy?  

 

By Betty Ann Cyr | YWAM Vancouver, Canada

Posted in Devotionals

BRIDGE – R=Relationship

Written by Various Authors
on October 17, 2018 in Devotionals

In this brief winter word, I would love to have a closer look at one specific letter of SFC’s core values (BRIDGE) : R = Relationships.

As SFC Switzerland, we put a big emphasis on living lasting, healthy friendships as we believe that friendships are crucial in sharpening character and bringing transformation to both our personal lives and transformation in a whole culture/ scene.

Verse : Proverbs 27.17 “As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens the other” (NIV).

Im sure I wouldn’t be where I am at today, if it wasn’t for the people who ran with me, who challenged me, who loved me, but also who questioned me.

I believe that our main aim in life is to realize who we are in Christ and through that become more like Him. Not only do we have to seek God’s face in order to reflect him, but also do we strongly need each other. I believe that with whom you surround yourself will ultimately influence this process. Community and friendships play an important role in our journey of transformation, of becoming more like Jesus.

Community and people around us is so important to our journey for many reasons:

  • You need people to remind you who you really are and what was spoken into your life, so you can become the person who God intended when he created you.
  • Friends will help you in times of temptation. You need people you trust and know have your best in mind. If you’re tempted, called out, and still act it out, it’s just being stupid.
  • Being among people for longer will help you to grow in our giftings (i.e patience will only grow if I have to wait for someone again and again).
  • Unity/community is in the character of God. God was triune since the very beginning: “Let US make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26, KJV).
  • Friends inspire. They show what you can be. It’s not about copying, but becoming the best version of you through ideas and inspiration. We can then grow to inspire others.
  • In relationships and community, we can see love. It may look like an ear that listens, feet that go the extra mile, a hand that comforts, a shoulder that remains, or a mouth that speaks value, hope, and life.
  • Friends enable us to learn to see people the way God sees them. Know people by spirit and not by flesh.

How can we live in and adapt community in our lives as snowboarders and skiers for Christ?

For a community:

  • Where and how do we create an atmosphere where people can live real friendships, get to know people, feel known and accepted, and are allowed to make mistakes and grow. How can we create family and a feeling of belonging?
  • What kind of activities do we do where people can naturally get to know others, bond, and make memories?

Personally:

  • Ask yourself and the Holy Spirit the following questions. Take the time to journal your thoughts.
  • Who is investing in and challenging me?
  • Who is a friend with whom I want to run through life? Who do I allow to speak into my life? Who can I shapen in exchange?
  • In whom am I investing?
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you two people to intentionally invest in. How can you pray for, spend time with, and intentionally live in community with this person.

Besides these intentional relationships, friendship is something that will naturally happen out of an overflow of your love for Jesus. Jesus showed how to live in friendship. He intentionally chose people to be with, even though he knew one would betray him and others would deny him. These people weren’t a project; they were the target of his love. Let us love and be loved the way Jesus did. In all of this, let our love be anchored in God, knowing that He first loved us.

Sarah Nicolaisen | Thun, Switzerland

Posted in Devotionals

Freshies

Written by Various Authors
on October 11, 2018 in Devotionals

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55:12 NIV

To many of us the mountains are home even when we are on unfamiliar peaks. Nature reminds us of an almighty and majestic God who is vast, yet knows us by name. We explore the mountains with unbridled curiosity, expecting to be amazed.

In chapter 55 of Isaiah, the prophet writes about spiritual riches that are available to us on our journey with Jesus. We can expect to experience purpose, joy, peace, and a desire to rejoice in the Lord. Later in Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes out a full list of things we can expect when we choose to follow Jesus.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such there is no law.

Sometimes our lives don’t seem to resemble what Isaiah describes with the mountains singing and the trees clapping their hands as we walk. We struggle to see Holy Spirit fruit. The prophet tells us how to get to this point of joy. He calls us to repent of old familiar sinful ways and seek the Lord.

Find freshies in God’s word and experience more joy!

It reminds me of days on the mountain when powder is hard to find. You have to leave familiar, comfortable runs, go through rocks, trees, and unexplored terrain to seek out the sweet goodness of freshies. We are called to do the same in the Bible, God’s word. Just as we thirst for powder and hunt for it, we need to thirst for God’s word to be in our lives.

The picture of mountains singing and trees clapping before us is describing what happens when the word of God enters our lives and waters our thirsty souls so that the Holy Spirit fruit can grow. God’s word will accomplish its purpose in our lives when we seek it out, whether we are on a mountain peak or in a valley low. This can be our daily lives when we drop in and make first tracks into the Bible.

Challenge

  • What is one verse or passage you cling to when life gets hard?
  • How often do you dive into God’s word or let it be present in your life?
  • What are some fruits of the Spirit you would like to see more of in your life?

 

By Elena Petzold | Jindabyne Australia

Posted in Devotionals

Where are we finding Joy?

Written by Various Authors
on October 3, 2018 in Devotionals

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1

A memory that has stuck with me is when I went to Thunderbird Lodge, a mansion on Lake Tahoe. It used to be a part of one massive property that occupied the entire east shore at one time. That’s especially insane considering all of the $30 million properties that currently occupy the waterfront. The original owner was one of the top 5 richest men in the USA during the 1800s to early 1900s. As I looked around the house, there were all these “state of the art” items for that time, including a picture of one of the first automobiles that went 35 MPH! Wow!

Here is a man that could buy anything he wanted. The funny thing is that now we as middle class America own much cooler stuff then he ever owned and cars that go way way faster! That car he owned ended up killing the love of his life. That elaborate property he owned only ended up making him bitter due to a scandal over part of the property that is now Incline Village. The world is trying to sell us happiness hard, but what it is really selling is misery!

Our Creator and Father in heaven knows what we need and what brings us joy, He created us! God makes us amazing promises of things to come if we will put our faith in Him and find joy in Him. Come let us praise him in every way we know how!

Challenge

  • What does this world offer that you are using to find joy (i.e Amount of followers, friends, money, sports, etc)?
  • Of course those things are great and fun, but can we be happy without them?
  • We have to remember all that stuff is temporary and God calls us to find to find joy in His love and His free gift of eternity!

 

By Andy Finch| Tahoe, CA

Posted in Devotionals

The Coffee Cup

Written by Various Authors
on September 26, 2018 in Devotionals

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” 1 John 5:14-15

A few years ago I had the opportunity to live with a guy named Shota. We worked together at Northstar Outdoor Adventures in Japan. Shota is Japanese. He loves snowboarding, ramen noodles, and cooking.

I vividly remember the night I met Shota. I had just arrived in Japan and was introduced to him as we got in a van with another friend, Brad. Shota only knew a few English words: “Hi! My name Shota” and I (still) know very little Japanese. Shota and I were roommates for 6 months. It was probably one of the harder experiences of my life.

I was lonely even though I had people around me all the time. The people I worked with and my housemates were mostly Japanese. The language barrier made communication difficult. A bilingual co-worker told me Shota had grown up in a Christian church but saw religion as boring and something only old people did. When I heard his perspective, I felt lost and sad for him. I thought “I spend most of my time with a guy who doesn’t see how exciting following Jesus is.”

Jesus led with a perfect example. The disciples led with a flawed, human example. Pray and live in a way reflecting what Jesus did for you. Take the adventures as they come and allow God to use them as an example to others the way Jesus and the disciples are examples to us.

I started praying every night for Shota from the bunk under his in a language he didn’t understand. I prayed we as co-workers would show there is more to following Jesus than looking good or following rules. I worked hard to love Shota well and to be an example of someone who loves Jesus by living an adventurous life. I didn’t always do great, but I prayed God would still use me in Shota’s life.

Fast forward a few months: I was back in America, sitting in a wooded park in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania catching up on some emails when I see one from a co-worker still living in Japan. The subject said: “Shota chose to follow Jesus today!”

Shota explained it this way: “I have always seen Christianity as an empty coffee cup. It looked alright on the outside but there was never anything else to it. After spending time at Northstar, I see a full cup. Christianity is not just something looking nice on the outside, but something full of good, something to fuel adventure and bring joy to life.”

None of us who worked at Northstar ever claimed to be perfect. We are all so far from it, but when we choose the follow Jesus, the adventures seem to present themselves in crazy ways. Following where He leads us brings life and joy.

Challenge

  • Is your life more like the empty coffee cup or the full coffee cup? (Do you look nice from the outside while you are empty inside?)
  • Who in your daily life needs Jesus? What are you praying and doing to show them love and the excitement of following Christ?
  • Praying and doing are both important. Do you find yourself often doing one more than the other? If so, what steps can you take towards others based on what you’re praying now? Do you need to pray for bigger things?

 

By Ben Palsha | Twinsburg, OH

Posted in Devotionals

Unwanted Answers

Written by Various Authors
on September 19, 2018 in Devotionals

1 Samuel 28

Kids are smarter than you think.

When I was little, I figured out what kind of things I should ask permission for from my mom (playing with friends, staying out late, using the family car) and what things were better to ask my dad (having extra dessert, watching a movie instead of playing outside). The real genius, however, was asking one parent the same question after the other parent said, “no.” Essentially, you get double the chance of getting the answer you want if you play your cards right. Y’all know exactly what I am talking about, and some of you are still trying to pull this over on your parents.

Thankfully, parents (at least mine) are pretty smart too. My parents wouldn’t say anything if one of them had given us an answer prior. Their silence wasn’t a sign of indifference, it simply reaffirmed an answer that had already been given.

Sometimes God’s silence isn’t Him ignoring us. It’s reaffirming an answer He has already given.

Let’s talk about Saul. 1 Samuel illustrates God’s justice through His blessings for righteousness and destruction for disobedience. The Lord repeatedly warned Saul that his actions would bring destruction on Israel, yet Saul repeatedly did wicked in the eyes of the Lord. Finally, God “rejects Saul as king” (Chapter 15). Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command, and therefore deserved the consequences of his actions. Saul sees the first sign of God’s wrath in vs 5: “When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart.” He “inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer” (vs 6). So Saul turns to a medium to call up Samuel to ask him what to do (i.e asking mom after dad already said, “no”). And wouldn’t ya know, Samuel simply repeats God’s warning (verses 18-19).

The Lord’s silence to Saul’s pleas in verse 6 were not him ignoring Saul. God had already given him an answer. Saul simply didn’t like the answer–so he looked elsewhere (looking to Samuel as the medium) for a better one.

We don’t like not getting our way or not getting the answer we want. We don’t like uncomfortable answers and uncomfortable situations.When we question God, “What should I do? What do you want? How do I handle this situation? How do I talk to this person?” we don’t always like His answers. At times, it is easier to pretend God didn’t answer at all. We pretend God is silent, and we look everywhere else for an answer, calling, or leading that He has already given us. Stubbornness is blinding.

Challenge

  • What have you been asking God lately?
  • Are you experiencing ‘God’s Silence’ because you don’t like his answer?
  • When’s the last time God asked you to do something outside of your comfort zone? Did you do it? Why, or why not?

 

By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI

Posted in Devotionals