Everyone’s Path Is Unique

by Mike Enslen
 

I started playing golf about 15 years ago and was quickly captivated by the game. It’s the scenic beauty of each course, the chance to spend time with family and friends, and the challenge of hitting a small white ball with little more than a thin stick – all of these make it an enjoyable game to play. For most of my golfing life, I have been able to get out to play only a few times per year. But recently I have had the opportunity to play more often, prompted by my kids taking an interest in the game. I love seeing them get excited to be out on the course and enjoy the extra quality time as we learn the game together.

These extra trips to the course and time playing with the kids have helped me realize something: the ball never takes the same path from the tee box to the cup. No matter the skill level of the golfer, every time you play there’s a unique set of shots, club choices, and ball placements used to finish each hole.

This is like our path to a relationship with God. Everyone has his or her own faith journey – not one is the exact same! Some believers attended church from birth and accepted Him at a young age and for others it was much later in life that they found salvation. Some have lived lives they were not proud of when they came to Him. Consider the tax collector from Luke 18: 13-14.

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)

In this parable, the tax collector knew he wasn’t worthy but came begging for mercy. Even though he had a sinful past, this man could still honor God and receive forgiveness from Him. If you’re struggling with something in your history and
worrying that you’re not good enough for God – DON’T! Jesus came for all of us and no matter the steps you have taken in your life He will welcome you with open arms. Or going back to the golf comparison…I can hit a terrible shot off the tee, or overshoot the green, or land in multiple bunkers on a hole – but no matter how many strokes it takes, I can always
finish the hole and put the ball in the cup! If you’re a golfer, think about that the next time you play a round – the path may be clean, or it may be messy, but it’s always unique!


Read more...

Rest In His Goodness

by Laura Courtney
 

I officially became a Christian about twelve years ago. I say this only to explain that I still consider myself young and somewhat childish in my walk with Christ and even in my theological understandings. I consider myself blessed to say that I have not faced huge trials or temptations in my walk thus far, but I have certainly seen God work on me and in me these past several years nonetheless. One of the more recent understandings I’ve had with God came about four years ago when my husband, Ethan, started working third shift. Each night, there I would be. In my house. In the country. Alone.

As a woman, maybe the fear of being alone at night is a little more heightened (or the fear of not being alone I should say). A few months into this new living situation I started to have issues going to sleep because my mind would start playing the “What If” and “What Would Happen” games. What if someone broke in? What if someone tried to hurt me and I couldn’t get help? What would happen if God, knowing my fears, used these scenarios to try to test me and make me confront my fears? Sad to say this went on for a least a week or two. And more than the first two thoughts, the last one troubled me the most. What if God let something happen to me?

I still refer to this moment as my “heart-to-heart” moment with Him because it was one of the first times that I just laid it all out before Him and then heard His response back to me almost instantaneously. I told Him my fears. I told Him I couldn’t handle the idea of having to face that kind of a test from Him. I mean, Job was tested pretty harshly, right?
Abraham too. Heck, Jesus was tempted right out of the waters of baptism. Scripture even tell us we’ll face trials and
temptations. I’m not sure I would do so well.
 
And then I heard His gentle reminder… “But I am good”.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28)

“The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

I slept fine for the next year or so until my husband moved to first shift again (and then I didn’t sleep for like three months, but that was due to a newborn baby and is a whole other devotional for another time). Not to say I didn’t have the late-night thoughts creep in every now and then but I could rest in His promise and faithfulness. Why?

Because God does not seek to cause us harm. He does not seek to hurt us. He does not just sit around waiting to “get us” and then ask why we didn’t trust him. He is good. He is loving. He desires for us to draw near to Him, but he calls us gently and without brute force. He knows all of our thoughts, our fears, our worries and temptations, yet he does not use those against us for His own gain. He seeks out the good. He uses our good. He works for our good. He is GOOD.

Again, I consider myself young in my walk with Christ so perhaps this isn’t as revelatory for some, but this was just an amazing realization for me. I felt my worry lifted and my fear diminished. Because I love and serve and trust in a God who faithful and good.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.”
(Psalm 4:8)


Read more...

Life Lessons From A Model A

by Pastor Bob Coddington
 

I went to my “memory bank” to see if I could make a withdrawal from my many deposits of these many years. This is what I found and I am praying it is as helpful in your life as it has been in mine.

I had always been somewhat glad that every time we went out with the “A” we were able to get home without calling upon the tow truck, until that one time when I used everything I knew to use and the “A” just would not go any further. I was less than a mile from home and nothing I did would get it started. My last resort was to call upon my son-in-law. He had a trailer that would be able to get the “A” home where I could determine the cause. At home, I was able to narrow it down to the distributor. It was shorting out because of a fifteen-cent fiber washer. Can you believe it? A fifteen-cent item could bring this auto to a halt!

I remember some mighty big oak trees that were brought down by little ants.

Yes, just one sin can fester and bring down a mighty fine Christian believer if we leave it unattended.

At this Lenten Season, we need to be reminded of why Christ came: to set us free from our sin. Maybe we ought to attend to that now, asking Him to separate us from our sin. He will do just that; scripture says He will remove our transgressions from us, as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleans us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)

Just something to think about as we travel through Lent this year.

May our Lord bless you and keep you in the palm of His hands in the days ahead.


Read more...

To God Be The Glory

by Jess Slenker
 

This has been a tough year of separation and new normals and unexpected events. We can choose to look at all we lost, how things have changed, and how much we wish things would go back to the way they were. I find that thinking that way only brings about more heartache and stress. We can find good in the bad and bring glory to God through it all. That is our purpose in life after all.

Jesus came to live as a man to show us how to live a life for God, how to love, how to turn from evil, and how to forgive. He came to save us from our sins and from an eternity without God. He came to bridge the relationship that was lost with our Heavenly Father and to be what God sees when He looks at us instead of the ugly sin that is in our lives. But He came most importantly to bring God glory!

All would have been in vain if the glory was not given to God! In all we do in this life, be it raising children, cleaning the house, working at our jobs, or just going through the day to day, it should all be for God’s Glory.

I remember overhearing my girls when they were little telling someone that “Mommy loves to clean!” To be completely honest, I love how it feels and looks when things are clean, but I can’t say that I totally enjoy the process. However, a long time ago, I decided that I was going to do my best to do all things for the glory of God. It made everything more
enjoyable, so I guess it showed even in housework! Do I get it right 100% of the time? Absolutely not! I must ask for
forgiveness and adjust my attitude just like every other human being on this planet but I am reminded of the promise I made to give Him the glory in everything. After all, He is the reason that I live and breathe, love, and have all I have in my life, the good and the bad!

God is so deserving of glory! It was not meant for us but all for Him! Let us all do everything, big and small, for His glory and follow the example of Jesus!

“Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)


Read more...

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-
seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It
always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

(1 Corinthians 13)


Read more...

The Illusion of Freedom

by Michael Freedom
 

When we left for Spring break, everything was as it should be. My books for classes were piled on the table in my office, ready to be quickly grabbed as I would dart back to the classroom in in a week. A stack of papers, ready for grading, was piled on the corner of my desk. There would be plenty of time to take care of that when we returned. It had been a long semester already and I was looking forward to a little break. My students were certainly ready for one. A number of them had even used one of their unexcused absences to head home a day early to get a jumpstart on some much-needed rest and relaxation. Their rooms were left much like my office, their books piled in a corner, their clothes in the closet, their laptops on their desks.

After teaching for over two decades, this was a familiar pattern. One that marked that the ending of another school year was fast approaching. One more opportunity for students and faculty alike to catch their breath before the onslaught of final papers, final projects, and final exams would consume our time and our attention. We would blink and it would be Easter and blink again and I would be donning graduation robes to mark another successful completion of the school year. The Spring semester goes by in a flash!

We had no way of knowing that this spring break ritual would not look like previous years. There was just no warning. At least not one we had paid attention to inside our protective bubble of campus life. Little did we know that those offices and dorm rooms would stand, like time capsules, for months before anyone would reenter them. Little did we know that for some of us, the hasty “goodbye” and “see you after break” would be the last time we would be in a class together. Little did we know that everything was about to change… forever.

It was shortly after we got home that the news reports started. COVID-19? What was that? Somewhere, halfway around the world, a maelstrom was forming.

That sounds awful. Thank goodness we are safe here. Truth be told, I still couldn’t point out Wuhan, China on a map if my life depended on it. The news seemed to be too awful and too far removed all at the same time.

“What do you mean they quarantined an entire city? They shut the whole thing down?”

“Thank goodness we live in America; nothing like that would ever happen here.” “We have the best hospitals and medical centers in the world!”

“The American people would never stand for it.”

An email came that week from the Provost’s office. Our week of Spring break would be extended into two as we monitored the situation as the Governor worked with the CDC to determine the best ways to keep everyone safe. Students and faculty were to refrain from returning to campus. The college was effectively closed.

An extra week of spring break? We rarely even got snow days. This was going to be awesome! The amount of work I could catch up on… I mean, the amount of Netflix I could catch up on!

Governor’s orders. Shelter at home order in place. Restaurants closed. Movie theatres closed. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Churches… closed. Come on… it’s Easter!

50 percent capacity. 20 percent capacity. 10 percent capacity. Everyone wear masks. Stay at least six feet apart. Don’t visit with friends… extended family… your parents. Close the nursing homes. No visitors in hospitals. What do you mean we are running out of ventilators… masks… hand sanitizer… antibacterial soap… Lysol wipes… toilet paper?!?!? This can’t happen here! Can it?

Somewhere those papers still sat, ungraded. The books were still piled in eager anticipation of being snatched up again. Empty chairs waited at empty desks. Empty classrooms sat in silence. The gaze of students was replaced by flickering screens… laptops for those that had brought them home…smartphones for others. No textbooks… they were still locked in dorm rooms. No library books for compiling research; they were locked in a shuttered library. No graduation ceremony. No robes. This will certainly be over by the Fall. Right? God, you’ve got this… right???

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

When things are going well or at least when they are predictable, it is easy to believe the lie that we are in control. It’s easy to live our lives without much thought towards God. We make our plans, we set our paths, and we assume that we have control over small to monumental decisions in our lives. We’ve got this! We have this all under control.

However, this control is an illusion. It can be disrupted in a moment…even by a microscopic virus. Then, all of the power of all of the governments of the world falter and our weakness and inadequacy is revealed.

As James so adeptly points out, living our lives without recognizing God’s lordship or His will is sinful living. In a country where rugged individualism is coupled with a “pull myself up by my own bootstraps” mentality, it is easy to fall comfortably into this lie. I wish that it didn’t take a global pandemic to remind me that He is in control. He alone has the power over my life and over His creation. My sense of control is only an illusion and my belief in that illusion is fostered by my pride, my arrogance, and own sinful sense of self-importance. My strength lies not in my wrestling for control but in my releasing that control to the only One that has the power and authority to wield it. Indeed, this is what the Bible teaches us, that our freedom is found in submitting to the authority of God, to His purposes, and His will.

The things of this world that shock us are no surprise to our God. The powers that bring us to our knees are no match for our God. The evil that deceives us flees before our God. The fears that hold us captive shatter before our God. And the peace that eludes us is ever-present with our God.

“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.” (Romans 8:38-39)


Read more...