An Exposed Life

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Connection. We all crave it. We all want it. We all dream of it. It is why we were created! If you are like me however...and probably 99% of the population, genuine connection with others and God, can be difficult at times to achieve.

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself whether or not you are a vulnerable person?

I always believed I was, that is until recently. I always had it in my mind that I was a sharer, an “open book” who was always willing to share with whoever inquired about my life. It was not until last month that I realized that although I share my life with people I am not vulnerable with them. They don’t know my struggles or my fears. I don’t always let people into my hopes and dreams, and I rarely share my raw emotions. Why? Because I am afraid that if I show my deepest needs and desires and show who I truly am, “warts and all,” I will not be accepted.

We live in a world today where showing your “weaknesses” means that you will most likely be taken advantage of. Showing sadness, anger, or fear, will bring about rejection. And to live an exposed life is everyone’s nightmare. Yet this worldly perspective is completely the opposite of the Kingdom of God. In this passage in 2 Corinthians, Paul is being vulnerable with his audience in sharing that he had been asking the Lord multiple times to take away something that brought him great pain and torment. While we do not know what that thing is, we see that he is being open with us about how he felt, how he pleaded with God to take it away, and at the end of the day how God responded to him.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.””

God’s POWER is made PERFECT in WEAKNESS.

Paul was vulnerable with his Heavenly Father, and in turn, his Father encouraged him, saying that He shines brighter and stronger in Paul’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. So Paul handed his pain over, rejoiced and boasted about his weaknesses, and God’s glory and power shone through him even more. Paul became fully dependent on God to help him through his pain, and God did.  

God wants dependency on Him. He wants intimacy with us. And He wants to shine through our insecurities and weaknesses. Did you know that the very meaning of the word vulnerable in the dictionary is “to become susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm; to become unguarded and defenseless?” Our Father wants us to become unguarded and exposed so that he can be our greatest guardian and defender. The more real you are and the more you accept yourself for who you are, the more you will reflect God’s grace, his power, and his love!

Still think you are a vulnerable person?

Let’s go through a quick activity. Read the questions below and answer Yes or No:

  • Have you shared a fear with someone recently?

  • Have you told someone about your biggest dream or goal?

  • Have you shared your wounds and hurts with God or someone you know?

  • Have you shared a shortcoming with your spouse?

  • How about a sin struggle?

  • When was the last time you told your significant other or a friend that something they did hurt your feelings?

  • Have you expressed your needs to God or your closest people?

If you answered No to any of the above, maybe that is an area that God is challenging you to be vulnerable and open in! If you said Yes to any of the questions, that is great! You are on the road to vulnerability and allowing God to work through that! James 5:16 tells us to “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” (MSG)

God is waiting for you to be authentic and vulnerable with him AND with others, so what is stopping you!?

Whatever is holding you back, whether it be shame, fear of rejection, fear of not being loved, or fear of abandonment, remember that your Heavenly Father wants closeness with you more than you can understand. He created you to be YOU. Unashamedly YOU. To share your truest self with God and with your closest people IS to love and be loved. I challenge all of us to be more vulnerable today and every day. The road to vulnerability is not easy, but it is so rewarding to be known and loved. You are worthy of that Beloved. Let’s take a risk together and allow God to move and work through us and in us. Be brave and let those walls come on down.

Prayer

Father, I thank you. I thank you for your son Jesus who came to die for me so that I may have intimate and vulnerable relationship with you and those around me. I thank you for the sacrifice that was made so that this could be possible. Father I pray that your Spirit reveal to me areas in which I can more vulnerable in, not just with others but with you. Show me the things that have been hidden. Show me what needs to be brought into the light. I want full healing Lord. A full life. And I ask that you guide me to that place of extreme vulnerability and exposure with you. I thank you and pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Plant 2 Feet

As many of you know, the start of February marks a very amazing time! It is time for the Super Bowl! Six months of constant football, week after week, comes down to one game to declare one champion! While I am still quite upset the Broncos are not in the Super Bowl this year, the two teams in this year’s championship should provide an entertaining game, the Los Angeles Rams verses the New England Patriots. Since the playoffs started a few weeks ago and my team did not make it, I have been rooting for the Los Angeles Rams to win the whole thing! Two weeks ago, when the Patriots punched their ticket, I became even more pro Los Angeles Rams because quite frankly I am strongly against everything that involves the New England Patriots! Go Rams, right?

But then I started thinking, if Tom Brady wins this year’s Super Bowl, making it a total of 6, yes 6, Super Bowl victories, maybe, just maybe he will walk away from the game of football a champion. Tom Brady’s retirement from the game would mean my team, the Denver Broncos, would not have to deal with him anymore and that would provide a lot less stress for me as a fan! So I started wanting the Patriots to win this year’s Super Bowl with the distant, far off dream of Tom Brady leaving football behind after doing so! No Tom Brady equals a better chance for the Broncos each year! Let’s go Pats!

Now I still have yet to make up my mind on who I want to win the Super Bowl, but that’s okay, maybe I will just sit back and enjoy a good game and enjoy the people around me! But this got me thinking, how often do we, as imperfect creations, begin to flip back and forth between living for this world and living for God’s Kingdom. Whether it’s football, money, relationships, or things, we all tend to gravitate towards idolizing worldly things while also trying to place God in his rightful position in our hearts.

Matthew 6:33 states that we cannot possibly serve two masters. In other words, we cannot possibly live with one foot in God’s Kingdom and one foot living in the world.

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matthew 6:24

We, as God’s children, are called to live entirely for His Kingdom. 

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Matthew 22:37

But how do we do this? How do we set the desires of this world behind us and devote ourselves completely to living by Gods law and love? Below I have provided 3 challenges for you to do each and every day for the next 28 days that can help you move closer each day to living with both feet firmly planted in Gods Kingdom.

1)   Read the bible for 15 minutes a day - Immersing yourself if Gods Word puts Gods promises, truths, and love at the front of your mind!

2)   Limit social media time - Phones these days have app limiting software. Set limits to your usage and use the other time to get into Gods Word

3)   Turn on worship music on your drive to and from work - Listening to worship music prepares your heart and structures your heart posture in a positive manner.

Let’s all try to do these three things every day for the whole month of February and watch your stance go from one foot in, one foot out, to both feet firmly planted in Gods Kingdom. Test it for 28 days and see how God honors your willingness to pursue Him wholeheartedly! You will not regret it!

Prayer

Father, thank you, thank you for who you are, thank you for who you will continue to be. Thank you for moving in our lives even when we cannot see it. Father, I pray for strength and guidance in our quest to live completely in Your Kingdom, living for Your will. I pray you go before us Lord and prepare the way for all the moments You have divinely scheduled. Help us to remember that it is by your strength that we live, not our own. I love you and we pray this in Your mighty name. Amen

BY: KYLE JOHNSON

Take the Back Seat

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Philippians 2: 3-4

2018 is in the books and it’s that time again where we look forward to all the things we want to accomplish, achieve, fix, change, or grow in the coming year! Let me challenge you to make sitting in the backseat a goal for 2019. What on earth does that mean? I suppose the example comes from a leader in my past. This leader led in many ways, but one in particular that stands out to me is probably the simplest of examples; he always gave up the front seat. It was something so small, but such a constant reminder that in order to lead and be effective in others’ lives, you must first put them before yourself.

"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Matthew 20: 28

So, what does that look like in your life? Only you can answer that through prayer and asking God to reveal this to you. For some of us it may be as simple as buying a coffee for somebody, for others it may be spending time and investing in a co-worker. Giving up your front seat can represent anything in your life that challenges you to put somebody else first.

Giving up your front seat can be something so small, but will change your life. Living with the attitude that we are called to reflect the life that Jesus gave us, is all about the little things all around us every day. As 2019 is welcomed in, find those small sacrifices that will not only lift others’ up, but also draw you nearer to the one that first gave His front seat to you.

TAKING STEPS

1. Prayer for God to reveal areas that you can honor and lift up others around you.

2. Write down what the Lord reveals to you and set action steps.

3. Thanksgiving that He has provided ways for you to grow in your faith and show His glory in how you live your life and honor His children.


PRAYER

Father, open our eyes to the people you have surrounded us with. Show us where we can invest in others and be used as vessels for your glory. Father, let others see you in how we live our lives and put others before ourselves. All the glory to you, in the beautiful name of your son Jesus Christ.

Amen.


BY: TRAVIS CAREY

Riddles of the Wise

Walking in to our “All Staff” meeting earlier this month I was expecting a normal day of catching up with the other staff members and going over our “Christian Super Bowl” plans for next month. I had no idea I was in the presence of a 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist who was about to blow fire of heavenly wisdom over us. The greatest Men’s Freestyle Halfpipe Skier in the world, David Wise, calls Red Rocks Church home and he has one heck of a journey! Below is the recording from our meeting and it is well worth listening to every second of it!

I apologize, the recording picks up part way through the meeting

 
 

Here are some of my key takeaways from David’s talk and I believe they are applicable every believer’s faith journey.

  • Whatever you do, do it out of a heart of worship

To put it into perspective, pressure as an Olympic athlete goes well beyond competing for a medal; their family’s are financially supported by them placing in competitions. For a majority of Olympic athletes, they receive little to no endorsements from sponsors during 3 of the 4 years between Olympic games. Talk about pressure to perform!!!

David went on to explain that he loves this part of his profession because it’s all related to doing it from a heart of worship. He was telling us that whenever he puts those skis on, he doesn’t feel pressure because he’s not focused on his competitors or what he has to do to get on the podium, all he wants to do is ski as best as he can as an act of worship to God, giving him his absolute best!

In the 2016 X-Games, David was battling a back injury and in his first 2 qualifying runs he wiped out. He had 1 more run to make it into the finals and in order to do so he could have simplified his run with easier tricks to make it in; his friends and coaches reminded him of this but his response blew them away. He said, “I could.. but that wouldn’t be worship.”

He tells God, I don’t care if I crash again I am going to give you my best every time I put those skis on! He crashed but God used that in an incredible way that you can hear more on in the recording.

What does this look like for you?

For me, this is when I am exhausted and with my wife and/or daughter and I just want turn my brain off and not have any responsibility of being a husband/father. but that wouldn’t be worship, would it? As a father you are to lay down your life for your wife and children and that involves putting them before you in EVERYTHING!

  • If you want to be the best in your craft you MUST train your weaknesses

David went on to explain how his whole life he’s always feels a little underequipped. Like he’s almost had enough talent to be the best, or he’s almost had enough money to be comfortable financially with where he’s going in life. He said he learned that feeling underequipped doesn’t have to define him.

If asked to do a 360 turn, 70% of people would naturally turn to the left. David naturally turned right but it was hard for him to rotate going to the left. However, from the age of 14 he was fearless of feeling embarrassed from failing to try to learn something. He wanted to be the best at his craft so he endlessly worked on this weakness until he finally conquered it; because of it, 10 years later he pulled off what is the greatest run in free-style skiing halfpipe history to win the Gold Medal.

How can this be applied to your life?

For me, it’s answering text messages. This might sound ridiculous but I hate texting and I have a tendency to want to get things done that are in front of me before I look at it and sometimes things slip through the cracks and I never respond. In today’s age, this is not acceptable and it’s a little rude, even though I don’t mean to be ignoring them. This is a weakness of mine and in order to become a better leader today and even more so in the future I have to work on this.

  • Even if you fail or come up short, can you still glorify God? If you can do this, all of those times and difficulties will empower you for the greater plans He has for you.

In the 2018 Olympics, David crashed on his first 2 runs in qualifying. It was setting up to be almost a repeat of the X-Games 2 years before. There was a specific part of the halfpipe that was rough and he and other riders had been crashing in that specific spot over and over throughout the day. He decided for his last run he was going to change his strategy in that area and go with a trick that he knew he would be able to land.

David nailed his 3rd and final qualifying run and he thought for sure he’d be in the finals. Judges in competitions like this don’t tend to judge fairly across the competition. Since David was seen as the best in the World and they knew he was capable of doing a better run than everyone else in the world they judge him harder than the other riders. They put him into 11th place of 27 riders. Only 12 make it to the finals and there were other riders still to go. He thought that he was about to miss the finals in the competition that he had been working on for 4 years.

He had a moment with God where he told Him, If this is how I can best glorify you in this moment, I am willing to do it even if I don’t make it to the finals.

You can hear about the rest of it in the recording ;)

Before failure happens we can prepare our hearts for this. Look into your heart and where you stand with this. Ask yourself if you are able to glorify him even if you fail. If not, do some more searching and find out why. This is not like a shot that you have to get once and you are good for life, it’s important to check in with yourself often to see the condition of your heart. When I find myself not being able to glorify him through failure, it’s usually because I either have my own plans that I want to achieve or I don’t trust God with where my life is going.

I would highly encourage you to listen to the full recording. David’s testimony and the wisdom he shares throughout it is so encouraging and uplifting. He does mention that he donates 10% of his winnings to a non-profit organization his sister started called One Leg Up On Life. If you want to check it out or donate you can do so by clicking on this link. http://www.oneleguponlife.org/

You may have to click the link to view David’s Gold Medal winning run

Prayer 

God, thank you so much for the love, grace, and mercy you have for us messed up people. Lord, we give you everything and with the gifts and talents you have blessed us with we will do our best to worship you with them no matter the circumstance or result. We are so blessed to be your children and It is an honor to shine your light to a lost and dying world. It’s in your name we pray, Jesus. Amen!

By: Curtis Morris

Savor Our Savior

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I am currently in the beautiful season of engagement where I am anxiously waiting to marry the man of my dreams! It has been full of joy and all of a sudden I have a growing “to-do list” as we are planning this momentous occasion. I feel like the Holy Spirit has impressed upon my heart one word during this season: savor! I want to savor every moment leading up to this special event where I will commit my whole heart and life to my future husband. I want to savor time with my family, as I am living with my parents right now and know this time is precious and we will never pass through this season again. I want to savor the food tastings, wedding dress shopping, bridal showers, and dreaming about the day where I will meet Spencer at the altar. I want to be thankful for each present moment, not thinking too far ahead, or borrowing trouble from tomorrow, which is very easy to do with all the stressors that come with planning a large event. This made me think of how I want to not only savor this sweet time, but how much more should we savor our Savior!

The definition of savor is: to taste or smell with pleasure; to delight in, to enjoy! We all know the feeling of eating a delicious home cooked meal or dessert and wishing we could make it last longer. I think we often forget the simple truth that Jesus is more than we could ever hope for or imagine! The gift of Jesus means we get to live free and live loved because of His great sacrifice now in the present and in Heaven one day. We get to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8 

The beauty of savoring Christ is that it never has to end! Seasons come and seasons go, good meals come and good meals go, but the Lord lasts forever. John Piper states it beautifully: “We were made to see and savor God—and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence!” This pre-marriage season has been a great reminder to my soul of what is truly important in life. So, I’m going to seek to stay present and ask the Holy Spirit to help me savor Jesus with everything I have within me, and I invite you to join me too! 

Questions:

1. Why do you think it is so hard to slow down and truly savor things?

2. How can you practically savor Christ more in your everyday life?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the gift of Jesus and for salvation. You are more than enough for me! Help me to savor you more and more with each passing second, and please help me to be grateful for the present moment that you have graciously given. I thank you for your generosity, your Holy Spirit that speaks and guides, and that you are the giver of abundant joy, love, and peace that is available to us because of your amazing Son! I love you Father, and I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!

By: Chelsea Marron (I Mean… Roberts)

Peaceful Victories

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“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. BUT TAKE HEART, BECAUSE I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.”

John 16:33

Well it is football season, which means stressful Sundays, especially being a Denver Broncos fan, or if you play fantasy football, means four straight months of stress. As a diehard Denver Broncos fan, over the past few years, gamedays come with as much dread as they do excitement, you never know which Broncos team will show up to play. 

I would like to pose this question, have you ever watched your favorite sports team play after already knowing the outcome? I know I have and choosing to watch after the game is already over, knowing that my team has already won, makes watching so much more enjoyable. No matter what, bad things happen, interceptions, fumbles, missed tackles, but no matter how many times those bad things occur, there is no stress because you know the outcome. You know at some point somewhere along the line, good things are going to happen and your team is going to come out victorious. It creates the most enjoyable viewing environment possible.

Now comparing watching a victorious football game after the fact to the game of life is quite a stretch, right? Well no, I do not think it is. While life is not technically a game, as God trusting, God fearing Christians we already know the outcome of our lives because God’s word has told us so. In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul, the author, claims that all God’s promises are yes and amen through Christ Jesus. In understanding that simple concept we can hold God’s promises of victory over our life, proclaiming victory, walking in victory, and carrying that same attitude of watching a sports game, already knowing your team has won, with us in every circumstance of life.

While this concept, in theory, is simple, we all know that it can be very difficult to rest in this promise of victory. I want to challenge you to create your own “Victory Playbook” consisting of His promises that you can keep handy for when the enemy tries to steal that promise of victory from your life. Every morning when you wake up, every time you feel down, every time you are struggling, every time you are not feeling victorious, READ YOUR PLAYBOOK. I have a small victory playbook of my own that I speak over myself; take it, use it, add to it, make it your own, memorize it, and walk in victory because you already know the outcome.

Victory Playbook

“For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”

1 John 5:4

“For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!”

Deuteronomy 20:4

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

“…If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”

Romans 8:31

“’Do not be afraid of them’ the Lord said to Joshua, ‘for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.’”

Joshua 10:8

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

Proverbs 21:31

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

1 Corinthians 15:57

Prayer

Father God, thank you for all that you are and all that you will continue to be. Thank you for what you have done in my life and what you will continue to do in my life. Thank you for sacrificing Your Son so that I may have victory. Lord I pray you give me the strength, confidence, and faith to know that I can walk in that victory day in and day out because You have already gone before me and declared that victory over my life. Father I pray that you continue to walk with me hand in hand through life because I know there is nothing to fear when you are by my side, nothing can stand against me when I choose to stand with You. You are my victorious King and therefore I can be Your victorious child. 

Amen

By: Kyle Johnson

A Grateful Heart

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“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have a picture frame that hangs in my bathroom that says, “Begin Each Day With A Grateful Heart.” If I am being very real with you all, I have to admit that this is not my everyday life. I wish I could say that I begin each day with a grateful heart, that I kneel at the foot of my bed and pray to the Lord every morning and thank him for what I have, but this unfortunately is not so. Instead of prayers of thanksgiving, I wake up most mornings in a panic because I am running behind, I don’t know what to wear, or forget to eat my breakfast…life is just…BUSY.

In a world where the new norm is being busy, this mantra is, I am sure, difficult for everyone to follow. Quiet time in the mornings is replaced with sleeping in, looking at our Instagram as soon as we wake up, or checking the latest posts on Facebook. We are constantly looking for connection with the world but miss the most important connection of all. Why is it that we go straight to technology or these digital connections rather than being with our Heavenly Father each and every morning? Is it because we can physically see these photos or posts and know what people are up to yet can’t physically see God? Is it because we crave attention more from our followers rather than from our creator?

I believe that starting off a day with a grateful heart is difficult because it is not a passive activity, but an active one. You have to actively search your heart for things to give thanks about versus scrolling through your phone looking at photos that your friends posted. Being grateful requires attention, care, and work. And in a world of busyness…it is always difficult to find a time to sacrifice and be grateful. Yet God’s word calls us to be have a grateful heart:

"Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...” 

Ephesians 5:20

"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness."

Colossians 2:7

"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever." 

Psalm 118:29

Today I wanted to dig deeper into what a grateful heart may look like and what it can do for your spirit. 

Having a grateful heart:

  1. Takes the focus off of ourselves and helps us focus back on God.

  2. Keeps us in a posture of humility. Giving thanks to God acknowledges that every good thing comes from HIM, not ourselves.

  3. Reminds us that God is our Provider.

  4. Does not leave room for grumbling or complaining. (You can’t be thanking God and complaining to him at the same time, right?!)

  5. Refreshes your spirit and renews you!

  6. Opens the door for your to be able to hear the Lord and grow closer to him.

What has been preventing you from giving thanks to the Lord? Is it a grudge you have against him? Do you feel like he has forgotten you? Are you ashamed of something in your past? Are you tired of giving thanks?

Think about it. Pray about it. Seek him today and ask him to reveal what needs to be revealed.

We have a choice each and every day to give thanks, even if that means starting off with the little things like having a hot shower or food to eat! I challenge us all today to take time each and every day to do this and watch how our hearts can be transformed by just learning to be grateful each and every moment we can!

Prayer

Father, thank you so much for today. Thank you for my family, my home, my job, my friends...Lord thank you for your son! Thank you for sending him to die on that cross for me and my sins all so that I could grow and be closer to you each and every day. I pray Father that you begin to change my heart as I attempt to give thanks to you every day. I know I am not perfect, but I will do my utmost to praise you and love you every day. Thank you for loving me for me, messiness and all. I praise you, and give you thanks for everything.

Amen. 

By: Siam Ortiz

#goals

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"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do."

James 1:22-25

On January 1st millions of people set goals for the coming year. Losing weight/ healthier eating ranks first, followed by life/self-improvement, better financial decisions, and rounding out the top four; quitting smoking. The motivation and self-determination runs high and the excitement of what this ‘new life’ could look like takes over! So, why do only 8% of resolutions come to fruition? The thought alone seems to gather enough passion and motivation that surely you can’t fail! But, thinking and imagining of a better ‘you’ doesn’t just happen. Day-dreaming never gets you too far!

James reminds us of this when it comes to living our faith and being obedient to the calling God has on our life. While God calls us to have His truth readily on our lips, knowing His word alone is just the same as day-dreaming about those new year’s resolutions. Today, put action to your calling. Diligence separates you from existing to living a purpose driven life. God is waiting to work in you and through you, but first you have to be willing to go to the gym even on those days when you don’t want to. 

  • Take time today to list out areas in your life that God is calling you to.

  • What obstacles are getting in the way? What’s stopping you from being able to submit completely to the Lord? 

  • Throw off all that hinders and entangles, remove things in your life that stop you from being used for His glory. 

    Prayer

    Father, thank you for who you made me to be. Thank you for trusting me with all that I have, and thank you for always meeting my every need. I pray for clarity to see the things in my life that hinder my journey and strength to overcome the obstacles that stand in my way. Father, prepare my heart and guide my steps as I submit more to you each day.

    Amen. 

    By: Travis Carey

Power Made Perfect

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

2 Corinthians 12:9

Over the past year there has been an emerging theme that seems to be spreading like a wildfire across so many areas of my life, and it won’t stop growing. I can’t explain how unqualified I feel to be getting married, being a new step-father to a 10-year-old daughter, or running a league with a majority of the participants being older than me. Most people would describe being “unqualified” as scary or a form of weakness, but I would argue to say that it’s one of the beautiful ways God flexes his unmatchable power and love for us.

Throughout the Bible, as BZ touched on in his sermon this past week, God gives story after story about how he is obsessed with using unqualified people to do the unthinkable!

…But why?

I am finding that as a person who often feels unqualified during this season of life, I often relate it back to my childhood when my father would teach me how to do things like swim, throw a ball, etc. To me I was in way over my head and saturated with doubt, but to my dad it was fun, a bonding moment, and a chance to show me how amazing he is. There’s a reason I can recall the time my father taught me how to ride a bike but 20 years later I can’t recall the last time we went on a bike ride. These are the memories we hold on to for a lifetime and there is something so bonding about having to become dependent on your father’s help to accomplish a feat.

One of my favorite examples of this in the Bible is when God calls Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. When God gave Moses this call, the immediate response from Moses was, “I am nobody.” Moses felt so unqualified because he was poor in speech and in fact he points God in the direction of his brother who he thinks would be more fit to do the job. And God tells him, no you are exactly the person I am looking for! Then God goes on to make a promise to Moses by saying in Exodus 3:12, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.” God is saying, I am not asking you to be the one to make the impossible happen, I will take care of that, I just need you to be willing to do the task at hand. Then once you succeed I will be waiting right here to say, “I told you so!”

If Moses would have quit because he was “unqualified”, he probably would have been considered just another person to walk on the face of the earth. But instead, not only does he lead Israel out of slavery, but he also goes on to lead God’s people right to the doorstep of the Promised Land. To this day, Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders ever to walk the earth.

Your weaknesses are all part of the perfectly created person God made you to be! Instead of viewing them the way the world sees them, you can actually stand on them and let the creator of the Universe move in ways that surpass the human understanding!

Jesus died for our past, present, and future sins. He knew that we would “shoot at the wrong basket” and He chose the cross anyway. He doesn’t want us to dwell on our mistakes, but desires us to learn from them. And because of His grace, we not only get pardoned for shooting at the wrong hoop, but we get the opportunity to shoot at the right hoop as well. Let us rejoice in the truth that Jesus is the coach that never walks away—even when you “shoot at the wrong basket.”

Challenge:

Spend some time today and think about where your weaknesses are or ask yourself what in your life do you feel unqualified for? Pick one of those areas and through prayer and petition, ask the Lord for His power to move through it in a way that only he can. Be willing to work on this area even if you make mistakes day after day. It’s not an overnight transformation so be patient; life is a long journey! The last key part to this is your heart posture, because in 2 Corinthians 12:9 it talks about how you will “boast” in your weakness. It’s important that this boasting comes from a pure heart of giving God the glory for how incredible He is as opposed to giving yourself the glory. 

Prayer

God, thank you for how you carefully crafted me with perfection. Your word says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that your “power is made perfect in weakness.” God will you use my weaknesses to manifest your power in a way that glorifies you and expands your kingdom? And during this please don’t let me become arrogant and take credit for the work that only you can do. I ask for patience and humility as you do this! I love you so much and it’s in your precious name I pray, Amen.

By: Curtis Morris

Wrong Hoop

“…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Romans 5:8

Back in the 6th grade I fell in love with the beautiful game of basketball. Being a seasoned soccer player my whole life up until that point, I loved the idea of attempting to conquer a new sport!  Halfway through the season, in the second half of our recreational game, I had a breakaway and swiftly glided to the basket to shoot a layup. However, I missed that layup that was supposed to be an easy 2 points. Being the determined soul that I am, I kept shooting knowing that one of these days the basketball would make it through the hoop. I frantically was shooting at the hoop thinking, “I gotta hurry up and score before the other team gets down here.” I thought it was rather odd that none of the opposing players were coming to rebound and try to steel the ball from my grasp, and even more odd that my teammates were nowhere to be found either. After my fifth attempt, one of my teammates finally made it down the court, grabbed my arms to ensure that I wouldn’t shoot again and said, “You’re shooting at the wrong basket!” I looked back at the other side of the court where every player and all the referees were staring at me confused and amused. Turns out I hadn’t quite gotten used to the fact that after half time the teams switch sides and shoot at the opposite basket than the first half. I was so embarrassed because not only did I shoot at the wrong basket, but I continued to shoot at the wrong basket until my fellow teammate intervened.

When navigating life, it is not always easy to recognize that we are “shooting at the wrong basket”, but thankfully we have the Holy Spirit—the Helper—to gently convict and guide us in the right direction. Isn’t it comforting to know that we all sin and make mistakes?

 “For all fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
- Romans 3:23-24

 

Jesus died for our past, present, and future sins. He knew that we would “shoot at the wrong basket” and He chose the cross anyway. He doesn’t want us to dwell on our mistakes, but desires us to learn from them. And because of His grace, we not only get pardoned for shooting at the wrong hoop, but we get the opportunity to shoot at the right hoop as well. Let us rejoice in the truth that Jesus is the coach that never walks away—even when you “shoot at the wrong basket.”


Challenge

1. Can you recall instances in your life where the Holy Spirit intervened and redirected your path for your ultimate good?

2. Share with a friend about a time where God prevented you from “shooting at the wrong hoop” and ask them to share in return.

3. Take time to thank God for his AMAZING grace!

 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that we can come to you just as we are, and that you love us deeply. Thank you that you delight in us and that grace was your idea from the start! Holy Spirit, we ask you to guide our every move and keep our hearts in tune to the rhythm of your grace, especially when we don’t feel worthy of it. We thank you that forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a fact, because we are your children. Please give us opportunities to share what you’ve done in our lives with others. Thank you for the cross and the promises of your Word. We love you Jesus, and we pray all of this in Your Great name, amen!

BY: CHELSEA ROBERTS

Real Talk

We have all been in a position where we have said a little too much. We have given away information about something that is not our business, or maybe we have asked our friends to pray for that one friend who is "really needing the Lord." Truth is, sometimes we leave a conversation feeling gross or icky and we ask ourselves, "Did I just gossip?" **GASP** Yes ladies and gents, we are talking about the G word today. That little word that everyone avoids, but in reality everyone does, whether blatantly or subtly. Everyone gossips, and if they say they don't (just like my inner voice is currently trying very hard to convince me of), you might want to buckle your seatbelts, cause it's about to get real today. Even now as I type these words I feel a little voice in my head saying, "I don't gossip! I have listened to others gossiping but I don't do that! Not me, I'm too kind-hearted for that..." Sound familiar? Truth is, whether you are the person handing out information that is not yours to give, or you are the person listening to this piece of news that someone is giving you behind someone else's back, it's gossip. 

Why does it feel so good to be given a juicy new piece of information!? Why do we feel "satisfied" when we know all of the information in the world!? The Bible gives us some insight in Proverbs 18:8 :

"The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts."


In another translation, it calls gossip, "cheap candy," it satisfies you for a moment, but at the end of the day it makes you feel like junk! So why do we do it? Cue the dramatic music in the movies and imagine me falling to my knees yelling, "WHYYYYYYYY?!" I believe that the reason gossip feels "so good" is because it makes us feel a few things about ourselves. It makes us feel powerful, important, needed, and special. Whether we want to admit it, gossip, or being a part of it, makes you feel good about yourself.

In the second part of this verse, it says that the words go down to a man or woman's inmost parts. Now, this is not talking about your stomach, but your heart and your soul. Think about this. When you hear a piece of information not about you or the person telling it to you, where does it go? It goes into your heart where it is then stored away, sitting there like a little bit of poison that festers day by day. Kind of dramatic maybe? Let me explain. When you hear gossip, it gets stored away in your heart like a file in a filing cabinet. It sits there, and sadly, if not taken to God or to the person it is about, this piece of information will inevitably change how you think, treat, and feel about that person. Do you see how damaging that could be to relationships?

Proverbs warns us MULTIPLE times that gossip, and what comes out of our mouths is important to keep a watch over. Proverbs 18:7 says:

"A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul."


Long story short, gossip is very real, and we all do it. But the good news is that our God is also real and there is healing and restoration that can be found in Him. God sent his son Jesus down to this earth to die for us and carry the weight of our sins to put them to death once and for all! If you read this today and felt burdened or felt a weight on you, talk to God about it, repent, and ask him to lift it off you! Son and daughter of God...your Father wants nothing more than to see you be whole, and healed, and receiving the love that He has for you! His love and grace are free for all, but it doesn't just end there; God also calls us to examine and probe our ways, and to stop living in the old ways of life and live in the new life and promises that He has for us. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

"Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a [person their] life, and it is grace because it gives a [person] the only true life."


So my challenges to us all today are these:

1. Examine your heart and chat with God about it. Ask Him to reveal to you what is in your heart and through that conversation with the Lord, restoration can begin.
Ask Him for healing in areas of your heart that maybe you didn't know needed healing. Ask Him for forgiveness and thank Him for all he has blessed you with.

2. Proverbs 10:11 speaks about how your words have the potential to bring life, or to bring death. Which will you choose? If you had 5 minutes to just sit down and replay all the conversations you had yesterday, did your words end up bringing life or death? Did your words encourage and uplift someone, or did they bring them down?

Take it from me...this conversation with God is not easy, nor is it always pleasant, but He always reveals and always shows us what is broken within so that it can be healed. You are not alone and never will be, please be encouraged in that today. We all struggle with this, but with help and through confession to one another as it says in James 4, we can find true healing.

Prayer

Father, I thank you today for all the blessings you have given me. I thank you Father that you care about my heart, and you care about my spirit. I thank you Father that you sent your Spirit to be my friend and guide and to challenge me in areas that I need to be challenged in. Father I lift up my heart to you, and I pray Lord that you please begin to change my heart and help me to be more aware of my words and actions towards others. Father remind me of your love and grace for me and continue to guide my steps to be more like your son. I thank you for Jesus who you sent to bear the weight of my sins. I pray the prayer from Psalm 141 Lord, Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Watch over me God, and be with me always. In Jesus' name, Amen.

BY: SIAM ORTIZ

"Worship In Victory, Worship Harder In Trials"

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats on their victory last Monday evening!  It didn't look promising for the first couple minutes, but then all the preparation paid off as Villanova slowly rose to victory.  But, did you happen to catch the post-game interviews?  Check out a few of the player comments: 

"Everything that happens to me is a blessing man and, I'm incredibly blessed to be here and, I can't stress enough how blessed I am to be in the position that I am and that's all a credit to God."

Villanova guard: Omari Spellman

"My mom shoots me texts every day. Just saying how blessed you are and how humble to be around this, so definitely...she shoots me Bible verses. If you go through my phone there's a whole bunch." 

"It just keeps me level-headed you know. Just to know that there's someone higher out there.

- Villanova forward: Eric Paschall

"In the grand scheme of things, this is an amazing event that we're going to be remembered forever, but it's still a basketball game, just keeping faith always in mind always helps us keep perspective and keeps us humble and hungry."

- Villanova guard: Mike Kennedy

One of the things I've always loved about a post-game championship interview is hearing players giving all the glory to God.  At the pinnacle of it all, after the hours, days, and years of work that's been dedicated to preparing for the victory, a humble response giving it all to the one and only creator is awesome!  But, what about when you put all that time and dedication into something and fall short? What about the Michigan players? Perhaps you caught a story that aired several years ago on ESPN about Austin Hatch...

Austin Hatch has been dealt a pretty tough hand.  He is the survivor of two plane crashes (two!). The first cost him his mother, brother and sister.  That was back in 2003. Fast-forward to 2011 and the same thing happened only this time he lost his father and step-mother.  Hatch was so severely injured in that crash that he was left unable to walk. Through years of rehab, Austin made his way back to the court with an amazing testimony.

Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'

- Matthew 19: 26

Surely, it won't come as a surprise to you to hear the response Austin had to coming so close to achieving his dream of winning the NCAA men's basketball championship: 

"My faith has always been there. It's always going to be there, it's not going anywhere. And that's one thing that I've been able to really, really lean on in the midst of all that I've lost. And you'd think that your family is always going to be there, hopefully, they always will be. I've had to learn that the hard way that unfortunately that's not the case for everyone. But my faith will always be there man. Always."

- Michigan guard: Austin Hatch

I hope it's inspiring to see how the players of Villanova humbled themselves and gave the glory to God during their victory.  But, I hope it's even more inspiring to see a player with the trials of Austin give the glory to Christ.  I don't know what you're going through, maybe it's a great season in your life, or maybe you've gone through something more like Austin.  But, today, rejoice in the midst of whatever chaos you are dealing with.  God has you exactly where you are for a reason, you need only rejoice and trust in the Lord.  

Challenge:

1. No matter what, give thanks to the Lord today. 
2. Rejoice in your circumstances whether they are ideal or less than ideal. 
3. Pray for God to work through your season and build you in ways that you could never be built without what you are going through. 
 

Prayer

Father, thank you for the blessings in my life and thank you for the things that I don't understand.  Father, give me strength to see past my circumstances and know that no matter what, you are God and completely in control.  Help me to rejoice in all things, know that you are a good, good Father and you have great plans for me.  We love you, Lord. Amen

BY: TRAVIS CAREY

Choose to "Live Free"

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1

What the heck does freedom have to do with sports?

          Almost everyone has gone through the following two phases while playing a sport. The first phase is when you are playing and the game seems so easy; almost no matter what you do you succeed and it takes little thought because the game feels so natural to you. The second phase is one where you are struggling and can’t seem to catch a break, ever. It seems like no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to succeed.                                                   

          There is a sports cliché that says “90% of performance is mental.” There is also a similar cliché in life that says “10% of life is what happens to us and 90% is how we choose to react to it.” So what does that have to do with Galatians 5:1 and freedom?

          The 2nd sentence of the verse explains that to live in freedom is a choice! On the flip side, it also says to be burdened by a “yoke of slavery” is a choice. No matter what we do (sports, work, life, etc.) we have a choice to make on if we are going to approach certain things with a ‘freedom’ mindset. It’s all about perspective and we are in complete control of it! (I picture all the control freaks reading this shouting,  “hallelujah!”)

           In a book that we are reading as a sports ministry staff called, “Mind Gym” it talks about how “every athlete hears two competing voices. One is a negative critic, and the other is a positive coach. Which voice we listen to is a matter of choice”. The book gives example after example of athletes that face similar challenges but achieve different results because of the choice they make on how to approach it mentally.

          The athletes who listen and buy into the negative critic attitude consistently underperform because they are tied down by their fears and doubts. They focus on not making a mistake and ironically in doing so they make that mistake. Or even worse, they go into the task at hand already expecting defeat before they’ve even started. To be blunt, this is a crappy way to play the game (or in a greater context, to live life). This is the mindset that the 2nd sentence of Galatians 5:1 is telling us to stand firm against. As Chelsea referenced in last month’s devotional, Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 that his “yoke is easy and burden is light

          An athlete with a positive coach mindset sees every obstacle as an opportunity to succeed. They aren’t worried about failing because they understand that in the worst case scenario they learn something new for next time. As an example, from “Mind Gym”, Edgar Martinez, a terrific hitter in the MLB for years, found himself going through a slump. Regardless of the slump, at batting practice before a coming game he was laughing and upbeat; he was excited because it was another opportunity to break free. He knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and that it was only a matter of time before he reached it.

          This mindset is absolutely applicable in our spiritual walk! John 10:10 says, “The thief (devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” We have an enemy who wants to destroy our lives and he is wise enough to know that our most vulnerable point of attack is our mind. He does whatever it takes to plant thoughts of doubt, fear, and hopelessness in our minds in hope that we start to believe them and eventually we become slaves to them. However, Jesus didn’t die for us so we could live this way. He says he already defeated the enemy so we can live in complete freedom from fear and condemnation.

          Our fearless Young Adults leader, Jessie Davis, preached a sermon on the topic once and she explained that each thought we have is a seed. You can choose if you want to water that seed by believing it. The more you water that seed the bigger it grows and the more it becomes who you are.

          Our minds are our biggest battlefields, whether in life or sports, and it requires a daily fight. May the William Wallace be stirring in all of our hearts to fight for the freedom Christ died for. (This is where we would raise our bibles together and toast, “To Jesus! Dilly dilly!”)


Take a minute to examine yourself and the seeds you’ve been watering in your mind.

Are they seeds of positive coaching (encouragement, hope, & freedom)? Or are they seeds of negative critical thoughts (fear, doubt, self-pity, hopelessness, & condemnation)?

Key takeaways

  • You always have a choice to which thoughts you are going to believe, are you going to choose to live with a freedom mindset?
  • From the mind forms your beliefs, from beliefs form your character, and character forms your actions.
  • Your mind takes consistent training to build up healthy thought habits and to maintain them. Be intentional with the seeds you are watering!

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you that you are with us, you are for us, and never against us. Thank you for defeating the enemy so that we never have to live in hopelessness and condemnation, but instead we can walk forward in the freedom that your Son died for us so we could have! Lord would you give us incredible wisdom and discernment to shoot down the flaming arrows and equip us with a supernatural perseverance that never grows weary. We love you so much Lord! We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!


BY: CURTIS MORRIS

"Freely and Lightly"

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:28-30


I took weight lifting when I was in high school and one of the most effective exercises to whip you into great shape is the beloved squat. You place weights on each side of the bar, step up to the squat rack, get your stance ready, lift the weight onto your shoulders, and squat into a seated position to execute the exercise. It requires many muscles to work together to get the job done, and many times the goal is to lift as much weight as your body can physically handle. Once the exercise is complete and the bar is placed back in the holders, the sense of relief that comes with the weight being lifted off your shoulders is immediate and you almost feel like you're floating.


Do you ever feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? I know that I sure do. I want everything and everyone to be happy and harmonious, and for things to go perfectly all the time. I often feel responsible for not only my life, but also the lives of others. But Jesus never intended us to live this way. He says his "yoke is easy and his burden is light." His yoke is easy because the only requirement he has is that we have faith and trust in him. We just need to accept the invitation to walk in the freedom he promises. We do not have to earn or work for salvation, because it is by grace we have been saved. He already took care of the heavy lifting when he died on the cross for all of our sins and rose again! Trying to operate out of our own effort and strength leads to complete exhaustion-- that's why he promises us rest for our souls when we lay our worries down at his feet. Once we cast all our cares on him, we get to breathe easy and exhale, much like the feeling after racking the weights after a taxing workout.


The Message version of the Bible captures the essence of this scripture beautifully: 

"Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
- Matthew 11:28-30


Let us never forget that Jesus carried the cross that paid the price for our freedom on His shoulders all the way to Calvary after being beaten and scourged, so he most certainly can carry your burdens too. When you are feeling overwhelmed and responsible for the stresses of life, remember that God loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son for you, and his desire is for you to live freely and lightly.

-Are there any burdens you are carrying right now that you need to cast onto the Lord? Finances? Relationships? Control? Fear? People pleasing?

- How would you feel if these burdens were lifted from your shoulders?

- How would your life look different than it does right now?


Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to save us so that we may live free. If there are any burdens or worries that have been stealing our joy or weighing us down I ask that you would remove them in the name of Jesus. May we fully rely on You and your strength to take away any fears or burdens that we were never meant to carry in the first place. We love you so much God, and we pray all these things in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen!


BY: CHELSEA ROBERTS

Living In The New

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"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with it's practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. "

Colossians 3:9-10

Death is a strange thing. One moment a person is alive, the next they are gone. Loved ones mourn and wrestle with the idea that the person they loved is no longer here. They don't always accept it, some refuse to. Yet as time goes on those wounds begin to heal. As God starts moving and helps us to let go, we start reaching a point where it gets easier to breathe. Life begins to move forward...However, this isn't the case for everyone. 

There are moments where we mourn once again. Finding our loved ones belongings that were left behind or seeing an old photo can reopen those wounds. We relive those memories, but there is now something missing. What once satisfied no longer does. The previous verses in Colossians go over the importance of pursuing holiness and how it starts by putting to death whatever is in our human nature to do. In this section of scripture above, we talk about the practice of putting on the new self and taking off the old self. 

The moment that you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and invited him to live within you, there was LIFE. But what we also seem to forget or not put importance on is that there is also always a DEATH.

In this passage Paul does not tell the church of Colossae "If  you take off your old self and If you feel like putting on you new self..." No. Paul states, "since you have  taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self..." He does not leave room for interpretation. It was and is expected of all who follow Christ to take of their old selves.

Why?
Because your old self has DIED. 

With this new year starting off, I know that we are all in the same boat of having New Years resolutions of having goals that we want to accomplish. We are striving for a better life or something different that what we once had. We want something new and exciting! A new body or new dreams! This is a wonderful thing to want. Newness. Restoration. Healing. What I have found that happens in all our lives, however is that we don't always put to death our old ways. We year to move forward with our lives, yet continue to live in the comfort of our earthly desires and wants. 

The reality is that: because we are human, it is very difficult for us to allow things to die. So instead of allowing our old self to pass away, we start wearing our old self like a coat. We hoard all of our old habits and character traits because we are afraid of being vulnerable or exposed without them. So we store them away for a while, and bring them back whenever we feel like being "comfortable again. See the problem?

2 Corinthians 5:17 states:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT)

A new life has begun.

So why are you still living your old one?

There is a call placed on all of our hearts as children of God. A call not only to have a new heart but to maintain that heart. David cried out to God, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Even David, a man after God's own heart messed up. But he teaches us that God will always be the God of mercy and grace. God will always be ready for us to turn away from the old and start living the new. And that is a beautiful thing. My challenge to you this morning is to ask yourself the following:

  • "What are some old habits or ways that I am struggling to let go of?"
  • "Is there something or someone hindering me from growing closer to God?"
  • "Write down a few reasons why you feel you cannot let go of your old self. Is it fear? Insecurity? Stubbornness?"
  • "What are some steps you can take to put to death your old self, and renew your mind to live in your new self?"

Our Father wants us to have new life, new goals, new dreams. He created us to be that way and desire those things! We have be willing to take of our old self and put on the new self however in order to fully glean what God has in store for us. 

Prayer

God, I thank you for who you are. I thank you for sending your son to die for my sins so that I may have new life. I thank you for allowing me to be a new creation in Christ. For clothing me in new clothes, and for making me white as snow. God I ask that you open my eyes to the pieces of my old life that are trying to remain. I pray that you search me Lord and know my heart, that you test me and know my anxious thoughts, and that you remove from me those pieces of sinful flesh that are dug in so deep. Lead me in the way everlasting Lord and rescue me from myself. I pray for patience Lord, endurance, an overall please as I go through this process. Let my life be a reflection of you and all you are. To you be the glory Lord. Amen. 

BY: SIAM ORTIZ

"Practice Hospitality"

Index-journal, Greenwood, S.C. 

Index-journal, Greenwood, S.C. 

"Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." 
Romans 12:13

Maybe you've seen the article swirling around; 'NFL's Josh Norman Sharing His Blessing with SC Churches.'  But, perhaps you haven't yet, let me recap; Josh Norman is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, he plays with the Redskins, but he wasn't always one of the top guys.  Despite not having 1 scholarship opportunity coming out of high school, Josh Norman worked his butt off to land a spot playing for Costal Carolina where he would eventually end up in the NFL with the Panthers before being traded to the Redskins.  None-the-less, last week Josh Norman took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper of his hometown (Greenwood, SC) asking churches to write him a letter.  His letter asked each church to respond with 'the concerns of the church and the needs of the youth.'  Josh went on to say, 'God has laid it on my heart as a servant of the crown to reach out and touch every church in Greenwood, SC with my tithes and offering of love and peace.  It is my wish that everyone in your place of worship be touched by this blessing that I've been blessed by and now giving unto you."

So, I want to ask you; what has God blessed in your life that you can use to bless others?  God calls us to serve each other and in doing so, we will be blessed.  In the whirlwind we call 'life' sometimes it's easy to become so distracted by our circumstances and forget the abundant life that comes from being obedient with what has been given unto us.  God wants your heart and wants to have a close relationship with you, so if you are in a place seeking to grow closer in your walk just take a look at a few of the many instructions God gives us:

'Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'
Luke 6: 38
'Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.'
1 Peter 4: 10
'A man reaps what he sows.'
Galatians 6: 7
'Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'
Matthew 20: 28

As we enter the holiday season, be encouraged to look at what God has done in your life and ask yourself 'How can I bless others with this?"  God has a wonderful plan for your life and it starts by putting your faith and resources in His hands.

PS: Josh Norman also gave $100,000 to Puerto Rico relief efforts in September 2017 to help with the destruction caused from Hurricane Maria.

Prayer

God, we praise, worship, and rejoice in the many blessings that you have bestowed upon us, thank you for all that we have.  Father, give us the strength and discernment to use these gifts to bless those you place before us. Allow us to grow closer to you by our obedience in serving others the way your Son served and sacrificed for us. Amen.

BY: TRAVIS CAREY

Who Are You Serving?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
— Colossians 3:23-24

There is something quite interesting about the heart. We talk about the heart at times as if it were a friend or a guide. We say to others how much our heart hurts to see someone in pain, or how we felt it in our hearts to pray for a family member. The heart is "active". The heart makes decisions, it feels, it has motives.

A motive is a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or secret, and when the heart is involved, motive is everything. One thing that we sometimes fail to grasp in our world today is that God cares about what you do in secret and your motives more than what you do outwardly. Hear my heart today. Doing good things outwardly is not wrong, in fact we are called to love others, to serve others, to encourage others etc. It is when the motive of our heart is tainted, and we crave praise from people that we should check ourselves. 

So when Paul is telling the people of Colossae that they need to work at everything as if working for the Lord and not for human masters, he is challenging them to really look inwardly and check where their heart is at. Paul knew the human condition. He understood that people did works of service or righteousness outwardly only to get a fleeting reward in the form of applause or praise. We are all prone to this condition whether we admit to it or not. Everyone craves to be seen, but sometimes we crave to be seen by the wrong master.

Jesus spoke about it in Matthew 6:1

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. (MSG)

Can you think of an area in your life where you are putting on a performance only to get praise from others? Write it down.

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God ultimately wants us all to see that our work and how we live our lives is ultimately a  sign of praise and worship for Him. After all, without Him, we would have nothing. Our careers, our jobs, our life, all of these are gifts that he has lavished upon us. Nothing is ours to keep so we should be servingwholeheartedly because He gave everything to us. It is not people that we should be making proud, it is HIM, our Master in heaven. That begins by giving yourself a good heart check and checking your motives. Are you working hard to please Him, or are you doing it for all the wrong reasons? I challenge us all to start being more aware of the things we do, and the reasons we do them, for if it is not to give Him glory, we may need to reevaluate why we began doing those things in the first place.

If you are struggling with this today, take heart and be encouraged. You are not alone. The great news is that God knows it, sees it, and will meet you where you are at! You only need to welcome Him in and ask him to help you.


Prayer

God, I thank You for all of the blessings You have given me. For all of the opportunities that You have presented. For all of the gifts. Lord I pray today that you give me the ability to discern the motives of my heart. I pray Lord that no matter what, I remember that everything I do should be to give you glory. Everything I do should be done with a heart of love as if I was working for YOU, no one else. God I thank You for you grace and mercy, and for meeting me right where I am at. God give me the wisdom and strength to be obedient and to work hard for You, not for man. Thank You for who You are Lord, I am honored to be your child and to have a loving caring father like You. Allow me to walk with you all the days of my life. Amen.

BY: SIAM ORTIZ

America's Biggest Idol

Let’s face it, fall is the best season of the year. There is something about the leaves changing color and the specific smell that fills the air only in October it seems like. Meanwhile, people are going berserk over Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, that TV series starting back up again, and we all have that one friend who is reminding us the exact number of days until Christmas is here. However, there is one specific thing about Fall that people crave more than anything else. In fact, 2/3rds of Americans indulge themselves in this on a weekly basis, usually for 2-4 days of the week and of the top 35 watched Fall TV shows in America this sport alone was 34 of them, That is crazy!!! The sport of football has the hearts of Americans captured. There is no other sport where you can plaster yourself onto your leather couch and watch football from 11am to 9pm on both Saturday and Sunday. It doesn’t even matter if it’s the Jets and 49ers, people are glued to the TV. Not only that, but there’s an app where you can make your own team of players and it provides an even bigger incentive to watch all the games throughout the week.

Every year, I find that Fall is the most trying time for me in my faith. There are so many people, myself included that can easily fall into the trap of football. There is nothing wrong with the sport of football, but the problem is when we crave football in our hearts more than the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, football is the biggest idol in the United States during this time and with the recent controversies surrounding the sport there is a spotlight on it now more than ever. So as followers of Christ how do we properly handle this?

1)     Take some time to examine your heart.

This is one of the healthiest steps you can take DAILY as a follower of Christ. Search in the depths for anything that may be taking your attention away from Him.

2)     Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.”

Ask yourself if your heart is searching for the fullness of joy that only Christ can give you? Remember when the Broncos won the Super Bowl 2 seasons ago; are you still celebrating that victory? Absolutely not! That’s why Patriots fans are some of the most miserable people on earth, because their Super Bowl trophies don’t fulfill their joy outside of that moment when they won them (I just had to throw that in there). But it’s true!

3)     If you find yourself, focused more on football (or any other idol) than the Lord, come to a place of repentance in your heart.

How I like to do this is by getting on my hands and knees and start telling the Lord how deeply sorry I am for putting something before him and ask for his forgiveness.

4)     Make the decision this weekend not to indulge in football.

Start by waking up, reading his word and spending time in prayer. Church>>> Jets vs 49ers… Go to church!!! Watch the Broncos game and then spend time with family or friends instead of watching the Sunday night game.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for giving your precious life so that we may live in freedom for eternity! Today, we choose to serve and honor you above all things including football. And as we do this, Lord, would you be so gracious to give us understanding of the depths of your love and joy. You are a good, good Father and we can’t possibly thank you or repay you enough for that! We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus! Amen.

BY: CURTIS MORRIS

Life Is Like A Game of Dodgeball

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater
than he who is in the world.
— 1 John 4:4

Life is a lot like the game of Dodgeball. We're all familiar with the classic gym class game where balls are lined up in the center of the room, and two opposing teams go head-to- head by hurling balls at one another until there is only one person left standing. The game is simple, if you get hit by a ball you are out. 

Do you ever feel like the enemy is throwing things at you left and right and you are just trying to dodge your way through life? Spiritual warfare is a very real thing and our circumstances can often add to the mix, but because of Jesus we have already won the battle!

In dodgeball there is another way you can win besides just trying to avoid getting hit by the ball. You can catch the ball that is thrown at you! If you catch the ball, the opponent that threw the ball is out and you can continue throwing to win the game. The same goes for us in life with Christ! We have the ability to receive His love, and play offense by declaring God's truth and promises over our lives to combat the enemy's lies.

In Jesus, we no longer have to live on the defensive because "...being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Phillipians 2:8 When negative thoughts or lies are thrown at us from our adversary, the Devil, we can squash them with the very Word of God, which is sharper than any double-edged sword. He died for us not only to save us and give us Heaven forever, but so that we may walk in complete freedom and confidence that He will protect and provide, which is available to us RIGHT NOW!

So the next time you feel like you are dodging the troubles of this world, remember that in the Bible you have all the tools you could ever need to fight the lies of the enemy, and the Most Valuable Player, King Jesus, is already on your team!

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1) Do you feel like you are playing offense or defense in life right now?

2) Are there any lies in your life that you are believing? If so, take some time to ask God
what He thinks of you!

3) Read Colossians 1:11-14 and be encouraged!
 

PRAYER
 

Heavenly Father,  thank you for laying your life down for us and saving us by dying on a cross. We thank you that you defeated the grave so that we may have abundant life in You. Help us to call upon your Great Name with confidence and lean on you through the trials as well as
the joys of life. We love you so much Jesus! Amen!

BY: CHELSEA ROBERTS

Life's Not Always A Brees

One of the best high school quarterbacks the state of Texas has ever seen.  If you know anything about Texas high school football, you know this means you're in the company of some pretty elite competitors.  Throughout high school he was recruited by some of the biggest names in college football, until a major injury; torn ACL, requiring reconstructive surgery.  Bye-bye recruiters, bye-bye college football career and perhaps even finishing up his senior season of high school.  Well, not really, he had a little more success than that...  

 

It was at the age of 17 that Drew Brees accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  A decision made one Sunday at a church in Texas.  On that day, Drew decided he would live for a greater purpose, he was giving the wheel to God, knowing that he wasn't always going to understand why things happen, but knowing that God is in control and he could trust that the Lord will make his path straight.     

 

Some recruiters came back after Brees went 16-0 his senior season and led his high school football team to a state championship.  Ultimately, Brees went to Purdue where he had a great career.  Things were looking up after the knee injury and wondering if he could ever make football a part of his life again.  Selected 32nd overall in the 2001 NFL draft, Brees had made it to play with the San Diego Chargers.  It wasn't long and he earned a starting role as the Chargers QB.  

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All that climbing after his 11th grade injury and Brees had finally made it.  That is until a horrible shoulder dislocation came in 2003 that put everything back in question...a bad dislocation in his shoulder joint and a 360-degree tear of his labrum and rotator cuff; not something you see NFL quarterbacks ever return from, or really any athlete that throws a ball.  It wasn't long and the Chargers traded Brees, knowing there were many question-marks on whether he could return from such an injury.  

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Perhaps you've heard the Drew Brees story, or maybe this is your first time, but to know the story and to understand how Brees trusted in the Lord through all these times are two very different things.  Every doctor that worked on his shoulder was stunned and couldn't understand how Brees could return so soon and have such an amazing career.  Not only did Brees become a starting QB again, but he led the NFL in passing yards year-after-year.  He also won a Superbowl with the Saints, became an MVP of that same Superbowl, brought home a few NFL offensive player-of-the-year awards, and countless other honors.  

The injuries that Drew has faced have led him to where he is; a devoted husband, father, teammate, but most importantly; servant to his Savior.  Each circumstance that he faced has allowed him to see God work in amazing ways, after Brees gave the Lord the wheel.  Because of his high school injury, Brees went to Purdue University which is where he met his future wife.  After suffering the horrible injury in San Diego, he found himself in New Orleans, where he became a father of 4 and has been an active and contributing member to many communities in need.  In 2003 The Brees Dream Foundation was set-up and since has contributed and/or committed almost $25,000,000.00 to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need.  When asked about his journey, Bees has been quoted saying, "Understand, there's always a plan." 

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Whatever your ACL or Shoulder injury might be, know that God is using it because He has bigger and better plans for you than you have for yourself.  In the hardest times, push into the Lord and allow Him to guide you.  We've all heard 'hindsight is 20/20.'  It's not hard to see what God is up to when it's all said and done, but put your faith in knowing that He is leading and guiding you today for His perfect plan.  When faced with a potentially 'career-ending injury' give up your own will or understanding and allow God to do his magic!

 

Prayer

'Father, dissolve my will so that I may grow closer to you and so that you may guide my every step.  Give me peace where I can't understand and the energy to glorify you with every area of my life.  Allow me to face battles but not worry because I know that you are the King of kings.  Thank you for the gifts that you have given me and the people you have surrounded me with.   Amen.'  

By Travis Carey

 

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 4: 7