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Thank God – by Joy Krolak

One of the most challenging things for me to do in the midst of a messy, this-does-not-make-sense circumstance, is to lay my burdens and cares at the feet of Jesus and trust Him. Can you relate?

When I was 7 years old my Mom passed away after a tough battle with cancer. To this day I remember the scene and the emotions that hung in the air when my family found out she had passed away. Shortly after our return home from the hospice where she was staying, I went straight to my room and began to cry. And in the midst of the confusion I was feeling and with tears rolling down my face, I cried out to God “God why did you take MY mom?” I struggled with that question many years following her death. I didn’t understand how a loving God could leave me in such pain and heartache. “If this is who God is, I don’t know if I can trust Him,” were my thoughts at the time.

Fast forward to college when I began to see God differently. There were many events that led up to this point. People, books, scripture, and songs are just some of the avenues God used to speak truth into my life and to show me His love. One of the biggest revelations God showed me during this time is that He uses the pain and hurt in life to shape us into who he is making us to be, and to a place of surrendering to Him. As God began to reveal himself to me as the greatest treasure, I began to understand how valuable this place of surrender is.

In Colossians 4:2, Paul was telling the Colossians to “continue steadfastly in prayer” and to “be watchful in it with thanksgiving”. He wrote this WHILE he was in prison. In the midst of persecution and hardship, he was still encouraging others to pray, to turn to God, and to give thanks to God.

I love what Chris said in Sunday’s sermon after he asked us the question, “What do we do with all the negatives, in the storms and in the struggles and the triumphs and tribulations. What do we do?” He followed it up by saying that we should boast- “You boast. You boast in the weakness, you thank God for the struggle. You thank God for the thorn. You thank Him that right now, you don’t know where to turn. Because what it does is it gives him the opportunity, he goes ‘thank you, now you’re out of the way, now I can work’. Remember God’s first concern is what? His own glory.” When we see God as our greatest treasure, as the loving Father He says He is, as someone worthy of our worship, as someone who deserves all the glory and see the depth of our human depravity and brokenness- we are able to thank Him no matter what our circumstances are.

Oh, how difficult it is for us as humans to give thanks while we are hurting. To give thanks in the midst of circumstances that we do not understand. While I was not at a place of thanking God for the loss of my Mom when I was 7, I can look back and thank God now for how God used her to impact my life, for the Mom that God provided after my biological Mom’s death, and for how God used this pain in my life to lead me to a place of surrender and a place of following Jesus. I still miss my biological Mom, and giving thanks is not something I’ve perfected. I still fall short of giving thanks even in the mundane seasons of life. But the message on Sunday challenged me to evaluate my heart and to ask myself some questions. I encourage you to ask yourself these questions too.

• When I look back on the struggles and hardships in my life what emotions do I feel?
• Have I thanked God for the struggles in my life, for the hardships and pain? If I haven’t, what’s keeping me from doing that?
• Do I just thank God for what He gives or does, or do I thank him for who He is?
• At this moment do I believe that God is working for my good? Do I believe that whichever season God has me in right now is his best for me?

Joy Krolak was serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the last two years, working with college students. She’s currently back in the states connecting people to God’s mission for the world, and preparing to go back to Bosnia and Herzegovina long-term. She loves being in nature, reading, playing board games and cards, and having deep conversations with people.

Know Your Role – by Bryan Barton

Okay, okay, so I used a shock title to get your attention. I hope it peaks your curiosity a bit. This past Sunday, Brad Parkhurst (fearless leader is appropriate here), led us through a part of Colossians that can be a little tricky. I mean, if you read 3:18 out of context, you get “Paul the sexist.” Brad even joked around a bit about wives needing to submit in a rather decent country accent. It was at least as good as the fake southern accent Hillary Clinton uses when speaking ‘round these parts. To be fair, Brad did spend a little time in Genesis setting this whole sermon up. The truth is, us men folk needed a partner in life, and we are designed to work well together with someone of the feminine persuasion. God makes that pretty clear in the first part of Genesis.

A few hours before we sat to listen to the sermon, I had a discussion about whether a woman should lead, be president, teach in the church at all, or be ordained. I have a hard time understanding an approach where I look down on women or see them as less than a partner in life. I am surrounded by strong, intelligent and godly women. Forgive me as we go on a little tangent as my brain did during the sermon. No offense Brad. It was good stuff, just wrestling with thoughts here.

Men and women are undeniably different in many ways that are not politically correct to speak of in a modern environment. However, I like to throw that aside. Men are generally stronger and faster than women. I admit that I am scared of Serena Williams, Chris Jackson (because she has skills), my grandmother who wielded a mighty switch (that I had to pick out) and my wife that once pulled someone out of a car window. You should also be afraid of these women! Women are generally better at nurturing and being moms. I cringe at my impatient reactions with my kids sometimes. Generally speaking, guys are not as emotional. You get the point here; we have differences beside just the parts that say so.

Why do we have such a problem with having roles? Is it not the beauty and intricacy of God’s creation? To deny my role in life would be like denying that I love dinosaurs or that I have red hair. Plus, you miss out on finding the part you are built to play.

How do you know your role? Let’s look one book back and see Christ’s example in Philippians 2:5-8: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Do you know what that means? If Christ considered his role a servant, we are to be at best the same. Oh, and that “sexist Paul guy,” do you know how he starts Philippians? “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.”

I was privileged to be among the crowd that heard one of Bill Bright’s last talks before he died. He was the founder of Campus Crusade and a lifelong servant of Christ. John Maxwell asked for him to share some wisdom about the godly life with us. He said, “The most important thing I do every day is wake up and tell God I am his slave. How can I serve you?” I have thought on that for years.

To know your role is to know that we are slaves to Christ! When we consider ourselves slaves to Christ and at the service of our brothers and sisters, there is little time to be worried about the hierarchy amongst ourselves. Now, there will be more to who you are and how God uses you in the body of the church. However, the journey to find our soul’s fingerprint can only truly be found in Christ.

Bryan Barton is at your service as the Discipleship and College/Young Singles Pastor at VLC. He has a STRONG and loving wife, five kids, the cat Blue and a lot more young adults that he would love to claim as his own. He loves having open discussions about scripture and dealing with difficult questions.

For God – by Christen Calhoun

Well, before Brad even got into the message, God spoke through him to me. He was talking about how his morning went last Sunday, which was the Big Give Sunday. He was asking God to come through and provide in a HUGE way the finances needed for the building. Part of that prayer for him went something like this, “God, I want to have faith and I think I have faith but I’m not so sure.” Then, after the Big Give, he got the official amount and it was over $70,000!!! WOW! Just wow! He went on to say, “Why do we ever question what God can and will do?” I have several on-going prayers that I have been praying about for years and years. After so long, and them not being answered (in the way I’m praying for), it is difficult to keep faith and hope. Especially, when all of them seem to take a turn for the worse. I recently memorized Romans 8:28 for much needed encouragement, “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I’m still learning to have joy in the hard circumstances, but these circumstances are growing me in that area, and for that I am thankful. The good may not be coming in the people’s lives I’m praying for yet, but there is GREAT good in me growing deeper in my relationship with the Lord. I see God pull off the unthinkable, like the Big Give Sunday, and know he is real, able, and to be praised!

On to the message… “Harmony in the Church.”
Vertical Life Church definitely has this figured out. You can feel the harmony as soon as you walk in the doors, actually before then, as you’re greeted outside. This is so important and honestly hard to find. The divide within Christians is alarming. We are called to unity, peace, and NOT stirring the pot, but more and more you see one Christian have to give their opinion which contradicts a fellow Christian’s opinion, and the back and forth cycle starts This does SO much harm to the unbelievers watching. I am so very grateful to have found a Church home that places high value on maintaining harmony.

What stood out to me the most was the very last verse, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” When you keep that on the forefront of your mind, “I’m doing this for God, I’m making this decision for God,” all the things in the previous verses should come more naturally. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving, loving, peace, thankfulness, allowing the Word to take root in you, equipping each other, and singing with gratitude. It, of course, is not always easy because we are fighting our flesh, but the more you spend intimate time with God and get to know Him better, the more the Holy Spirit then leads your words, thoughts, and actions. And that is absolutely what I want!

Christen Calhoun serves on the hospitality team at the kids check-in table at VLC. She is married to Ben who you have probably seen rocking out with his guitar, and mother to 3 children, Leo 9, Ryder 7, and Violet 3. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, bible study, anything that gets your adrenaline pumping, crafting, and finding killer deals when she shops.

Effort, Not Earning – by Travis Young

If you felt like a failure while hearing Brad preach on Colossians 3:5-11, you were not alone. While I am certain that was not the point of the sermon, it is hard to hear a list of sins to “put to death” and know that some of those sins aren’t yet put to death. This is how I sat that morning, uncomfortable at knowing that because of these actions the “wrath of God is coming.” You must “put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk,” “don’t lie to one another;” Paul tells us that these are the things of the old self and the new self doesn’t have anything to do with these.

The problem with reading a passage like this is that Satan would love to tell you lies about these words. The lie that I could hear Satan telling me is that I am a failure in ministry and a failure in my walk with Christ. I haven’t put these things to death completely, therefore I have failed. It just isn’t true, though. Just recently, a former student in Slovakia messaged me to praise God for using me during her time of accepting Christ. While I may feel like I have failed, I have confirmation that it is not so.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned in the last few years came from Dallas Willard. Willard wrote that “Grace isn’t opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning.” You see the point is not that we must try to remove these sins in order to be saved. The point is that we can remove these actions in our lives because we are saved. We are not failures if we have sinned, and we certainly do not lose salvation points if we mess up. However, we must work with God to change in the ways that this passage commands.

Sunday morning, Daniel Harčar with his wife Denisa, came up and spoke about the work that God is doing in Slovakia. Daniel shared his testimony and he said something very comforting to me. Daniel said, “He (God) changed me, all of me.” He then went on to say that God is still changing his heart. This one utterance brought peace to my anxious mind through the sermon on Colossians 3:5-11, because I know at the end of it all, God is still changing me. In fact, the message in Colossians is full of action verbs (such as, “put away, put on, put to death”) implying that there is still work to do. Yes, these things need to go away. However, God’s renewal and sanctification into Christ-likeness is a life-long process. Brad told us that we still live in the flesh, which is why we still experience the sinful desires, but we have put on a new self and that self is renewed in knowledge after the image of the Creator. So, have hope. You aren’t doing this alone. As the final verse of this section says, it doesn’t matter what background you come from, or where you’ve been, you could be “barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;” you could have been a chief of sinners, or you could struggle with one sin. Regardless of all these things, do not lose hope because Christ is all and in all and we do not have to handle these sins alone.

Travis Young has worked at Richmont Graduate School for a year and a half and completed and Master of Arts in Ministry degree before that. He has lived in Kennesaw for nearly 8 years, having lived in North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina before that.