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Reflecting on the Fast

Having finishing our church-wide fast, here’s what some have said they learned from the experience…

– I was reminded every time I wanted to break my fast how much Jesus gave up for me. God is so good. He is with us through all things!!! BE THANKFUL

– One of my fasts as to stay off social media. I learned I can be more productive and relaxed without it. I will continue to limit social media.

– Fasting for the past 2 weeks reminded me that I’m a partner in a church that preaches/lives out truth! Praise the Lord!

– My fast was limiting my PC game playing. That was harder than giving up a food. This taught me about my time isn’t always spent on what’s most important. Amen.

– Starting going through uncertain times at work again. Through fasting I was reminded of all God’s grace through hard times and good. He is always with me and my family!! Thank you Jesus!

– Yes, I did fast. I learned that even above my daily devotions, I need to study more of His word daily.

– Fasted desserts and Facebook. Learned how much time I wasted. Acts study of Saul’s ministry and how God will use us no matter our past. I need to be aware of distractions-Facebook.

– God taught me that determination in my health takes discipline. This discipline starts by not wasting time on useless things as social media.

– I fasted and wow!! What an awesome time with the Lord. This fast for me was long overdue. He used the time that I had freed up to speak to me and for me to talk to Him. Thank you.

– Patience; be still and quiet. Wait on God and let Him speak through me. True wisdom and knowledge is available to us if we seek and listen.

– God taught me that all too often our prayers in times of trouble focus on our circumstances and we forget to pray about the condition of our hearts in those circumstances.

– I fasted every drink except water and learned that the promises I make to God are more important than the things tempting me. The promise I made to God to fast was way more important to me than every time temptation tried to break me.

– God showed me I did not need the sugar or cokes. He also spoke to me when I was tempted to eat sweets or drink coke. These were the things I was in bondage to and I had no control over them. I praise God for setting me free!

– I fasted from drinking anything but water and God taught me that you can overcome temptation when you put everything into Jesus. It was an amazing growth between me and God in 2 weeks.

– Thank you Brad and Chris for today! My fast was eating Paleo without all sweeteners (no grain, no sugar, no caffeine, etc). What God did in me: He showed me that I had neglected to receive His love on a daily basis. I got back on track. He freed me from shame I didn’t know I had and has helped me to live in more freedom through and because of receiving His love every day. As a result, this has opened my eyes to love certain others in the way they receive love best. All praises be to Him! Also because He loves me, I’m taking better care of myself. Praise Jesus!

– Fasting for the first “real” time and it was great! God showed up big time for me.

– I fasted media – specifically Facebook and Netflix. I learned how fidgety I am, how quickly/often I turn to media for distraction. It was a struggle to be still and to be quiet. To not need to be entertained all the time. I read more in the past 2 weeks (fiction and non-fiction) than I have in a year. God showed me the importance of being quiet; being still.

– During this fast, God proved that there is nothing I am dependent on on this earth. I am dependent completely on God. I did not think that I could quit coffee, and the first 3 days were very difficult but then I started waking up and going to sleep much quicker. God is good! He is faithful in all things.

– I gave up fast food, pretty hard in my job driving around. If I prepared, then the meals were there. Just as my Bible is there preparing me for life.

My Fasting Experience – by Christen Calhoun

I’m so thankful VLC does this Church-wide fast every year. This time God corrected my view of what my walk with him looks like, and poured His love and grace on me in such a refreshing way I could taste it!

A few weeks before the fast started, some of my old self destructive ways started rearing their ugly heads. By the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit in me, those old ways were corrected more quickly than they use to be, but that’s not to say there wasn’t damage done. So as we started the fast, I was dealing with major guilt that lead to depression. But God loves us SO SO much that He gave me exactly what I needed to be pulled out of my funk, and fast. By the 4th or 5th day of the fast, when I could bear the headaches (I fasted from sweets, so I had bad headaches and other sugar withdrawal symptoms the first 4 days or so), I sat down to do Bible study homework and it was mostly on a guilty conscience. It was based off 2 Timothy 1:3A when Paul is in jail, but thanking God and saying he serves him with a clear conscience. We can’t serve how we are called to, with a clear conscience, if we haven’t dealt with our guilt at the foot of the cross. Beth Moore pointed out how we can repent and seek forgiveness, but still carry the burden of guilt for years. Hebrews 10:22 was a beautiful verse for me, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Over and over it was exactly what I needed and I was overcome with God’s love for me, and absolutely no condemnation.

I’ve always pictured my walk with God like the pictures I’ve seen of the backs of what’s suppose to be Jesus and a person walking side by side. But through the struggle before the fast and the fast, God showed me that He intends for us to be arm in arm locked together. Much closer and connected. And for me, that way when I trip, because I am going to slip up, I won’t fall as far as I have in the past. If our arms are locked together I can’t fall into those deep dark holes that are so hard to get out of. I’ll trip and stumble of course, but I’ll be able to get right back up, because in my weakness He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9.) I also know that for that kind of closeness, it requires making time with Him a priority. Studying His Word, serving Him, giving, praying, journaling. But don’t mistaken that for work, because spending time with my creator that loves me more than I can understand isn’t work at all, it is GREAT joy that I want more than anything!

This verse kept coming to mind over the 2 weeks, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” When Brad preached on love and this verse Sunday, I knew I had to share what God did in my life over those few weeks.

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, Ryder, and Violet. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, bible study, anything that gets your adrenaline pumping, crafting, and finding killer deals when she shops.

Remembered – by Emily Woodard

Genesis 16, Hagar, Sarai’s servant had just done what she was told and laid with Abram and gave him a son. But after this Sarai treated Hagar harshly so she fled. But an angel of the Lord found Hagar and told her to return to her mistress and that she shall have a son named Ishmael (meaning “God hears”). 16:31“So she (Hagar) called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

Hagar was just a minor character in a God’s big story of Abraham, who became the father of many nations and the lineage to Jesus. But that does not make her any less important or forgettable to God. God always remembers His promises, (21:8-20) and sees even the smallest of needs from those who feel like the least of these.

What a beautiful truth that is; that God will always see me and never forget me no matter how minor or unimportant I may feel, we all have a place and a purpose in the kingdom of God.

Emily is a Christian studies major with a concentration in Psychology. She attended Truett-McConnell College for 3 years and is now finishing her bachelors through Liberty University online. One of Emily’s favorite things about preschool ministry is seeing children begin to grasp concepts about who God is and His love. She loves to travel, read a good book, hang out with friends and family, as well as go on adventures.

Love Never Fails – by Christina Vehar

As God spoke some awesome word through Chris on Sunday, the theme that stuck with me most is loving others like our God loves us, and how important this is. Our God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 86.15). Loving God and our neighbors means we’re doing something right (James 2.8). All the law is fulfilled through love. We see this through God loving us so much that He sent Christ to fulfill the law, down to the commandments He gave us; The first: love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and with all your strength. The second: love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. (Mark 12.30-31).

Let us love one another, for love is from God. Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4.7-8, 11-12)

Here we see that God IS Love. So when 1 Corinthians 13.1-8 tells me the characteristics of love/what it looks like – I know that since God is love, it is an interesting exercise to replace the word “love” with “God” when reading that passage:
God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy or boast, and is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not selfish. God is not easily angered and keeps no records of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

And I am challenged when God tells me, “Could you put your name in there?” See, if we are to love like and look like Christ (letting Him use our lives as vessels so we can look more like Him each day in order for others to know Him through us) then shouldn’t we be able to put our names in there? Convicting, yet beautiful, right?! John 13.34-35 tells us: “This commandment I give to you: that you love one another, just as I have loved you. By this, all people will know that you are My disciples.” The way God loves us is unending – He took the death we deserved for our sins and defeated it instead – and continues to show us grace and mercy each and every day. I read somewhere once that “If mercy is God’s attitude to sinful men, love is His motive in all that He does with them; and as the mercy is ‘rich’ so the love is ‘great’. With this great love God loved us when He chose us, and it is on account of that love that He acts with us as He does.”

The way God loves us is fierce and intentional. God shows us His love through the passions and hearts He’s given us, the people He’s placed in our lives, and so much more. God seeks us out and runs after us because He knows us. I think when it comes to loving others like Christ, intentionality is key. Our love of God comes from an outpouring of who He is. Similarly, our love of others should come from an outpouring of who they are: Someone created in God’s image. Our acts of love should be motivated by God’s love for us! One way to show God we love Him is by loving others, and one way to show others we love them is by sharing God’s love. His love is beyond compare. If people are to know God through our love, then we have to love big! This is something God has really been teaching me a lot about lately. Intentionality, in it’s very nature, means investment. Investment of time to REALLY know a person so that you can love them best. Investment into who they are and who God created them to be. Investment into this journey to our God. Investment in the kingdom. Love chooses to see the best in others, not the worst. Love chooses to forgive, not judge. Love doesn’t show favoritism, it is merciful. Love chooses to prevail endlessly instead of having conditions. Like Romans 8 proclaims that NOTHING can separate us from love of God, loving like God means that our love never gives up – it never fails.

What a privilege and joy that He calls us to bring Him glory by having these characteristics of love. I think one of the most amazing things we can bring to God humbly is praising Him for WHO He is. As Brad reminded us on Easter, our God’s name is “I Am.” You can enter in anything good after “I Am” and God is it. I encourage you to exclaim 1 Corinthians 13.1-8 to Him in prayer (God, I praise You that You are patient, You are kind…). And then pray that He would make you look, and therefore live, like this so that others may know HIS love. Pray that He gives you eyes of vision to see others like He does, ears to listen and be intentional, feet to go where He calls you, hands to do works, and a heart of His love. I am praying all these things for you, too. God hears our heart-cries and He loves those who love Him – He will be found by the one who diligently seeks Him (Proverbs 8.17). And you can be assured He bursts with joy when we ask, “Father, I want to be more like You. Here’s my heart, Lord.”

Go with God (Love)!

Christina Vehar is a Choral Music Education major and Dance minor at Kennesaw State University, and a music teacher at The Harmony House. She serves with FLI, the hospitality team, and the worship team. She loves God and the sweet blessings He brings through fellowship with others, serving, school, being outdoors, her second home (Slovakia), and making each day an adventure!

Obedience out of your comfort zone – by Joy Krolak

When I was younger I went to church almost every Sunday with my family. I would go to youth group and then join my parents for the adult service afterward. During these years I received exposure to the Gospel and to God’s Word, but I always walked away from every service the same. Sometimes I would have a desire to change, but ultimately I just wanted the assurance that when I died I would go to heaven. I didn’t want to do anything uncomfortable or do anything that would involve risk.

In church it seems like we listen to convicting messages and easily walk away just feeling convicted. But that is not submitting to Christ; that is not living out the Gospel. In the Gospels, Jesus didn’t get upset with those that didn’t know. He got upset with those that knew and didn’t do anything. Take a look at Luke 18:18-30. When Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor it says, “…when he [the rich young ruler] heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”

He was not willing to respond to Jesus in obedience. He was not willing to give up his earthly possessions. He was not willing to risk it all for following Christ. And Jesus responded, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

In contrast I thought of Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector who’s mentioned in Luke 19:1-10 (who also has a pretty great children’s song written about him). He wanted to see Jesus and meet with Him, and the opportunity came when that would happen. But he was known for being a thief, for cheating people of money. The crowd was confused as to why Jesus would want to meet with such a crook. And right there Zacchaeus repented and said he would give half of his income away to the poor and pay back four times the amount that he stole from people. And Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home!”

It’s not enough just to feel bad or to feel guilty, we are called to repent when we are guilty and respond in obedience. And let me tell you, there is so much freedom that comes through following Christ and submitting to Him. When we are following after our own selfish desires and things of this world we are held captive to those things.

The biggest impact in my spiritual journey happened when I started being involved with a community of believers. Their faith spurred me on and their love for the Lord inspired me to get in the Word and get to know him. And when I began getting in the Word, God began changing my heart which began changing the way I lived my life. God began giving me the courage to take risks, to step out of my comfort zone. If there’s anything I would urge you to do it would be to get involved with a community and get into the Word, or as Brad said so well, to “look intently into the Word and persevere in the Word”. Allow God to speak truth to you, to convict you, and share your experience with others that can help keep you accountable.

Brothers and sisters, every day we have the opportunity to repent or walk away sad. I love what Brad prayed over us on Sunday- that we would “step out of our comfort zone” and choose to obey Christ. Where is God calling you step out of your comfort zone? What do you need to repent of? What risk is God calling you to take?

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.

Receiving The Word – by Jack Hebb III

It’s early Wednesday morning, and I find myself on a 3rd attempt at writing the blog for this week. I’ve always considered it an honor and not something to take lightly, but after Brad’s sermon last Sunday, I feel it even more so. Since the service, I’ve been almost overwhelmed with thought (not something I’m accused of often) because it seemed like there were so many things to talk about that were brought up with just 3 verses of scripture.

1. God’s Word is powerful, it is true, and it is life changing. Like Brad has mentioned in several services, it is also unfortunately under appreciated. I’ve been in awe just trying to wrap my head around all the aspects of it and everything that’s transpired to bring about the Bible as we know it. When I think of the “simple” things like the birth, history, and future of the world, or the stories of Godly men and women like Moses and Paul written by the hands that lived them. When those things already impress, something like “Word of God Himself” is mind blowing to put it lightly. Much of my awe turned to conviction though since I, like many I’m sure, have been guilty all too often of not showing God’s Word, and in turn God Himself, the respect It and He truly deserve.

2. Be quick to hear, and slow to speak struck me, as well. First, because I had blog writing on my mind and I found myself listening for the sake of a task and writing notes in my head, rather than being still, quiet, and simply listening because God wants me to hear. Although my intention to write a decent blog might have been good, it still became a distraction. Being “slow to speak” became a concern since I didn’t want to mislead any who might read it or misrepresent God’s glory that it’s written for. As I write it now thoughts cross my mind like whether I listened enough, or the fact that writing was never really a strong point for me. In spite of those thoughts, there is a peace that passes understanding, a pat on the back that says, “do not worry,” and a whisper that comforts saying, “be silent, and I will speak to you.” By no means will I claim this blog is being told to me by God, but that I could find the inspiration from God and lean not on my own understanding. All the meanwhile sympathizing with Moses when he said, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant because I am slow and hesitant in speech.” (Exodus 4:10).

Whether the struggle is momentary or life long, complex or simple, a serious addiction, a slip in discernment, doubt, or even trouble writing a blog to honor Him. The solution is found in His Word, and in Him. There is power in the Word and the Word made flesh, Jesus. Trust in Him, trust His Word because it is the only word you can trust in, because He is always true to His word, and only His Word can save.

When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26-27)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Jack serves as VLC webmaster. He also works as an IT Admin running the websites of ScreenUSA.net and GrinderCrusherScreen.com. He enjoys almost all typical “geek” associated things, anything that makes him laugh, and especially loves his wife and son.

Navigation – by David Baalbergen

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word
of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18

This past Sunday Brad spoke on James 1:12-18. I would love to focus today on the latter part of that section. It really stood out to me as he was reading it from the stage huddled over his pillar-like stand as he slowly rocked back and forth.

First, there is this idea that someone can be deceived on the character of God. We, hopefully, know that God is unchanging; He is unshifting, He is steady all the time, and leads us perfectly. He is the good shepherd, the keeper of our souls, the granter and sustainer of our salvation. God is good. To put it in the form of another allusion that will help us understand what I, and hopefully James, are getting at here is that God is like the North Star. He is our coordinates in dark times. He illuminates our way when nothing else is available. God is good, all the time.

Sailors in the old times before smartphones and satellites would use the stars to navigate at night. They would find the North Star, get their bearings and be on their way. Sometimes, however, they mistook the North Star for another. You see, there are planets in our solar system that travel around, unlike stars. In fact, in ancient Greece they are called “πλανήτης (planētēs)” which means “wanderer”. If a sailor were to look at one of these he would follow a temporary trajectory, that would lead him off course and the next day be different. All this came to my head while Brad hugged his podium as he read these words.

This interested me and Monday morning I went to the Greek. In verse 17, the word for “variation” is “παραλλαγή (parallagē).” This is a compound of two words, “παρά (para)” and “ἀλλάσσω (allassō).” These coupled with the previous Greek word “οὐ (ou)” (meaning “no”) can be translated, “not in close proximity to change or shifting.” Now that we have struggled through some ancient sailing techniques, astronomy, and some New Testament Greek, let’s get to the main point.

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. God is the better North Star that is not placed amongst the varying stars and planets that will lead us into temptation, sin and eventually death, but God stands out from the rest, in no way can his works be mistaken for evil. He clearly brings us forth from our dead, depraved states and parades us into His glory through salvation. This is awesome! God saw us: lost in our dark world, in our dark sin, heading towards death. He intervened through the redemptive work of his Son. But He did not leave us here on this dark world as lost. He is bringing us forth. He is leading us, guiding us towards Him.

Time to get real. This breaks me. So often I feel as though I am on this world with sin throwing itself in my face and I feel abandoned. I feel as though every morning I wake up to run the gauntlet through sin towards nowhere. Until eventually my tired, defeated body stumbles into glorification. This is not the case. This is a lie. I have been deceived, as noted in verses 12-16. God has not left us here to root around in our sin and temptation. God has guided our way through the darkness, through the pain, through the struggle. God has not abandoned us, God has set himself as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

And not only that, I am not some broken vessel attempting to make myself holy. I am among the firstfruits of his creation. We are highly valued. We are the best of his produce. This is not our innate nature, but this is a status attributed to us because that is how God sees us.

Alright, so finally, thank you for taking time to read this, dear brothers and sisters. Know that you are valued, that you are cherished. You are not left alone to struggle with your temptation and sin, but God has descended, died in your place, and has made a path clear for us through his Word in Scripture. Take heart, my co-heirs in Christ, for we are not abandoned, but, “[e]very good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17-18)

David Baalbergen serves as Youth Minister and plans to pursue ministry opportunities for the rest of his life. He currently attends Kennesaw State University and is studying History Education.

Living in Humility – by Adam Howell

“Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” James 1:9-11

James has an incredible way of issuing all-encompassing sentences. The one above tackles lowly and poor, and the haughty and rich. If you’re anywhere in between those, you can assume you need to listen up, as well. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself on this spectrum that James describes, it will all pass away like a flower of grass. This is something I’ve needed to be reminded of lately.

Losing my job of 11 years and choosing to go back to school, I found myself running low on funds. The time to find an income has arrived. The Lord opened up a door at a local gardening store, despite my complete lack of a green thumb. Management is a skill of mine, and something I pursue with passion. This job has me at the bottom of the totem pole; a grunt doing the dirty work. My body was aching after four consecutive shifts.

Frustration snuck its way in quickly. How can this be happening? How does this make any kind of sense? I’m called to serve the Lord, not clean muck out of gutters in the rain (that happened). Yes, I’m aware that Paul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3), but that does not make this any easier. I’m a manager of people and resources being built up for Kingdom work!

Nick hit the nail on the head Sunday when he said, “There are really only 2 places that a person will go to boast in the midst of a trial or trials. The things that the world offers or the promises from our all-knowing, all-powerful Heavenly Father.” What the world is offering me is pride, and I’m buying it hook, line, and sinker. To rub salt in the wound I couldn’t make a FLI meeting due to work, yet another friend told me, “I hope God is glorified at your work today.” My frustration is certainly not glorifying to the Lord.

This job that I question serves the same purpose as any other job: that I might glorify the Lord. This requires humility, a humble approach to all things. Humility is a side effect of trusting in the Lord. Confidence in what you do is an outcome of humility, for we “count it all joy…when meeting trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). We, brothers and sisters, “know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). A complete trust in the Lord disarms the vices and temptations of this world, for we are to stand firm in the Lord’s promises, lacking in nothing. Knowing this, how can work frustrate me? Death, where is your sting?!

Adam Howell serves on the Hospitality Team and works as an intern at VLC. He is currently enrolled at Georgia Highlands College pursuing a degree in Communication. He enjoys reading, hiking, and good fellowship.