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Trials – by Jason Pierce

My wife, Brandy, works in the recycling industry. Her job is to buy scrap alloys from manufacturers that have leftovers from the products they make. For example, aluminum is often mere shavings, small scrap pieces, or larger bent and mangled pieces. For the manufacturers, the aluminum is good for nothing but scrap. It will be thrown out in a roll-off scrap container. Brandy and her company, however, see the value in these old scrap pieces. They purchase the discarded aluminum, recycle it, and sell it to companies like Novelis. Novelis then uses this recycled aluminum to make products that are sold to car manufacturers like Ford and Range Rover. When you see a Range Rover, you are looking at a $100k vehicle that is made of aluminum that likely started from old discarded pieces of scrap that the average person saw little value in.

Our faith in Christ is like that. Often our lives are mangled and destroyed by our own choices influenced by sin and the circumstances of life in a fallen sinful world. Many times, the people around us see us as good for nothing, while begin to believe the same about ourselves. Regardless of how we are viewed by the people around us (or ourselves), God saw us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). God saw our potential in Christ and knew, through the Cross of Christ and His redeeming love, He could take our lives and make them something beautiful. That is to say, His plan of saving grace was to transform our mangled shredded lives to be conformed to the image of his glorious Son (1 Cor. 5:17-21).

How does he do this? James tells us that one of God’s processes for us to be transformed and matured is to put us through trials. That’s a hard pill to swallow! It’s like knowing that you have to get an inoculation. We know it will hurt, but at the same time, it heals us and prevents future sicknesses. Trials are not easy for even the most mature Christians. We have to keep in mind that God never promised us exemption from trials, but He did promise to use them for a great purpose (Rom. 8:28). Jesus preemptively warned us, “in this world, you will have trails, but take heart, I have overcome the world!” (see John 15:19; 16:33; 17:14) Moreover, the Scriptures are replete with this truth (see Job; Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Pt. 2:19; 4:16; 5:9)

James says that trials are used to “test our faith.” The Greek word here for testing is dokimazo. It is only found here in the New Testament and typically was used in describing the act of refining metal. It is very much like the recycling process that I described above. Precious metals are not so precious when they are first mined. They must go through the fire several times to remove all impurities. Then after much testing, the result is refined, precious metal! Our faith is the same. God see’s our potential and He uses the trials of life to mature us in the image of His son.

Like I said, Christians are not promised exemption from trials. There are a few primary reasons why. First, even after we are spiritually renewed in Christ through faith and repentance, we still wrestle with a fallen sinful nature. We are still susceptible to bad choices, which unfortunately bring trials. Second, we have other people all around us that wrestle with the same fallen nature and they make choices that bring trials our way. Third, we must always realize the forces at work in the spiritual realm. Satan and his demons work to bring about destruction in our lives. He was there in the beginning (see Gen. 3) and he is here now. His sole purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). The only exemption we can hope for is after we have endured the final trial of death, at which time we will have passed from this fallen world into the presence of God where there is no more sin and suffering.

Since we cannot extricate ourselves from trials—I’ve tried, it doesn’t work– what should we do? James’ answer is to “count it all joy!” I’m just going to be very honest here. That is a tough one to wrap my mind around. Here’s the conclusion I have come to over the years: James is encouraging us to develop a Christian perspective when it comes to trials. Do trials hurt? Yes! Are trials painful? Yes! But for the Christian who is submitted to God’s will, and seeking to grow in Christ’s likeness, trials can be a catalyst for transformation into Christ-likeness. When our perspective on trials changes from one of pessimism, self-pity, defeat, dejection, discouragement, apprehensiveness, anxiety and worry to one of “knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance” and perseverance produces maturity in Christ, we can have a spiritual, Christ-centered positive out look on trials because we know that the sovereign, all powerful, creator of the world has our backs! He promises to not only be with us, but to use our trials for the glorious purpose of making us more like Christ. For that reason, I can count it all joy!

Once we develop the proper outlook on trials, it is important that we start asking the right questions. What is God saying to me in this trial? What lessons can I learn? Is there an aspect of my character that God is working to change? How can I use what God has shown me through my trial to help others? Our questions do not always get answered immediately, but if we are genuine and open to what God is doing, he will show us how He is using the difficult circumstances of life to grow and mature us.

It has been well said that we are typically in a trial, leaving a trial, or about to encounter a trial. Trials come in all shapes and sizes and are a part of life. Next time you find yourself in the midst of any size trial, try keeping a Christ-centered perspective, know that God is with you, and know that God is going to use it for a greater purpose. If you cannot see exactly how God is working in your life specifically at that moment, try meditating on Joseph in the Old Testament who suffered so much but could say to his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for the good!” Remember Job and Paul. And ultimately, remember Jesus. He is the greatest example of how God uses suffering for a greater good. Jesus suffered more that any human to ever live being tortured and ultimately going to the cross to bear the sins of the world! Yet the outcome was a salvation offered to all and resurrection to be seated at the right hand of God!

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Jason Pierce is a manager for Nickell Rental in Hiram. He has been involved in ministry for the last 15 years. He enjoys spending time with his family and bass fishing.

In all things, worship Him – by Brad Winklesky

Worship (v): to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828).

John Eldredge, while speaking at a men’s retreat, said he was talking to one of his friends years before about what we will do with our lives in eternity. “If you look at Nehemiah 9:6, Revelation 5:11-12, or Revelation 11:16 as a couple of examples”, his friend said, “it appears that we will be in worship”. John jokingly responds, “We are going to worship…like forever. You mean it will be like an endless church service? That sounds like hell to me.” If we look at worship as a just something we do with our hands or our voices, I could see how you might arrive at that conclusion.

As we covered this past Sunday, worship is certainly something we do, but it is so much more than that as well. True worship is the acknowledgment of God and all His power and His glory in everything we do. This is irrespective of our occupation, our income, our education, where we live, our marital status, the gifts we have been given, or any amount of influence we might have. How this actually plays itself out in people’s lives, I was so confused about for so long. I did believe that real worship had a consistent pattern.

If I’m being honest, this is what I thought happened to every person that became serious about their faith. I believed that they worked in the marketplace for as long as it took them to get on staff at a church. Then they were able to start doing ministry. Then they were able to go to seminary, take on additional responsibilities and continue to grow in their relationship with God. Now that is living the dream!

Continuing to be honest, I was frustrated for years because my life wasn’t following this pattern. I became very serious about my faith while I was an aviator in the Army. During that time, I looked into transferring from Aviation to be a Chaplain, but that just wasn’t going to happen. When I got out of the Army, I hoped to do something in ministry but that didn’t happen either. I served in various capacities at previous churches thinking I might find my way onto staff at some point. In the past 5 years, I even thought that God might be preparing us to go into full-time ministry in Slovakia. No again.

There were two things that I keep coming back to that tell me that this pattern I thought I saw was probably not true.

• Paul didn’t work for a church.
As you probably know, Paul made tents for a living (Acts 18:1-4). And it’s not that he made tents just to support his ministry. He viewed his tent making as ministry. That is, he viewed all of his actions as a witness. Paul employed his skills and possessions for the sake of the community, and he explicitly says that this is an example others should follow. He does not say that everyone should follow his example of preaching. But he does say everyone should follow his example of toiling to help the weak and being generous in giving, as Jesus himself taught.

• Any job can be Christian work.
Paul told the believers in Corinth that they shouldn’t rush to leave their current situations (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). It appears that they were ready to make some changes without thinking through the second and third-order effects. It’s as if he was saying that they could do God’s work and demonstrate their faith anywhere. Often, we might be so concerned about what we could be doing for God somewhere else that we miss great opportunities where we are.

The word that I discovered in the past year that has solidified this for me is avodah. The root word means “to work” or “to serve”. The cluster of words derived from the root give us insight into the nature of both worship and work. An oved is a worker. An evid is a slave. Avdut is slavery. Work involves the idea of serving someone. Avodat Elohim is the service or worship of the true God. Work (labor, enterprise, exertion) is always serving. For the believer in Jesus, it is serving God (Colossians 3:17).

In some verses the word, avodah means work, as in to work in the field and to do common labor (Exodus 34:21, Psalm 104:23). In other verses, Adovah means worship, as in to worship You, O God (Joshua 24:15, Exodus 8:1). What a powerful image to think that the word for working in the fields is the same that was used for worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

True worship is indeed the acknowledgment of God and all His power and His glory in everything we do. There probably isn’t any pattern, there’s likely no formula, and there is no perfect path for someone who is serious about their faith. Jesus told us to love God and love people …in that order. Thank the Lord that exactly how we are called to love God and exactly how we are called to love people look different.

I feel that doing things with all your heart, as if working for the Lord and not men is hardly a New Testament concept. I also feel that you don’t have to work for a church to be serious about your faith. Let’s worship God exactly as we are, partner with God wherever we are, and let’s get to work!

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Brad Winklesky serves on the Hospitality Team at VLC. He currently serves as the Director of the Managed Services Program for ServIT, Inc (a technology and Managed Service Provider headquartered in Kennesaw, GA). He enjoys reading, spending time with his family and anything to do with technology.

Giving – by Donna Vargas

Webster’s definition of the word give is, “freely transferring the possession of (something) to (someone).” What does God mean by giving? In Malachi 3:7-9, God tells us that by NOT giving, we are robbing Him. Robbing Him; I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be robbing God, the same sovereign God that sacrificed His only son to pay for our sins. However, as Brad discussed on Sunday, it isn’t solely about giving our 10%; it’s about our hearts and where they are when we give. Are we doing it for recognition or out of obligation or is to glorify God’s command?

God has blessed us with everything that we have: families, talents, careers, health, so why is it so difficult to tithe consistently? I struggle with this, too. Doubt creeps its way in, making me believe that I can’t afford the 10%, when instead, I should have 100% faith that God will provide. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 describes perfectly what it means to be a cheerful giver: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

This week, I encourage you to pray and ask God about how much HE wants you to give.

BP_DonnaVergasDonna Vargas serves in the VLC children’s ministry and is a part of the FLI study group. She is the mother to a middle school student, who is a member of the VLC student group. Donna has just started her 9th year as a high school Spanish teacher and loves (almost) every minute of it. She enjoys, reading, Netflix binging, spending time with her son and exploring the world.

Prayer – by Adam Howell

I tend to take the availability of prayer for granted. The opportunity is always there, it never goes away. Are you feeling down? You can pray. Are you feeling cheerful? You can pray. Are you lonely? Pray. Are you feeling anxiety? Pray. Are you feeling anguish? Pray.

That’s exactly what was presented to us in 1 Samuel 1:16. Hannah, from a broken heart, was praying out of “anguish and resentment” (HCSB). The ESV translates that to “anxiety and vexation.” Whenever I see the word “anxiety” in Scripture, my ears perk up. I am all too familiar with anxiety, therefore I love seeing it pop up in the Word. I’ve heard it said that prayer aligns us with God’s will. From that, I deduce that my anxiety is me freaking out internally because I’ve lost sight of God’s will. When I am drawn back into prayer, the peace that God offers us ever so gracefully, enters my heart and mind.

It doesn’t take a superman or super pastor to commune with God in prayer. It’s so easy to hold men of the Bible in high regard, almost to a super hero status. Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah; these incredible men of God accomplished great tasks for God’s glory, but they were still only men. James 5:17 reminds us of this.

James 5:17-18 reads, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

That word in v17 for “nature” is translated from the Greek word, “homoiopathés,” meaning “of like feelings, having similar passions and feelings, of like infirmities.” It’s not saying that Elijah was also a human made of flesh and blood like us. I read it as James telling us that Elijah felt the same emotions that we do. That is to say, the same anxieties, the same cheerfulness, the same loneliness, the entire spectrum of human emotion. Even with these same emotions that at times cripple us, Elijah was able to meet God in prayer and be aligned with his will. Therefore, being of the same nature, we can’t forget this crucial spiritual discipline.

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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.

Fasting & Feasting – by Dan Ratcliffe

You’ve probably heard it said that God has a sense of humor. I believe this to be true, because of ALL the weeks that my turn to write blog could have rolled around… it had to come up on the week about fasting.

For me, fasting is an “f-word.” I try not to say it as much as possible. I mean, why is it even called “fasting” when it seems to go by so slowly?? But I guess fasting was easier to say than, “misery and suffering.” All kidding aside, though, God – in His sovereignty and infinite wisdom – knew this was a spiritual discipline that I needed to truly think and pray about. What better way to do that than by having me write a blog about it?

Fasting is something that we are called to do. As Brad pointed out on Sunday, fasting is mentioned 70 times in scripture. And when Jesus talks about it in Matthew 6, he says “WHEN you fast,” not “IF you fast.” So, it’s something we are called to do. It is a discipline, as well. By definition, a discipline is not something that’s necessarily easy to do. However, it does bring about growth.

As I thought and prayed about what to say about fasting in this blog, God kept laying on my heart the phrase, “FASTING from something will allow you to FEAST on something else.” Think about that. When we clear our plates of the food or time-consuming thing that takes our focus off of God, it frees us up to feast on The One who gives us abundant life! It’s no wonder David says, “Oh, taste and see that The Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV) How can we truly taste and see that God is good if our plates are full of things that keep us in a state of self-sufficiency? When we clear our plates of those things, then we are left to rely on His sufficiency – not our own.

I think Paul realized this when he wrote, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9 ESV) And let’s be honest, who has been more reliable throughout our lives? Us, or the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of the universe? As we enter this period of a church-wide fast, rather than looking at it as a FAST – let’s look at it as a church-wide FEAST on The Lord. Whatever it is that keeps us from fixing our eyes on Christ, let’s get rid of it. We won’t truly be able to taste and see that He is good until we do. It’ll be like we’re eating a McDonald’s chicken nugget, when we could be having a thick, juicy filet mignon. (Great, now I’m hungry!)

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Dan Ratcliffe is an elder at VLC. He is married to Kathy and they have 3 kids; Bethany, Kailey, and Joshua. Dan has worked in radio for 27 years. He enjoys hanging out with his family and helping to lead the Epic Bible Study Group.

Be Prepared – by Nick Steinichen

Preparation is a word that I really took away from the message that Bryan shared on this past Sunday. Before I dive into the 3 main aspects of preparation that I thought of, I would like to share a couple of great reminders that we should all remember about studying Scripture. In fact we should remember these things when taking personal inventory of how we utilize all of the spiritual disciplines in our Christian lives. Firstly, let us never think that the Christian life is a checklist, lest we think that somehow we can gain God’s favor by checking boxes. Our love for Christ and the desire to draw nearer to Him should be the impetus for the exercising of any and all of the spiritual disciplines in our lives! And secondly, Scripture is God’s Word- telling us how He has unfolded, is unfolding, and will unfold, His eternal redemption plan.

As you can see, I have titled this response “Be Prepared.” So let’s take a look at 3 ways that being “devoted to the apostles’ teaching,” (Acts 2:42) or studying Scripture, can prepare us to be a strong body of Christ.

1. Be prepared to speak truth to ourselves and other believers
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17
– As Christians, we should be teaching one another about “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) from the Bible.
– Our reproof, or “inner convictions,” comes from our knowledge of God’s Word.
– As brothers and sisters in Christ, we often times need correcting in our behavior or our theology. Scripture gives us our guidelines as to what needs to be corrected, and also how to make the necessary corrections.
– Scripture is breathed out by God, and studying it diligently is training Christians for righteousness.
– When we discipline ourselves in the study of the Bible, God will work the above 4 things in us. When He works them in us then we will “be complete and equipped for every good work.” (v. 17)

2. Be prepared to speak truth to unbelievers about our God
– 1 Peter 3:15
– As sure as death and taxes will come to us all, so will times of trials and and suffering. God, through His Word gives us comfort, but not only comfort. God instructs us how to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” during those times of trial.
– Therefore, by God’s grace, when we honor Christ in the toughest of times, we must be expecting questions from those outside of the faith. Dedicating ourselves to knowing God and knowing His Word is imperative to being prepared when we are “asked to make a defense for the reason for the hope that is in us.” (v.15)

3. Be prepared to speak truth to false teachers and those who oppose Christ
– Acts 4:11-12 & 1John 2:20-22, 26
– INDLUGENCES – People that were part of the Catholic Church in Germany began selling salvation and reduced time in purgatory. If the Catholic Church was deeply rooted in Scripture, then this type of heresy would not have been pervasive! Bryan mentioned that Dietrich Bonhoeffer would come to call this “cheap grace.” Man can never guarantee salvation to another person. God’s Word is clear about this. Acts 4:11b-12a tells us that Jesus “has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else.”
– The Rise of Hitler-The “cheap grace” that Bonhoeffer spoke about would play a part in the rise of Hitler to power. The fact is that the church was full of people who thought they were saved because they bought their salvation. If people thought that they were saved then why would they need to devote themselves to the study of the Bible? When Hitler came to the church and pleaded with them to join the movement to bring Germany back to a major power, they were unable to see that he was an antichrist. 1 John 2 says that we “have all the knowledge,” (v. 20) we know the truth, (v.21) he who denies that Jesus is the Christ is an antichrist, (v. 22) and John is writing these things “about those who are trying to deceive you.” (v. 26)

It is clear that the Word of God is an integral piece of the lives of Christians! The call here is to be devoted to studying and memorizing Scripture. Read Acts 2:42-47. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the passage begins with, “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching,” and the last verse says, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

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Nick Steinichen works at North Cobb Christian School where he coaches football and swimming. Nick is an avid runner and loves to eat. He serves on the Hospitality Team at VLC. Nick loves God’s Word and wants to be a preacher in the future!

Are we there yet? – by Jennifer Harris

Vertical Life Church, Chapter 2: The New Building.

The day has finally arrived that we move into our new building! A lot of money, time, resources, talents, muscle, prayer, and faith has gone into this move from one building to another! We’re just moving down the road, and the turnaround time from buying the building to being able to move into it was relatively short compared to the Israelites roaming the desert on the way to the Promised Land! Talk about a lot of walking!

A common theme I see in the bible is that God uses a period of time for us to wait – that doesn’t seem to be very much fun – as He prepares us for something great. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, getting the Ten Commandments from God, along with many other rules and promises from God. Moses was alone for that time, talking with God. Then they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Another important “forty” in a waiting period was Jesus in the desert for forty days before he started his preaching and miracles. He was hungry, thirsty, tired, and tempted. There are many other examples in the bible of great thing with the number forty, and great things that come after periods of waiting on Him to show us what’s next.

Well guess what? It’s been forty-two months from the time VLC started until now, as we move into the new building!! That’s pretty close to forty! (I guess we’re a little slow and needed an extra two months! Just kidding.) That time of coming in at 6 AM to setup, tearing things down each week, not being able to meet at the school during the week, and many other things that we’ve been doing for forty-two months are now coming to a close. It was not a time wasted, but a time God used to prepare us for something greater, and something to bring Him even more glory.

What are you waiting for personally? I know that in my times and seasons of waiting, anxiously saying, “I’m ready God, let’s go,” that I’m focused on what I’m waiting for instead of what God has for me in the time I’m currently in. In our waiting, we should continuously seek to know Him more. We should pray with the kind of prayers that Moses prayed in Exodus 32, knowing that our prayers matter and can change things. We should be listening to God, not just telling Him our plans, so that when He does say it’s time to move forward, that we will hear it and be ready.

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.” – Ecclesiastes 11:4-5. Doesn’t it seem like we should have gotten a building a year or two ago? Doesn’t it seem like we should have had a shorter waiting period? Well clearly we “cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things,” so we know that His timing was perfect and His plans are sometimes beyond our comprehension. When it was time for God to give us this building and He said, “Ok, let’s go,” if we had people waiting for what they thought was the “perfect building,” or thinking we could not possibly pay for the one we got, then we would have missed this leap of faith. A leap of faith isn’t done in faith if we see all of the results and are certain things will go the way we expect them to.

To those of you who are waiting for something (and aren’t most of us always waiting for something?), continue to ask God how He can use you in this time to prepare you for what’s next. To those of you who are clearly hearing God tell you to trust Him and move forward in something, and you are standing at the edge of a cliff saying, “But I can’t see the bottom,” go forward in faith knowing that if He told you to do something, He will help you succeed, and if you happened to hear wrong and fail, He’s there to pick you back up again. Whether you are waiting or taking a leap of faith, seek to know Him more in both times. I look forward to continue waiting with those who wait, and rejoicing with those who rejoice, hearing your stories of what God does in both times of your life as our friendships continue on in the new building!

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Jennifer Harris serves on the Hospitality Team and with the College and Young Singles bible study (FLI). She is a Photographer and Starbucks barista. Jennifer enjoys reading, singing, writing, and exploring new places.

Gratefulness and Earworms – by Rochet Rye

There should be a book of “what not to say” to someone who is going through really tough and dark times. Yes, I had one of those experiences when someone asked me after the death of my father, “What lessons did you learn?” Ouch! It had been a tough journey for my dad, and in some ways a tougher situation for me and my sister as his primary caregivers. We found ourselves praising God that our daddy came back, like the prodigal son, into a right relationship with our heavenly Father. We then also found ourselves thanking God that our daddy would no longer experience the pain and suffering that had totally engulfed him during his final days in his earthly body.

So what lessons DID I learn? That same person had also told me that during those months of “hyper crisis” mode I should put my focus on God, His character, and who He is. I began to study the names of God. My Banner, my Strong Tower, my Refuge. He began to reveal His goodness to me. Oh, how I needed that! He became my Rock. I might be shaken, but I can lean on Him Who is never shaken. Through learning about His Name, I came to know that He is GOOD and experienced His love for me at a whole new level.

And that’s the earworm that I awoke to this morning playing in my head. (Many thanks to Chris Huff for leading us Sunday in this song recorded by Chris Tomlin, “Good, Good Father.”)

You’re a good, good Father.
It’s Who You are.
It’s Who You are.
It’s Who You are.

And I’m loved by You.
It’s Who I am.
It’s Who I am.
It’s Who I am.

No, I don’t go around asking people what lessons they’ve learned right after going through a horrific life event, but I do like to tell them that I’m praying for God to show Himself to them in a new way. For I do believe God can and does use those really tough times, and even “inappropriate” words, to make us dig deep within our hearts, if we’ll only go there with Him. It’s there where we come to know and experience who He is, who we are and whose we are. It’s there where He heals, restores, makes new and alive. And it’s from that kind of heart that gratefulness overflows.

This past Sunday, so many stood before the church and shared from the overflow of their hearts all the gratefulness due to our Good Father. God-stories in the individual lives of our partners as well as God-stories in the corporate body of our church, it was all so beautiful. May we be encouraged during this holiday season to continue in His Word and prayer and be grateful. Below are some of the scriptures that our pastor, Brad, gave us that speaks of this gratitude.

Colossians 3:12-17
I Chronicles 16:8
Jeremiah 33:11
Psalm 9:1
Daniel 2:23
Psalm 69:30
I Corinthians 1:4
Psalm 95:2
I Thessalonians 5:18
Psalm 100:4-5
Philippians 4:16
Psalm 116:17
Revelation 11:17
Colossians 2:7
Revelation 7:12

Did anyone else notice how God wove these scriptures, perfectly timed, into the testimonies of His people yesterday? Yes, He is a good, good Father!

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Rochet Rye is a wife, mother, sister and caregiver who enjoys playing house mom to all the college kids who share her home. She prefers hiking boots and Chacos over high heels any day, and is always eager to travel. She loves her BOLT group and encouraging women of all ages to be in God’s Word and prayer.

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?

BP_JoyKrolak
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.

BP_BryanBarton
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.