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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.

BP_ChristenCalhoun
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)!

BP_ChristinaVehar
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?

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.

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)

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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)

BP_DavidBaalbergen
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?!

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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.

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!

BP_JasonPierce
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!

BP_BradWinklesky
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.