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Resistance, G force, and Incinerated Santa Claus

Last week, Pastor Curt spoke in week two of our series “Rooted.” If you couldn’t make it to the service, be sure to watch it online on Bridgewood’s facebook page, or listen to the podcast here on the church website.

In his message, Pastor Curt used props, and - as one would expect - food to illustrate a point. He lifted up two balls, one, a small bouncy ball about an inch in diameter, and another larger rubber ball about ten inches in diameter. He used them to stand in for the Earth and the Sun, respectively. He explained how the Sun is 1.3 million times bigger than the Earth, and the Earth is spinning at 1,040 mph on its axis, while the Earth rotates around the sun at 67,000 mph. With those facts in mind, I’d like to give one more: the solar system rotates at 550,000 mph within the Milky Way galaxy.

Next, Pastor Curt asked us a question that inspired me to write this latest entry. He asked: does anyone feel it? I think most of us would agree we don’t feel like we are moving at 550,000 mph. Like Pastor said, we typically receive those facts as “no big deal,” or “just another day.” But why don’t we feel it? Why do we feel 75mph in a car more than 550,000 mph in a solar system?

A number of years ago, Santa Claus was subjected to science and mathematics as part of a viral internet posting called An Engineer’s Perspective on Santa Claus. In this article, it was found in the 31 hours at his disposal (time gained due to time zone changes traveling east to west) he would have to visit a total of over 90 million homes, and he would have to visit over 800 homes per second to keep on schedule. To make that schedule, his sleigh would have to travel over 3,000 times the speed of sound (767mph), totaling over 2million mph. Even with only one gift of modest weight to deliver per child, the sleigh would weigh hundreds of thousands of tons. That weight and speed would create so much air resistance, the sleigh, its pilot, and its reindeer, would all burst into flames and vaporize instantly. Furthermore, the instant acceleration to that speed would generate 17,000 g’s, a force which would reduce Santa and his reindeer to a pulpy mess. In short, Santa Claus would certainly feel that speed, at least for a very brief moment before his death.

The reason we notice 75mph more easily than 550,000mph, and the reason Santa would briefly feel his first and final flight, is because of the resistance and opposing forces felt. In a car, we feel moments of acceleration and deceleration, and the g’s that go along with them. We feel the shock through the wheels as we hit bumps, potholes, deer, mailboxes, or whatever else we make contact with according to our various levels of driving talent and experience. We feel the vibration of the car on the road that tells us we are moving. When the windows are down, we feel wind resistance. And we see the landscape passing by, which further helps us feel movement.

I boarded an airplane for my first flight four years ago. When the plane took off, I felt the g’s push me back into my seat, and I watched through the window as the runway and airport rushed by us. But as soon as we reached our cruising altitude, the g’s went away, and I felt like I was simply sitting in a chair. There was no turbulence, no vibration, or any feeling of acceleration or deceleration. Had I shut the window cover, I would not have much to indicate I was moving. I could very well think I wasn’t going anywhere. Our cruising altitude was so high - close to 45,000 ft - I could see the spherical shape of the earth; I could see the Mississippi River traveling from horizon to horizon; I could see as we passed over all the farmland between Detroit and Dallas, and yet, if I woke up blindfolded, I couldn’t have told you I was on a plane.

We can’t feel the rotation of the earth on its axis, its rotation around the sun, or the rotation of the solar system because that rotation happens in a vacuum and is constant. We don’t feel the cosmos slowing down and speeding up because the speed stays the same, there is no resistance, and we are matching that speed. But what if everything stopped rotating in a sudden stop? I’m not a physicist, but I imagine if any one of those rotations ceased in a complete, absolute stop, we would feel it like a stick between the spokes of a bicycle.

I go into detail with these because I think we can draw a parallel between these examples and our own lives. Just like the rotation of the earth, we take for granted the constants in our lives and quickly notice the resistance. When everything is going well, we think everything is moving and progressing, and we don’t pay too much attention to it. But as soon as we feel resistance, we head to the battlements, or flee from the cause. It goes without saying that not all resistance is beneficial to our growth and progress. In fact, some resistance is in direct contention. However, I think we miss many opportunities offered by the resistance we feel.

For example, this very morning I was contacted by a school district asking me if I wanted to substitute teach. They were in dire need of multiple subs that day. I asked what grade level I would be teaching, and they replied, “kindergarten.” I immediately felt the resistance. I did not want to teach students that young. Ideally, I’d be teaching high-school students. I only had a half hour to get ready. I would be entirely unprepared with supplementary teaching materials. I never taught anyone younger than 3rd grade before. I was utterly terrified by my lack of time to prepare, my inadequacies, and the uncertainties of it. As you could probably guess, I turned down the job. I felt relief that the resistance was gone, but I felt a sense of shame and guilt that I’d missed an opportunity, that I backed down out of fear.

Resistance can become an obstacle in our lives, but it can also give us potential to grow, or inform us of alternative opportunities. It can also indicate we might need to slow down. The struggles we face are in many ways like the g’s we feel when accelerating or decelerating. In other words, g’s are indicative of motion in our lives. Our struggles can tell us to accelerate, choosing to face the discomfort and uncertainties of the g’s we feel, and break through to the other side. Or our struggles can tell us to decelerate, slowing down so we can discover a different direction. In short, the resistance we feel can tell us to pick up the pace or slow down, to move or to stop. But one thing is for certain, you can’t have movement or change in direction without some form of acceleration, deceleration, or g forces. Ask any fighter pilot, you can’t go from a stop to breaking the sound barrier, or immediately change direction in an aircraft without experiencing some g’s. And if you tried to go from one direction to the opposite in an instant, you’d experience g’s so powerful you’d end up like Santa Claus.

There’s no doubt I missed an opportunity to grow by declining to substitute. I ultimately can’t know if me teaching students that young would turn out to be a disaster or not. What I do know is I didn’t take the risk to find out for myself. Instead of seeing what was on the other side of the resistance, I chose to remove it altogether.

It is so easy to allow resistance to uproot our lives, our relationship with God and others, and our circumstances. But if we could stop viewing resistance as this horrible thing we have to get away from at all costs, perhaps we could see the opportunities or wisdom we could gain from it.

It might be beneficial to examine the level of resistance in our lives. We could very well be moving fast in one direction, and God might want us to head in another. We might even be oblivious of that, saturated in the complacency afforded by our current direction. And if God is calling us to or away from something, we probably want to obey, but we could be trying to avoid the resistance that change in direction requires.

Whatever our individual circumstances may be, it is important to understand and keep in mind that not all resistance is bad, and not all resistance is permanent. And not all comfort is bad! Even if we grow comfortable in our current direction, it does not guarantee we are doing something wrong. What we truly need to examine is what we pursue. Are we trying to stay in comfort one-hundred percent of the time? Are we backing down from opportunity because of resistance? Are we turning our back on God and others because we experience g’s? Or are we fighting through the hard times to experience what is on the other side?

And remember, just like the g’s I felt on the plane ride, the resistance we feel is temporary. Whether accelerating, decelerating, or changing direction, the resistance will end, and we’ll break through to the other side. Grab your barf bags, folks, and get ready to experience some g’s.


Tyler Bellman

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Appearance vs. Truth

Last Sunday, Pastor Dustin spoke about taking hold of our God-given opportunities to lead. If you missed it, be sure to watch the service on the Facebook page, or listen to the podcast here on the church website.

In his message, Pastor Dustin spoke about how Saul appeared to be a good leader; he was tall, handsome, and intelligent, and the people thought this appearance was indicative of good leadership. But as we know, Saul proved to be a poor leader. So we have this relationship between what looks good, and what is actually good; we have a relationship between appearance and truth. And as we see with the example of Saul, these two things don’t always match up.

Two weeks ago, we discussed how we measure progress, and why our measurements might not grant us a proper understanding of our progress. We showed how the truth of our progress might differ from what is observable. And with our previous discussion of measuring progress in mind, this is a good place to continue.

There is a truth to our lives that we rarely observe or understand, and we regrettably neglect to take hold of in practice. This truth is our identity in God, and who He says we are. Throughout scripture, we see many examples of God’s names and callings for our lives. He gives us titles like son, daughter, friend, overcomer, conqueror, new creation, heir, workmanship, member, and many more. But how often do we actually feel like these titles belong to us? How often does the appearance of our lives match these titles?

I know I don’t walk around feeling and appearing like an overcomer or a child of God one-hundred percent of the time. Sometimes, I feel more in tune with those titles than others, but for the most part, I tend to have trouble accepting them. Other times, those titles are nowhere to be found because the appearance of my life is so different from the image those titles inspire. And when we don’t match up to the appearance we think we should have, we choose to accept alternative titles. The titles are either from ourselves, others, or the Enemy. They include: addict, failure, ugly, unqualified, sick, not good enough, missing something, damaged, broken, depressed, or some other lie that can be leveraged to distance us from our true identity in Christ.

This is why the Enemy focuses so heavily on appearances. If he can get us to accept a title other than the ones God has for us, the Enemy can rob us of the plans and callings God has given us. In his book, Crash the Chatterbox, Steven Furtick said to the effect of: “The Enemy tries to use our actions to contradict who we are in Christ.” If our actions or the appearance of our lives is in contention with who God says we are, that difference in appearance can inspire us to deviate from God’s path and identity into one that best matches the appearance. Tough financial times can lead us to think God is not watching out for us. Self-doubt or weakness can lead us to think we don’t have what it takes. Tragedy and evil can cause us to think God does not care about us or others. If it matches our circumstances, we are prone to believe it, even if it is not the truth.

At its core, this is the purpose of sin. Sin uses appearance to inspire action in contention with God’s standards, with the hope that we will continue to distance ourselves from those standards. We all know that sin is appealing. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t. But we also learn sin is hollow, and does not live up to its appearance. We learn that whatever we thought sin was offering was not received. The same is true for appearance. Ultimately, appearance is nothing but a facade. It is a mirage used to influence our behavior toward compromise. It cannot hold any influence on God’s ability to act in our lives, nor does it impact who God says we are. The only power it has is the power we give it.

One of my favorite portions of scripture is Exodus 4:11. I love it because it undermines the authority claimed by appearances, and sets it back to its rightful owner, God. It looks like this:

Then the LORD asked Moses, "Who makes a person's mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?

To put this verse in context, it is important to note that just before it, in verse ten, Moses pleaded with God that he could not lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he was not an effective public speaker. The way Moses interpreted his appearance or circumstances led him to decide that God would be better served sending someone else. But because God sees us the way we truly are, the way He made us, God knew that Moses was the right person for the job because He created him for the job. And even though Moses’s mouth typically had trouble speaking, God made his mouth and knew what it could or could not say. And because it is God who creates us, and tells us who we are, God knows our interpretations of appearances are irrelevant. God’s truth stands despite how it may appear to us.

If I focus on how much I fall short of the appearance I think I should have according to who God says I am, I will never get out of bed in the morning. So, with that being said, I have to find something else to focus on. For me, that is the truth of God’s Word. Even when my circumstances do not resemble who God says I am, I have to choose to trust that God is better at determining truth than I am. God tells us our title, and who we are in Christ; God equips us with the skills, talents, and desires to fulfill the purpose to which He has called us; and He says He will bridge the gap left by our inadequacies with His own power. So tell me, what can appearances offer us that is better than that?


Tyler Bellman

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A Healthier You - Measuring Progress

Last Sunday, Pastor Curt concluded week four of our series A Healthier You, and spoke about measuring our progress. If you missed the service, be sure to check out Bridgewood’s Facebook page to watch the video, or listen to the podcast here on the church website.

We generally measure our progress through our senses, assuming that any and all progress is observable. For example, the more we diet and exercise, the more weight we see come off, or the more muscle we see gained. We can literally watch our progress in the mirror. Career progress is observed with promotion, pay raise, peer acceptance, or job satisfaction. Relationship progress is measured by communication, intimacy, or trust. When we can observe and measure our progress, we feel confident that we have indeed progressed. Building a home, or a body, or fixing a damaged vehicle, all have observable progress. But what happens when we have put in considerable work, and the results are nowhere to be found? What happens when we cannot see or feel any progress in our lives? In those circumstances, it is easy to ask the question: am I making any progress?

In his message, Pastor Curt used the example of renovating the upstairs pastoral offices to illustrate our understanding of progress. In an effort to reorganize the offices according to their new needs, the staff exchanged offices with one another, moving all of their stuff out to the central area until it could be moved to its new destination. At that point, the staff considered the state of the offices a mess. And it was a mess. One cannot deny a ton of desks, papers, and computer equipment stacked in a pile is a mess. However, the mess occurred during a time of transition. We tend to forget transitions are messy, and transitions are not the destination. The mess is not the destination; the mess is the transition. Once the period of transition was over, all of the offices were organized again, and the mess was gone. And so we see from this example, we might have an incorrect or limited understanding of progress and its constitution.

I want to give you another idea that might serve to change your understanding of progress, and I’ll begin by asking you this question: is progress always linear? To be more specific, does progress always look like the example below?

AtoB.png

Is the place you want to be always in a straight line across from the place you currently are? And does progress always look like traveling across that line, moving at a measurable pace from A to B? Are you always at some point between A and B, and is progress always closer to B than it is to A? I think this is how most of us define progress, and I think it explains why we get frustrated. It makes logical sense to think I would be closer to B than I was before, especially after I have put in a lot of work. Often, that is not the case. In fact, many times we feel closer to A than when we started!

As a recovering addict, I understand this frustration. I understand feeling like I have gone nowhere, feeling as if I’d ran ten miles on a treadmill instead of the open road. And I’d like to offer you an idea that has helped me tremendously in my recovery and in my daily life. What if progress is not linear? What if it looks like this:

Doesn’t the above illustration look like a mess? But what if the mess is exactly what we need? What if in order to get where you are trying to go, you first have to go up, down, left, right, over, under, above, below, through, behind, in front, and around A and B? I think we get so upset and discouraged by what appears to be a lack of progress because our attention is in the wrong place. We so often measure our progress circumstantially, as if our external situation is an adequate measure of the journey. If we could stop focusing on where we currently are, we could focus on the destination. We need to stop looking at a particular point in the transition, and keep our eyes on the journey toward the destination. While a particular point on that line might be behind A it is still on the journey that leads to B.

Pastor Curt said it this way: “Progress happens in us before it happens through us.” This is important to note because it draws our attention away from the external, and directs it to the internal. I’ve heard pastor and author John Ortberg say it another way. He said, “God cares more about the person you become than the circumstances you inhabit.” Our progress is not measured by where we are, but rather where we are going; and it is not measured by who we are, but rather who we are becoming. And think of the difference between become, becoming, and became. The first is hypothetical, the second is ongoing, and the third is complete. Perhaps we would be better served thinking of progress as the second, becoming. Perhaps progress is better viewed as ongoing.

Thus, we cannot think of progress as a point in time, but an ongoing process. Progress is an ever-changing transitional period, and you know what? If we are lucky, we never reach the destination. Because if the destination is reached, the progress must be done. Think of it rationally: you cannot have progress without movement.

We are infatuated with the destination. We want to be done and finished. We crave conclusion, and we crave measurable progress toward that conclusion. But I feel we do ourselves a disservice by always striving for the endgame. I’ve heard people say it a number of ways, but I typically hear it like this: “do not be so concerned with getting to your destination that you miss out on the journey.” My personal favorite, courtesy of Perry Noble, goes like this: “if you’re not dead, you’re not done.” I hope this does not discourage you from change, but instead liberates and inspires you toward it. The transitional period is never over, and we can always be better today than we were yesterday. All it takes is one step at a time.

We may not always see it, but we are making progress. You might not always see the exact steps that got you where you are today, but you can probably recognize a difference in the person you were one, five, or ten years ago. Or you might need a catalyst before you can recognize your progress. A situation might need to arise in which your response shows you the extent of you progress. But even if you cannot find something measurable about your progress, do not be discouraged from your next step.

The two primary things that discourage us and halt our progress are distractions and falls. When we get distracted, we divert our attention from the current journey, and direct it to another. Or if we get discouraged by a seeming lack of progress, we give up and choose another journey. Falls are especially good at causing us to give up. Our mistakes and failings make us believe that we are not making any progress at all. If I keep falling, I must not be going anywhere, right?

Proverbs 24:16 says, “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” I do not have any way to guarantee the progress in my life or your life, but what I can guarantee is this: a fall can only stop your progress if you don’t get back up from it. Pastor Curt said it this way: “the only one who can stop our progress is us.” He also said, “pain is part of the process of progress.” Do not believe that your pain is an indication of a lack of progress because it is actually the opposite. Your pain is evidence of progress because it means you are still moving. It means you have not given up yet.

Falling is a good thing, and it should be celebrated because it means you took a step. If you do not take a step, there is no potential to fall. And no matter how many times you fall, if you can get back up again, God will be there to bandage you, and equip you to take the next step.

Get back up. Take another step. Fall.


Tyler Bellman

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Courage in Chaos: Week Four

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Over the last four weeks, Bridgewood Church has looked at how we are to respond to a culture divided by chaos, maintaining our courage and resolve in the face of compromise.

If you missed any of the messages from previous weeks, you can listen to the podcast here, or watch the service in its entirety here on Periscope.

In this fourth entry, we examine how to stand your ground when you face opposition, and we look to the book of Daniel for our answers.

As we've said in previous weeks, Bridgewood Church encourages you to do two things: vote, and pray for our leaders and our country.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

God loves the world and everyone in it, and has called us to participate, leveraging our influence to change culture. And this is why we pray for our leaders and vote; we resolve to do everything in excellence, according to God's standards, regardless of our external circumstances.

It was this resolve for excellence that distinguished Daniel from the other administrators appointed by the Babylonian king, Darius. In fact, Daniel did such an outstanding job that King Darius wanted to put him in charge over the entire kingdom.

Daniel was committed to excellence in everything he did because his decisions were not contingent on his circumstances. In earlier weeks, we've discussed how as a teenager Daniel was taken captive to Babylon, and was trained to serve as a royal adviser, a position he held until he was over eighty years old. Daniel was a foreigner to Babylon, a nation with different beliefs than his own, and he spent his entire adult life there. He was able to excel in this environment because he did not make decisions based on his environment, he resolved to uphold God's standards in all things. As a result, God showed favor to Daniel.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23)

But it was also this resolve for excellence that made Daniel the target of the other jealous administrators in the kingdom, who sought to remove him from his position.

When we are doing something for God, we like to think that God will insulate us from opposition entirely, but it's actually the opposite. Upholding God's standards and living courageously will inspire opposition from culture because culture is hostile to God.

On Sunday, Pastor Curt gave us three truths to stand our ground when facing opposition, the first of which was, when God raises you up, expect people to tear you down.

Because of their jealously, the other administrators seek to tear down Daniel, so they look at his administrative practices, hoping to find something they can use against him. But after an extensive search, they come up with nothing; they can't find a single instance where Daniel was negligent or corrupt. They could not find these things because there was nothing to find. Daniel's integrity and his resolve to uphold God's standards meant that he maintained his excellence in everything he did.

This is why it is important to live a life of integrity. Integrity insulates you from opposition. When your integrity is intact, you don't have anything to fear. Fear comes from secrecy and hiding things from others that could be damaging if discovered. Because Daniel had nothing to hide, they had nothing to find.

But sometimes integrity is not enough to fully insulate us from the opposition in our life. As we see in the case of Daniel, the jealous administrators decided they'd have to fabricate something to use against him, so they used his religious beliefs to frame him. Knowing that Daniel prayed three times a day, they manipulated King Darius into signing a law that prohibited prayer for thirty days.

But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to God. (Daniel 6:10)

When Daniel found out a law was signed, he didn't try to argue or defend his prayer habit. This was because he saw no point in doing so. In our previous entries, we discussed that it is not our job to defend God; God is our defender.

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. (Proverbs 29:9)

When Daniel opened his window and knelt to pray, it was not out of any kind of rebellion. He wasn't giving the administrators the bird out the window. The word tells us he simply did what he had always done.

When our circumstances change, our responses usually change as well. We are used to changing and adapting to our environment, but what if we don't want to change along with our environment? The world around us is always going to change, but – even though it tells us to – we don't have to change along with it.

The same way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given the opportunity to bow and avoid the blazing furnace, Daniel had the opportunity to take a break from prayer. Daniel could have avoided the lion's den by waiting thirty days until he prayed again. He could have adapted to his changing environment. Instead, he held onto God's standards, just as he'd done since he was a teenager. Daniel's external circumstances changed, but his response stayed the same: he trusted God.

When our integrity is not enough to insulate us from opposition, our trust in God will fill the gap. Because Daniel was committed to integrity and excellence, he knew he could not stop praying to God. Daniel recognized the second truth needed to withstand opposition: kneeling in prayer is what gives you the strength to stand.

Instead of panicking over the threat of being thrown into the lion's den, Daniel knelt in prayer and trusted God. And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel's circumstances actually got worse. The fire was turned up seven times hotter for the three boys when they refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel was thrown in the lion's den.

By refusing to compromise on his prayer times, Daniel lived out a key truth: our responsibility is to pray, and God's is to control the outcome. By ceasing his prayers, Daniel could have avoided the outcome of going into the lion's den, but that was not his responsibility.

When we trust the outcome to God, we rely on the sovereignty of God, which means that we trust God – in his infinite wisdom and knowledge – to determine the best outcome. It requires a lack of certainty on our part. When Daniel was thrown into the lion's den, he did know with certainty if he would survive, but he resolved to trust God nonetheless.

Pastor Curt said, “don't fear the roar of the lion.” The roar is your external circumstances. It is the wind and the waves that cause you to turn tail and run, attempting to alter your circumstances instead of trusting the outcome to God. When you ignore the roar, you stop trying to get out, and you trust God to get you through.

As it happens, Daniel made it through the lion's den, not because of anything he'd done, but because he trusted the outcome to God, and God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. And just as we've seen throughout this series, God got the glory, and Daniel got the influence to leverage in his culture.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a standard as, “something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality.” Something is subjected to the standard as a means of determining its characteristics. With regard to God's standards, we are supposed to subject the world and our circumstances to God's standards as a means of determining our actions. But more often than not, we end up subjecting the standard to the circumstance. We forget that circumstances change, and standards do not.

God's standards do not change because God does not change. When our external circumstances change, our God remains the same. Our God is not contingent on which candidate gets in office, which law gets signed, or which social group has the most influence. If we want to have courage in the chaos, we have to hold true to the standard, ignore the roars of opposition, and trust our all-powerful, sovereign God to control the outcome, according to his perfect will.

Questions for Discussion:

1) What roars are you hearing in your life that are pressuring you toward compromise?

2) How does prayer influence your ability to trust God? Do you feel a correlation between trust and your time spent in prayer?

3) How do your circumstances affect your responses? Does knowledge of God's standards take the pressure off you to adapt to your surroundings?

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Courage in Chaos: Weeks Two and Three

During this season of political and social turmoil, Bridgewood Church is examining how we maintain our courage in the middle of chaos, maintaining God's standards in a world that is pressing us to compromise. And when we look into the book of Daniel, we get a biblical understanding of what that looks like.

If you missed week two or three, you can find the podcasts here, or watch the services on periscope here.

Two weeks ago, Pastor Jon Rokowski urged us to stop asking God to get us out of our circumstances, and ask Him to get us through them. This is an important distinction to make because it asks us to become involved in the world around us.

In Pastor Curt's message in week one, and in our last entry, we discussed that the world is the object of God's redemption, and his great love. And even though as Christians we are no longer of this world, we are not supposed to bury our heads in the sand.

The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus. (Daniel 1:19-21)

In week two, we saw how in every situation, be it a blazing furnace, a diet, or interpreting a dream, the boys never tried to get out of their circumstances, but trusted God to get them through their circumstances instead. In the passage above, it says that the boys were found ten times more capable than any of the kings advisers. Do you imagine this would be so if they chose not to participate?

The boys were prisoners of war. They had no obligations to Babylon, be it religious beliefs, cultural norms, or economic ties. They had no reason to participate and use their influence for a kingdom that wasn't their own, but they chose to anyway.

The passage also says that Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus; this was in 539 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Judah in 605 BC and took the boys captive, and two years later, in 603 BC, Daniel interprets his dream. Looking at the dates, we see that Daniel remained in the service of the Babylonian kings for 66 years.

Do you think Daniel could have stayed in his position for sixty-six years if he tried to get out of his circumstances, instead of through them? This is why we have been encouraged to pray for our leaders and vote. Whether we chose them or not, we have to participate.

In week two, Pastor Jon said the church must become a unified body with one goal in Christ. As Jon said, courage comes from a relationship with Christ, but it is strengthened by a strong relationship with others. And last week, Pastor Curt reminded us that in the previous election, 25 million Christians did not vote in an election that was won by a margin of 5 million.

When the church is unified, and makes the decision to participate, it becomes much easier to be courageous in the face of compromise and conformity, and to leverage our faith to influence the world around us. The more people you have in unity, the more the responsibility is spread, meaning that everything does not fall on one person's shoulders.

Jon spoke about a local businesswoman who had a customer attack her faith, ripping a picture of Jesus off her wall, and almost tearing it up. Such an event is threatening, and when our faith is attacked, it is easy to feel as though the church is threatened.

But as Jon said, the church can not be threatened. Jesus himself said “I will build my church, and the all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” The only thing that can happen is a lack of unity hindering our effectiveness, and compromise and conformity weening out those whose faith lacks authenticity.

This is why Pastor Curt told us last week that we need to Stand Out, Stand Up, and Stand Firm. We are going to go through the fire, and we are going to be faced with the choice to go through the fire, or to get out of the fire.

Getting out of the fire means bowing down, conforming and compromising to the world's expectations of you. This would be the fingers crossed human rationalization that Pastor Curt spoke about. We can say to ourselves, “I'll just bow to avoid the fire. After all, I don't really mean it, and how can I leverage my influence if I'm burned to a crisp?”

Getting through the fire means trusting that God will carry you through circumstances that you are unable to on your own. And God will be there with you. He doesn't wait for you on the other side. As we see in the blazing furnace, king Nebuchadnezzar saw four men inside the fire, not three, and said one of them looked like a god.

In the second service, Pastor Curt dropped a gem of wisdom that might have slipped right by you. He said, “people will be able to see God in you the most when you're going through the fire.”

When Daniel interpreted the dream, after giving God credit for doing so mind you, Nebuchadnezzar replied, “Truly your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.” And Daniel and his friends got promotions.

There is a system that functions when you trust God to get you through the fire. Pastor Curt said, “God gets the glory, and you gain influence to leverage your faith.”

I think of the Parable of the Ten Servants in Luke, chapter 19. The king trusts ten servants with a large financial sum to invest, and upon his return, wants to know their profits. The first two make a ten and a fivefold profit, while the third does nothing out of fear of the king. The king says to the third, “You wicked servant!,” and asks, “Why didn't you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”

“Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, 'Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.' 'But, master,' they said, 'he already has ten pounds.' 'Yes,' the king replied, 'and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away” (Luke 19:24-26).

This is precisely why we can't bury out heads in the sand as Christians. If we want God to trust us with great things, we have to be responsible with the little things. If we do nothing with our small responsibilities, we will lose those as well.

Voting, for example, is a small responsibility. And if we are unwilling to invest even this small sum, how can we expect God to grant us greater influence? The same is true when we bow instead of standing out, standing up, and standing firm. If we cannot stand out, stand up, and stand firm on a small issue, then we certainly will not do it when we are looking into a blazing furnace.

When the boys made it through the blazing furnace, Nebuchadnezzar said:

“Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king's command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” (4:28-29)

Once again, God was given the glory in the situation, and again, the boys were given even greater authority.

If you remember from week one, Pastor Curt said, “culture will recruit you and culture will redefine you.” A week later, Pastor Jon said, “culture will test your authenticity.” I would offer another: “culture will entrap you.”

In an effort to get rid of Daniel, the administrators and high officers of Babylon got King Darius to sign a law prohibiting prayer to anyone but King Darius. Of course, knowing that Daniel was in violation, they told the king, and forced his hand to throw Daniel into the lion's den.

Daniel could have easily took a break from praying, or done it in secret to avoid the lion's den, but instead, he stood out, stood up, and stood firm. After finding that Daniel had been saved from the lions, King Darius had Daniel's attackers executed. Then he issued a decree saying:

"Peace and prosperity to you! I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:25-27).

Again, God got the glory, and Daniel got the influence.

Even Nebuchadnezzar himself had to go through the fire. In chapter four, he is exiled into the wilderness because of his pride. The Word says, he ate grass, and his hair and fingernails grew out like eagles feathers and bird's claws. Eventually, he regained his mind.

“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshipped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, 'What do you mean by doing these things?'” (Daniel 4:34-35)

Nebuchadnezzar was not a Jew. He did not grow up serving God, but because of the miracles he witnessed and his relationship with the four boys, he came to know God. And his first response after going through the fire was not to criticize God, but to praise Him. After he was restored to his position, he said:

“When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud” (Daniel 4:36-37).

Imagine what would have happened in all of these situations had the boys chosen to get out of their circumstances instead of trusting God to get them through. Nothing would happen. There would be no glory to God, and the boys would gain no influence. Everything would be business as usual in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's dream would be left uninterpreted, everyone would worship the statue, Nebuchadnezzar would not have become a believer, and everyone would pray to king Darius. Sure nobody would have been thrown in a lions den or a blazing furnace, but then the miracle of those events would not have happened, and the Babylonians would have missed out on the glory of God.

I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Steven Furtick, and God was putting something on my heart that I did not want to do. A situation had caused me pain, and I did not want to go back to it. In his sermon, Pastor Furtick said, “Go back to your misery, or you'll miss your miracle.” So I reluctantly did what God was asking of me, and wouldn't you know it, I got my miracle.

Sometimes you have to go through your misery or you'll miss your miracle. The same is true for the fire; sometimes you have to stay in it for God to do something through it. If we back out and bow out to compromise and conformity, we are going to miss out on the miracles that God can pull from the fire.

1) The story of the customer attacking the business owner's faith incites a number of responses in us. Have you faced anything similar, and how did you respond to it?

2) What opportunities do you see for unity and fellowship with the church? How has your unity and involvement strengthened your faith and your resolve?

3) The boys made it through the fire, giving God the glory, and gaining influence themselves. How have the fires you've gone through furthered God's glory and given you influence?

4) What circumstances in your life are you trying to get out of? Which ones are you trying to get through? What miracles might you be missing out on?

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Courage in Chaos: Week One Blog

Last week, Pastor Curt kicked off the first part of our series: “Courage in Chaos.”

If you missed part one, you can find the podcast here, or you can watch the entire service via periscope.

In this entry, we want to take the time to explore the four cultural creeds you need to know to survive in today's culture. To better understand the context of the message, we encourage you to read the first six chapters of Daniel. Here, we want to dig a bit deeper, analyzing Daniel's responses to culture, as well as ask you a number of questions to consider for practical applications in your own life.

The first cultural creed we discussed is: you are an alien in a foreign culture.

“I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (John 17:15-16)

It was not an election that sent the four boys to Babylon. They did not choose to be there. They were prisoners of war, captured and taken to a foreign country to be trained as advisers, as ordered by the king. They had no control over their circumstances.

Many times in life, we will find ourselves in circumstances, some we may not even deserve, but how we choose to respond to them is what will ultimately decide what God is able to do through us.

We will wake up to a world of chaos: elections holding livelihoods in the balance, wars and crimes shattering societies, racial and social issues driving wedges between countrymen, environmental and geological disasters that destroy homes and lives, legislature that goes against our Christian beliefs,and people constantly pressuring us to abandon our values in favor of the world's.

When culture goes against our beliefs, it is easy to become defensive, or hostile to authority. But as we see in the book of Daniel, hostility and defensiveness are not the correct responses.

When they were told to eat food that violated their Jewish values, rather than refusing their orders, the boys asked for permission, and worked with their authorities to find a middle ground.

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods... “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king's food. Then make your decision in light of what you see” (1: 8-13).

When they were to be killed along with the wise men, they requested more time to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. He asked Arioch, “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” So Arioch told him all that had happened. Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant (2: 14-16).

The only times they did not obey their authorities were when they were asked to disobey God's greater authority; even when this was the case, the four always showed a respect for those in power.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (3: 16-18).

God doesn't want us to make him second to worldly authority, but our response to such authority should always be respectful and in line with God's standards.

And thus, we see how to respond to unwanted circumstances, but what happens when the circumstances go against our values, and yet, are appealing to us?

If we are being honest, despite being aliens to Babylonian culture, Daniel and his friends got a pretty sweet deal.

“Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he [Nebuchadnezzar] said, “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace.” The king assigned them a daily ration of foodand wine from his own kitchens. (Daniel 1: 4-5)

The four young men had a lot going for them. They were handsome, intelligent, and wise (These were guys like John Rokowski or Curt Demoff). They were hand-picked by the rulers of an empire to serve in advisory positions to the king. They were given status and power, and literally had the option to, “eat like a king.” The perks were considerable. It wouldn't be difficult to embrace their new Babylonian identities. Even their names were changed to make them forget their Jewish heritage.

However, while their circumstances were appealing, they were in contention with God's commandments of them. The four decided on the hard choice: they held on to God's standards, even when doing so meant they would face certain death. As a result, God blessed them, and even saved their lives on more than one occasion.

As Pastor Curt said last week, culture will try to do two things: It will try to recruit you, and it will try to redefine you. And whether our circumstances are appealing or unwanted, we ultimately have the choice of how to respond to them.

The second cultural creed we must remember is: culture is hostile to God.

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? 'A slave is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you.” (John 15:18-20)

Because we are followers of God, it is difficult to watch as our values are attacked by culture, but this cultural creed offers us some relief. Because culture is hostile to God, it takes the responsibility off us. It's not our job to convict the world of sin. Its God's. We tend to feel that we must defend God against the world, but in truth, we have it backwards. God defends us from a broken world.

We see this truth many times in Daniel.

*Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. (1: 9)

God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. (1: 17)

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him.” (3: 28)

“My God sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight.” (6: 22)

None of these verses said, “The four trained hard to have unusual aptitude understanding literature, and Daniel developed an algorithm for interpreting dreams,” nor did they say, “Daniel worked tirelessly to gain the chief of staff's favor.” They did not say, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put on fire-proof gel to protect them from the flame,” and they did not say, “Daniel duct taped the lions' mouths shut.”

The verses did not say this because it was not the boys' responsibility to control their circumstances. The four of them did not get out of their troubles through their own power. Their circumstances were beyond their control, but they were not so for God, and He faithfully moved in the background, protecting them, and giving them the skills and abilities they needed to thrive in a foreign culture.

As Christians, we will face persecution based on our beliefs, but that hostility is directed towards God, not us, and therefore, our responsibility is not to defend God, but to let God be our defender.

The final two cultural creeds Pastor Curt discussed were our world is the object of God's redemption, and we can transform the culture around us.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Because culture is hostile to God, we sometimes think that the world is an enemy of God. But despite its hostility, God loves the world; he loves it so much that he sacrificed his only son as a means of redeeming it.

As such, God does not want us to bow out of the world. It might be hostile to God, and it might challenge our values, but the Word is clear that we are to go into the world instead of hiding from it:

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

And then he told them, “go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs. (Mark 16:15, 20)

God does not intend for these passages of his Word to be viewed as an idea or a concept. When he tells us to do something, He actually wants us to do it. We are to be a light and an example, so that our lives draw people in toward God. In order to do this, we actually have to participate.

This is why Pastor Curt has asked us to vote, and to pray for our leaders, whether we wanted them or not. Burying our heads in the sand is neither practical or biblical. But the Word is also very clear about what we should do if we are not received by culture:

But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those peopleto their fate. (Mark 6:11)

We can't force anyone to accept God's standards, but there is a notable difference between tryingand failing, and never attempting at all.

Questions for Discussion:

1.What is your knee-jerk reaction when you find your self in circumstances that you do not deserve, or that challenge your values? How does it compare to Daniel's response?

2.Daniel had the courage to resolve his faith beforehand, determining what hills he was willing to shed blood on. On what hills are you willing to shed blood?

3.Instead of trying to manipulate his circumstances and circumvent authority, Daniel had the courage to test his faith in God by requesting a diet of vegetables, a diet that could only producethe results they saw through God's intervention. In what areas have you tested your faith againstculture? In what areas haven't you?

4.Because of Daniel's faith, God blessed him with influence and authority to leverage against the culture around him. In what ways can you leverage your faith to transform culture?

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Right Now Media Launch! 

This past Sunday we launched Right Now Media to our entire church family! Now, every single person at Bridgewood Church will have access to this online resource that is the "Netflix of Bible Studies." This resource contains thousands of Bible study videos as well as a massive library of children's Christian TV shows. 

Bridgewood Church has invested in this resource to make it available to all of you completely free! We believe strongly in discipleship and pray that you will take advantage of this resource to grow in your relationship with God and your Christian education. We encourage you to watch studies that are relevant to you at a time that works best with your schedule.  You can view studies individually, together with a group of friends, together with your spouse or family, or with your LIFEgroup! 

With the launch of Right Now Media, we are wanting you to explore the studies available and use those as part of your devotional time! Therefore, we will no longer be posting daily devotions on this page.  

If you have not received an invitation to receive the free gift of Right Now Media, then please email Pastor Jon at: Pastorjon@bridgewoodchurch.com and he will be glad to send you an invitation! Enjoy your new free gift! 

Bridgewood Church 

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Who Are You Becoming?  

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” 
- Proverbs 13:20

I'm reminded of the illustration of the Eagle and the Turkey.  One day a baby eagle accidentally fell out of his nest and wondered around the nearby woods and got lost.  Soon after that a flock of turkeys came along and said, “son come with us, you’re a turkey.” 

So he went with the turkeys.  He soon began to realize that he didn’t always fit it.  He always walked at a faster pace than the turkeys, he didn’t like eating snails and acorns from the forest floor.  He also realized his gobbled sounded more like a loud screech.  He became more and more frustrated feeling like he just didn’t fit in. 

One day a wise old owl came to him and asked why he seemed so sad.  He said, “I'm just a frustrated turkey, who is sick and tired of eating acorns,” said the eagle.  The owl responded, “Who told you that you were a turkey?”  “The other turkeys,” the eagle said.  The owl showed him that day how to soar and live like he was meant to live.

The sad truth is many of us have believed a lie about our lives from the people around us.  We have let the lies the enemy tells us to keep us from becoming who we are supposed to be. 

I have found that often times our friends have one of the biggest factors in determining who we become.  Are we going to be content living like fools and turning our backs on God simply because a friend is doing it? 

If you want to be great… get next to great people.  Run away from people that continually call you “turkey” your life was meant for so much more. 

Prayer Starter
Dear God, thank you that you made all of us with great purpose and value.  Thank you that there is a plan for all of our lives to live life and life to the fullest.  Help us to find the right people to live life with so that we can become all you want us to be.  Help me to soar like an eagle every day. 

Brad Brimmer
Student Life Pastor

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Why Joy?

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces endurance; endurance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us.
- Romans 5: 4-5

It took me a long time to be able to appreciate this Bible verse. I will admit that I still have a hard time with it. I have a hard time “rejoicing in my suffering” or expecting anyone else to do so.  None of us want to suffer.  So we want to avoid verses like this like the plague because it’s really hard to “be glad when you are miserable.”  Our first reaction is usually anger, despair or bitterness – certainly not joy!

So why does God want us to rejoice when life stinks?

·      Is it so that God can “put us in our place?”  No.

·      Is it so that we could feel better when life gets hard?  Perhaps.

·      Is it so that our time of suffering will help us grow more into the person He created us to be?  Now we are getting somewhere.

We may hate the process that makes us like Christ because it usually involves pain, stress, struggles and trials.  Yet we all want what suffering produces:  endurance, character and hope.  

So what does all this rejoicing have to do with the suffering we are going through?  Check out this principle James teaches:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4

Faith gets you started; joyful steadfastness keeps you going.  Almost everything God allows in our lives has the purpose of developing perseverance.  And when we joyfully allow Him to grow our perseverance, we will “be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Prayer Starter
Father, when I am facing hard times, help me to turn to You for the strength to walk in joy, trusting that You are growing endurance, perseverance, character and hope within me.  I want to be more like You:  mature and complete, not lacking anything. Amen! 

Christy Demoff

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Never Stop Praying

So how do you do that? Is all I'm supposed to do in life is pray? Nothing else?
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Have you ever thought that this is what the verse is telling us to do, or am I the only one?  When I first started my Journey with Christ this was a verse I didn't understand.  How could you only walk around praying when there are other things you have to do in life?  It wasn't till further down the road that God revealed to me that praying all the time is a "mind set", that I need to be "continually" talking to Him, asking Him for guidance, direction, words to say, how to act... the list goes on and on. 

God wants us to talk to Him about everything, He created us to have a relationship with Him. He wants to be a part of your life so...talk to Him!  

Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT)

Prayer Starter
Lord help me develop the mind set to be constantly asking you for guidance, direction, and the words to say so I can be better used by you to do your work and so that I can respond the right way in situations. Thank you for allowing me to have the “inner circle” privilege of instant communication with you when I need it.

Jim Marquis
Campus Pastor

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GIVE IT TO GOD

So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
- 1 Samuel 1:9-11

Wow what a powerful prayer!  Hannah was a woman of God who was barren. For years Hannah was tormented by her husband’s other wife who mocked her because she was childless.  Hannah was sad and would go to the Lord in prayer year after year praying for a child. 

What was different about this prayer?  Was it her heart?  This time she made a vow to God that if He remembered her and gave her a male child, she would give him to the Lord all the days of his life. 

In Philippians 4:7 it says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.  This is exactly what Hannah experienced after she came to the Lord in prayer.  The story goes on to say that Hannah was no longer downcast.  Eli the Priest told her to go in peace and may the Lord grant her what she had asked for.  Hannah had a heart change.  God remembered her.  She gave birth to Samuel and kept her promise to God.

What struggles/hurts/offenses have you given to God only to take them back again?  Let's give it to the Lord so we may walk in His peace just like Hannah did!

Prayer Starter
Lord I confess that there have been times when I have come to you with just words and not from the heart.  Lord guard my heart; help me to not be anxious about anything but in every situation to come to you in prayer and petition with thanksgiving, presenting my requests before You so that I may experience Your peace.

Barb Petrowske

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Time is Ticking Away

“How do you know what will happen tomorrow?  Your life is like the morning fog.  It’s here a little while then it’s gone.”
- James 4:14

THAT IS A bright and cheery verse!  Ok, maybe not.  I do know it is not something we like to think about but the truth of the matter is that all of us have a beginning and end here on this earth.  Our time is limited.

If you are like me you have done crazy things that could have shortened your stay here because of immaturity. 

Time flies.  Doesn’t it?  The older I get the more I realize that time just continues to pass me by faster and faster.  In all reality, five minutes today is the same as five minutes 20 years ago and it will be the same 20 years in the future.  What I do know is that we need to be good stewards of our time.  That means taking responsibility for each moment of each day. 

Psalm 90 says, “Teach us to make the most of our time so that we may grow in wisdom.”

It is amazing to me to see people who get the devastating news that their life is coming to an end.  They almost always change the way they are living.  They start living in a way that matters each day.  Each moment is special and has meaning and purpose.  They say words that are important and get their lives in order.  

Take some time today and assess your life.  What are some things in your life that need to change because they don’t matter?  What areas of your life need an adjustment? 

It is a good reminder for all of us that our lives will not last forever.  Live each day to the fullest so we don’t come down to the end of life full of regrets.

Prayer Starter
Jesus, we are thankful for each day that you give us life.  Help us not to waste or mismanage the gift of time that you give each one of us.  Search our hearts and lives and help us to make the changes necessary to live a life of worth and value.  Thank you for each day. 

Brad Brimmer
Student Life Pastor


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God's Guarantee

“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.”
- Ephesians 1:13-14 NLT

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”
- Ephesians 1:18 NLT

From the moment we make the decision to follow Christ, God promises us an inheritance. We did nothing to deserve God's promise. He gave his Son's life to purchase us to be His own. God did this so we would praise and glorify him because he gave us a way of salvation. Without Christ we would be eternally lost. On top of the gift of His Son, He gives us the Holy Spirit as our down payment and guarantee toward eternal life. He then considers us His inheritance. How great is God's love for us that even before we chose to follow Christ, God prepared a plan of salvation that would allow us a way to obtain salvation, have the Holy Spirit to guide us while we live on earth, and eventually, eternal life with Christ the King and God our Father for all eternity.

God loves and cherishes us, God fills us with the light of his word which gives us confidence that can only come from knowing Him.  All this occurred because someone shared the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ with us. Lets share the good news with everyone God leads us to so they can obtain God's promise and become His inheritance.

Prayer Starter
Thank you Heavenly Father for the plan of salvation. Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us into your will. Give us boldness to share you goodness with others so they can know the joy of being yours now and forever.

Dale Petrowske

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Escape Plan

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
1 Corinthians 10:13 

I don’t think God is referring to my Dairy Queen temptation. As hard as I try to avoid giving in to Peanut Butter Blizzards, I cave every time. But I can attest to the reality of God bringing an alternative choice to my mind every time a serious temptation comes my way. Maybe you also remember the split second thought that pops into your head when you are about to make a bad choice. There is a short window of clarity that your plan is not God pleasing and you see what you should probably do instead. That is His “way out” for us from temptation, and He is faithful to help us think of it. The problem is many times we push past His way out and instead embrace the way that feels good to us.

The reality is the temptation is not the sin. Its what we do with the temptation that we are held accountable for. Next time temptation comes, purpose to listen for His way out. He wants us to endure. I’m thankful for His protection.

Prayer Starter
Lord, please help me pause and recognize the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit pointing out the escape route for me against the temptations that will come my way.  Give me the strength to listen to the wisdom of choosing the better path and thank you for saving me from myself!

Sue Marquis
Campus Pastor

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Waiting…Ugh!

“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  
- Psalm 127-3-5

I remember reading this verse in 1995 and the tears that poured onto my Bible as sadness stabbed my heart.   My womb was barren like the dessert.  My hopes of having children had long ago vanished.  I remember the desperation in my heart as I actually wrote this prayer in the margin of my Bible, “Bless our home with children Lord.  We wait on You. – December 1995.”  I desperately wanted to trust God yet my heart struggled to understand how a loving, kind God could say no to my deepest heart’s desire. 

Little did I know that in a little less than a year, God knew that two amazing boys would need a forever home and that He would perfectly weave them into our hearts. 

Being patient is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks God gives us.  The more we want something the harder it is to wait.  Patience…the very word causes us to yawn, roll our eyes or turn our attention to something else. However, being patient is not being passive or lazy, but rather being bold in confidence that God will do exactly what He promises to do.  In fact, it’s nearly impossible to truly and honestly serve God faithfully and obediently without being a patient person who is willing to wait and trust God for His answer in His timing.

Prayer Starter
Lord, You know how desperate I am today.  You know that my faith has wavered.  You know that I am desperate for an answer.  And although I want to trust You, I’m having trouble doing so.  So I ask that you will help me to be bold in my confidence that You will do exactly what You have promised to do.  I give you this circumstance as I put my trust in You and choose to wait obediently, faithfully and patiently.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Christy Demoff

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Immense Sin? Immense Grace  

“Jesus said, ‘Two men owed money to a certain money-lender.  One owed him five hundred denarii’s (twenty months wages), and the other fifty (two months wages).  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both.  Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much.’”
- Luke 7:41-47

Can you imagine the scene where a woman known only as “the sinner” sits at Jesus’s feet in the home of Simon the Pharisee and pours perfume on his feet and cleans them with her hair?  The fact that her sin was public to most everyone present means many would assume this woman was a prostitute although we do not know for sure. 

She would have noticed how Simon did not even extend to Jesus the common courtesies of the day.  He did not greet him; there was no water for him to clean his feet and no oil for his head.  There must have been obvious tension in the room as the crowd watched this woman stoop to wash Jesus feet as well as the disproval of the Pharisees in the crowd. 

The room must have been deathly quiet until Simon turned and said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Jesus took this opportunity to show everyone in the room an amazing lesson.  More sin = more grace.  No matter how much you have sinned, Jesus died for all sin so that we can be free and live free from sin! 

Prayer Starter
Jesus, thank you for enduring the cross so that we can experience forgiveness and grace.  Thank you that the vastness of our sin does not exclude us from a relationship with you but only makes us appreciate it that much more.  Today we are grateful for your exceeding love towards us.

Brad Brimmer
Student Life Pastor

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Get Your Mind in Shape! 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7

If this is true (which I fully believe it is), why does fear enter my thoughts at times? Why do I have times of feeling timid and powerless? The King James version of this verse uses the term “a sound mind” instead of self-discipline.  Paul wrote this to remind his disciple Timothy that God had given him the ability to discipline his mind. Paul knew that at times we would be faced with fear. Discipline takes effort. When you discipline yourself for better health you set aside food that has no nutritional value and you choose instead food that brings nutrients for your body. You set aside other activities and instead choose exercise even when you don’t feel like it. Discipline is just that, discipline. God has given us the ability to discipline our mind. So how do we do that?

A disciplined or sound mind is one that is quietly focused on truth. The truth of who He is, what He has told us in His Word, and the truth of who we are through Him. My mind, when left to its own way, can naturally fall into worst-case scenario fears. When I allow this I am being undisciplined. My focus is on my fear instead of my God. Undisciplined minds are the cause of anxiety and discouragement. Is it any wonder God made provision for us to have the ability for a sound mind alongside the spiritual gifts of His power and love? Let’s choose thoughts that bring nutrients to our faith level. Let’s exercise by applying truth and strengthening areas of fear weakness. Let’s operate in what God has given us, not in what He hasn’t!

Prayer Starter
Father, thank you for the ability to strengthen our minds against the things that will keep us weak. Give us the desire to do the work that discipline takes. We know that spiritual fights can only be won with spiritual weapons. Thank you for the upper hand in this battle!

Sue Marquis

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America! 

“Godliness makes a nation great,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.” 
-Proverbs 14:34

America - the land of the free and the home of the brave, or is it? We are witnessing the greatest attack on America in our lifetime. What is happening around us is not political but spiritual. It is clearly evident in political issues that are being decided, but it is much deeper than what most people think.

God created the nations of the earth and maintains control, but he has given us instructions and guidelines in the Bible for us to follow. Following God’s commands and instructions allow His blessing to blanket this land. When we refuse to listen and follow the umbrella of blessing is removed. Founding fathers don’t make a nation great. Our constitution is not the covering of protection and freedom. God’s word is! Godliness is what makes a nation great. Godliness is living your life in accordance to God’s word.

If you want to rise up and help turn America around then we need to repent of our sin and begin living according to God’s word. That is a personal commitment and a corporate church commitment that we need to make.

The bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14,  “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” It’s clear from scripture that the answer is not a march, legislation, or a political party. I’m not against those things, but the key to getting God to move on our behalf is repentance and godliness. I think more people are more comfortable with the other responses rather than making a deep spiritual commitment to live as godly as possible.

I recently heard a presidential candidate mention that if you are from Syria and are Christian you cannot come into the United States, but if you’re from Syria and you are Muslim you are welcomed in. These are the same people who are torturing and killing Christians. Sin is a disgrace and makes no sense. America’s only hope is personal to each one of us who profess to be followers of Christ.

My challenge to you is rise up with a desire and passion to follow God with all your heart. If you’ve not fully surrendered your life to Christ then today is the day. Do a personal inventory of your spiritual life and give over to God everything that is keeping you from living a godly life! Then, and only then, will America be great!  

Prayer Starter
Father, I pray for America today! I count it a privilege that I live here. We repent of our sin and wicked rebellious ways and turn our lives completely to you. Heal this land and restore our freedom. Help us to do our part in making America a great nation!

Curt Demoff
Lead Pastor

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Two Gates

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
-Matthew 7:13-14

Can I be bold? Those who don't follow Jesus have it easy. They can do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and act however they want.  Followers of Jesus have a more difficult road - everything we do, say, or act upon, is held accountable by God. 

Think about it, we as Christians need to analyze EVERYTHING to make sure it is Godly and pleasing to the Lord.  Everyday, throughout the day we need to be communicating with God. Every decision we make should be made with God. Everything we say should be thought about before being spoken and how we act should represent his Word. Doesn't that seem hard and exhausting? 

Entering the narrow gate requires more work and is exhausting at times. Few will find the narrow gate because most people are taking the wide and easy gate, which only leads to destruction and the crippling effects of sin. 

The two gates represent the decisions we make - good decisions and bad decisions. How do you choose to live your life? Are you choosing to make decisions that cause you to stand out because of your faith or do your decisions make you look like the rest of the world?  

Choose to walk towards the narrow gate today and everyday. 

Prayer Starter
Jesus, thank you for calling us to live a life that requires us to stand out and be different. I pray that with everything we do and wherever we are, that people can tell and notice that there is something different about us. Thank you so much for your guidance in our lives. I love you!

Collett McClellan

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He’s Got You Covered

“He will cover you with his feathers.  He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
-Psalm 91: 4 NLT

This verse caught me off guard.  Have you ever read a scripture and had to do a double take?  Yeah.  Me too.  That is where I found myself when I read this in my quiet time with God.  I mean, I’ve read this before.  How come this is the first time I have noticed it?  I’m sure it has a whole lot to do with the fact that the Holy Spirit is a great guide and leads us to the things we need when we need them.  I hope you are in need of this today… and if not, you’ll be in need of it soon.

Psalm 91 is an amazing passage of scripture.  It talks about God’s watchful care over those who stay near to him.  Through the passage it gives great detail of how God will provide for those who place their trust in him.  What took hold of my attention was the last portion of this verse, “His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”  What?  When I think of protection I don’t think of words.  Honestly, I’ve been let down by people and what they have said many times.  To think that God’s words and promises are so faithful, so enduring, so strong that they are actually protection for me blows my mind. 

What does this mean for us today?  It means we can count on God.  It means we need to let his word build faith in us so that we can utilize it as our shield of faith.  It means that as we meditate on his word and speak it out, we can begin to swing the sword of the Spirit when the enemy launches his attack against our minds.  It means that as we draw near to God and his word abides in us, we will finally find our rest in him.  It means we are covered!

Prayer Starter
Father, help us today to draw near to you today.  Help us to tune our ear to your voice and hold to your promises and truth.  You are our shield and our portion.  We are so grateful that your word never returns void.  It never fails.  We find our hope in YOU.  Amen.

Lisa Marsack

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