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Daily Devotionals

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The Pits

July 9, 2020

Psalm 88

Psalm 88 is a Psalm that is written in deep, unresolved sorrow. The author of this Psalm knew what it was like to feel stuck in the dark. He feels afraid and anxious in verse 3, lonely in verse 8, unheard in verses 9-12, as if his friends have left him alone in his suffering - like darkness is his closest friend (verse 18). 

Although he felt this way, he began the Psalm reminding himself who his salvation was in. In verse 1, he says “Lord, you are the God who saves me.” I have found myself repeating this truth over and over recently. But sometimes it takes a while for head knowledge to make its way to the heart. The Psalmist models that even then – especially then – we can rest in the Lord knowing it is ok to be in the pit. 

This Psalm comforts me. It reminds me that I am human, this world is broken, and I will feel in despair from time to time because our world has not fully been restored by the Redeemer. That day is coming, but until then, we must be faithful to remind ourselves, even in the pit of despair, that the Lord is the God who saves. If you’re not in the pit today, take some time to tell God thanks for the ways He has blessed you. If you are in the pit today, know that you’re not alone. Pray that the Lord would remind you of his faithfulness and bring you authentic joy and peace even while you wait out the darkness.

Megan Murphy

College Resident

A Bold Starting Point

July 8, 2020

Psalm 26

Do you want to live a bold courageous life? A life that makes a difference in the lives of others? A life that gives glory to God and furthers His kingdom? In Psalm 26, David gives us a starting point on the journey towards that kind of life. 

At the beginning of Psalm 26 David cries out to God because he believes he has done everything right. David’s not saying that he’s perfect, he is in a situation where his integrity and character are being questioned. We see in verses 4 and 5 where David stayed away from wrongdoing in his life. Even though David doesn’t believe he’s done fault, he still acknowledges his own limitations. 

David understood that the heart is deceitful, and that we, as humans, have a tendency to gloss over our shortcomings. David has a backup plan. Look at verse 2 and 3. He asks God to test him and try him. He wants God to shine a light into his heart and mind to help him see where he has done wrong. 

Now that’s a bold prayer! David is asking God, “SHOW ME WHERE I HAVE SCREWED UP!”. It’s easier for us to pray the type of prayers where we ask God to use us to do good things. Doing good for other people is often so much easier than admitting we were wrong, that we messed something up, or highlighting the depth of our sin. 

For me, this is the difference between brushing my teeth and going to the dentist. Brushing my teeth is good, but it’s easy and low risk. If I go to the dentist, I may find out that I have cavities, they may root around in my teeth with sharp tools, and someone else will notice how badly I actually brush my teeth. 

Be bold and courageous by praying a prayer that asks God to test you in order to root out all of that sin. Maybe your prayer today is less about how to do good to that neighbor, and instead asking God to help you see any unconscious wrong bias of that neighbor. Maybe your prayer today is less about helping you to do something good and loving for your spouse, and instead asking God to show you where you’ve wronged that spouse and ask for that forgiveness. 

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

The Humble Cure

July 7, 2020

Psalm 144

Psalm 144 humbles me every time I read it. Take a minute to read verses 3-4. "O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Oof! It took the Psalmist two sentences to put me in place and remind me vividly that my life is a small pretty insignificant blip in the timeline of the world. God is God and I'm a blip.

Honestly, in all the sickness, conflict, and tensions going on in our country and world today, it doesn't seem immediately relevant to think of “humility” as a solution. Instead my first inclination is to tell you that I need God to show me that He is a God of peace or justice or healing. God is all of those things, and we see that throughout the scriptures. But I love this Psalm because it reminds me that first and foremost, we need God to be God!! We need Him to be big, in control, powerful, and greater than us. Take a couple minutes to read verses 5-8 of this Psalm if you haven't already. The God described there is certainly mighty and powerful!!

Once we know that He is those things and that we are not, we also need to remember that He is good, trustworthy, and faithful. The power and might that verses 5-8 speak of? That power enables the goodness. When we remember all of these things, then we begin to rest because we know that He ultimately will bring justice, that heaven is a place of certain peace, and that sickness and broken bodies no place in our eternal home. So today, when you are confronted with injustice, sickness, or another aspect of our broken world, I encourage you to pray verse 2 of this Psalm back to the Lord. Remember that you are a blip, that God is God, and rest in His steadfast love and His refuge.

Helen Weitman

Associate Young Adults Director

Finding Joy

July 6, 2020

Psalm 100

Recently I have been reflecting a lot on the idea of joy or, more specifically, reflecting on my lack of joy. The Bible uses language often to describe the joy of those who know God. Knowing God produced this overflowing, abundant, authentic joy. I've really wrestled with this recently. If I’m following Jesus, why does finding joy seem to be such a struggle for me? To be clear, there are many reasons for a lack of joy and I don't want to be insensitive to any of them, but Psalm 100 provided me some answers about the source of my own joy. 

Psalm 100 is filled with language of overflowing, abundant, authentic joy. Notice the pattern of the Psalm. Verses 1 and 2, as well as verse 4, talk about joyful actions and feelings. Verses 3 and 5 talk about Truth to know about God. It is as if the foundation for the joyful feelings are learning the truths about God. I’m discovering that my lack of joy in God stemmed from a deficiency of God's Truth in my life. It wasn't invading my life, it was simply marginally present. 

I want Truth to invade my life. Psalm 1 talks about the joy-filled man being the one who delights, meditates on, absorbs the Word of God in as many ways and as often as possible. In my search for joy I've decided to meditate on Psalm 16. For me, that looks like memorizing a verse at a time, every time I drive in the car, over the course of weeks. Letting the truth about God sink deep into my soul so that the truth about God becomes a fountain of joy in my life. How will you fight for joy today?

Sam Weitman

College Pastor

Fruit of Trust

July 3, 2020

Psalm 52

This Psalm shows a contrast between the man who trusts in himself and the man who trusts in the Lord. 

Verse 7 really shows the fruit of trusting in oneself. When we refuse to make God our refuge, we sow destruction upon ourselves. When we rely on our own riches and own hands, in the end we only find destruction because we have:

  1. boasted of evil
  2. plotted destruction
  3. loved evil more than good

The first 3 verses describe what evil men do and then the last 6 show the result of their wrongdoing and the contrast between what they should expect and where the righteous find hope.  The righteous find hope because they fear the Lord.

Fearing God doesn't mean that we are afraid of Him. But instead, it shows us that we should revere God as who he is. He is just, holy, and good. When he gives us a command, we can trust that it is for our good to listen and obey him. We can trust in his love for us. We can trust in his provision over us because of what he has done. He has sent Jesus to pay for our sins so that we can be free from guilt and shame forever and ever and enjoy an eternity of joy in his presence. Why would we choose to live any other way?  

Matt Lubratt

College Resident

For-ev-er

July 1, 2020

Psalm 48

It’s all just a matter of perspective, isn’t it?  To the young mom of toddlers whose husband works late, forever is a really long time of being alone.  For a bride waiting for her wedding day, the wait can seem like forever.  For the man sitting by his phone waiting for test results of a life-changing diagnosis, the word forever feels like a very heavy weight. The word can bring happy thoughts to our mind and heart, or signal a sadness that has no end in sight.

We are living in a time where it seems forever has become a common theme.  Will this virus last forever?  Will I have to juggle work and homeschooling forever?  Will I have to stay away from friends and family forever?  The word, now overused, has become one that has a deep sigh at the end of it.

But what if we changed our perspective?  What if we looked at the word from a new angle?  In Psalm 48, David paints a picture of Zion whom God has delivered from her enemies.  Jerusalem is secure and glorious because God has blessed it with His favor.  As he stands near God’s house, David reflects on God’s love and righteousness.  Verse 14 says, “This God is our God forever and ever.  He will guide us from now on.”  His earlier sadness turns to praise for a God who promises to be our God forever.  This promise now becomes a time of celebration.

Living with the perspective that our God is forever changes everything.  We have a God whose promise of salvation fortifies us for anything that we face, knowing it is temporary.  How could you change your perspective to live today like you serve a God who is forever?

Nita Minshew

Children's Director

Unqualified

June 30, 2020

Psalm 118

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but early on in my years of being a pastor I found myself feeling inadequate for the role God had me in. My sense of excitement turned to insecurity. Thoughts flooded my mind like, “If people knew the sin I struggle with, the things I’m not good at, or questions I don’t know the answer to, they wouldn’t think I’m qualified either.”

During this pandemic, I imagine you may have some of the same thoughts.  There is nothing like pressure to reveal the cracks that lie below the surface of our lives.  In this season, for some, past sin struggles have resurfaced.  For others, uncertainty about the future and the number of unanswered questions has felt paralyzing.  Then comes the question: “Even if we knew what God wanted us to do, would we be qualified to do it?”

I’m so glad that God has something to say about people who don’t feel like they are the right fit for the situation they find themselves.  Psalm 118:22 says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  The cornerstone was the most essential stone in the building process. Builders would discard many stones because they did not fit the needed space.  The writer felt like one of these inadequate, discarded stones, that just isn’t fit for the job.  God had His eye on a discarded person, and didn’t just restore him to a position of usefulness but to one of prominence.  In verse 23, we see that only God could do this marvelous work.

In Acts 4, Peter related this Psalm to Jesus. In Psalm 118, the Psalmist related it to himself. The point is: this is what God does. So Parent, Neighbor, Leader, Friend, Husband, Wife: the next time you feel inadequate or unsure about your ability to do what God has called you to do, remember that God restores the discarded stones of the world to play positions of prominence in building His kingdom.  Ask God where you need to tune out the excuses and tune in His voice.  Then trust that in God’s hands you are the perfect fit for role He has called you to play.

Justin Atkins

Executive Pastor

Fools and Foolishness

July 2, 2020

Psalm 14

“What are you thinking!?”


I think that we have all asked that question at some point. Reading Psalm 14, you can tell that the author, David, has had it up to “here” with people around him. It’s easy to feel that way sometimes, and it is understandable when we get into that headspace. 

The problem is when we STAY in that place. Even David, at the end of the Psalm finishes on a positive note. Here’s how I believe we can get out of the space, that space where we think the world around us is falling apart. 

Look back at the way that David describes the people around him: “fools…corrupt…vile…evildoers”. Can we be honest with ourselves for a second? Have we not been guilty of some of these things too? I’ve done foolish things. I’ve done bad, selfish, destructive things. We all have. They may not all have the same consequences, they may not all affect other people the same, but evil is evil in the sight of a perfect God.

David knew something better was on the horizon in verse 7. He was right. Jesus was that saving grace. Through Jesus we can be forgiven. Through Jesus we can see the reality of our sin and see the true offer of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Jesus even had an interaction in John 8:7 where he said, “Let any one of you who is without sin throw the first stone…”. 

Before we go out condemning the world around us, we need to first realize the depth of our sin, then see the incredible way that Jesus paid the cost for that sin and offers us forgiveness. That will put us out of a bad headspace into a posture of humility, and that’s how we’ll be able to reach the broken world around us with the good news of Jesus Christ!

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

The Quest for Unity

June 29, 2020

Psalm 133

A couple of times over the last few months we’ve done a scavenger hunt with our kids. They love the pursuit and search for the next clue and the anticipation of finding the final item.  

It seems everywhere I turn I see our world on a quest for unity. Both in big and small ways our world is searching for it. Watch the news and we find people crying out for unity. Talk to a parent and you hear a small scale longing for it, as they hope their kids will get along.  

In Psalm 133 David reflects upon the goodness of God’s people dwelling in unity together. Verse 1 begins by describing how desirable it is when the people of God live in harmony with each other.  Some may ask, “What does unity look like?” In the New Testament we see commands, “so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people, or “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The idea is that we would fight for peace by regarding the interest of others as more important than our own.

In v.2-3 David provides two images to describe the blessings that come from unity. Both the image of the priest being anointed and the mountain and the dew are communicating the same thing. It’s as if David is answering the question, “Why live like that?”  Both of these images describe the abundant results of living in unity with others. One of the reasons we seek unity with others is because unity always blesses more than just the participants.  

Who are the people in your life that God may be calling you to exalt their needs and pursue unity? Perhaps in this season the Lord may be prompting you to more diligently seek to serve your spouse or another family member in your home? Maybe it’s a co-worker or friend. Unity is a sweet gift from God that our world is desperately seeking. How could you be a source of providing it today both in large and small ways?

Jay Felker

Pastor of Equipping

Winning Arguments

June 26, 2020

Psalm 12

I like winning arguments. Maybe I’m alone in that sentiment, but I bet that many of us enjoy winning an argument, discussion, or debate. We like having the right answers, or at least being perceived like we have the right answers. If you’ve spent even a few seconds on social media over the course of your life, you’ll see that it’s filled with people trying to win arguments, prove points, and “humble brag” about something they did. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s a tale as old as time. 

Looking at Psalm 12, we see that David, the author, has experienced this same thing. He knows that people use their words to try and flatter, to persuade, and to brag. We do this because we want the focus to be on us, and whether we care to admit it or not, we are selfish. That is sin rooting around inside of us. 

David is tired of all these words getting used, getting thrown around, that are ultimately pointless; not doing anybody any good. David then shows us what the reverse looks like. He talks in vv 5-8 about how the needy and oppressed are crying out and the Lord lifts them up. God lifts up those in need and comes to their aid. 

Here’s my question for us today: do we hear those same voices that the Lord hears? Are we listening for the voices of those that are in need, those that have been oppressed? Or are we concerned only with what we have to say? 

My hope (and I think this was David’s hope), is that we would spend less time talking and more time listening for those who are in need and moving into action to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus. 

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

Spiritual Ed

June 25, 2020

Psalm 78

The beginning of Psalm 78 is such a great reminder that we need to be sharing stories from our past; the things that our parents and grandparents taught us. We need to share stories that reflect God’s goodness and His ways; things that God is teaching us personally. We will tell the next generation, who in turn will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His powers and the wonders He has done. I don’t know about you, but why would I not tell my children and grandchildren about my daily walk with the Lord? What’s holding me back from telling them about the things He has done in my life? The places that I have experienced Him in joy and in sorrow and the things that I’ve learned from both? This Psalm convicts me to share not just big picture, vague things, but step by step stories. How I learned specific lessons and what God used to teach me!

I have been teaching my granddaughter how to drive over the last few months. One day, I was telling her how to do something in great detaiI. I thought to myself, “Why do I not teach her with this much detail & instruction when it comes to the things of the Lord?” Of course we talk about Jesus (A lot, actually), but this was detailed instruction. Turn by turn. What to watch out for, how to always be looking in front of you and behind you and to the side. I remind her to be careful who she has in her car and who she rides with. Those people will affect her ability to focus. Each and every thing I said about driving had a spiritual equivalent and I was so convicted!

We as parents and grandparents have a responsibility and a calling to take our children and grandchildren through a SPIRITUAL ED course that includes stories of God’s ways from long ago and the present day. Stories that will carry from generation to generation. Let’s commit together to pulling out our SPIRITUAL ED manual each and every day, giving them “turn by turn” instruction and constantly using our everyday situations and circumstances to teach them, to praise God, to show them His power and ultimately move them toward a lasting, deep relationship with Jesus Christ!

Sherri Whitener

Women's Ministry & Special Events

Sing A Strong Song

June 24, 2020

Psalm 92

Psalm 92 is meant to be sung on the Sabbath – a day of rest. What better way to start a song than by praising the Lord.

“It is good to praise the Lord.
God Most High, it is good to praise your name.
It is good to sing about your love in the morning and about your faithfulness at night.”  Psalms 92:1-2 (ERV)


It certainly is fitting to praise God and sing about His love and faithfulness. Furthermore, using the harp and dulcimer joyously proclaims the works He has done and our inability to understand the mind of God. (v.3-4). He truly is worthy of a song.

The verses that follow provide a stark contrast between the unrighteous and Christ followers. (v. 6,7,9) The unrighteous don’t comprehend what God has done and continues to do. They are likened to grass that quickly withers - think Texas in August. But God (the two greatest words in the Bible), gives strength and His blessing to those who follow Him (v. 10).

Because of being transformed, the righteous can flourish and bear fruit. Those in right standing with God are like a statuesque date-palm or a stately cedar of Lebanon. One withstands drought, the other storms and frost on summit heights. Date-palm trees represent fruitfulness even in old age. At full size they produce 300-600 pounds of their very best dates each season. And, that happens after 30-40 up to 100 years of age! Lebanon cedars grow 120 feet high with a 30 foot circumference- upright, strong, enduring, green all year.

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalms 92:12-15 (NLT)


Flourish. Declare that God is just. Show that God is good. Praise God all the days of your life for his constant love and faithfulness. Sing your song today.

Carolyn Conklin

Receptionist

Vision Stories

June 23, 2020

Psalm 111

One of the things I love about many of our church gatherings is when we take a moment to celebrate what God is doing in us and around us. We call them "vision stories." If you've been to any of our all-church prayer Zoom meetings, or if you're a leader and have attended a Huddle, chances are you have heard a vision story or two or have shared one of your own. Maybe you've heard them around the church or in your Community Group. Vision stories come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it's seeing someone take a next step toward Baptism. Sometimes it's seeing someone in your Community Group raise their hand for the first time to close in prayer. Whether you put a title to it or not, there is no doubt that God is moving and doing great things in us and around us. 

Psalm 111 is a great reminder the great things God has done and is continuing to do. The first few verses (v1-2) remind us as Christians, not to neglect what God is doing or let it slip by without taking the time to celebrate. We need to tell others of the good that He is doing and we should stop and reflect on it because His work reveals His glory and majesty (v3). God is a God who is big enough and near enough to feed the hungry and keep His promises (v5), show power and favor (v6), remain trustworthy (v7), true (v8) and pay the ransom for people like us (v9). 

What's a "vision story" that you have seen lately? Take a moment to reflect on it. Take note of it, thank Him for it, and find a time to share it with someone around you.

Cameron Sanderson

Production DIrector

Emerging From Captivity

June 22, 2020

Psalm 126

Psalm 126 was probably written by the Israelites when they were released from Babylonian captivity. Their release was unexpected, a surprise, which led to the words that this Psalm starts with..."we were like those in a dream." It seemed too good to be true! The first half of the psalm is dedicated to praising the Lord as His people revel in His blessings to them. Yes, He blessed them by bringing them out of captivity, but He also blessed them by the work He did in their hearts during captivity. In 1 Peter 1:7, the apostle Peter talks about a faith that is refined and tested by fire. I can only imagine that this is the sentiment of the Israelites as they look back on years of captivity. God had been refining and perfecting their faith in His abilities and goodness. And now they are released! What a thing to praise God for. 

Even in light of all the praise, the Psalm ends with a request. Although they have been freed, there is still much to do. They are now in their own land and there are new problems to deal with. New surroundings to navigate. In light of this, they ask for God to provide for them and to "restore their fortunes".

I hope that as I've written about the history of this Psalm, you've found yourself somewhere in its words. Perhaps, you still feel that you are in a kind of "captivity" and are praying and trusting God for release. My encouragement for you is that God works in these times to refine and perfect our faith. My hope for you is that one day you will be able to look back on His deliverance from this current circumstance as well as how God used this difficulty and say like they could in verse 3, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad."

Perhaps your story is different and you have been delivered from difficulty recently. Maybe sickness has passed, the intense limitations of social distancing have loosened and you have begun to see loved ones again, or something else entirely. May this Psalm remind you to praise the One who ultimately provided this deliverance and hope! Don’t forget to be grateful!

Finally, I think that all of us probably find ourselves in the second half of this Psalm....whether praising God for deliverance or hanging onto hope in captivity, may we all keep asking Him to continue to work in us and around us, and to give us the strength we need to trust Him in the process.

Helen Weitman

Associate Young Adults Director

Good News and Bad News

June 19, 2020

Psalm 24

A few days ago one of my boys came to me and said, “Dad, I’ve got some good news and bad news.” It’s something every parent loves to hear! Throughout Scripture we see God reminding His people of both the bad news of our sin and the good news that a Rescuer has come! Psalm 24 looks at both. Psalm 24 is a call to worship that the ancient Jews would recite weekly as it invited them into a life of praise.  

V.1-2 provide a declaration of God’s might as the Creator and Owner of all that exists. In response to this truth, v.3-6 focus on the one who would worship a God so infinitely powerful. David asks the question, “Who may stand in His Holy Place?” In v.4 we see the response, those with clean hands (actions) and a pure heart (thoughts). God isn’t concerned with our appearance, He’s concerned with our heart (1 Sam. 16:7) and our deeds (Micah 6:8). As I read clean hands and a pure heart being the requirement to dwell with the Lord I’m reminded I fail the test. Constant failures and brokenness in my own heart is the bad news. On my own I don’t possess what it would take to be with God.

V.7 introduces the good news as we see the entrance of the King of Glory. Who is He? The Lord, the one strong and mighty to save. David may not have known it, but this image of a King who was coming in strength and glory could only be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Rescuer King.  

This week, remember to give thanks that the Creator of the Universe longs for you to dwell with Him! And your inability to keep your hands clean or heart pure can’t keep that from happening. Not because of something you’ve done, but because the King of Glory has come for you!

Jay Felker

Pastor of Equipping

Rabbit Ears

June 18, 2020

Psalm 10

It fascinates me how aware David was of the people around him. I can’t imagine the self-torture he’d have endured in the age of social media. He had what my dad calls “rabbit ears”. He seemed to hear every stray word or phrase spoken in contradiction to his belief system… and it all got to him.

Notice, though, how it wasn’t just the people who stood in contradiction to him that he was paying attention to. In this Psalm, there are 4 categories of people that David’s got his ears attuned to: The Wicked (vs 2-9), The helpless (vs.10 & 14), The afflicted (17), and The fatherless (14 & 18).

It’d be one thing if every Psalm of David was a laundry list of how evil people seem to be prevailing while he himself felt like he was losing. Instead, we see David taking up the charge for what the New Testament would later call “the least of these.” He sees wicked people taking advantage of the helpless, the afflicted and the fatherless, and He brings a passionate prayer to God…

“Arise O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted.” (12)

When I read this, I am convicted about my prayer life. I am convicted that I’m not more of an advocate for the down-trodden of my day. Maybe I should use David’s “rabbit ears” for good. Maybe I should pay more attention to those who have trouble advocating for themselves.

Maybe it’s not about the wicked. Maybe it’s not about me.

Maybe I was put here, at this time in my life, RIGHT NOW, to speak up for helpless, the afflicted and the fatherless.

In the moment we find ourselves in in America, I can’t think of a better use of my time.

Richie Fike

Worship Pastor

God is Great. God is Good.

June 17, 2020

Psalm 145

When I was a child, there was a meal-time prayer that was commonly repeated in my house, and perhaps in yours, too. “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food....”  It was awfully simple, and honestly, it was often rushed. And it was easily corrupted when we were a little too eager to get to the meal... “God is good. God is great. Thank Him for the food we ate!” So we could easily discount it as a childish prayer, but there is actually an awful lot of good theology in there. In fact the psalmist David, built Psalm 145 around those simple ideas.  

“Great is the LORD,” David proclaims, “and most worthy of praise” (v3a). And lest we think that this is just shallow praise, David reminds us that we can never reach the depths of this idea-- "his greatness no one can fathom" (v3b). You don't need to fully comprehend it, but it is important to know that it is deeper than you'll ever need to know. No matter what darkness or evil surrounds us, our God is greater.

"The LORD is good," David continues (v9a).  He is talking about God's moral righteousness, and thankfully also his grace, compassion, and love (v7-8). And David wants to be sure that we know that this goodness extends to everyone and everything -- "he has compassion on all he has made" (v9b). No matter what darkness or evil we find within us, our God is “good to all” (v9).

Take a few minutes and read and reflect on Psalm 145. In the last month, where have you experienced God's greatness and his goodness? And don’t keep it to yourself. David reminds us that the whole world needs to hear that our God is great and good! “My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever” (v21).

Gary Foran

Pastor of Mobilization

Remember Who You’re From

June 16, 2020

Psalm 114

My mom is 92 years of age.  Some years ago she documented her family history and presented it to each of her children.  Now it is part of my history to pass down.  What struck me was God’s faithfulness through the generations- hard times, joyful times, and “in” times.  Likewise, Psalm 114 passes down history.  It is Hebrew poetry, a song, sung generation by generation right before celebrating Passover.  The nation of Israel was reminded of their deliverance from Egypt through God’s saving grace (v. 1-2), and of God’s protection (v. 3-6).  It reminded them that Mount Sinai quaked at God’s presence and like the Red Sea, the Jordan River was rolled back for Joshua to lead the Israelites across.  Finally, verses 7-8 celebrate the Lord and God’s complete power and authority- “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord....”  Awe and reverence belong to God.

Just as the Israelites remembered, reflect on your story.  How have you seen God working?  Are you trusting Him?  Do you see His faithfulness?  Sing a song, thank Him, and revel in who God is.

 

Carolyn Conklin

Receptionist

Surrounded

June 15, 2020

Psalm 73

In Psalm 73, David is having a huge faith crisis! There is evil going on all around him and it is all that he can see. He is sunk deep into focusing on all of the turmoil around him and feels helpless and forgotten. He can only see injustice and violence, feeling like God is just letting it happen. Does this sound familiar? Some days it’s just flat difficult to see God in all of this.

Verse 17 is where David finds clarity. It is a true pivotal moment for him! “till I entered the sanctuary of God…” In this moment, David recognizes that he cannot possibly understand the ways of God. He realizes that he must enter the sanctuary of God….he must leave the evil surrounding him in God’s mighty hands. Like David, I long to understand God’s ways, but in my moments of clarity I have to face the fact that some things I am just not supposed to understand!

Once David refocuses, he humbles himself recognizing his own grief, bitterness and ignorance and has a heart of repentance; longing for more of God! This humility strengthens his relationship with God even in the midst of not understanding the circumstances around him or their outcome. David comes to the beautiful place. A place we all want to be. In verse 23 beginning with “YET”! He realizes that in the midst of the struggle and the uncertainty, God is with him and holds him by the hand. He sees how God counsels him. He has been promised and remembers that God is enough for today and forever. He is David’s ONLY FOREVER THING!

This time of wrestling in pain and doubt brings David to such a deep, solid place with God that he can’t wait to tell others! God’s nearness to him, his safe place of refuge is something he wants to share with others, knowing that God will ultimately bring peace and justice forever and ever! Are you in the midst of faith crisis? Are you longing to understand what’s happening all around you and where God is in all of it?

Enter into the presence of God and Go and Be Doxology to the world around you!

Sherri Whitener

Women's Ministry & Special Events

The LORD Reigns

June 12, 2020

Psalm 93


As a young girl I remember being outside working on our dairy farm with my mother and asking, “Mom, how can God have no beginning and no end?”  My recollection is that she was taken aback by such a question out of the blue; but, she also decided it was time for me to have my own Bible.  Recalling my past resonated with Psalm 93.  This is one of the Royal Psalms used as part of Israel’s worship.  And, it is worthy of our worship of God too.  

Verses 1-2 tell me God is King.  He’s always been King.  How comforting.  How assuring that this is where my faith rests.  There never was a time where God did not reign. His majesty and strength are so much a part of Him that it is as though they are His signature clothes.  Because He is at the ready, the world is established and secure.  Revel in these verses:

“The LORD is King.  The LORD wears majesty and strength like clothes. He is ready so that the whole world is safe. It cannot be shaken. Your kingdom has continued forever. You have lived forever!” (ERV)

Next, God exercises authority over all. All really means all. In verses 3-4 the ocean is used as an example. No matter how loud it roars or its sound thunders...even the most powerful storm...God is more powerful. He controls the churning waves of chaos.  God’s creation reminds us of his great power. He spoke it into being. 

Finally, verse 5 assures us of the immutable truth of God’s Word:

“God’s royal laws cannot be changed. Your reign, O LORD, is holy forever and ever.” (NLT)  Because His Word is truth and He reigns, all my praise is due Him.

The LORD is...
sovereign 
in control
reigning forever 

He is trustworthy and more. Resting in God who has no beginning and no end is the perfect place to be. 







Carolyn Conklin

Receptionist

Control or Trust?

June 11, 2020

Psalm 127

These past few months have been a reminder that we have so little control in life.  Many of us can be lulled into believing we have control of our life, direction, and plans. We believe the lie that our strengths or wisdom can be leveraged to accomplish what we plan. That idea of control we can pursue and do so at the detriment of walking in trust and faith in the Lord.

Psalm 127 is a wisdom psalm written by Solomon to address this problem. He encourages his audience to live more God-centered, trusting in Him for all things. Solomon identifies three areas that are universal for us to seek to control on our own; building, security, and raising a family.

In v.1 Solomon starts by looking at building and security. The idea of building one’s home was a normal responsibility, something each family would do for itself. For us, this could mean what we produce or provide for ourselves or our family. Then Solomon mentions the idea of security, something that within that world would have been a daily priority with enemies all around them. Security is still something we prioritize today, but something we may often take for granted with locks and home security systems. Solomon includes both with the warning, “unless the Lord” does it, the result is vanity or meaningless. In v.3-4 Solomon turns to the idea of the family, reminding his leaders that even when it comes to raising the next generation, it is a gift from the Lord’s hand. These most essential tasks of building, securing, and establishing a family are worthless without the Lord’s intervention.

What areas of your life are you trying to control on your own? Is it in what you produce at work or in a future you are trying to secure on your own? Are you so consumed with how your kids turn out that you fail to simply rest and trust the Lord?  We each need a reminder that in all aspects of life, the wise will look to the Lord, trusting and resting in Him.

Jay Felker

Pastor of Equipping

Oh Wait! I Remember Now!

June 10, 2020

Psalm 56

In Psalm 56 David is in a world of hurt…

                Fear of man

                Fear of attack

                Fear of being slandered

                Fear of being misunderstood

                Fear of conspiracy against him

                Fear of being watched and hunted

                SO MUCH FEAR! And the circumstances were real!

 

Even though David knows, he knows; he knows that he follows a God he can trust, throughout this Psalm David goes back and forth:

                Fear takes hold…

                He reminds himself he can trust God!

                Fear takes hold…

                He reminds himself He has a praiseworthy God!

                Fear takes hold…

                He reminds himself God’s got this…what can mortal men do to him?

                Fear takes hold…

                He reminds himself God is just and can bring down the nations!

                Fear takes hold…

                He reminds himself that God is for him!

                Fear takes hold…

                He reminds himself that God has delivered him from death & he can walk before God in the light of life!

 

In these uncertain days, when fear takes hold for you, pause and remember that God has got you. You can trust Him. He is worthy of your praise. No one can harm you because in Christ you have already BEEN DELIVERED FROM DEATH and can walk with Him in the light of life!

Friends, let’s reflect on this Psalm throughout today. Let’s all say all day, “Oh, wait! I remember now!”

Sherri Whitener

Women's Ministry & Special Events

My Bad

June 9, 2020

Psalm 7

I have small kids, and they are crazy at times. They are often disobedient, prone to throw fits, and argue at things we ask of them. It’s easy for me to put all the blame on them. Yet if I’m really honest, if I were to rewind and look at my past actions, attitudes, and responses; they are not the only one to blame. I am not a flawless and perfect parent. I am sinful, broken, and make mistakes. Only God is a perfect Father.

If we want to move the needle in any relationship, we need to recognize the mistakes and fault within ourselves. In Psalm 7, David talks about taking refuge in God, but he also talks about owning his own mistakes. In verse 3-5, David asks God to search him and if there is fault in him that God would fix it. David talks in verse 12 about repenting. Repenting is acknowledging your wrongdoing, your mistakes, your faults, your biases; giving them over to God, and then moving towards the opposite direction of that sin. 

Often, the biggest change in our world comes from change within ourselves. If we want to see change in the world around us; it needs to start with us and then move outward! We can see life change, we can see relationships reconciled, we can see the Good News spread like wildfire, but it starts with our own heart change!

In verse 11, David says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day”. Indignation means, “anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment”. The question I need to ask myself everyday is, “Do I feel the same indignation that God feels?”, and “What am I going to do with it?” Let today be a day where you examine and own your own shortcomings. Ask God to let you feel the way He feels about them, even before you do them. And commit to walk in the direction of the Righteous Judge, who also happens to be your shield, defender, and perfect Heavenly Father.

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

Can Anybody Hear Me?

June 8, 2020

Psalm 34

When reading Scripture, it’s a best practice to first ask “What does it say?” Then, “So what does this mean to me?” And then to formulate your own “What am I going to do about it?” statement. Many Community Groups practice this every week. 

In Psalm 34 David begins with his “I will” statement – “I will extoll (bless) the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord.” (34:1,2). Then he goes on to explain why he will do so: David believes God actually hears him. David continued – “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” In verse 6 David exclaims, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him.” Later in verses 15 and 17 he mentions how God’s ears are attentive to the righteous and He hears their cry.

I don’t know about you, but I have often felt that my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. As if I was only talking to myself. David was a man who was very familiar with trials and troubles, yet he proclaimed that God is always near and intently interested in the words of His children and the pain they are suffering. David believed God actually “encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them.” (verse 7).

Why is it sometimes hard for me to realize that He is actively listening to my cry? His Word says that He does.

So what does this Psalm say to me? The Lord is ever present with me, hears me, and ultimately will deliver me. What am I going to do about it? I will call out to Him, knowing that He actually delights in the voice of His children. I will bless Him and glorify Him. I will “taste and see that the Lord is good.” What about you? What will you do today?

Jim Gentry

Business Manager

How Long?

June 5, 2020

Psalm 6

Believe it or not, I was not a self-parenting child growing up. On multiple occasions (ahem… per day) I found myself sitting in “time-out” to give my emotions or behavior a chance to unwind, or for my brain to have a chance to catch up with my mouth. When I was young, “time-out” felt like a torturous eternity. Today I see it for what it was: a temporary move to protect me from myself, spare others from my actions, and force me self-reflective rhythms that would benefit “Future Me” in immeasurable ways.

There is a clear line between punishment and discipline; in the Bible and in our lives. Punishment destroys. Discipline restores. Punishment aims at the satisfaction of the offended.  Discipline aims at the good of the offender. For those who are “in Christ,” we never need to fear God’s punishment; Jesus took it on our behalf. God’s discipline, on the other hand, is something we should expect - even invite – despite being something only a crazy person would enjoy.

In Psalm 6, David calls out during a time out. What strikes me about the Psalm is David’s desperation and gut-deep acknowledgement that he couldn’t take much more (6:5). However, David remains confident in the Father’s love and trusts His protection through the discipline. David is vulnerable, but at the same time he’s not a sitting duck (6:8-10).

These days are not God’s punishment on us. They are opportunities for us to be restored and drawn nearer to the heart of God, even while we cry out “How long?” Take a few moments for self-reflection today. What rhythms might God want to instill in you during this season that would benefit “Future You” in immeasurable ways? Spend some time thanking Him for hearing you. And don’t hesitate to tell Him, “We’ve had enough of this.” Feel free to ask Him, “How long, Lord, how long?”

Chris Freeland

Lead Pastor

You Are What You Worship

June 4, 2020

Psalm 115

When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my dad. I would dress, talk, and act like him. Most of us emulated something or someone as a child. If we're honest though, it’s not just something we did as children. All people are in a state of transition, and we often aim our lives toward other people or their ideas. Scripture reminds us that we are what we worship. Whatever we love most, or find our greatest joy in, will set the course for how our lives will look and the people we will become.

Psalm 115 urges the people of Israel to trust in the Lord by reminding them of God’s goodness and power compared with the idols of the nations.

The Psalm begins with a plea for God to bring glory to His name, not for His people’s sake, but because of His love and faithfulness. It is not looking back at something God has done but looking in the present or to the future, confidently expecting Him to work again. In verse 2 we see the nations are ridiculing Israel, asking, “Where is their God?” The response is clear: God lives in the heavens untouched by the actions on this Earth. In contrast, verses 3-7 the idols of the world have been created by the very people who look to them for protection. Verse 8 reminds us that in the end, all who trust in those idols will become just like them, dead. The contrast between the Lord and these idols is striking but leads to the plea for God’s people in verse 9. Trust in the Lord. Verses 9-18 are a plea to look to the Lord alone for life, protection, and rest and a commitment to bless the LORD.

Psalm 115 warns us to consider what we worship. What do we love the most? For some, we have been most consumed by a pursuit of money or success, comfort or security. For some of us, we look to another human or an idea for our hope. All of these ‘idols’ will ultimately let us down as v.8 reminds us. Spend some time refocusing your attention, affection, and hope on the Lord. He alone provides joy, purpose and life.

Jay Felker

Pastor of Equipping

Counting Blessing

June 3, 2020

Psalm 63

“Count your blessings” is something I heard a lot growing up and it’s really starting to ring true as we go on month 3 of this lock down. I am what you might call an “extreme extrovert” so this has been a difficult time for me. It was ok the first month or so. Quarantine was still a new and exciting adventure. I could wake up, make my coffee and be at work (my kitchen table) all in 10 min! I got to have lunch with my wife every day and then take a walk around the neighborhood.

The new has definitely worn off at this point! 

As I read Psalms 63 recently, verses 5-6 caught my eye.  Verse 5 says, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” (There’s no real spiritual reason why this stuck out to me, but because I love food and have eaten a lot during this whole lock down process, and if I don't exercise soon, the “19” in “Covid 19” is going to stand for more than just the year it started!) But the rest of verse 5-6 says “my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” I love this because it reminds me that even in hard times like these, I need to remember to count my blessings. It pushes me to remember that even though I may not have recognized it in the moment, God was blessing me throughout my day. One great way to do this is to end your day with writing down at least 3 blessings (big or small) from that day. Will you join with me in doing this over the next week?

Trevor Brackeen

Associate Mobilization Director

Enduring Love

June 2, 2020

Psalm 136

This current season has been a test of my endurance. My physical endurance, emotional endurance and spiritual endurance. A few weeks before the world flipped on its head, I gave birth to my second baby and let me tell you, she may have taken a few seconds to let out that first cry, but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t stopped crying since that day just over three months ago.

But this isn’t just about sharing the challenges I’ve faced over the past few months. This really is a “but God” moment because though my own endurance has failed and failed and failed, His has not. The Lord has been my sole source of strength in this season when the world around me quite literally seems to be crumbling, my toddler won’t stop screaming and my baby won’t stop crying (if you’ve ever heard a crying newborn you know it’s a pretty stress-inducing sound.)

When I read Psalm 136, I was struck by how David says over and over “His love endures forever”. I mean, he literally says it over and over and over. What a sweet and gentle reminder that the Lord’s love for us is utterly unshakeable no matter how difficult we are to love at times. And it gets even better….His love endures forever….think about how long the last few months have felt and how hard they have been to endure, but Jesus is promising us a love that endures forever. He doesn’t put a time limit on it, He doesn’t give us a conditional “if this, then that”, we can simply rest in the fact that His love for us is eternal, un-ending, and always enduring. I don’t know about you, but that gives me great hope in this season.

Lilly Cristy

Production Coordinator

Great Big World

June 1, 2020

Psalm 67

When I pray to God I tend to pray a lot about myself, my work, my kids, my friends; basically anything in this world that I can touch. Maybe I’m the only one that does that (but I bet I’m not!). We all have a tendency to focus on ourselves and our little world. 

Psalm 67 is a great refresher and reminder to move beyond ourselves. Notice I didn’t say “skip ourselves.” In fact, the Psalmist begins close to home in verse 1. The key part that we often miss is the reason WHY we are praying for ourselves. The author says in verse 2, “so that your ways may be known on the earth, your salvation among the nations.” 

God’s plan for us never stops with us. We’re to pray so that the name of Jesus gets spread through us and our lives! 

The Psalmist’s prayer continues to move from himself and the people near him, ultimately to the far reaches of the earth. The heart of this Psalm is that every single person would know the love, forgiveness, truth, mercy, and justice of Jesus! That includes your own house, your neighbor, the person who delivers your food, the people in our own nation, and the people in nations all across the globe. 

Today, pray for your little world and then pray for our big world!

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

Not Overcome

May 29, 2020

Psalm 121

Psalm 121 is a psalm of ascent, meaning that these are songs that they would sing as they were traveling from the lower parts of the country up to Jerusalem. The journeys were not easy. There were dangers of attacks from bandits hiding out in the hills, waiting to attack and rob (v.1). There was the danger of bodily harm that comes from a treacherous terrain (v.3). There was the ever-present danger of the hot Israeli sun causing sunstroke or even death (v.6). Yet in each one of these situations, God protects His people. 

Notice here what the promise is not. The promise is not that there would be no bandits or treacherous walking paths or heat. Look in verse 5, we all know that when it gets hot outside in Texas, you can be in the shade but still feel the heat. The promise is that God’s people can rest knowing that the One who is greater is their shield so that they will never be overcome. 

Many of us may be able to relate to this Psalm in a whole new way. I remember at so many points during this crisis that I have felt like the sun was unrelenting in its heat and there was no way I was going to survive. There was the pressure of trying to figure out how I'm supposed to work a full-time job while being a full-time parent. There was the sadness of losing things I loved. There was the strain placed on my marriage. All these things all happening at one time but, despite all of it, I'm still here and I'm stronger now. My faith and the way I see God is more complete. 

At this moment, you may feel like the sun is beating down and draining you of all your strength. Take courage knowing that the presence of God this morning is like cool shade or a refreshing breeze to your heart. You will not be overcome.

Sam Weitman

College Pastor

The Comparison Trap

May 28, 2020

Psalm 37

It’s been said that comparison is the mother of discontent. That’s a massive problem in our time. Never before in human history has there been such unfiltered access to the accomplishments and acquisitions of our fellow man. We can see it all. David had no such access to social media, and even still, he was eaten up with envy and jealousy… especially for the people he thought were living wrong, and still apparently winning.

So, David gives himself a little pep-talk. Look at his battle plan: (3) Befriend Faithfulness, (5) Commit Your Way to the Lord, (7) Be Still before God, and, (8) Fret Not Yourself. (Think about how these actions would apply to your life. What would it look for you to befriend faithfulness? To be still…)

We love formulas. This is one of the most misunderstood passages of scripture: (4) “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” We’d love that to mean, “Love God, and He’ll give you the Porsche you want.”

Nope.

If you’re making it your heart’s ambition to find joy in the Lord, then, the desire of your heart is… wait for it… GOD. So, the formula REALLY is:  Delight yourself in the Lord, and God will give you… GOD.

This is a big deal, because we too seldom actually delight ourselves in the Lord. And, that was the Psalmist’s problem. He was fighting a war within himself driven by jealousy and envy. He wanted what “they” had. But, ask any successful person what they wish they had in life, and you’ll likely hear the same answer. It’s found in verse 11.

ABUNDANT PEACE.

The result of a life spent delighting in God is ABUNDANT PEACE.  God wants that for you today.

Richie Fike

Worship Pastor

Strange Adoration?

May 27, 2020

Psalm 96

Psalm 96 is a psalm of adoration. Adoration is the practice of worshiping God by telling him who he is. This can feel strange to us because it isn’t normal interaction with other humans. If I walked up to my boss/friend Sam and said: “Sam, you are Sam! You are the college pastor! You like to make jokes and play with your daughter Charlotte!” He’d probably look at me like I’m crazy… and then make a joke about how I had lost my mind and he already knew all those things about himself!

But this is exactly what God calls us to do, and we see it modeled in this Psalm. The psalmist takes time to declare to God that he is marvelous, great, glorious, the creator, to be feared, strong, and many more adjectives.

He then says in verse 8: “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.” We take time to adore God because of his name. When you see “LORD” all caps in Scripture, it means that the writer is using His personal, Covenant name: Yahweh. The meaning of Yahweh is “He Will Be.” In other words, God’s name means that He is the one who is and who will be. God’s existence doesn’t depend on anyone or anything else. This God simply is. 

Understanding God’s name leads us to adore and worship him simply for who He is, and not only what he has done. He’s not in danger of getting a big head or misunderstanding the aim of our adoration like another human might be. So today, I encourage you to reflect on Yahweh, the God who was, is, and will be, and to take time to declare to him who he is. Reflect on his character and use Psalm 96 as a place to start!

Lea Purczinsky

Associate College Director

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

May 26, 2020

Psalm 40

Our Dog Max, a small Papillon, has recently formed a habit of crying any time I leave the house without him. It's started during this season when I have been home more than usual. When I do have to leave, the rest of the family has to endure his insistent crying until I return.

In Psalm 40:1, David says “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.”
David is waiting with a sense of eagerness and hope. He goes on in 40:3, praising God so others will see and fear and put their trust in God. Our hope must be upon the unchanging promise of God. When we hope for the good we know God will ultimately bring from our situation, whether the good turns out to match our desires or not.

In Psalm 40:5, David finds himself overwhelmed by the goodness of God. We can never finish proclaiming God’s faithfulness. He is the covenant keeper, our salvation and hope.

We get a picture of the story of redemption in verses 6-11. It is not the man-made sacrifices that
will completely satisfy the Lord. Deliverance comes from Him, it is His mercy and love that will
save us. He will make us strong in the midst of feeling weak.

Just like our dog Max, whose crying is only satisfied when I am home and he has my attention, we should find contentment in the love of our ever-present God who never turns his attention from us. Let us be like David who says in 40:16, “But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”

Jane Moughon

Mobilization Admin

Be Still

May 25, 2020

Psalm 46


Stillness is not something that comes naturally for many of us. Never has this been more apparent than these last few months in quarantine. I didn’t realize how much I walked daily until I was home begging my kids to go on a third walk of the day around the neighborhood! Stillness doesn’t come naturally. Being still doesn’t come easy especially when so much around us seems to be sliding into despair. We want to act or do something to fix or solve.

Psalm 46 is written for those times when nightmares become reality. Over the course of the last few months our world seems to be experiencing that. In verses one through three something as chaotic as mountains falling into the sea happens. Where do you look in moments like this? When the world seems to be rapidly changing? Only one place can you find security, or protection, only in the Lord God.

In verses four through seven the psalm shifts and envisions those who might seek their harm. Where do we look or turn in those moments? The answer again is to the Lord, for here the emphasis is upon the fact that the Lord is with them. That they are not alone or abandoned, but the Lord is present as “Immanuel” the God who is with us.

Finally in verses eight through eleven the Psalm concludes with a reminder that the LORD is Ruler or Lord or king over all. His power and authority has no limits, He is not bound by place or situation but is freely able to act according to His power and goodness. Our response is not to act, but to be still. To trust in God alone. To stop worrying and simply rest in Him. Perhaps today that’s what you need to do, before taking another step, to simply “be still” and reflect upon His protection, His presence, and His power.

Jay Felker

Pastor of Equipping

Waiting Well

May 22, 2020

Psalm 22

The first two verses of this Psalm hit very close to home for me this week. Life is hard, mundane, and a struggle. The Lord feels far off. Things I've been praying for months- relief, healing, restoration- have yet to be answered in the ways I would like them to be. In those first two verses I feel seen and known. David gets it. He's frustrated too.

However, verse 3 takes a big turn. Throughout the Psalms David often sits in his frustrations and sadness for longer. Here he immediately reminds himself of Truth. In verses 3-5 he reflects back not on his own life, but on the faithfulness of God to his ancestors; to Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. To these men and many more, David remembers "They trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued." 

It is encouraging for my heart, too, to look back on these giants of the faith, the heroes of old, and remember God's faithfulness to them. God has always delivered on the promises He made to His people. What makes me think His faithfulness, goodness, or purposes are any different now? 

The interesting thing about those men that David is remembering is that each of them saw God be faithful, but they each also walked through long seasons of waiting. For years, each of them probably prayed and felt like no one was listening, felt that life was mundane and hard, and struggled with the feeling that God was far-off. Abraham waited for over 25 years for the son that God promised him to be born. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at age 17, experienced brief success in Egypt before being thrown in prison where he was forgotten for several years. It wasn't until he was 30 that he was made overseer of Egypt and God made it clear what his purposes for Joseph were there. Moses? He killed a fellow Israelite in a fit of anger and was exiled from his people and home for 40 years. He didn't come back to lead his people out of Egypt until he was 80 years old!!

It’s easy to read the stories of the Bible and be encouraged by the huge and faithful acts of God all the while forgetting that what takes us 5 minutes to read took those people a lifetime to live. A lifetime of waiting, praying, doubting, trusting, and wondering how and when God would act. Let the heroes of the Bible be an encouragement to us as we wait and trust in our present moment because "in God they trusted and were not put to shame". Surely the same will be true of us. May we wait and live our own stories well!

Helen Weitman

Associate Young Adults Director

Joy In The Middle

May 21, 2020

Psalm 61

A friend of mine shared with me how he picks a Psalm to pray through each day.  As I read Psalm 61 today, David’s words seemed to become one with mine.  Right away, he begins with his plea, “Hear my cry, O God.”  What good is our prayer if our heart is not directed desperately towards God?   David continues by laying out his emotions, faintness and following, with his first request of the prayer, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (v.2). 

In the midst of my own faintness with our current situation and my weariness as it keeps pressing on, that is a bold request.  First, David is admitting his own weakness, and then asking that the One who is stronger would lead him.  I don’t know about you, but that is what I need!  Misunderstanding, confusion, and frustration are earmarks of this time for so many of us.  David reveals that the best response to these feelings is a cry out to God, not just for immediate resolution of the problem, but to be brought closer to our Father.

In verse 4, David further displays his response to these emotions.  He says, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”  Do you remember when you were a kid and there was a thunderstorm at night?  Maybe, like me, your instinct was to hide under your covers in what felt like a cocoon of safety.  That’s how I feel in prayer these days.  If we let it, prayer and the presence of God can be a safe place in the midst of chaos.

I wanted all of this to end a lot quicker than it will. I wanted that because my heart’s tendency is to experience joy in celebrating the end to hard times. I struggle to find joy in the middle.  However, David shows us, the middle of hard times is often where we find deepest intimacy with God.  Being in the cocoon, brings us closer to him.  What if today we could celebrate in the middle of the hard time?  What if we could find peace in knowing we are near to the God who will protect us?  Today, like David in verse 7, ask God to appoint his love and faithfulness to protect you.  Let the nearness of God be your rest in the middle of this difficult time instead of simply wishing for it to end. 

Grace Boggs

Preschool Director

I Confess!

March 20, 2020

Psalm 51

Have you ever watched a police or lawyer television show where they interview a criminal trying to get a confession? TV shows and movies always show the criminal finally breaking after a period of being interviewed and grilled by the authorities. The drama is high and entertaining. 

If we’re honest, we often act like those criminals, hesitant to confess our crimes. Why is it that we are hesitant to confess, to God or to those we’ve wronged? I believe we are hesitant because of shame and guilt, and in those moments we often feel like we’re the only ones who have done wrong. 

Thankfully, David models what confession looks like. David writes this Psalm after he’s confronted by Nathan for his wrong doings with Bathsheba (You can read that story in 2 Samuel 11). David doesn’t make excuses. Instead, David confesses his sins. He admits his wrongdoing. Then he asks to be cleansed and to be restored. He then commits himself again to the Lord’s service and prays for others.

David models for us how we too can confidently bring our sin to God. David, unknowingly at the time, points directly to Jesus. Jesus offers forgiveness of our sins when we place our trust and faith in Him. When we bring our debt to Him, knowing He’s already paid it, we’re able to keep short accounts with God. That allows us to be with God uninhibited and focuses our path back on the purpose God has for our lives.

After reading David’s model prayer, spend some time confessing your sins to God following David’s example!

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

A New Day of News

March 19, 2020

Psalm 5

Psalm 3 talked about waking up in the morning. Psalm 4 talks about lying down to rest. Psalm 5 completes the cycle as the Psalmist starts a brand new day with a sense of expectation and hope. As the new day begins, David is confident God hears his voice (Psalm 5:4). His prayer seems especially relevant today.  

David begins his prayer by celebrating that He can come into the presence of God (5:7a) even while he’s only able to look in the direction of the place God’s presence symbolically stayed. Although the Temple in David’s day was different from our church building in some important ways, there are also some similarities. The Temple was a building where God’s people gathered together for the purpose of worship in a way that looked, smelled, and felt different than any other place. Even while David looked toward the place he longed to be, he didn’t allow his heart to become dislocated from the purpose of the place. I think that’s important for us these days as well. We can’t neglect personal worship, and we can’t stop longing to be together again.   

The rest of the Psalm is devoted to David begging God to intervene in the world around him. He lived during a time when it was hard to know what news to believe (5:6, 9) or which expert opinion to trust. David prays that he himself would recognize and follow God’s clear leadership (5:8), and that all of God’s people would be protected, glad, filled with joy and blessed (5:11-12). Those seem like pretty good prayers for us this morning as we begin a new day with expectation and hope.

Chris Freeland

Lead Pastor

Clearing Cobwebs

May 18, 2020

Psalm 98

I walked out to my car a few days ago and noticed spiderwebs growing on the driver side mirror. Not one spiderweb, but an entire city of spider webs. A sophisticated work of architecture that couldn't have happened over night. At that moment, I realized that it had been a week or more since I had even looked at my car. The car I had once trusted multiple times a day to get me safely from place to place had been sitting and forgotten about. 

In Psalm 98, the Psalmist makes a case for singing out loud and singing with joy as you reflect on who God is and how He is faithful. It begins by saying "sing a new song" (vs 1). I love this because it means that God is continuously moving and working... that there is a new reason each day to worship Him. The scripture goes on to give us reasons why He is worthy of our praise (vs 2-3) and then demonstrates some bold expressions of worship in the rest of the passage.

Don't let this season we are in to cause "spiderwebs" to grow on your worship to God... the God you trust and is daily moving and working in your life. I encourage you each day to find a time and place to reflect God's greatness and His faithfulness and to sing a new song to him. You don't have to be a songwriter or a good singer... and it doesn't actually have to be a brand new song. Put on a worship album, pull up an old worship service online or just sing by yourself something you love. But make it new in your heart and allow your worship to reflect the new things He is doing each day.

Cameron Sanderson

Production DIrector

100 Years From Now

May 15, 2020

Psalm 39

Have you ever sat and contemplated the “measure of your life” and how fleeting our ambitions really are? I would guess it’s not something we make a habit of doing (I know it isn’t for me). When times are good, I find myself anticipating the “next thing” – what’s next for me to look forward to? What’s next for me to accumulate? How can I reach my next goal or upgrade in life? Those things aren’t inherently wrong to look forward to, but if I’m not careful, they can become consuming.    

For those of us who don’t find ourselves contemplating the brevity of life often, uncertain times like these force us to do just that – and maybe it’s not a curse. Maybe it’s a blessing. 100 years from now, will I look back at my life and marvel at how many possessions I was able to accumulate? Nope. Will I be patting myself on the back for my career accomplishments? Doubt it. 

In God’s infinite grace and mercy, He allows us to catch reminders in uncertain times that our priorities are often flawed and fleeting. He pulls back the curtain to show us how quickly our aspirations can vaporize. But none of this is meant to throw us into despair. It’s meant to show us what truly matters. It’s meant to show us that we are but a “mere breath” in light of eternity. It’s meant to show us that He is better than what we’re chasing. Your highest earthly dream (and mine) doesn’t hold a candle to what He has in store for us in eternity – and maybe that’s what He’s trying to fix our gaze on during this time.

Jesse McCluskey

Communications Director

Heaven's Silence

05/14/20

Psalm 28

Ever feel like the Lord is silent?  Not like the enjoyable “I just escaped my kids for the first time all week” kind of silent, but like “the front door is open and I can’t find my (wife’s) cat, that I literally put in our wedding vows that I wouldn't let escape and now he won’t meow when I call him” kind of silent. The fear-inducing kind of silence. I know I have felt that way at times when I’ve prayed. Times where I'd rather hear “no” than nothing at all. I know I'm not alone because in the first 3 verses of Psalm 28, the Psalmist reflects the same kind of desperation. 

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re praying to God in desperation and fear what might happen to you or a loved one if God doesn’t show up. Maybe you have a financial, physical, emotional or relational need in this moment. Whatever need you have, know that God is hearing you! Look at verses 6-10. The psalmist praises God because He responded! He sees that the Lord has been listening to him all along. He is listening to you too!

Spend some moments thanking God for hearing your prayers, and asking Him to give you His perspective on the prayers He hasn’t answered yet.  

P.S.  We did find the cat. We replaced the Tile tag battery so we could find him the next time he hides!

Trevor Brackeen

Associate Mobilization Director

What Day Is It?

05/13/20

Psalm 33

We are right at the two-month mark of the stay-at-home order. Two months since the world changed, and two months since it became nearly impossible to remember what day of the week it is! Is it Monday or Thursday? I have to look at my phone to remember. Even though the world changed overnight, each passing day can feel like the “same ole, same ole.”

To that, the Psalmist says, “Look more closely. There’s a new reason to sing today; a reason to write new lyrics today. There’s a new reason to be filled with joy today.” (Psalm 33:1-3).  Then he gives us some places to look. His faithfulness, truth, love, righteousness and justice is all over the earth this morning (33:4-5). Can you see it? Look carefully, it’s there. He’s sustaining the earth today with his power and wisdom (33:6-9). Have you noticed His creation power in new ways recently? Look for it. Listen. It’s everywhere.  The attempts at governments and power-brokers to seize power are a part of a story, and it won’t end like any of them think (33:16-17). Have you noticed them playing into His hands? Look for it. Wait for it. Keep an eye on the ones who fear Him today. Especially the ones who are victims of injustice or circumstances (33:18-19). Watch how their hope stays anchored to unfailing love. That’s Him who upholds them today.

His eyes are on those who need hope the most; who need Him the most. “Wait a second,” the Psalmist says “that’s us! That’s me” (33:20). When we keep our eyes open for the places He’s working, we ultimately see that His eyes are on us! Even on days that are “same ole, same ole,” there’s a new reason to sing with joy. Just look closely.

Chris Freeland

Lead Pastor

This Is My Story

Psalm 25

Psalm 25 is such a great reminder to me of where I was and where and how far God has brought me. In the first 6 verses of the Psalm, David asks God to teach him his ways and to keep him from harm. I feel like that is a normal prayer that most of us pray a lot. Verse 7 is where the Psalm really starts to resonate with me. David says, “ Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions.”

I don’t know about you, but there was a time in my youth that I completely rebelled against God. I knew that God was real but I was intentional about moving away from Jesus. People would invite me to church and I would say things like “I’ve done my time!” I made it sound like a jail sentence. That’s how much I wanted nothing to do with God. In verse 8, David says that God is faithful, good and upright and instructs sinners in the way. Like David, over time God was faithful to leading me to Himself.

Verse 9 says that he teaches the humble his way, there was a time that God humbled me as I learned what sin was in my life and how it offended God and what I deserved for my sins. Then in verse 11, David asks God to pardon his guilt, and the Lord does! I carried a lot of guilt for the things I had done, for the sins I had committed. The Lord was faithful to not only forgive my sins and take away the guilt; in verse 14 the Psalmist talks about the FRIENDSHIP of the Lord is for those who follow Him as He continues to lead us.

I don’t know where you are at in you’re relationship with God. Maybe you are running completely away from God but you read these devotionals because times are hard now and the devotionals are encouraging. Maybe you are starting to give this “Jesus thing” a chance again (or maybe for the first time). Maybe you follow Jesus but there is some sin in your past or present that you feel guilty of.  Or maybe you’re wondering if you’ve drifted. Whatever that relationship looks like this morning, I hope that you see that God is pursuing a relationship with you. A real, authentic relationship and that He is faithful to forgive you, wipe away your guilt, and lead you as a friend when you humble yourself before Him.

Trevor Brackeen

Associate Mobilization Director

That's Not Fair!

May 11, 2020

Psalm 50

My wife and I have two young girls, ages 2 and 4. I know this will shock you, but my two young angels sometimes fight with each other and throw fits. One phrase we hear often is, “That’s not fair!” Typically it is when one of them gets dessert for finishing dinner, and the other gets nothing because she only had two bites to eat. 

Isn’t it great that we all grow out of that stage? Have you grown out of that stage? I’m not sure that I can 100% say that I have! There are times in my life where I say, “That’s not fair!” As much as we want to right all of the wrongs, perceived or legitimate, in the world (or even just in our world),  we can’t. We can’t be judge, jury, and executioner. That’s probably a good thing! 

We didn’t make the law. We didn’t design people or relationships. God did. Today’s Psalm reminds us that God is the creator of all and controls all. The important part in this Psalm to notice is verse 6, “And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice”. When we cry out “That’s not fair!” , we can remember that God is just. His ways are perfect and we must trust in His plan, even at our own discomfort.

Jack Grimes

Youth Pastor

An Every Day Prayer

05/08/20

Psalm 86

Along with these devotionals written by our staff, I have made it a practice to pray and journal through the Psalms on a daily basis in this season. Each day when I work through a new Psalm, I am blessed by the way that it leads me to be honest in my lament and struggle, while also refocusing my eyes back on the Lord and His faithfulness. Verses 8-12 in Psalm 86 do the latter for me, reminding me to keep my eyes and hope set on the Lord and I wanted to share them with you today. I think they present a wonderful pattern for us to follow in our own prayers. 

The pattern begins with reflection on Who God is; He is above all things, even the nations are in His control. God is capable and does great and wondrous things. There are no other gods before him. What a needed reminder right now!! When things can seem out of control, when world and national leaders disagree on the correct next steps, when so many distractions vie for our attention and seek to keep us worried and apathetic, we need to remember that our Lord is above all gods and that nothing happens outside of His control.

Next, comes personal repentance and to ask for guidance. "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name." To me, this is the most powerful line of this Psalm because it's not a prayer for God to change outward circumstances, accomplish a huge miracle, or fill a bank account. Although I  do ask all those things and more of Him on a consistent basis, this verse challenges me to start with my heart. What if instead of asking God to change the things around us, we began by asking Him to change something within us? What if we asked Him to re-align our hearts to His truth? What if we asked for His perspective on the things happening around us? What if we grew in our respect of Him and surrender to His plans? I am convicted how much the rest of my prayers and the rest of my day would change if I started everyday with that prayer.

Finally, we end with thanksgiving, praising the Lord for how He has worked and the love he has shown us. The ending line is powerful. "Great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol” (or the grave). It is this eternal hope that I come back to time and time again in this season. Even though we don't know what the next weeks or months will hold, we do know that Jesus holds our eternity. It is in that certainty we can find peace and hope in when everything else is uncertain.

Helen Weitman

Associate Young Adults Director

Friendly With Enemies

05/07/20

Psalm 17

Psalm 17 is a song of lament. I tend to see it in 2 parts. In the first half (v.1-7), David has experienced some kind of attack or suffering at the hands of his enemies. As he is crying out to God, he's not claiming he is perfect but he is saying that he has done nothing to deserve this treatment. In the second half of the Psalm (v.8-15)he shifts to reflect on God's love, asking for the strength to not succumb to his enemies. 

As I was reading through this Psalm one night, I was wrestling with how it actually fit my life. I don't have this group of people who have attacked me. In fact, I would say that most of us don't have a mysterious group of people plotting our downfall and seeking to destroy us. It sounds like the plot to pretty much every teenage drama but, for many of us, we don't have enemies like that. Yet we all have enemies. Their names aren't Justin or Rebecca but Insecurity and Fear. They aren't named Susan or Roger but the Love of Comfort, Money, and People Pleasing. These aren't some random vices; they are all my enemies. Enemies who have been pounding at the door for the past few months. Sometimes they find a way to wiggle their fingers through a crack or walk in through a wide-open door. It is a constant fight for me to push them back again.

There is no time when my "enemies" find more ways to invade my life than when I am looking to the world to be my satisfaction. David mentions this idea in verses 14-15. The way of the world is to be satisfied by the things of the world. In this season, I have been more afraid, more uncomfortable, more consumed with thoughts about the economy and financial security than I have been in a long time. If the greatest thing I could have in life is have a life with plenty of money and all the comfort and security that comes with it; or if it's being loved and adored by everyone I meet instead of staying true to who God has called me to be then, yes, my enemies will overwhelm me in this season. But if the greatest thing that could be in my life is the approval of my God and the comfort that comes with a God who always seeks my best, I can weather these storms and find my enemies kept at bay.

In this season, who(or what)are your enemies? If God were your greatest treasure, what would that do to the power your enemies have over you?

Sam Weitman

College Pastor

Extrospection

Psalm 39

This time has served to be conducive to a lot of introspection for a lot of us. There is no doubt that my emotions have run the gamut through this season. Feelings of frustration, joy, relief, disappointment, and excitement. I'm sure David felt those and even more. However, in Psalm 39, David takes an extrospective approach (he doesn’t just think about it; he talks about it out loud). While difficult for some of us to read, he provides a healthy perspective on our lives.

(V. 1-3) As much as he wants to speak to his enemies, David restrains himself and chooses a prayer for wisdom instead. Knowing that he is in the presence of his enemies, his distress grows as he holds his peace. David was wise in holding his tongue, as tempting as his complaints must have been. Later we read his petition to the Lord, to make known the length of his life. David describes life as fleeting, a few handbreadths, shadows (V. 4-6). Regardless, he finds hope in the Lord! The Lord, who is just and merciful in his justice towards us. Our life, as short as it is, belongs to God (V. 7-11), and that’s great news for David. David acknowledges he is a mere sojourner with God, looking forward to the time he departs to be with Him (V. 12-13).

This Psalm helps remind us that we are not alone in the ways that we feel, yet we should be cautious about how we express it, especially to the outside world. In our distress, we can praise the Lord even still. Our lives are short, we don’t need to know how many days exactly to know we should invest them wisely. David uses that fact to magnify the Lord, who gives us life in the first place. As sojourners like David, let’s commit to spend our numbered days praising, rejoicing, and eagerly expecting, better days (an eternity) to come.

Isaac Hernandez

College Resident

Sleeping When Surrounded

05/05/20

Psalm 3

“Good grief. How many enemies do we need?” That was my prayer last week. Politicians keep telling us we’re at war against an invisible enemy (Covid 19). The stock market looks like a normal EKG, which makes some of our EKGs look anything but normal. Now, the news of last week is something about “murder hornets.” As if normal, everyday hornets weren’t enough. How many enemies do we need, Lord?

The same thought begins Psalm 3. The Psalmist is on the run from his own child (not just hiding in the bathroom like some of us these days, literally on the run). As he runs, he finds himself surrounded by more and more enemies. The oddsmakers say his chances of survival are slim to none (verse 2).  But somewhere mid-step the Psalmist has a realization: “The God I serve is a full-body shield who also lifts my exhausted, ashamed head. All I have to do is call.” (verse 3).

In my Bible, I have to turn the page between verses 4 and 5. I’m really grateful for that because it emphasizes the Psalmists response. He doesn’t just walk with a tiny bit more confidence or try to convince himself that his enemies aren’t real or surrounding him at all. It’s better than that. The clearest, simplest, most tangible way the Psalmist can express his trust in the Full-Body-Shield God? He takes a nap!

Maybe today isn’t the day to curl up under your desk and sleep a la George Costanza. But take a few minutes today wherever you are to consider the enemies that surround you (yes, even the murder hornets). Then, actively choose to turn your thoughts and attention to the Shield Around You. Call out for Him and rest in His ability to protect you from “ten thousand enemies on every side” (verse 6). Even while you sleep!

Chris Freeland

Lead Pastor

Raw Fortress

05/04/20

Psalm 62

In Psalm 62:5-8 we are given a beautiful picture of God who is our rock, fortress, salvation, and refuge.  In Him, we find unshakable rest, hope, and strength.  Stop for a moment to picture God as your rock, your mighty fortress, your place of refuge in this chaotic world, as the one thing that doesn’t change when everything else is constantly changing. Our souls desperately need God, to trust God in all circumstances, and to find a rest that rejuvenates us in the valleys and mountain tops of life.  

Often we think that trusting God means denying our raw, ugly emotions.  Yet, this Psalm calls us to demonstrate our trust by earnestly pouring our hearts out to God, telling Him our struggles, fears, and anguish that come from living in a broken world.  God does not want us to ignore our emotions and pretend everything is okay.  Instead, he calls us to trust Him with all of our feelings, good and bad.  As we do, we discover God’s deep compassion for us and His ability to meet us with his life-giving truth in the places we have believed lies or fallen into despair.  God desires that we bring all of ourselves to Him so we can truly find our refuge and salvation in the rest, perspective, and love He lavishes on us.  

So, what are you angry or sad about today?  What are you afraid of?  What are the raw emotions of your soul you need to pour out to God?  As you speak or write out these things to God, write your own prayer of response to God that you will pray throughout your day.  It could be something like “God, I trust you at all times to walk me through this because you are my fortress.”




We Are His

Apri 21, 2020

Psalm 21

At first read, Psalm 21 may not seem very fitting for this time of crisis.  But as I’m sitting in my kitchen, on this stunning, sunny morning, all I can think of is the blessings of my King.  In this Psalm, David lavishly celebrates the blessings he has been given by God.  David declares that because of his kingship, God has made him great (v.3).  Pause.  This Psalm isn’t just about David.  In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter reminds us that because of the cross, we are invited into God’s royal family.  We are children of the Most-High King.  Peter also reminds us to declare God’s praises.  That’s what David is doing in Psalm 21.  He describes how God gave him kingship and glory through salvation (v.5)!  Sound familiar? 

There are so many reasons to feel “unblessed” these days.  From quarantine to the virus itself and the constant negative news feeds all of us see, the struggle to “be positive” seems impossible.  David shares with us that his blessing does not come from how comfortable or happy he is.  It comes from WHO God has declared he is.  How often do we question whether we are blessed based on what we see around us?  What if instead we saw our blessing like David?  We are co-heirs with Christ.  We are participants in the resurrection of Jesus.  We are SONS and DAUGHTERS of God.  That is where our blessing comes from. 

In verse 7, David declares that “through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.”  Over and over in the Psalms David talks about being immovable.  I love this because it’s a part of his kingship.  Because he belongs to God and is loved by Him, he cannot be moved.  This is how we should approach this time of struggle and uncertainty.  Because of who we are in Christ, we cannot be moved.  No matter what fears, darkness, or suffering come against us, we are UNSHAKABLE because of who we are.  WE ARE HIS.  Take some time today to rest in this.  Look in the mirror.  Be reminded that you are not just what you see.  You are so much more.  

Grace Boggs

Preschool Director

Eternal Unchanging Everlasting Home

April 20, 2020

Psalm 90

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

This Psalm became precious to me in a season of waiting, of trial, and hardship, because they spoke to my need find peace in the eternality and the unchangeableness of God. Written by Moses for the Israelites wandering in the desert, this Psalm, and these verses in particular, remind us that God has been our home from the beginning of mankind. Regardless of the changing circumstances from one generation to the next, this is something that the Israelites (and we) can count on.

We can trust His promise to be our continual dwelling place because we see the full reality of eternity in God Himself. I love the phrase “from everlasting to everlasting” because it paints such a beautiful picture of the fact that God has existed in his full glory, holiness, and self-sufficiency since before time existed. That is a comfort to us who live in such changing and uncertain times.

If God were not eternal, He would be an unstable home for us. Since He is eternal, He is the safest home we could possibly find refuge and peace in. Let us all reflect on the eternal existence of our God, and let that lead us to rest and trust in Him as our dwelling place.

Lea Purczinsky

Associate College Director

Grace-Full Power

April 17, 2020

Psalm 44

You’ve probably read the stories before. The story of God splitting the Red Sea to save the Israelites from Egypt; of God miraculously breaking down the walls of Jericho; or of God driving out the enemies of His people (44:1). If you remember the stories, you know that none of those things happened because of the abilities or actions of the Israelites. Nations were conquered and wars were won solely because of the power and love of God (44:3). We can read through the Bible and clearly see when we declare God as our king and trust Him as the Leader of our life, He triumphs over our enemies (44:5)., David reflects on that truth saying, “I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies” (44:6-7a).

Friends, how often do we trust in our own bows and swords? How often do we trust in our abilities, strength, and understanding to get us through? We forget how big and mighty God is and think we can solve lives problems on our own.

Right now, in this season of unknown and confusion, one of our common enemies is fear. We watch the news, stock up on supplies, and talk in circles to try to outsmart and overcome our fear. We look at everything we can do to win the battle in front of us and forget Who can really “give us victory over out enemies”. Spend a few moments reflecting on what you’ve been trying to control. Ask God to reveal to you what ‘bows and swords” you’ve been trusting in instead of Him. Ask Him to help you let go of them.

And don’t miss how the Psalm ends! David says, “In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.” (44:8). So praise Him! Throughout today find moments to worship Him, to brag on Him to someone near you, and to rest in His power over fear.

Jess Dorer

Associate Youth Director

Our Hiding Place

April 16, 2020

Psalm 31

When our oldest was little we would often visit my parent’s house and they would play a game of hide and go seek. Their house was unfamiliar to him and as they counted a feeling of panic would fill his little eyes. He didn’t know where to go.

In a very real sense David experienced those feelings at different points in life. In Psalm 31 David writes of one of these instances. In the first several verses David declares that the Lord is a refuge and a stronghold. Both of these terms emphasize security and shelter from danger. Despite the obstacles David would face, his confidence for protection and security would be in the Lord. Keep in mind, it’s not like David had a lack of places he could have turned. He had fortresses and places of security. He had an army of mighty warriors loyal to defend him from all. He could have even looked to his own skill or expertise in battle for security from external foes. David didn’t lack options! Again and again David declares that when encountering trials or obstacles he would instead look to the Lord to provide that protection and security he needed.

Where do you go when you face trials or obstacles? Are you tempted to look to a place or an object? Perhaps to people or friendships? None of those are wrong, but they shouldn’t be where we start. In those games of hide and seek, my son would come running to me first and ask for help. In the midst of his anxiety, when he wasn’t sure where to go, he knew who to go to. The LORD is a stronghold and refuge, longing for us to come to him with our worries and hardships, eager to provide protection from the storm.

Jay Felker

Pastor of Equipping

When You Hear The Voice of Panic

April 15, 2020

Psalm 11

King David begins Psalm 11 with the declaration, "In the Lord I take refuge."  These words clearly state the principle by which David lived. In times of trouble he found his security in the presence of God.  But in the tumultuous circumstance (v2) in which David was writing this psalm, he was surrounded by friends who counseled a very different perspective. Because of the trouble around, they voiced their panic in a desperate question: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (v3). The word "foundations" refers to the social order -- the structures of law, government, and community. With the kingdom under attack, they rightly understood the instability of their government, their jobs, and their own safety. Fearing that evil was overtaking them, the options they saw were to run in panic (v1c) or throw up their hands in confused despair.

Currently many of us are feeling instability in the normal social structures -- our stores, our jobs, our health care systems, etc. Since we are confined to our houses we can't run away, but we can listen to those voices of panic or despair. Those voices might be from our friends, the news, or our own insecurities.

David directly questions their point of view ("How can you say to me..." v1b). His rejection of their view was not because he couldn't or wouldn't see the trouble. David's refusal to panic or to despair was rooted in one thing -- he trusted the One in control. "The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne" (v4). David was a king, but his trust was in the One who ruled the world!  We can pretend that we are in control, but we are not. We can presume that the world is out of control, but it is not.  Our hope, our security, our refuge is the LORD.

Gary Foran

Pastor of Mobilization

Safe At Home

April 14, 2020

Psalm 91

In these uncertain times, all of us feel the desire to feel safe and protected. Psalm 91 tells us where that protection and safety can be found: in the arms of our Lord. There is a place in the Lord where safety and comfort can be found, where He holds us safe from the storm. It’s more than just safety God is offering here in Psalm 91. More than just a temporary storm shelter while we can hide out for a couple of minutes until the worst is over. God is literally offering us the ability to dwell with Him. In today’s world we may have a vision of what ideal safety looks like: a stable job, food for our family, or enough toilet paper to last a lifetime. The writer of the Psalm tells us that God has a place for us where true safety can be found, where if we will dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we can abide in His shadow. Find a secret place to spend time with God today and begin today praying Psalm 91 out loud. Pray that God would allow you to find your life with Him, not just the next few days.

Trace Hicks

Music Director

Ends and Beginnings

April 13, 2020

Psalm 71

As this season continues to stretch on with no real estimate of when life will begin to move back to normal, Psalm 71 is such an accurate picture of where my heart is at. Especially verses 12-16. You see in the first two verses (v.12-13), the Psalmist is urging, pleading with God to come to his aid. I have recently started the discipline of sitting down to rewrite a Psalm from my perspective as a part of my devotions. Every night I find myself crying out to God through the ink of my pen, pleading that He would bring this season to an end. I find myself longing for the joys found in my old life: gathering friends in our home, going to a movie, enjoying a meal without having to hold my breath to see if the food offering that night will be accepted by our 1 year old (translation: I miss date nights out with my wife). I find myself feeling the weight of suffering that so many people are feeling all over the world. True suffering, suffering that is far more difficult than what I am walking through. I find myself crying out to God to end this virus; end this season.

But then my heart shifts to the second half of this passage. I want, as I wait, for my life to be characterized by praise. Praise for the blessings that I have, yes. But I want to praise God simply for who He is and who He always is regardless of the situation in the world and in my life. About a week ago I asked myself the question: "what do I want to be true about my life at the end of this season as opposed to the beginning?" My mind was taken back to when I first believed in Jesus, about 8 years ago. My passion for Jesus was overwhelming. As I reflected on my life, I realized that I know more about Jesus than I did back then. Can I say that I am more passionate and in love with Jesus than I was 8 years ago? I decided that I want to be more in love with God at the end of this season than I ever have been before. I want Psalm 71:14 to be true of my life. What do you want to be true of yours?

Sam Weitman

College Pastor

We Can Be Set Free

April 15, 2020

Psalm 142

“I cry aloud to the Lord;

                I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.

I pour out my complaint before Him;

                before Him I tell my trouble.”

 

Have you ever felt guilty crying out to God?

Have you ever felt guilty questioning His ways?  

Have you ever felt guilty asking Him to take away the hard?

Have you ever felt like you were a “weak Christian” for telling Him your trouble?

 

I certainly have! But here we see David cry, question, ask, beg and yet it was recorded in the Word of God for all of us to read! Could it be that God wants us to see how we can draw near to Him when we cry out to Him? No guilt, no shame, just full on pouring our hearts out to Jesus. Could it be the very thing that makes us feel strong, instead of weak because we have the strength of the Almighty guiding us through our day?

“When my spirit grows faint within me,

                it is you who know my way.

In the path where I walk

                men have hidden a snare for me.

Look to my right and see;

                no one is concerned for me.

I have no refuge;

                no one cares for my life.”

 

Here, once again, David is pouring his heart out to God; telling God exactly how he feels.  Right now, so many of us are growing weary in a situation that we didn’t expect to last so long. Or for that matter, never expected to happen at all! Some of us are anxious because everything we listen to or read is frightening; everyone seems far away. Nothing seems certain. Nothing feels normal. We are lonely. No one can see our pain. We feel isolated. Notice: the Psalm goes on:

“Listen to my cry,

                For I am in desperate need;

Rescue me from those who pursue me,

                For they are too strong for me.

Set me free from my prison,

                That I may praise your name.

Then the righteous will gather about me

                Because of your goodness to me.”

 

I believe with all my heart that when we cry out…honestly, helplessly, sometimes even desperately… HE SEES US! He knows what is pursuing you. He knows your needs. He knows those needs are too strong for you to manage on your own. BUT, He can set you free from whatever has you in prison! Why?
So that you and I can praise His name! So that the righteous will gather around us because of His goodness to us! Don’t be afraid to call out to Him and tell Him your concerns. Give those concerns to Him and watch Him set you free! Then go and tell others so they, too, can see and find hope in His goodness!

Sherri Whitener

Women's Ministry & Special Events

An Unfailing Normal

April 14, 2020

Psalm 143

We know David as the “man after God’s own heart” because of his faith and trust in God.  But there were also times in his life where he came face-to-face with seasons of doubt, uncertainty and even deep discouragement and depression.  In Psalm 143, we find David in one of those seasons.  David was caught in paralyzing fear and stuck in a pit of discouragement.

In the Psalm, David invites us to bring our true feelings to God.  He reminds us that as we remember His works (143:5) and talk with Him (143:6) we find ourselves in a position to trust Him(143:8).  This moves us to a posture of learning to do His will (143:10) because we remember from experience it always turns out best.  These days are ripe for leaning into what we know He wants even when we don’t understand all He’s doing. We will never go wrong loving Him, those in our neighborhood, and even digital spheres of influence. 

Take a few minutes today to remember times in your life where God has been faithful.  Our God is incredibly bigger than any season of uncertainty.  Everything we know as “normal” may be canceled, but God’s unfailing love for us isn’t. What can you do to reflect that love in the face of abnormal circumstances today?

Nita Minshew

Children's Director

A Waiting Faith

April 13, 2020

Psalm 131

In this short Psalm, we see a picture of what God desires for our faith. As we grow spiritually, he wants us to come to a place where we realize we are able to rely completely on Him.

When we first become believers, we tend to find ourselves focused solely on the things we want God to do for us. When God answers our prayers, we are joyful and full of confidence. If we’re not careful, our faith can become conditional on the blessings God fulfills for us. If we stay in this stage of our faith, we may never see the bigger plans that God has for our lives. As we mature we begin to realize we often have desires for things that God may not give us in the time or way we think He should. In His way, God moves us from being infants whose only interest is being fed, to mature people who trust Him enough to feed others what we could hoard for ourselves. In our world of scarcity, mature faith allows us to recognize God’s abundance, and to set an example for others around us. As we mature and come to trust in God's plan and timing, we don’t need to have a certain prayer answered in our way and time to know we have been heard. So, put your hope in the Lord, and trust, even while you wait!

Tom Magoffin

Pastoral Care Director

Shrinking Fears and Open Ears

April 10, 2020

Psalm 55

David has found himself filled with fear, trembling, and horror. He has become weak; he is emotionally and physically paralyzed. In verses 1 and 2, we see David’s desperate cry to God! He’s saying to God “Listen to me; hear me, answer me.” The fear David is experiencing has taken a toll on him, yet he is asking God to listen to him, to hear him, and to answer him. David’s prayer flows out of deep despair, but ultimately his prayer finds confidence in the Lord! Even though he does not understand what is going on, David can rest easy knowing that God is in control of his situation.

In the midst of the chaos and fear, we can be like David and admit our fear to the Lord. Even when we wonder if God is listening. In verse 22, David invites us to “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” We find a better and true perspective when we turn to the Lord and give all of our troubles over to Him. We remember that despite whatever we are enduring, there is One who is all-powerful and all-knowing. Our current fears have no other option but to shrink when we focus on the One who has the power of life and death, and we realize He is for us.

Are you sharing your fears with God? What is stopping you? Right now, will you let Him in? Remember that you are never alone. No matter where social distancing has taken you, there is nowhere you can go and escape His presence. And that’s good news! So, turn to Him. Ask Him to help you learn from David how to handle your fear. Ask God to lead you by His Spirit as you go through your day today.

Shepherded Through the Valley

April 9, 2020

Psalm 23 

In any season, but especially in this season of uncertainty and doubt, Psalm 23 is great a passage of comfort. David refers to God as our shepherd who provides us “everything we need.” When I think of a shepherd, I think of a protector and a caretaker who is willing to go the distance no matter the cost. I especially love the imagery in verse 2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” because it truly is such a reassuring picture of how the Lord cares for us.

Sheep are known for their helplessness. Without a shepherd, sheep wouldn’t survive. During this epidemic, I find myself feeling pretty helpless. It’s hard to even know where to find hope. Psalm 23 helps. David says the Lord “refreshes my soul.” I love how David states this so clearly. He doesn’t guess, or hope, or gamble that God will refresh his soul; he KNOWS God refreshes his soul because of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the past.

Verse 4 takes a turn from the way the passage begins, “When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” David paints the picture of a dark, fearful experience and uses the image of a valley to signify being surrounded. However, it is the conscious presence of the Lord as our shepherd through the valley that makes this season bearable. What confidence going into the valley to know that He’ll carry us through it! To look ahead to a day where there is no more sorrow or sickness or shadow of death. David ends the passage by saying “surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ”What a promise! 

Spend a few moments today asking God to give you an unexplainable peace and a spirit of fearlessness, knowing He is your shepherd and He is in control! 

Megan Murphy

College Resident

No Match For Our God

April 8, 2020

Psalm 2

In times of chaos and worry, Psalm 2 has always been a refuge for me. The beginning of this Psalm questions entire nations and the kings of those nations why they would even try to plot against the Lord! My favorite part of this Psalm comes when the Lord sees the most powerful nations and kings in world rising up against Him… and laughs!!! It reminds me of my brother and me growing up. My brother is 9 years older than me. Growing up he was bigger, stronger and faster than me. I remember times when I would get mad at him and in my high pitched voice say, “I’m gonna beat you up.” He would look at me, and without hesitation break into laughter. Why would he laugh? Because my brother knew I had zero chance of winning that battle in the end! 

In times like these it is comforting for me to know that no matter what rises up against my God, it doesn’t compare to the power that He has. I often forget how big and powerful God is and when I do, my problems seem bigger than God, but Psalm 2 helps me put His power in right perspective. So what worry, anxiety, or hardship in your life looks bigger than God?  Write down your current anxieties or worries. Next to each one, write the answer to this question: “Is God bigger and more powerful than this problem?” From coronavirus to politicians to economic uncertainty, they have zero chance of winning  the battle in the end.

 

Trevor Brackeen

Associate Mobilization Director

Faithful Maker

April 7, 2020

Psalm 146

The other night I had the opportunity to meet with three of my closest friends to talk about the situation we’re in with COVID-19 and how we all are holding up. Each of us shared words that described our emotions:  “lost,” “weird,” “panicked,” “scared.” As I look around I notice that my friends and I aren’t alone in those feelings. We live in a culture that is accustomed to being sure of our situation. However, the situation we find ourselves in these days one of the most uncertain in our lives. No one really knows the full extent of the effects COVID-19 will have on our lives or our world. Medical experts can’t seem to agree. Politicians can’t seem to agree on the best course of action. There are so many unknowns.

Psalm 146 makes sure we don’t miss the fact that God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is faithful forever. In the midst of uncertainty and fear we have a God that loves us and will not leave us. He is our refuge in all storms of the unknown and the only One that can bear all of our needs. When people and doctors and media and governments fail us, we can rest in the only One who never leaves or forsakes us. I love the line “when all mortals and moral establishments fail, the sovereign God is faithful”. What would it look like for you to choose not to be consumed by the fear of uncertainty today, but to find peace, and to praise God like the Psalmist, even in the most trying of times?

Luke Thompson

College Resident

A Rock In The Chaos

April 6, 2020

Psalm 18

Psalm 18:30-36

What in the world is going on? It seems like everything is falling apart, people around me have gone mad and toilet paper is stronger than the dollar. I feel like I've seen TV shows and movies that begin eerily similar to our current situation. Joking aside, it might be easy to get caught up wondering what the news will be tomorrow, if the grocery store will have enough food to feed your family, or what will happen to your job when this is all over. How are we supposed to be prepared for something that seems so chaotic?

As we read Psalm 18:30-36 we find reminders that feel especially important during a time like this. The first is that we have a God who is perfect and flawless (v30) and who stands firm as our rock (v31). In the midst of chaos, we are reminded that God is still perfect and unchanging. David is singing about that same truth after God demonstrated his steadfastness during one of his biggest trials. Then he reminds us of the ways God prepares us for times of trials. He gives us strength and keeps us secure (v32). Just like He prepared David for battle (v33-36) He prepares us to stand strong in our times of battle, whatever our battles look like. Lastly, as David sings this song to God, it's a reminder to not forget to connect to the heart of God... to sing to Him, cry out to Him and gives thanks for Him. 

Spend some time today reflecting on who God has been in previous moments of chaos. Ask Him to prepare you for the road ahead. Praise Him for His faithfulness and for what you’re trusting Him to continue to do in your life.

Cameron Sanderson

Production DIrector

Circumstantial Security

April 3, 2020

Psalm 16

For my faith, a single question cries out to me when I read Psalm 16: “Does your security depend on your circumstance, or does it come from somewhere else?” David cries out for God to keep him safe (v.1).  Immediately following that cry, he proclaims, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (v.2).  NO GOOD THING. 

As I sit in my home, missing my friends, my family, and the deep sense of community I feel by physically gathering, those are the words that speak to my heart.  So often, as an extreme extrovert, I feel most secure in gathering.  When I can’t gather, that security has been stripped away. David reminds me, (and all of us), that our security does not come from the places where we often seek it.  It doesn’t come from our family, our spouse, the health of our kids, or our ability to be together.  Our security comes only from God. 

In verse 5, David says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”  There’s the promise.  Don’t miss it!  God promises that HE will give us all that we need.  HE will make us secure.  No amount of negative news, very real threats, or mass fear can take away what God has chosen to give us.  We are HIS.  Belonging to Him means dwelling in safety.  This does not mean that we won’t get sick or feel lonely. It does mean that we are never without hope.  Rest easy.  You are safe and unshakable (v. 8) because you are loved by the Father of the universe!  

Grace Boggs

Preschool Director

When God Seems Socially Distant

April 2, 2020

Psalm 42

During this ever-changing season it can be hard to keep our hearts close to the Lord and excited about His work. It’s easy to find ourselves feeling socially distant from Him. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 42:5, we can find ourselves with a sluggish, “downcast” attitude towards the Lord and our relationship to Him. We even see that the Psalmist repeats the phrase in verse 11. We don't always choose this feeling but it comes and goes. If it happened to people who wrote the Scriptures, we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens to us.

But the Psalmist also models how to respond in moments like that. We should remember what the Lord has done, remember where and how He has worked in our lives, remember when we first saw the beauty and the glory of Christ. Only then, after "preaching" to ourselves (v 5), meditating on scripture, speaking honestly to Him (vs 9-10), and constantly(morning and evening) remembering the goodness of God, can we trust that our soul will be joyful and exuberant before the Lord again (v 11). 

Matt Lubratt

College Resident

Majestic Confidence

April 1, 2020

Psalm 8

When life feels overwhelming, or it seems like the walls are closing in. When the pressure mounts, I find supernatural strength when I remember the Majesty of our God who is with us.  When I remember that the God whose glory and power extend beyond the heavens (8:1), whose fingers made billions of stars and set the seemingly endless galaxy in place (8:3), is the One who is guiding me, a deep confidence grows in my heart that He will sustain me in the battle. 

Even more, this Psalm reminds me that even though I am weak and infinitesimally small in comparison to his greatness (8:4), God is mindful of me!  In fact, God has called me and equipped me in spite of my weakness, anxiety, and failures, to bring eternal hope and light to a world that is in crisis (8:2, 5-8). God’s majesty is revealed in how He continually uses the small and weak things of this world to do His infinite work.

Spend a few minutes asking God to help you find confidence in His majesty.  Bring your anxieties, fears, and struggles to Him. With each one whisper the prayer, “God I trust you to walk me through this.”  Then spend a few more minutes asking God to use what you have to offer to do the mighty work of bringing Christ-like love to others. 

Present and Good

March 31, 2020

Psalm 84

The first part of Psalm 84 has made its way into many of our songs. The last part often goes unnoticed. I particularly love verses 11-12 because they point me back to God’s presence and goodness. Charles Spurgeon touches on the significance of David’s use of the words “sun and shield” as a reminder of God’s presence to the people. No matter what the Israelites' circumstances were, David chose to reflect on God’s presence and goodness. We can see in Psalm 84 how David emphasizes the truth that God doesn’t withhold giving good to His people. Even when times seem hectic and uncertain – when we’re “longing” and “fainting” and “crying out,” the living God continues to give good. Our idea of “good” may look different from His, but we can trust that He always provides what is best in His perfect time. In the midst of our current circumstances, it is so easy to get distracted and forget God’s presence and goodness as we try to take hold of something we can’t control. 

 Take a moment to be still and reflect on one way God has reminded you of His presence this week. What are two ways He has been good to you during this time? Pray and thank God for His sovereignty and ask Him to remind you of the good things He is providing during this season.

Chelsea White

Nursery/Special Events Director

Peace In The Powerful

March 30, 2020

Psalm 29

One of the very first lessons my father taught me about the attributes of God was about His power. I was terrified of storms and especially thunder as a kid. In Psalm 29, we are witness to God's majestic power through the picture of a thunderstorm. (V. 3-9) His "voice" is described as glorious thunder which flashes forth flames of fire. The storm shakes the wilderness and makes whole countries leap like animals. The storm proves to hold power over big things and small things alike. (V. 9-11) As the storm moves across Israel, it passes over God's people in the temple and their response is only to cry out "Glory!" Even in something so powerful, the Lord is King! Verse 10 reminds us that the Lord sits enthroned as King forever. Nothing shakes Him. Not only that, verse 11 says the unshakeable God uses His power to give strength to his people, and to bless them with peace.

We must not forget how truly powerful the Lord is. Fear is a big part of worship, especially knowing that fear in the Lord brings peace. Things like thunderstorms, that shake our houses and light up the sky, are described as deeply personal by David, the very voice of God! I find myself moved to worship just thinking about how things that brought me great fear as a child now remind me of the One who continues to bring me great peace, whatever the storm.

Isaac Hernandez

College Resident