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Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Spiritual Steroids

Joseph Castaneda



When it comes to character qualities desired by most, strength would likely be near the top of all of our lists. People who are strong, people who demonstrate inner resolve and an unbending will in the face of opposition are usually admired and honored, and their strength becomes a source of inspiration for others.

The Scriptures give us many examples of men and women who were strong, and without question, David was one of those men. We're talking about a man who faced a giant—enduring the scorn and disbelief of his own brothers!—when he was probably 13 or 14 years old. We're talking about a man who had to hit road and run from King Saul from about the time he was 17 years old, until the time he became king nearly 15 years later! We're talking about a man who ruled a land caught up in turmoil and brought unity to millions of people. We're talking about a man who worshipped with unmatched passion while being mocked by his own wife. We're talking about a man who was chased out of his palace by the uprising of his own son, and who would later return and restore a broken kingdom. We're talking about a man who would confess a heinous sin and willingly accept the consequences handed down by God. We're talking about a man who was very strong.

And I love how David uses Psalm 46 to dispel any notion that his strength was his own.

You see, David didn't have some special inner-strength reserve that he could draw from, a personal store of courage that was part of his DNA. No, David's strength was not his own. He didn't face the giant on his strength. He didn't rule, worship, restore or confess on his strength, he did it with God's. The same strength available to you and me, today.

There are too many days when I'm struggling that I turn inward for that little extra something, when in fact, I need to turn upward to receive the strength God provides. My strength will fail, but God's will not. My courage will give out, but God can never be overcome. When I turn to me, I stand on shaky ground rooted in some insatiable desire to prove my own worth, but when I turn to God, I stand on solid ground rooted in a desire to bring Him glory and honor.

Let me encourage you today to tackle life with great strength and courage...just make sure it's the strength that comes from the Lord. Turn and rest in His strength and you will find yourself able to stand up under temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), resist the devil (James 4:7), serve the Lord (1 Peter 4:11) and encourage others (2 Corinthians 1:4).

The words of Psalm 41 do not represent a man boasting about his own strength. Instead, Psalm 41 represents a humbled man revealing the secret source of his admired strength: the Lord. From where does your strength come from today?

A Bun Dance?

Joseph Castaneda



There are three main components required to live the Overboard Life: faith, courage and abundance. Faith is about putting our focus on what Jesus is doing in our lives and in the world around us, and on the unchanging, all-powerful nature of our God. Courage is a character quality that God is developing in us as we trust in  the work of the Spirit to move us to follow God, in faith, and to trust that what He is doing, that what He is asking of us, is truly what's best. Courage is what allows us to grab the sides of the boat and take the jump out on to the water.

When I was writing my third book, Overboard, I was trying to come up with the key components of living the Overboard Life, working out a way to express them in writing. The first two seemed natural to me, the faith and courage parts. But the third one eluded me for a while. (I'm a Baptist...I need three points and a poem for it to "count"!)

I batted around a few ideas, like "Hope" or "Love" or "Service" or "Eating Tacos" but none of them seemed to quite encapsulate what I was after. One day, Traci and I were talking about these key themes when God finally granted some clarity.

Hope, love, service and eating tacos are all good things, and obviously, all part of the Christian Life (especially the tacos!). But when it comes to leaping Overboard for the Lord, I realized the missing piece had to do with God's capacity to overwhelm us with everything we need, whenever we need it. He doesn't give out faith sparsely, He doesn't build our courage in limited amounts, but rather, He provides all we need in abundance because He know precisely what we need and when we need it.

To live the Overboard Life we have to embrace that God is an abundant God, that He never lacks in anything, and that He loves to overwhelm His children with His presence (that very thing we need most!). He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), the supplier of rain, sun and daily sustenance (Matthew 6:25-27), and He meets all of our needs according to His abundance (Philippians 4:19)!

Naturally, God's abundance doesn't mean all we have to do is "name it" and "claim it," as if God is some how obligated to give us what we want when we want it. Rather, through faith, we trust that God is able to do His work, in and through us, doing more than we could ever imagine, guess or request in our wildest dreams (Ephesians 3:20). So courageously we follow Him in obedience and watch Him supply our needs in abundance.

Where do you need to trust in God's abundance today? What promise from His Word do you need to rest in, believing that He can fulfill (and will!) it, not in scarcity, but in abundance?

Dare to be Disciplined

Joseph Castaneda



"Discipline" seems like such a strong, unrelenting, and ungracious word. Sometimes it feels like a massive fence that acts as a border and keeps the fun out, while making everyone within its walls a tad bit miserable. It is a word I have often categorized with certain four-letter words that shouldn't be used unless you're a construction worker or sailor who doesn't love Jesus. 

Have you ever had those kinds of thoughts about the dirty D word?

I'm being a facetious, mostly, because if I really think those things it means that I don't really understand the heart of discipline. Discipline isn't a cruel task master that ruins life, but as Solomon reminds us in the book of Proverbs, over and over again, discipline is one of the keys to living a godly life!

Back in 2015 when we entered our own personal wilderness after losing a ministry position here in Michigan, our family entered a period of survival as we believed the Lord was asking us to stay put in the state, while trusting Him to lead us to whatever would be next. It was tough on everyone, at every level: emotionally, physically and spiritually.

As the Lord finally brought us out of that season of wandering and landed us back in a place we could call home, life started to get back to normal. We moved into an apartment here in Kalkaska on August 27th, the kids started school 9 days later, and soon after I was working part-time at New Hope. We had survived a season of homelessness and travel, and now God was helping us heal while slowly revealing His plan for what was next for our lives.

When October hit, I experienced a bout of depression. I think part of it came from being in survival mode for so long, that when life returned to "normal" I almost didn't know what to do. The adrenaline of living life on the edge had kept me going for so long, but now that everyone was getting settled back into a routine, I was lost.

During this time, I met with a Christian counselor who, with two key reminders, helped me climb out of the pit into which I had landed. The first had to do with accepting and processing my pain, and acknowledging the loss we had all experienced (content for another prayer update!); and the second had to do with discipline.

Soon after I found my rhythm again, I dove back into daily routines and programs, and while the hurt and sadness didn't disappear overnight (or "overyear" even!) the joy of life slowly returned. Recently I was talking to someone in a similar situation and I did with them what this counselor had done for me: reminded them that regardless of life's curveballs, a healthy dose of personal/spiritual discipline goes a long way in keeping us moving forward regardless.

As another season comes to an end, it could be a good time to restore some discipline as you prepare for moving back into whatever is next. Maybe you have lost your regular connection with God and His Word, or maybe your prayer life has taken a detour. Does your personal health need a little reset, or do you need to make the discipline of rest a part of your schedule?

Discipline is the pathway to life. As we learn to live in obedience to God and His Word, and then honor Him with how we direct the hours and days of our lives, we will find it is the fullest life we could ever have.

Be Humble You Arrogant Geek!

Joseph Castaneda



Humility is one of those strange qualities that's a little hard to talk about in Christian circles, and especially if you are talking about yourself. How do you talk about being humble while...being humble?

The problem is that when we think of humility, it's often viewed as one of those "negative" attributes; it's not what you have or do, it's what you aren't supposed to have or do that defines it. You aren't supposed to be proud or arrogant or to think too highly of yourself if you are going to be humble. All of these things are true.

But I think the essence of humility isn't what you are lacking, but rather, what you possess: a proper perspective on your need for God! One of the biblical definitions of the greek word used in 1 Peter 5 is: "To be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded."

When I remember who it is that should be honored for my life, and I keep HIM as the one that is elevated, then I am truly living a humble life. I can't be arrogant or haughty when I'm making it about Jesus and keeping the perspective that He matters most. When I live with this perspective of how much I need God and that my life needs to be about Him, whatever I do brings Him praise (Colossians 3:17).

Then, if I'm speaking in front of thousands, giving a significant boardroom presentation, counseling a friend, cleaning the house, building a skyscraper in the middle of the city, or doing my homework, I am one of HIs humble servants. The trick is keeping "me" in the right place.

After a bunch of amazing weeks of speaking last summer, I was reminded about how much I need God. I can't imagine completing five straight weeks of speaking without His grace! I look back and can see how God showed up at each camp, how He changed lives for eternity, and many campers and staff were compelled to be more humbled before Him because His Word was preached and their lives were changed. I couldn’t do any of that, only God can.

Life can be so difficult and messy, and especially so when you and I become the focus of each day. Let's keep the words of Peter fresh in our minds this week as we seek to keep this life about Him and His glory, so that in our humility He can lift us to where we need to be. My friend Steve Etner often says, "I need to dethrone King Me!" Indeed, lets make sure the right King is in the position of honor in our hearts.

He. Is. Risen.

Joseph Castaneda


He. Is. Risen.

There may not be three words, when combined, that are more important in any language! Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and paved the way for us to have access to the Father. Now in Him, we are truly free to be who He created us to be (Psalm 139), so that we can do what He created us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

We hope you have a wonderful Easter celebration this weekend.

Excuse Me...Your Faith is Showing

Joseph Castaneda



The prophet Isaiah gives us two of the most amazing commands followed by two of the most amazing truths! 

1: Don't be afraid
2. Don't be discouraged

I love that those aren't just suggestions to make our lives better or ideas that will create a happier you (although they will!). Seriously, these are commands God is giving out to His children while they are in the midst of some serious turmoil and struggle. The odds seem impossible to overcome. The chance of victory seems unlikely at best...certain to end in crushing defeat at worst. There was no out.

But God.

God shows up, and He reminds His people who is in control of EVERYTHING in life. He reminds them of how He is the God of all power and authority, the God who raises up kings and kingdoms and who just as easily brings them down. In the face of one of Israel's greatest foes this God commands, "Don't be afraid," and, "Don't be discouraged."

Then, to remind the Israelites the why of His commands, He states:

1. I am with you
2. I am your God

Amazing! The Almighty Creator God of the universe is close to His children, and personally relates to them! He is their God, personally reaching out and personally known and He is with them. Unlike the gods of the people around Israel, God's who were neither personal nor near, this God delights in knowing, loving, and blessing His people.

I don't know what you're facing right now, or what you might be facing soon, but I know my God (and He knows me!) and He says to you: Don't be afraid, and don't be discouraged, because I am with you...I am your God! Will you, today, exchange your fear, discouragement, anxiety, worry and stress for the hope, courage and power that God provides? The only way to do that is through faith, trusting that God's promises are as true today as they were 2,700 years ago when he gave them to Israel.

Pieces of Peace

Joseph Castaneda



I recently read a fictional story about a great king who loved to showcase great pieces of art in his palace. The story went something like this:

In the kingly library, he desired to put up a painting that best represented the concept of peace, so he sent word throughout that kingdom that he would buy, at whatever cost, the artist's work that most captured peace.

Paintings came in from all over the Kingdom, and after six months of receiving submissions, the king narrowed it down to just two pieces of art. The first was a lake, pristine and calm, with stunning snow-capped mountains surrounding it and a beautiful clear blue sky above. The perfectly still lake reflected the mountains and sky so that they were nearly mirror images of each other.

The second painting also featured a mountain, but this one was rugged and tall, and the sky above was dark and stormy. As the water poured off the mountain, the artist had captured a tremendous waterfall that cascaded over the face of the rocks into a pool hundreds of feet below the peak. But behind the waterfall was a little cave and in the little cave was a bird’s nest and a mother bird could be seen sitting calmly upon her eggs.

After much deliberation, the king chose the second painting, stating, "Peace is not the absence of noise, commotion and chaos, but rather, the ability to remain calm and steadfast despite the storms of life."

I think this fable gives a pretty good description of peace, and Isaiah 26:3 reminds us of the source of that kind of peace. You see, peace, "perfect peace," comes from God, and comes as a result of you and I choosing to keep our hearts and minds focused on Him. When we trust God with the decisions and circumstances of life, He offers to take the worry and anxiety that comes with them, and replaces those fears with peace.

Similarly, Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to give our anxiety and prayer requests to God, and then to take His peace—one that surpasses all understanding—as a replacement. In either instance the truth remains...peace comes from God!

Are the waterfalls of life drowning out God's voice for you? Does the storm seem like more than you can bear right now? Do you stay awake with anxiety about the future or fears about what's on the horizon? Let me encourage you to keep your mind on Christ, to Trust Him, and then prayerfully hand over you worries to Him. He doesn't promise to remove the problem or take care of the situations you find yourself in, but He does promise you peace regardless! And His peace, a perfect peace, can keep you steadfast in any trials that come your way.

Embrace God's peace today!

Give it a Rest!

Joseph Castaneda


Over the past few days I've been reading a morning devotional on the topic of rest. Not physical rest, which is of course a good thing, but rest for the soul; a devotional about finding rest at the core of who we are.

As this study on soul rest kicked off, the author started in Jeremiah 6:16 and he gives what is truly at the core of this kind of reprieve: following God's voice ("the good way") in obedience ("walk in it") and then...HE provides the rest! Sometimes I want more. Sometimes I want the magic formula with three points, a clever story and a poem to show me the right direction, but Jeremiah breaks it down into simple components: follow God's voice and obey His Word!

If you are feeling soul-weary today, let me encourage you to find your rest in Christ. Take on His burden, a burden of listening and obeying, and then let His Spirit give you the rest you desire.

Not Just Hope...Living Hope!

Joseph Castaneda


Living Hope

Last summer I spoke at the IFCA National Youth Convention, at Appalachian Bible College in West Virginia (you know you want to cue the John Denver music right about now...). It's a beautiful campus nestled in the mountains with the New River just around the corner, and a countryside rich with American history.

One of my themes that week is based on the word "hope." It's the idea that in Christ, we have a great, imperishable hope, rooted in God's eternal nature and guaranteed by His Word. This hope is spoken of by the Apostle Peter in chapter one of his first book: "In His [God's] great mercy He has given us new birth into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade..."

I love the phrase, "living hope." Hope is always alive, because the person in whom it is anchored is Jesus, our living Lord! It is a hope for today, and a hope for the future. It is a hope that our sinful past can be forgiven and that our future is already redeemed. It is a hope that broken relationships can be mended and wayward children can be brought back into the fold. It is a hope that takes the remnant of the ashes of a life of pain and suffering and turns them into a beautiful work of art in the hands of the Master. It is a hope that tomorrow's mercies will be renewed and that today's mercies will be sufficient.

Lean in to the living hope of rooted in our Savior and let Psalm 119:114 be your mantra today!


Joseph Castaneda



Have you ever failed to meet a goal or found it difficult to keep a promise? Have you ever thought you were doing the right thing by found the path filled with hardship? Of course you have, and in those moments all of us face the same choices about whether or not we choose to be disappointed, choose to blame others, or choose to give up.

But disappointment and blame are short-sighted and are based on this terrible assumption: life's goals/dreams can only be achieved on our own effort.

The Overboard Life must be lived in faith which means, that while we do what we are called and created to do (Ephesians 2:10), we keep trusting the ultimate work of God to achieve eternal results. And when we live in that relationship of trust, we find the truth of Jeremiah 32:17 trumps disappointment and blame. After all, if God isn't limited in any capacity, then He can accomplish His work without us!

What issue(s) in your life do you need to hand over to God, today? He is able to handle it/them better than you or me or any of us (combined!), and nothing is too hard for Him. So keep pressing on. Keep living the life to which you've been called and for which you've been created. Just make sure you keep trusting the One who can accomplish anything according to His own power.

We have Hope!

Joseph Castaneda



Hope is a great concept, a life-saver for times when we've experienced difficulties and challenges in life. Hope gets us up in the morning when we feel like hiding under our blankets and hope helps us face the challenge after the doctor closes the door and begins sharing the news we didn't want to hear.

But hope isn't a feeling or emotion, it's not a self-created concept, and it's not something that can be found by opening a box of cereal and digging to the bottom for the prize (did you used to do that as a child?).

Hope is rugged. Hope doesn't float down like a soft fluffy cloud landing gently on your pillow at night, rather, hope is forged in hardship. Hope emerges when we've encountered trials, when we've endured the challenges of life, and thru them, have seen our character grown and strengthened.

Over the last six years in Michigan, we've been comforted by the God of hope, the God who gives us precisely what we need, precisely when we need it. And as He has guided us thru many trials, at the end of each struggle, we've found great hope in Him.

If you're looking for hope today, cling to the truth of Romans 5:3-4. Remember that hope comes with endurance, it comes when you and I lean in to God in the middle of the struggle and allow Him to do His work in us. This kind of hope, true hope, never lets us down because it is rooted in our Lord and Savior.

The Lord is Near

Joseph Castaneda


God is close!

Have you ever felt isolated and alone? I don't mean physically alone (though that may be part), but I mean that type of loneliness that a person can feel even if they are in a room crowded with people. Have you ever felt that?

It's the kind of isolation that can leave you feeling hopeless, feeling like no one understands what you are experiencing or feeling, and ultimately, that there may be no answers or help coming. It's having a heart broken at the deepest level and being intimately aware of what it's like to have a spirit that has been crushed by a friend, an enemy, a job, a spouse, a parent or even a church. It is an awful feeling.

If you are in that space today, I want to offer you a precious reminder from God's Holy Word: The Lord is close.

The promise from Psalm 34:18 is as precious a promise one can have in seasons of absolute despair and utter loss. God is near, and He loves us no matter what condition we find ourselves in. 

If you are in a season of isolation, if you are feeling brokenhearted and crushed, will you let us join with you in prayer? Will you pass along a request so that we can pray Psalm 34:18 over you and your situation? (

We may not have any comforting words or help to provide, but we know our God is near, and we will pray on your behalf for His nearness to be felt in your life.

The Lord is near!

Would You Like a Little Anxiety with That?

Joseph Castaneda


Do. Not.

I enjoy many Bible commands, because they have a more direct impact on me personally. You know, "Wives submit to your husbands" and "Children obey your parents" are great, because I reap the reward of those. (I hope the sarcasm is coming through loud and clear. Ha!) But then there are commands that are equally clear, but far less enjoyable. At least, less enjoyable at the outset.

For example, "Do not be anxious about anything..."

The problem is that the text is pretty clear: "Do not be anxious." This command can't be misunderstood as some loose guideline Paul is giving us, or some principle that is negotiable so that anxiousness can be excused as a cultural construct of Paul's day, or that Paul is waxing eloquently on what is best for us though it would be acceptable to choose another path. No, the command is plain: [You] do NOT be anxious.

Then, as if to further clarify that which is pretty clear already, God had Paul add, "...about anything..." to the context. Not only are we not supposed to anxious, but just to be clear, we are not to be anxious about anything!

As Traci and I were gearing up to leave our paid position at New Hope Community Church, and facing the reality of finishing up our personal support raising while also trying to help find $225,000 to purchase and remodel a bowling alley, there certainly were opportunities to be anxious. I wish I could tell you that I passed all those tests with flying colors, but when I woke one morning at 3:29, finances were already on my mind.

I laid in bed for several minutes pondering a few strategies and ideas and immediately my mind went racing toward anxiousness when this verse popped in to my mind. "Do not be anxious about anything..." (that's the hard part), "...but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (that's the solution).

Let me encourage you today, give your anxieties, your worries and your fears over to the only One who can take them away. Put Philippians 4:6 to practice. Memorize it. Pray it. And every time you begin to feel anxious, even at 3:29am, let this verse beat your worries away.

At the outset, "don't be anxious" is not a fun or easy command to follow, but when I turn my anxiousness over to the Lord, I'm always grateful for His strength that allows me to be obedient. What worries do you need to hand over to Him today?

Everything We Need

Joseph Castaneda



It's an extraordinary truth that God sent His perfect Son, to be the perfect Sacrifice, to pay the price for sins He did not commit. And having paid that price, God then opens the doorway to heaven so that you and I can enter into a relationship with Him, through faith in His Son's offering. If the story ended there, we would have nothing for which to complain or any ground from which to demand or request more.

Amazingly, the story doesn't end there!

Not only does God bridge the gap that allows us to enter into relationship with Him, but then within that relationship He gives us "everything we need" to live a godly life that is pleasing TO Him, and rewarded BY Him. He doesn't just want us to be saved from our sinful condition, He wants us to flourish in life as we cling to Him.

So whatever is happening in your life today, whether you are experiencing the joyful view from the top of the mountain, or you're feeling the cold angst of being trapped in the valley of the shadow of death, remember that all you need is at your disposal. Cling to Jesus and find Him sufficient to make your joy greater or to shine a light in the darkness.

Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

Joseph Castaneda



As we continue to invest full-time in students here in Kalkaska county, we are reminded that we must make a conscious effort to fix our eyes on Jesus, and not lose sight of Him and what He is doing in our lives.

Whatever it is you are facing in life, don't forget to give yourself a regular spiritual eye exam: make sure you are staying fixed on Jesus! Spend time with Jesus, every day, listening to Him through His Word and through constant and regular time in prayer. Don't wait for that connection to happen...create the space and opportunity so that in all things, at all times, you can keep your eyes fixed on Jesus!

Jesus doesn't promise us an easy path, He just promises to walk with us through any path. So whatever path you are on, keep your eyes fixed on Him. And THANK YOU for praying for us to do the same as our journey into rural America continues.

Crying Out to God

Joseph Castaneda


His Purpose

I don't always know what to do, or how to respond, when life throws something at me that falls outside my Baptist brain. I love my Baptist theology, training and upbringing, because it has allowed me to dive deeper into scripture and often—for better or worse—put theological matters in nice tidy boxes. Of course, theology is rarely nice or tidy...

For example, I'm really not sure what to do with Gideon and his fleece. Are we supposed to put fleeces out there waiting for God to respond? Does God normally respond to those things? Is it a show of faith or a lack of faith on Gideon's part? How many fleeces does a guy need? (If you have a good "fleece story" I'd love for you to email it to me!)

No, don't get me wrong, I've definitely used the fleece method with God. We moved to Michigan after much prayer, much advice seeking, and many fleeces, but I'm still not sure I understand this type of interaction with the Almighty. I guess I'm a bit of a reluctant fleecer—a closet fleecer if you will—that believes God works with us, where we are, and strengthens our faith along the journey. Sometimes He seems to respond to fleeces as a grace to us.

Last spring, we had a fleece moment in our lives. As many of you know, Traci did not receive the varsity volleyball coaching job when she applied at the first of 2018. It was a little frustrating, but we had prayed for God to be clear and He was; the answer was "no."

Well the newly hired coach ended up leaving because of a job change for her husband, so the job reopened. After talking and praying, we both agreed that Traci would not reapply, and that she would serve the team and the new coach from the JV position. Many parents and teachers and students asked her to reapply but we felt great peace about God's answer.

A week after, another player came and asked Traci if she had reapplied and Traci told her no. This student was bummed and asked, "What would it take for you to reapply for the job?" Traci's response was a fleece: "Justin [school AD] would have to come and offer me the job!" Of course, that was a safe fleece, because Traci didn't reapply and varsity coaching jobs are hot commodities. In fact, this position was posted on local and state job boards, there's no way it would go unfilled.

You'll never guess what happened the ver next day.

Traci went in to meet with the school AD about getting a key so her JV girls could start some open gym practices and…he offered Traci the head coaching job. Amazingly, NO ONE had applied for the position, and even though there are other coaches on staff, coaches with more experience and more connection to the program, he wanted Traci to be the next varsity volleyball head coach!

This was a monumental task and a precious opportunity to connect even more with students, families, and school and community leaders. It's a heavy burden, too, as the varsity coach oversees the entire volleyball program from 4th grade on up. Pray for Traci as she prepares to step in to her second year, and she tries to bring along a team of coaches with the same values and ideas she has to make this program better...and to use it as a vehicle for the Gospel.

As you wait on the Lord, remember that He is always working on your behalf. Sometimes He is working in the silence, sometimes He is working in the background and sometimes He is even working in the fleece. But He is always working, and as Psalm 57:2 states, "[He] will fulfill His purpose for [you]."

Do You Give or Take Away Life?

Joseph Castaneda

Over the past week I’ve been reading a YouVersion Bible study called, “The Life-Giving Leader.” It has been an excellent study on leadership, and it really has me thinking about how I invest my life in others: am I giving grace and truth to others, empowering them to be their very best? Or am I person that draws life from those around me and leaves them with less than when we first met? How about you? Are you a life-giver?

While the devotional focused on leadership, I quickly realized that the principles of giving life to others extends to all of our relationships, and all of us have experienced the impact of being around people who give life, as well as being around those who suck it out of us one interaction at a time. As children of the King, we are called to be partners of grace and to live in a give-and-take type relationship with one another.

Have you ever been in a work environment where your boss demanded grace from you and your fellow employees, but rarely gave it? It’s not a fun place to work! I can think back to a person I know who consumed people and their grace until they grew too weary and depleted to give anything else, and then this person would leave them and move on to the next relationship. His marriage fell apart. His work life crumbled. And all the time he blamed others for giving up on him, or abandoning him in his need. This guy burned through counselors because he didn’t have time to hear what they would tell them, and literally, as soon as they disagreed with his perceptions, he was off to another counselor. I’m not sure this man knew how to give life to others; he only knew how to consume.

1 Peter 4:7-11 is a section of Scripture that has been dear to my heart for years. In the middle of it Peter writes, “Each one should use whatever gifts he has received, to administer God’s grace in its various forms…” He is reminding his followers that they are to be life-givers, providing grace for others. When each of us works at being conduits for the goodness and grace of God, then it becomes so much easier to dispense life, because we’re being filled at the same time we’re being emptied! Of course there will be seasons where we take more than we give, or give more than we take, but as we surround ourselves with godly and mature brothers and sisters in Christ, we find God continues to meet our needs through His people.

As we think about being life-givers, we can look to Jesus to see how He gave to others. Here are seven ways Jesus gave life, maybe this will help you think of ways to fill others up:

Genuinely listen to the needs of others: It always amazes me that Jesus, who could know the hearts and minds of the people whom He encountered, didn’t cut them off when they shared their needs with Him. Easily He could have said, “I know, I know, I know…you want your demon-possessed daughter to be healed, am I right?” He took the time to listen, to hear, and to care what people were saying to Him. You can fill others up, sometimes quite easily, simply by listening to them.

Provide tangible help and resources: Maybe you can’t heal people like Jesus did, but you can certainly help them in very tangible ways. Can you provide a financial gift? Can you show up with an unexpected meal? How about making transportation a possibility? Can you open your home to foster children? Do you have an hour or two a month to visit shut-ins? There are so many ways to tangibly show up in the lives of others!

Offer godly advice: Advice is easy to come by; godly advice is a true treasure. This goes closely with number one on this list, making sure you genuinely listen, but often people need to hear sound council, and you can fill them up by providing biblical advice with grace and confidence.

Pray for peoples’ needs: One of my favorite prayer stories happens when Jesus shows up at the tomb of Lazarus. Knowing that He is about to show the full scope of His divine power, Jesus says a simple prayer for those nearby: “…but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When people around us are hurting, we can fill them up by praying them up!

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn: Few things are more life-giving than being with people in both their joy and their sorrow. I’ve cried with people as they sat in their loss, silently praying for God’s grace too how up in mighty ways, and I’ve laughed with people as we celebrated a great victory in their lives. And I’ve done both while being on the other end of the spectrum myself: mourning while experiencing joy in my life, and celebrating when my own life felt heavy and burdened. Learning to genuinely rejoice with others in one setting, while mourning with others in another, is a beautiful way to express God’s grace.

Use your words to offer encouragement: Ephesians 4:29 reminds us that our words should be used to build others up, to benefit everyone who hears us, and not as a tool to tear people down. The world does a tremendous job of belittling, humiliating, and destroying people, we should be a people who give life with our words, whether through Twitter, in person, or over the phone. Life should flow from our lips so that people long to be around us!

Defend the powerless: Jesus was a master of defending people who had been marginalized by society. He was incredibly gracious to women, in a culture that, at times, gave little credence to their value. Jesus embraced children even when His own followers tried to cast them away. He spent time with gratuitous sinners and social and spiritual outcasts, treating them with value even when others treated them with disdain. He didn’t mock the powerless, He acknowledged them and gave them hope. He didn’t push away the outcasts, He ate dinner with them and made them His friends. What powerless people are in your life that could use some grace? Who has God already put in your path that you could build up and fill up by being like Jesus?

After I finished my little devotional study this week, I was reminded that I want to be a person that distributes God’s grace, and gives life to others. I know I will need to be the recipient of grace and life from others, too, so I want to place myself in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ who are equally pursuing Him. Are you giving life to those around you? Would your wife or kids call you a life giver? Would your employer or employees say you breathe grace into them at the workplace? Would the officials at your kids’ games call you a grace distributor?

Let’s be the kind of people that fill others up, and administrate the grace of God in its various forms!

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.

How, What and WHY

Joseph Castaneda



This last week Traci and I had another presentation, another opportunity to share about the vision and dream of launching Crossroads Farm in NW Michigan. We shared with some friends about what we're doing, how we hope they will join our prayer and support teams, and how Crossroads Farm is reaching teens in rural America.

But as we shared, I was reminded that the what and how matter a great deal, but they don't come close to touching the importance of the WHY: why are we investing in this ministry in order to reach rural teenagers in NW Michigan?

Mark 2:16-17 states our reason very well. Jesus was talking to a group of men who were wondering why a great teacher like Jesus would hang out with unlovely, unlikeable and marginalized people. His answer was simple: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick..."

Our little town needs Jesus. 92% of teenagers have no church affiliation. 80% of adults do not attend any religious service with regularity. There is so much hurt in such a small community and we long to work with other Jesus followers (and we thank God that we are meeting many!) who want to help this community, too, and especially help reach the young people with the Gospel.

There is no doubt in my mind that Crossroads Farm is a cool addition to this town. But no amount of cool will replace the why: to give students a chance to yes or no to the Gospel of Jesus.

Why we do anything, matters immensely. How are you helping to reach the sick, the hurting and the people marginalized by culture and society? We do that because it’s what Jesus has called us to, so when we focus on the why, the how takes care of itself.

Whatever You Do...

Joseph Castaneda


Commit to the Lord

Thinking back to when Traci and I moved our family to Michigan five years ago, it must seem funny to God what plans we had made. We knew we were following His lead, and without a shadow of doubt we know that everything that transpired was because of His perfect planning, but we thought we knew the details of His work. We thought we had grasped the precision with which He orchestrates life events and we were trusting our understanding as much as we were trusting His leading.

When everything hit the fan, we understood the difference between what we know, and what He knows; between our planning and His. As created finite beings, we can only work with what's within our realm of knowledge and understanding, but with God, He sees the first from the last, the start from the finish and He sees all of it for everyone at any given moment.

These words of Solomon (put together by my good friend, Danny Ray), remind us to commit our work to the Lord, while leaving the setting of plans and course to Him. Yes, we must make plans and prayerful pursue the works/paths/passions/love that God has put in our hearts, but ultimately we must do so with an openness for the Almighty Creator God of the universe to intervene in order to give us what's best according to His limitless knowledge!

I hope you are committing your ways to the Lord, but leaving room for Him to establish the path. Then, no matter how difficult the journey, you know you are exactly where He wants you to be.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Joseph Castaneda


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is always an interesting one to me. In our area, many of the schools are in session, in part, because the annual school calendar doesn’t line up well with this third Monday in January (this is the start of finals week, and missing Monday is certainly not convenient for students, teachers or administrators). In many parts of our country, people will march, usually peacefully, or gather in some public meeting space in order to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and for the values on which he stood, and for which he ultimately died.

Volumes of books and countless hours of documentaries have circulated about the history of this man and the movement he invigorated. These tomes reveal the depth of character he displayed in the face of fierce, vile, and often explicitly evil attacks on him and the movement he was stirring to action in attempt to make the world aware of the disgraceful inequality that was present in America in the 1960s.

You can also read of his character flaws, his extramarital relationships, and the dangers and influences of some of his closest companions. Dr. King was a man surrounded by admirers, and people who longed to be a part of something big; they wanted to share in the picture he painted, the dream he articulated. He was also surrounded by scoundrels, and people who sought to attack him, or even profit from his work. And no matter what you read or watch, you will find it all steeped with opinion as authors and producers try to make sense of a man and movement that emerged in the backdrop of 1960’s America, a time with so much angst and cultural conflict.

I won’t pretend to know what Dr. King would think of today’s America were he here to lead a movement. It’s hard to imagine what he would say about what happened in Ferguson, MO in 2014, about how he would respond to campus outrage over conservative/liberal guest speakers, or how he would support (or not) the #MeToo movement in its current form. Would he have been behind Judge Kavenaugh or would he have organized a protest? Would he meet with President Trump or would he lead immigrants in peaceful marches at the border?

It’s impossible to know the answers to those questions, but there is one thing I can say with some confidence: he would urge everyone to stop fighting hatred with hatred, and to start winning the war with love. My favorite MLK quote is this: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” This last week I scrolled through my Twitter feed and in an admittedly small sample-size, over 50% of the tweets were attacks on others: Trump, Pelosi, Brady (those ones I find sympathy with!), a young man going eye-to-eye with another protestor in DC, the March for Life, the March for Women, some local municipality that apparently can’t fix a traffic problem in their town, Gillette razors, and a rant against some high school prep basketball referee that is apparently in need of glasses.

My Facebook feed sometimes isn’t much better and my newsfeeds are much worse. It doesn’t matter from what side of the aisle you get your news, it’s all loaded with angst, frustration, and ultimately hatred toward anyone who disagrees. It seems we have lost (maybe we never had?) an ability to disagree with one another without name calling, character assassinating, or over-shouting our opponent. It seems that our anger and frustration has spilled over to such hatred, that we can’t listen and we certainly can’t admit our faults or be willing to make changes. Our hated has become so intense that anyone who opposes our ideals, opinions, or politics, is considered stupid, is censured, and probably should be sued.

Angst and frustration, even anger, can be emotions that lead us to action and to create change, but hatred is the enemy of change. Hatred leads to impulsive, punitive responses and hatred expresses itself in revenge. Hatred needs to be right at all costs, hatred urges a person to compromise their character in order to “win,” and hatred blinds the eyes and vision of those who promote it.

Jesus knew the dangers of hatred, and so He told His followers, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” This was a radical shift in Jewish culture, a culture that was steeped in angst and frustration over Rome’s governing policies in the land. The “righteous” people of Jesus’ day had advocated hatred toward their oppressors and violent revolution if necessary, and Jesus’ voice stands in stark contrast: love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors.

I wonder if Dr. King had those words in mind when he talked about the burden of hate? There is a right way to stand up for the oppressed. There is a right way to speak to the problems of culture. There is a right way to voice opposition to political, religious, and cultural leaders and it is never from a position of hatred.

Maybe today, as we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we would be wise to evaluate how much of our conversation flows from love, and how much flows from hatred. Maybe today we need to remove some social media posts that reflect a heart carrying the burden of hatred, and not one carrying the burden of Christ and His love. Maybe today we need to confess the sin of hating the people on the other side of political aisle, cultural debate, or social issue and do as Jesus said: love and pray for our enemies and persecutors.

Jesus didn’t turn a blind eye to social injustice. Jesus’s call for love wasn’t a way to weasel out of responsibility or an excuse to be passive. Quite the opposite: real love demands action, but it’s action that’s rooted in something—someone—greater than ourselves, because real love can only come from Christ. Thus Jesus would say, “…But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may sons [and daughters!] of your Father in heaven…”

Does your life reflect this kind of love?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.

Do you struggle with anger? My friend Terry Porter, founder of Health From the Inside Out, has a video course to address the root of anger while giving you the tools to combat it. Check out his course, and his web site, here: