Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Blah...blah...blah...Choose Joy..blah...blah...blah

Joseph Castaneda

394f845d-09df-4e0b-8bfa-c5e1981b9307.jpg

Joy

I don't know what the word "joy" evokes for you, but I think all of us come at that word from a different background. I grew up believing (and I think I still do) that joy is distinct from happiness, though maybe that line is closer today than it used to be. The distinction, I was taught, is that joy flows out of choices made because of our relationship to God, while happiness emerges from our experiences in the moment. Thus, the writer of Hebrews could say that, "...for joy set before, [Jesus] endured the cross..." Was Jesus "happy" to go through the trial at Calvary? I don't know, but I can confidently say He faced the cross with joy.

Maybe the Apostle James had Calvary in mind when he penned the above words in the first chapter of his epistle, stating that you and I are to choose joy when we face trials, too.

Back in 2015 when I lost my job and all of us were experiencing massive upheaval, happiness wasn't abundant during those first few months. In fact, I remember a moment in June, right before the kids were out of school and a week or two before we set out on a cross-country road trip to start summer, that my wife and I experienced one of those laugh-yourselves-silly moments, and it had been one of the first of such events, since January.

But Joy wasn't as elusive. In fact, I recall many moments of joy and deep satisfaction in spite of homelessness, joblessness, and significant uncertainty. Our relationship to Christ made it possible to choose joy, because we knew, at the core of our existence, that God was using our trials to produce grit, character, and whatever was missing for whatever was in our future. Our faith in Him gave our suffering purpose; even if we didn't know or understand what the purpose was.

This blog is read by hundreds, sometimes, thousands of different people each week, and I know, in that large of a group, many of you are experiencing difficult decisions, painful trials and heart-breaking challenges. I want to encourage you with the words of James, and challenge you to embrace, in faith, God's Word, that He is using this in your life for your greatest good and His ultimate glory.

The promised result of your faith isn't the end of suffering, rather, it's even better: joy. How can you choose joy today in your trial? What's one decision you can make to find joy in today's heart ache?

Never Bet On Darkness

Joseph Castaneda

a1e341cf-9279-4ea8-84b4-98ba12b81a83.jpg

Shine

Light is basic to our existence. Light is incredibly complex. Light makes no sense!

We are so accustomed to light that I don't think we often take time to really ponder it's existence. Seriously, when was the last time you sat around thinking, "Wow...light is amazing! I wonder what its properties are..." Until I sat down to write about it this week, I honestly hadn't given it much thought since a high school science class I had in 1991. Ahem. That was a few years ago!

After all, light is so basic to our existence, we wake up to it, we flip on switches and have it at our beck and call, we end our day as the main light disappears and many smaller lights appear in the night sky, and rarely do we ever not have it. Little lights flash all night in our homes, and we cary light producing devices in our pockets when we have to get up and stumble out of bed unexpectedly. Light is everywhere.

But it's almost humorous to read what we know, and even more, what we really don't know about light! Just do a google search and you'll see that as basic as light is to our existence, we still seem to struggle to define all of its scientific properties and to be able to properly explain why it behaves the way it does. Sure, we can explain reflection, refraction, and the insane speed at which light travels, but when we start getting down to what light really is...things get much less uncertain.

I'm not a science geek, but I enjoy learning about these things, especially when these things collide with biblical truth. And one of the coolest things that we do know about light is this: unless it hits an object and is reflected toward something else, it continues on forever. So in space, light travels millions and billions of miles so that stars, light years away from earth, are visible to the naked eye. Even distances of darkness that are truly beyond our comprehension, cannot stop a single beam of light from reaching earth.

In the words of John: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

It is no accident that Scriptures often refer to Jesus as the Light of the World, and that we are instructed to "shine our lights" like Him. The power of light to penetrate the darkness (scientifically) is nothing compared to the power of light to penetrate the darkness (spiritually) in the world around us.

Let me encourage you to shine bright this week. Serve your bosses or your employees with the grace and goodness of the Lord, and let them know you are actually serving Christ in all you do (Colossians 3:17). Love your children and/or spouse this week the way Jesus would, and let them know you are really loving Him (Ephesians 5). When we live like this, our light (which is mere a reflection of the light of Christ!) penetrates the darkness and then the words of Matthew 5 ring true, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Hold. Hope. Him.

Joseph Castaneda

e4d38ae5-844a-44c5-b96f-59283cb600c5.jpg

Hold

I recently read a book about whaling adventures in the 1800's. More than once, a vessel was destroyed and men were thrown overboard in the harrowing act of trying to harpoon the giants of the sea.

In one particular account, a ship had experienced a disastrous encounter with a whale and an unfortunately ill-timed collision with a tropical storm. Many men were tossed into the sea and perished while just a handful of sailors were rescued.

One sailor found himself floating in the Pacific, coming to terms with his failing strength and the reality of being truly lost at sea. As he was contemplating death by drowning, a large piece of his ship came floating by and this whaler clasped on to it for dear life.

Days later, he was rescued by another whaling vessel and eventually wrote down his story in a journal. In it, he described how he survived at sea: he held on fiercely to that piece of wood.

You and I are not unlike that lost sailor. We are floating at sea, sometimes in a violent storm, sometimes in calmer water, but always floating. Our survival depends on our ability to "hold unswervingly" to the hope we have in Christ. Why is this hope so certain? Because HE who promised this hope is absolutely faithful in every word and every promise He has ever made.

Let me remind you to cling to the promises of God, and to hold unswervingly to the hope we have in Christ. Apart from Jesus, there is no thing, and no person, that can help us stay afloat in the world in which we live. So read the Word and embrace the truths and promises of God.

Hold fast.

Would You Like A Second Helping?

Joseph Castaneda

ac76d1c5-5bfa-4c25-84df-ec45b0191c4b.jpg

Contentment

You ever feel like life is spinning wildly, and that you are merely along for the ride? Last summer I remember a week where I started counting the many tasks that the Lord had placed directly in front of me and Traci: Personal support raising. Bowling alley remodel. Bowling alley fund raising. Coaching a volleyball team. Developing an entire volleyball program. Church partnership growth. Sermon prep and development. Ministry networking. Publishing projects. Video project and development. Managing a home business. Oh yeah...and working hard at trying to be a godly husband, wife, mother, father, and pastor.

I'm sure you could substitute out the items on our list, and put in the items from your list, and your's would likely dwarf our's. Either way, it's easy to look at the to-do lists, the taxi schedule, the school work loads, and the office demands, and to put our effort in to working harder to become super focused, super efficient and super productive. And in doing so, we often become super forgetful about what really matters most: contentment in Christ.

Jesus' words in John 6:35 remind us that contentment comes when our basic needs are met first in Him, not in the world around us, and not in the fulfillment of our crazy, hectic, to-do lists. Jesus says, "come to me" and we will be filled in Him, like we had just eaten our favorite meal at dinnertime. Jesus says, "believe in me," and we will be satisfied like we just had our thirst quenched with a cool drink on a hot day.

In all the craziness of life, don't forget that being in Christ is our greatest resource and our greatest need. In Him we find we have everything we need to be successful in this life as we prepare to live with Him forever in the next life. In Him we discover true to peace in a chaotic world. In Him we find hope for brokenness and healing for wounds. In Him we find rest. In Him we find true satisfaction. In Him. In Him. In Him.

Make sure you are finding time to recenter yourself In Him, today. Because in Him, no matter how crazy life is, we can be content.

Joseph Castaneda

c3baf2e8-6ad3-48f4-9a5c-075252d031ae.jpg

Opportunity

Whenever I read the words of Galatians 6:10 I'm struck by the certainty of the statement Paul made to these believers. He didn't say, "If you ever have a chance..." or "Hey guys, maybe one day you'll get a moment you can do good..." Instead, he says with some confidence, that opportunity is coming, and when it does, these believers need to be ready to do good. To everyone.

I've known too many believers who want God to give them an opportunity to serve, who at the same time, are ignoring the opportunities right in front of them! They want a sign in the sky directing them to some divine appointment when they already have Galatians 6:10 giving some significant clarity.

It reminds me of a friend of mine who ran a mission trip for some out-of-state students. These teenagers were traveling across the country to do missions work in Oregon, helping serve the homeless community in Salem. The students were picked up at the airport in Portland, and on the one hour drive to Salem made a quick stop at the only rest area between the two cities.

Unknown to these students, my buddy had arranged for three guys to pose as homeless men at the rest area, asking for money, food, and transportation. These 20+ teens and their leaders actually had to step over one of them (pretending to sleep on the sidewalk) on the path to the restroom, and not one of them offered any help to any of the men. In fact, even though they had a van full of snacks provided to them, they didn't even offer a bag of chips to the men.

As the students hopped back in their vans for transportation to their ministry site, the three homeless guys hopped in a car and beat them back to the location. The students began orientation with my buddy, and while they were being introduced to the staff, the three homeless guys walked in. The kids recognized them instantly, and after a few uncomfortable laughs, my buddy dropped the challenge on them.

You see, they had flown across the country to minister to the homeless community, but they ignored the opportunity to serve homeless men right in front of them! They had "opportunity to do good," but they were waiting for the "right" opportunity in the form of a trip.

What "opportunity to do good" has God place in front of you right now? Are you ignoring a chance to serve or bless someone else because you are waiting for God to point you in the right direction? Maybe Galatians 6:10 is God's way of pointing you to serve TODAY, and to capture the opportunities He has placed in front of you.

Suck It Up Buttercup

Joseph Castaneda

699c0942-dc90-48e1-9af6-57b05fa1310c.jpg

Strength

Every time I read these words in the book of Joshua, I am reminded of what the prophet Isaiah would share with Israel about 700 years later:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives STRENGTH to the weary
and increases the POWER of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and wary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their STRENGTH.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and NOT grow weary,
they will walk and NOT be faint.
--Isaiah 40:28-31

[written in August 2018]: As I finish up this week's prayer email, I realize that I'm running on fumes! The last few weeks have been exhausting in a strange sort of way, and tonight, after a fairly long day, I spent two hours moving lumber in preparation for future remodel work at the bowling alley. I've been burning the midnight and early morning oil, and as I look to my calendar I realize I'm not 100% ready for 20+ hours of teaching at the YWAM base next week.

And this is where I must realize that the strength I need, the power that will help me pull it all together, won't come from within me; I don't have much left going in to the weekend. No, the strength and power I need comes from another source...it comes from The Source! So I'm clinging to Joshua 1:9 to be strong and courageous, and I'm clinging to Isaiah 40:28-31 that assures me God will give me the strength, courage, and power that I need to accomplish life over the next few weeks.

Are you running on fumes right now? Is your tank on empty? If you're looking at Joshua 1:9 and thinking that strength and courage must come from within you, you might be feeling even more depleted and defeated. Thankfully Isaiah reminds us that God is the giver of the very thing He requests, and when we lean in to Him, He provides more than enough.

I Are A Good Student, Is You?

Joseph Castaneda

da4fd9f8-73ca-4d92-93e1-38a63ab95ff6.jpg

Learning

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there were a few slogans that permeated my childhood education, maybe you remember some of these? "DARE to resist drugs" or "This is your brain..." or "Avoid the Noid" (ok, that one might be a stretch but here's a commercial to jog your memory!) or "True Love Waits" or...what are some of your favorite schoolisms?

Another one that became part of my educational DNA I learned in high school: "Leaders are learners." Good leaders are people who keep growing in knowledge, they read, they watch documentaries, they take notes during Ted Talks and they surround themselves with people who are wiser and smarter than themselves. These types of leaders ask questions, learn from their mistakes and know to whom they should listen.

I love Isaiah's words here in chapter 48, as the Lord reminds him that God is the greatest teacher. There is no doubt Isaiah was a tremendous leader in his time, and he was a man, a prophet, who was a great learner; learning from the Great Teacher.

Are you spending time learning with Isaiah's teacher? He knows what you need, He knows what you need to learn and "the way you should go," and He knows that when you learn it, the benefit will be yours.

I want to lead to the best of my ability, and I know that means I need to learn much from the Great Teacher. How about you? Are you spending time with Him? Are you learning, each day, from His book and His Spirit?

There is great comfort in knowing that the Lord is God, He teaches us and does so for our benefit, to lead us in the way we should go. Learn from Jesus.

What Are You Staring At?

Joseph Castaneda

5f9ab220-49ff-4aa2-82b8-eecad474d32c.jpg

Focus

Focus seems like a lost art in the crazy world of information that we live in today. In fact, even as I write this blog post I realize how unfocused I am as I'm carrying on a conversation on Facebook Messenger with one friend on my iPad, using my phone to text with another, and responding to emails every time my laptop chimes. Apparently this was a timely word for me, too...

I recently read an article about how important focus is for the human mind, especially for young children. The author of the article stated that we are witnessing a new generation of social and psychological problems in children, that he believes, are directly related to the inability of kids to focus because of the constant need to be entertained by some sort of handheld device.

According to this researcher, it seems that we were designed (I would say, created!) for needing times of "white space." White space is a term usually used in design work, describing the space where no words or colors have invaded a page. White space is necessary in design work as it allows the human eye to focus on what's important.

Mentally, white space carries the same concept: it's the opportunity to have nothing calling for our attention (the phone is off, the door is closed, the office is quiet....whatever it takes!) so that we can focus on what's important. So we can, as Paul says, "fix our eyes on what is unseen."

And while it's easy to point to the kids, I'm not fooling anyone, because I'm just as guilty of filling my life to capacity with noise, and not leaving enough white space to stay fixed on God, who He is, and what He is doing in my life and in the world around me.

Do you need some white space today? In our house, we are beginning a new white space campaign, maybe you should join us! Most of our distractions come from screens, so here's a list of our family's plan for creating more white space:

1 hour a day with ZERO screen interaction (phones, laptops, iPads, TVs, watches...)
1 day a week with ZERO screen interaction (we are presently toying with Sundays, but also considering Mondays)
1 week every year with ZERO screen interaction (My daughter almost threw up when she heard that one. Ha!)

We're not sure how the time will be used, except that it's meant to be screen-distraction, free, for all of us, all at the same time. That time might be used for games together, might be used for rest, conversation, exercise, reading, praying, sitting....it is just meant to be white space. For sure, it's a work in progress and we will keep you updated on how our family goal actually works out!

Do you need more white space in your life? If you're distracted by technology (my computer literally chimed as I wrote those words!) or by heartache, loss, or the worries of this world, than I encourage you to create some white space so that you can focus on what matters most.

Spiritual Steroids

Joseph Castaneda

01d2a940-d075-473e-b3b7-2f61728191ba.jpg

Strength

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

45d7183e-74d7-4c60-8d75-9315ed51e4fa.jpg

Abundance

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

27a5f51e-c981-47b4-aa82-4aa882e13db3.jpg

Discipline

"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

69388417-d6e4-46a9-aa73-7627948be4d1.jpg

Humble

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

175ce6ad-2a45-459e-a6e4-38236004cc28.jpg

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

15d18ef4-845b-431c-b19f-915836211e0d.jpg

Faith

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

75c6d7c8-322e-4097-9753-26cda01959b2.jpg

Peace

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

51788ada-c2c5-4d8b-87b4-a5c029578d06.jpg

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

4f0901fe-47f4-4fc4-8067-0e1d8ae0b1be.jpg

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!

Trust

Joseph Castaneda

ed9a920d-97a0-499b-b0f4-a7ad58f97df4.jpg

Trust

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

85d6ce4f-bbf9-41dd-aba6-958d3c01a18c.jpg

Hope

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

a0d7c3f5-5df9-4448-8df5-d490d1dd92c4.jpg

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? (overboard@overboardministries.com)

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!