June 22 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Worship and Evangelism

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,

Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;

And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,

For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.”

Edgar Guest

Example is the best teacher. Are you an excellent example of Christianity?

I had heard the word of God in a Christian church growing up through childhood. But I never tried to put it into practice until the day my wife, Birdie’s mother, passed away from a stroke two years into our marriage. It was what I would call a “wake up call.” I had some knowledge of the Bible but I started putting it into practice, including worship and evangelizing by example.

In the year 51, Thessalonica was a thriving city in Greece. The good news of Jesus Christ rang out in the city. Today it is the second-largest city in Greece after Athens. Paul started his ministry there and he wrote 1 Thessalonians.

He wanted to encourage new Christians (3:3-5) and evangelize the community. How can we do this today?

We can be an excellent example of how to live as a believer in Jesus Christ. We can ask new Christians how they are doing with questions like “How is your spiritual life lately?” or “Have you heard any great sermons or podcasts or Christian songs lately?” I can add: “I have. I heard a sermon recently about how life is too short and we do not want to miss the most important relationship on this planet (2 Cor 13:5) which is a relationship with God.”

We can worship with new Christians and encourage them. Share what is encouraging and inspirational to you. Just be yourself! By encouraging others, you are giving them courage. 

By worshiping with them you are evangelizing by example.

The 12 disciples (without Judas but with Matthias) were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, and their goal was to share the gospel of Christ, start new churches and teach sound doctrine.

Can you live and share the gospel with someone today?

Paul had met the resurrected Jesus and was given a commission by Him to be the messenger to the Gentiles in planting churches. We can be messengers today. Are you a messenger?

Paul called himself an apostle. He held to the fact that the church of God was built on Christ as the chief cornerstone and on the apostles as primary foundational stones. He wanted to tell others.

What kind of example are you living? What kind of example are you showing others?

Tom Weckesser

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June 21 – Worship: The Golden Thread – What is worship anyway?

Read John 4:1-26

When I was in junior high, my parents told us we could sit anywhere in church…anywhere – as long as we sat in front of them (and they normally sat in the first 5 rows).  That didn’t give us a lot of options, nor did it keep us from mischief.  One Sunday evening when the service was going on longer than I felt it should, my friends and I were getting a little out of control.  I soon noticed a small paper airplane fly over my shoulder and land in front of me.   I opened up the precisely folded paper and read the word “Behave!”… my dad, always creative, even in discipline!

As I was growing up, the idea of worship seemed to revolve around sitting in a pew that wasn’t comfortable, singing songs I didn’t understand and sitting through too many spoken words…way too many spoken words.  Fortunately, Jesus set the record straight in John 4.  As He spoke with the woman at the well, He told of a time where people would be able to worship anywhere – not just in the temple of Jerusalem or on the mountain Gerizim where the Samaritan people had worshipped for centuries. Jesus said that God was spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.

The concept of worship simply means to revere and adore God. As Jesus explained this to the woman, He said this worship should flow from our hearts, in conjunction with the Spirit, and in the context of the truth of His word. This worship is not only an inward offering but also something others can see.  Paul writes in Romans 12:1 “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” When we back up our worship “talk” with our living sacrifice “walk” God is glorified!

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 5:10 – it simply says “and find out what pleases the Lord.” The Randy version reads like this “figure out what makes Jesus smile.” Let me encourage us to spend some time today pondering what it means to please the Lord… does the way I worship with my time, treasure and talent make our King smile? Does the way I live resemble a living sacrifice or does it revolve around what I want? 

Let’s work hard on worshipping with our lives and doing the things that please Jesus during the week; that way when we come together on Sunday, our corporate worship will truly bring honor to our King!

Randy Moomaw

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June 20 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Unified through worship

Read Romans 12:3-8

When I think of worship, the words to this old hymn come to mind:

When we all get to Heaven

What a day of rejoicing that will be

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

These words depict what unified worship will look like when we stand before our Savior. I imagine it will be energetic, full of light, and a celebration like nothing we’ve experienced before on Earth. We anticipate that day when our worship will include people from all nations, races and languages. At last, the created will worship the Creator in Heaven.

Worship takes the focus off of our differences and focuses our attention on the One whom we have in common. When Christ gathers all of the believers together in Heaven one day, there will not be sections reserved for different groups of people. There won’t be divisions based on nationality, style of worship, or amount of worship. We will all be accepted based on WHO we worship.

Believers from all over the world, and from all walks of life, worship the same God, but in many different ways. What one person is capable of, another may not be. So each individual must worship God as he or she can. God uniquely designed us each to use our gifts and talents to bring Him glory. Some have the gift to sing or teach. Others have the gift to encourage, while others handle finances in a way that honors God and makes His name famous. In this way, we all worship through different means, but exalt the same God.

Worship takes many different forms throughout our lifetime. A child might worship by singing songs of praise to Jesus or memorizing Bible verses. A teen may worship by serving in a community center or talking about his or her faith with a friend. Adults can worship by tithing their income, preparing a meal for a family or friend in need, or helping a community rebuild after a natural disaster. Worship, according to Romans 12, can look different for each person.

How has God wired you to bring Him glory? Don’t feel bad if your gift looks different than someone else’s. Don’t judge someone else’s worship style if it isn’t like yours.  Our focus should be on proclaiming the name of Jesus and pointing others towards Him. We can look forward to that one day when we will gather in Heaven for the biggest worship celebration ever; but until then, our worship should draw others to Him.

Tammy Finney

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June 19 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Transformational

Read Romans 12:2

Being a worship leader, the act of worship is one of my favorite subjects to discuss when it comes to the Bible and what it has to say. My love for music and the art of musical worship has been in my heart for a while but worship is more than the songs we sing and more than the chords or keys we hear. The act of worship should transform us. 

I recently heard Taya Gaukrodger, worship leader and writer for Hillsong United, say,

“The first time worship is ever mentioned in the Bible is when Abraham turns to his servant and says ‘you wait here, Isaac and I are going up to worship’…it had nothing to do with song or music, it had to do with obedience to the voice of God and sacrifice regardless…that is what worship should be regardless of the 20 minutes we have on a Sunday”.

This is one of my favorite statements because it points to not only the obedience of Abraham’s life but points out that, because of Abraham’s love for the Lord, he was transformed and praised His name. Then as He followed the voice of God in obedience, He was transformed even more.

Just like Abraham’s life was transformed through worship, Paul tells us that the true act of worship is to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds” … renewing our minds.

How does one do that?!

Simply by spending time with the Lord, whether it be in song or the Word, in company or solitary, while talking or being still. When we spend time with Jesus, our perspectives change, we begin to see things as Jesus sees them, we begin to notice the light in it all and it begins to transform our lives. 

The songs we sing on a Sunday morning, whether contemporary or traditional hymns, are born from God’s Word and, because He breathed the words that we read in the Bible (2 Tim 3:16) , we can breathe in and out the words of the songs we sing in the hope that it transforms our hearts and enlightens our thinking.

The act of worship is simply being yourself, striving to live like Jesus, engrossed in His words and allowing the growth from who we once were to the people He intended us to be to take place. 

Personally, musical worship has always been a place where the Lord and I connect most. Through a verse I lead or sing, I get to go before Him, I get to praise His name, I get to pray over you, our church family, I get to surrender it all to Him. After that time of worship through song, I always walk away with a new perspective, a new challenge and am transformed because what is breathing in and out are His words and His heart.

The question is, do you live your life continually being renewed because of God’s Word? Are you constantly being transformed by knowing His Truth? 

If you can’t answer yes to either of those, I challenge you to sit with this notion of transformation worship. What do you do day in and day out that causes your life to be changed because of who Jesus is? 

Kelly Lawson

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June 18 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Misconceptions

Read Romans 12:1

God wants worship to make up our lives. He wants our lives to be the worship.

Worship. It’s “reverent honor and homage paid to God”, according to dictionary.com.

The original Greek word can be translated as “sacred service” or “priestly ministry,” and it’s only found five times in the entire New Testament. It’s the word associated with what the high priest did in the tabernacle when presenting a guilt offering for God’s people, which God called the most holy of sacrifices. 

It’s the word God uses to describe yours and my proper response to His life-giving, death-conquering, all-forgiving love that secured the more-than-survival kind of living we get when we trust Him with who we are.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)

It’s easy to mistake the word “worship” for what we do on Sunday mornings when we all stand up and sing a song or to think it only applies to praise music. But Paul says worship is actually a life completely surrendered. In fact, according to Romans 12:1, the kind of worship that makes God smile is when we offer Him the reins and let His Holy Spirit direct all that we do, everything we say. True and proper worship is the sacrifice of our very bodies as instruments of our souls, which are surrendered to God.

God wants us all-in for the moments and the hours and the days between Sundays. A life of worship hands Him the control. It points to Him, knows Him so well it can’t help but adore Him. Worship is living that flows from the depths of amazed and straight into doing the stuff God leads us to do.

Like loving a neighbor even when it’s awkward. Or refusing to jump in on the office gossip even when it’s really funny. Worship is our very lives presented to God in a way that follows His plan. Like changing a diaper for a mom whose day has gone sideways and she just. needs. a. moment. It’s sensing the Holy Spirit’s nudge and obeying when He gives you a no-brainer opportunity to talk about Jesus and the hope He offers. 

Worship is not just a song. It’s a life surrendered to God Himself.

In what way are you going to live more surrendered to God today?

Bria Wasson

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June 17 – Worship: The Golden Thread

Read Matthew 15:8-9

Have you ever done something where your heart really wasn’t in it?

I remember my senior year of high school basketbal,l playing in the district championship at Wooster High School. For reasons that I don’t have the space to describe, I was done. I think it’s safe to say my heart just wasn’t there the majority of my high school playing career. I simply couldn’t wait to be done and out of this season of my life.

During this championship game, we were getting blown out by the other team and they were shooting free throws to basically close out the game and my high school career. I look over to the stands and see my three best friends with huge smiles on their faces as they got their coats on, getting ready to play video games all night together, which we were planning to do if we lost. If your heart’s not in something, if you don’t have the backing of your soul, you’re putting on a facade.

This is, unfortunately, the case with many “Christians” today.

Our reading today talks about how people honor God with their lips. They go through the motions, say the right things, and appear that they are model believers. However, Jesus says that these kinds of people’s hearts are far from Him and that their worship is in vain.

I’m going to go out on a limb and speak for all of us and say that we don’t want that!

Over the next week, we are to be talking about true worship and the truth that it is the golden thread that keeps us united with Christ.

Whenever, I write one of these intro-type devos to kick off a series, I encourage us all to open our hearts and prepare to hear from God for the next several days.

Why is this important?

Speaking of going through the motions, if your heart isn’t open, you’re going to read the next several devotionals just to cross them off your to-do list. However, if you open yourself up to the leading of the Holy Spirit, there is no telling what He will convict you of and how your life will change as a result!

God, I pray for all of those beginning this journey with us. I pray that we would be able to spend some quality time with You each day in the midst of everything that is on our plates. I pray that You would quiet the noise, if only for a few minutes. I pray that we would all prepare to hear from You this week. I pray for conviction and a people that are dedicated to true worship that is honoring to You!

Jake Lawson

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June 16 – Wait, who? – Ananias and Sapphira

Read Acts 5:1-11

At the time of this writing, Kelly and I’s son, Mattie, is a couple of months shy of turning 4. It’s crazy to see the development already taking place with him! He is an extremely busy not-so- little boy who loves to get into things and experience new adventures. Recently, we have been turned on to kinetic sand (check it out!) and have since purchased some for him to play with.

Well, one morning, I’m getting ready for work and, for just a couple of minutes, take my attention off of Mattie and come back into the room to see sand all over the carpet (we constantly tell him to keep his toys on the table). I must have said something like, “Oh my goodness” with some kind of shocked expression on my face because Mattie read it, got out of his chair, came over to me and hugged me, saying, “Aw, it’s okay, Daddy”.

To what extent do you go to get away with doing something?

Our reading today talks about a married couple who tried to pull a quick one on God and paid the price. Ananias and Sapphira sold some land and offered the money to the apostles. The only thing was that they kept a portion for themselves. Essentially, they were claiming to giving it all to the work of God when they actually weren’t.

The couple’s plan was to go in at different times and Ananias didn’t get too far before Peter sniffed out his lie, saying that he not only lied to them but to God and Ananias fell down dead on the spot. Sapphira came in, not knowing that her husband died for lying, and she meets a similar fate as a result of not being truthful.

Our reading ends with the verse:

“Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

What are we supposed to do with this story?

Lying is something that God takes seriously, if you haven’t yet realized. A lying tongue is something that is even said to be hated by God (Proverbs 6:16-19) and has detrimental consequences to everyone.

In my eyes, the application is simple: strive to be truthful in all aspects of your life.

What are some areas in your life where you are most tempted to compromise the truth? When do you most stretch the truth or not tell the whole truth?

It is not my intention to tell you that God will strike you down the next time you lie, but I do want to communicate just how much God detests a lying spirit. My challenge goes out to all of us to take an honest inventory of our lives and repent of any lies that we have told or are living and move toward a more truthful life!

Jake Lawson

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June 15 – Wait, who? – Dorcas

Read Acts 9:36-43

Years ago, I remember driving by a funeral home as someone was unloading a model airplane from their vehicle and carrying it inside. My guess is that airplane was placed on display as something a deceased loved one had made or at least enjoyed. It was likely something important to the one who had passed…perhaps even something, for which he/she was known.

What objects would your loved ones place on display at your funeral? What kinds of things would depict your values and priorities?

The eight verses from today’s reading seem to describe a similar scenario. A woman named Tabitha (also called Dorcas) had passed. As people assembled for what might have been the first-century equivalent of calling hours, women are there with articles of clothing that Dorcas had made by hand. But she was more than an accomplished seamstress. That clothing was apparently reflective of her reputation as one who did good and who helped the poor (v. 36). She probably made clothing and gave it to those in need…like the mourning widows in the upper room that day.

Still, that isn’t all that Dorcas is known for. She is also known as one raised from the dead by the power of Jesus. Even though we only read a few verses about her here, the story of her life spread beyond the widows gathered throughout the entire community there in Joppa. As a result, many people believed (v. 42).

Can we go back once again to where we began? What is it that you are known for? What will you one day be remembered for? Model airplanes? Your sports fanaticism? Your contribution to your work? Your commitment to Candy Crush?

Even if you are committed to doing things that help others, you must be careful. In the end, Tabitha’s good works stemmed from more than a humanitarian bent. Her help of the poor served a greater purpose than mere philanthropy. She was a follower of Jesus (v. 36). Ultimately, both her generosity and her resurrection brought fame to the name of Jesus.

What are you known for? Who gets the credit for it?

Steve Kern

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June 14 – Wait, who? – Elisha

Read 1 Kings 19:1-21 and 2 Kings 2:1-25, 6:8-19

Being the youngest, I often was called by one of my sisters’ names. In fact, truthfully, I felt like I grew up in the shadow of my two older sisters. Perhaps that’s how our biblical character we read about today felt. Many people get the stories of Elijah and Elisha confused because their names are so similar. Elisha definitely had big shoes to fill in the shadow of his mentor, Elijah, but we will see today that Elisha, although he may not be as well known, was just as prominent.

Our character, Elisha, enters the scene in 1 Kings 19 after Elijah, a great prophet of God, was burned out from ministry. Elijah fled from wicked Jezebel, who sought to kill him, hid under a tree wishing to die, ate breakfast made by an angel, heard God’s voice in a gentle wind and was convinced he was the only one left on God’s side.

He was done.

So, God told Elijah that another prophet would take his place. Elijah first found Elisha plowing a field but Elisha quickly left his family, the oxen and the fields behind and followed Elijah. Elisha was Elijah’s right-hand man who did not leave his side. He was dedicated to minister to Elijah and learn from him before God miraculously took Elijah in a chariot of fire right in front of Elisha. Wow! Can you imagine seeing that?! Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And whoosh! A whirlwind took Elijah to heaven!

Before God whisked away Elijah, Elisha asked Elijah to give him a double portion of his spirit and he was granted that request. 2 Kings is full of story after story of the miracles God performed through Elisha. Oil was multiplied for a widow, a boy was raised from the dead, an iron axe head was caused to float. Elisha was no doubt a man of God, full of compassion for others.

One of my favorite stories of Elisha is found in 2 Kings 6:8-19. The king of Aram was at war with Israel and, because God gave Elisha the ability to supernaturally know where the enemy camped, the king of Aram was enraged and sought to take Elisha. At night the Arameans surrounded Elisha’s city with chariots. In the morning Elisha’s servant was shocked at the scene-completely surrounded without an escape! Elisha comforted him and said, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” God permitted Elisha to see the unseen spiritual battle! He saw that God’s forces outnumbered the enemy’s’. Elisha then prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see the same thing and they were!

This reminds me of Ephesians 6:10-18 where Paul writes that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Paul continues with instruction to put on the full armor of God- the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The unseen battle is real.  What are you fighting? Rest assured that, although we cannot see the spiritual forces at war, God’s forces outnumber Satan’s and the victory is God’s! Oh, that we could see, like Elisha, that those who are with us are more than those who are with them.

Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. You are on the winning side.

Charline Engle

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June 13 – Wait, who? – Phillip

Read Acts 8:26-40

Life change is an invitation away.

This is one of my favorite values of Grace Church. If you really think about it, the Gospel message is all about invitation; Jesus inviting us to live in freedom and spend eternity with Him by accepting the free gift of salvation He offers to us by belief in His life, death, and resurrection from the grave. The passage we read today highlights for us the power of invitation, the power of God to use inconspicuous moments for eternal impact, and how saying “yes” to the nudging of the Spirit can help play a part in changing someone’s life.

I cannot help but put myself in the shoes of Phillip in this story. After all, he could have been anyone of us. Going about his normal day-to-day business and suddenly sensing God calling him to make a move or have a conversation. You know that thought or sense you get when you are prompted to “go talk with that person” or “go visit this place.” Rather than saying “no”, and writing the feeling off as something he had just cooked up in his head, Phillip said “yes”. That “yes” and the work of the Spirit in the Eunuch’s life had eternal significance. There is something so beautiful in the simplicity of this passage. God using His messengers to share His love, and witnessing the life change of the Gospel before our eyes.

As you are reading this devotional today, I am sure each of us can recall “the invitation” that helped play a part in our salvation story. For some, it might have been a friend inviting you to come to church one Sunday, or a colleague inviting you to a Christmas service, or, if you are like me, the enticement of a free lunch after service with your grandparents. No matter your invitation story, I think we can all agree it played a part in the most important decision of your life.

I wonder today who God might be calling you to invite. Whose story He wants you to be a part of. Would you join me in praying today that God would allow us to play a role in someone’s life like Phillip was to the Eunuch?

Friends, life change truly is an invitation away. The power of the Gospel never ceases to amaze me.

Taylor Bennington

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