October 17 – I Will Remember – Here I Raise My Ebenezer: A Stone of Remembrance

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Read 1 Samuel 7:3-17, 1 Samuel 3:20

The hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” begins the second stanza with the following lyrics:

“Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” 

For those unfamiliar with the storyline behind the usage of Ebenezer, one could think that someone is raising their child named Ebenezer in Lion-King fashion. However, Ebenezer is a reference to a stone that the prophet Samuel had established between two cities as a memorial to the Lord, representing how the Lord was a “stone of help,” helping Israel win the victory over the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:3-17). Thus, the reference to raising one’s Ebenezer is raising a memorial—a remembrance—of how the Lord has been and is a stone of help.

Within the context of the raising of “the stone of help,” or the raising of Ebenezer, there are two particular points of interest.

First, the “stone of help” was raised after a much-needed return to the Lord. 

If you read back a couple of chapters, you will see that Israel had experienced a period of turbulent times. They had seen the corruption and evil of the sons of Eli—the priest of Israel. They had experienced multiple poundings by the Philistines. After their last beating, the Philistines captured their national sacred mascot, the ark of the covenant. In addition, they witnessed the death of the priestly family. Furthermore, they were a nation chasing after other gods. After these events, Samuel, the established prophet of the Lord (1 Sam. 3:20), called Israel to return to the Lord with all their hearts.

Second, the stone of help was raised after Israel cried out to the Lord in great desperation. 

As Israel gathered as a nation to repent and return to the Lord, the Philistines heard about the gathering and planned to crash the repentance party with an attack. When Israel heard about the attack, “they were afraid of the Philistines.” 

However, they asked Samuel to constantly “cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” The difference between their actions now, verses their previous actions, was the central power and focus behind the fighting. Previously, Israel was fighting in their own power and for themselves—even though they used God as a lucky rabbit’s foot. 

Don’t miss this. Prior to the Ebenezer being raised, Israel approached God in desperation, knowing that they could not win unless he fought for them. In other words, they were completely dependent on God for help—for victory. This is where God wants us all to be—regardless of the kind of crises we may face. 

In closing, whatever we face today, tomorrow, or down the road is something that God does not just want to face with us, but for us. Jesus did not come to be “part” of our life as if to become a spiritual tack-on, but rather has come to bring us life and to be our life! Thus, we should live lives completely dependent on him. When we live this way, we will find ourselves raising more “Ebenezers” (memorial stones signifying how God has been our stone of help). 

Questions for Reflection

What Ebenezer should you raise today in remembrance of how God was your stone of help? 

How can you come alongside others to help them see their Ebenezers? 

October 16 – I Will Remember – God’s Faithfulness in Past Trials

The following is a YouVersion plan written by the Billy Graham Center. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

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Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-7

Leading up to this passage, God has just given to Israel his greatest commandment—love the Lord your God (Deut. 6:5)—and established his relationship to them: the Lord your God has chosen you (Deut. 7:6). Now God reinforces these two truths with the key to living them out faithfully. 

Commanding Israel to be faithful, God connects this obedience with taking care in the importance of remembering. In scripture, the call to remember is always attached to covenant faithfulness. To remember is to remain faithful while to forget is to fall away. This is why God is regularly depicted as the one who remembers (Gen. 8:1; 1 Sam. 1:19; Ps. 105:42). It is a way of expressing his steadfast love and faithfulness: he remembers his covenant with his people. 

For God’s people, however, there is always the temptation to forget—not only what God has done, but also what he has commanded us to do in the present. Israel was to live a certain way because God was real, he had made them his people, and he had liberated them from captivity. 

Just as God was real, so his law was real. To forget God’s actions in history was to invalidate or at least lesson the realness of his law. In this passage, God specifies what he wants them to remember: He had not abandoned them to hunger or cold in the wilderness but supernaturally provided for them. In their need, God has been there. 

One of the reasons why forgetting God’s faithfulness for us in the past can be so destructive is because it blinds us to his presence and provision in the midst of current struggle. We face challenges and worry that God is not there, that the problem is too great, or that the future is too uncertain. Remembering is critical to faithfulness because it confronts these thoughts with the truth of God’s track record.  

Questions for Reflection

Take time to list out what God has done in past seasons in the wilderness. How did he answer your prayers in that season? How did he grow your faith? 

How can you share your stories of remembering with neighbors, friends, and family during their times of difficulty?

PUBLISHER

We would like to thank Billy Graham Center for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.billygrahamcenter.com

October 15 – I Will Remember – Remembering God in the Wilderness

The following is a YouVersion plan written by the Billy Graham Center. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

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Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

Read Numbers 14:1–38; Matthew 4:1–11

Israel’s time in the wilderness wasn’t meant to last 40 years. It lasted 40 years because of their rebellious hearts. In response to the report from the majority of the spies, whom Moses sent to scout the Promised Land, the people of Israel refused to believe God’s promise. 

As a result, “The Lord responded…’none of the men who have seen my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did not obey me, will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers’” (Num. 14:20, 22). 

Fast-forward thousands of years, and we see Jesus in the wilderness. And just like Israel, Jesus was led there. While in the wilderness, rather than rebel against God, Jesus obeys him and emerges ready to launch his ministry (Matt. 4). 

The wilderness is something that we all have experienced. Wilderness seasons make us feel as though we’ve been driven out to the middle of nowhere and the pleasures and comfort of life have vanished. In the wilderness, every step feels like a struggle as God seems to be far away.

In both of these wilderness accounts, there are at least three lessons for us to remember. 

First, the wilderness is part of God’s plan. The wilderness is not the destination, but part of the journey God has for us. Second, the wilderness acts as a spiritual thermometer that takes your spiritual temperature. The wilderness has a way of revealing either how far away you are from God or how close you are to God. Third, what you remember in the wilderness will either prevent you from or push you towards the promises of God. 

Most of the older generation of Israel chose to remember a distorted reality in Egypt. Rather than pressing into the presence, power, and promises of God, they chose to remember their life under an oppressive and violent regime as better. 

Jesus, on the other hand, chose to remember to live by God’s word, trust God’s faithfulness, and worship and serve God alone. 

Maybe you find yourself in a wilderness season where every day seems to be a struggle and God seems to be distant. But even when God feels distant, we must remember that he will never leave nor forsake his children.

Questions for Reflection

If you are in a season of wilderness journeying, how are you allowing it to either prevent you from God’s promises or push you towards his promises? 

How can you journey with others through this wilderness right now?

PUBLISHER

We would like to thank Billy Graham Center for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.billygrahamcenter.com

October 14 – I Will Remember – When Your World Falls Apart

The following is a YouVersion plan written by the Billy Graham Center. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

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Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

Read Genesis 1:26–31; 2:15–25; 3:1–19

There are many people today who believe their world is falling apart. That world could be physical, financial, vocational, relational, personal, or spiritual. 

When someone feels as though his or her world is falling apart, what that person is saying is that there has been this instant shift from the good to the bad. The good he or she had worked for, invested in, spent time with, enjoyed, and/or loved, is, in a moment, gone. 

This is the picture in Genesis 1, 2, and 3. In these chapters, we read that God created, built, invested in, and enjoyed his perfect creation. In addition, he created man in his own image for the purpose of reflecting his glory throughout the created order. Being his prized creation, Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect fellowship with their Creator as well as with one another. In short, there was shalom (total flourishing) over the whole earth. 

However, in a single moment shalom was shattered. Rebellion entered into God’s perfectly created order when Eve and Adam cognitively chose to disobey his word and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. At that moment, their world fell apart. 

Their world of perfection, harmony, peace, love, unity, and fellowship ended. They instantaneously realized they were naked. Rather than seeking God to fix this feeling, this change of reality, they sought to fix it themselves. And when they sensed God’s presence, they played a little game of “Hide and Seek” with God. But even when they came out of hiding, they immediately began blaming someone else for the crashing of their world. 

In short, their situation—a world in shambles—was now one of fear, confusion, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and chaos. 

In the midst of a broken world, God speaks a word of hope. We see this word of hope in Genesis 3:15 where he promises than an offspring (a child) of Eve would bruise the head of the serpent. Scholars refer to this as the “first gospel” where God promises to reconcile the world to himself, to restore the world to a pre-fall state, and to consummate his cosmic divine kingdom. He will accomplish this by crushing the head of the serpent, ultimately defeating sin. 

To foreshadow this promise, God clothes Adam and Eve’s nakedness by using animal skin (Gen. 3:21). 

Maybe you feel as though your world is falling apart. Maybe you feel, in general, that the world is falling apart. If so, remember today the wonderful promise that God made to Adam and Eve, which was fulfilled when Jesus (the offspring of Eve) went to the cross to die for the sin of the world. Remember that the Lord will one day fully reverse a world that has fallen apart to a world of total flourishing (shalom). 

Questions for Reflection


How does it seem your world is falling apart, and where do you sense God meeting you in that? 

How can you speak the truth of restoration into the lives of those around you?

PUBLISHER

We would like to thank Billy Graham Center for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.billygrahamcenter.com

October 13 – Living Sacrifice – Show Grace

Read Romans 12:21, 5:6-10

Have you ever been in a situation or heard of a situation that brought forth any emotion except that of love, grace or respect?

I hope I am not the only one. 

Living in a broken, fallen world is just plain hard and sometimes we may not react or respond the way we need to. I am guilty and often find myself repenting of this. 

For me, a big stressor in my life is work. Working in healthcare is by no way easy, but at the same token, going through a pandemic and the consequences of that has made it more difficult.  

I often find myself responding to those around me with frustration or annoyance, or even at times anger. However, I then quickly realize that I am giving the enemy exactly what he wants and I then try to remember to surrender it all to the Lord and allow Him to shine through me.

As Paul tells the Romans in 12:21:

“Do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good”.

That right there is what I think most of us followers of Jesus forget. Though our priorities and perspectives are locked on following Jesus, we can’t help but give into what happens in the world around us and react. I am the first one to raise their hand if asked “who of you have responded unholy today to a frustration?” It’s easy to do. It’s harder to stop and take a breath and just invite the Lord into the situation. Yet, if we are followers after Jesus, we are called to be holy, to be set a part.

How will someone see Jesus if all they see is me?

Jesus died for everyone. Not just those who choose Him. As Paul reminds us in Romans 5:6:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.

That is all. 

If I am called to be a living sacrifice, If I am called to be set apart, shouldn’t I exam my life and see where I am not measuring up? Where am I not above reproach? Where, or who at work do I need to change my attitude, reactions, responses, words?

I want you to think of the hardest person for you to love…or tolerate…

Jesus died for them. 

Don’t you see? We aren’t special because we chose to follow after Him. We are special because He calls us special. We are loved and holy and unique because that is what He calls us. He has called that worst person to that as well.

The difference is choice.

If you will not be Jesus to that person, who will?

Who will show the love and grace that Jesus has to offer them? Who will not respond like the rest of the world around them, but in turn see them with the eyes of Jesus? 

May we remember this about ourselves, as well as those around us:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Kelly Lawson

October 12 – Living Sacrifice – Bless and Rejoice

Read Matthew 5:43-48, 6:7-15 and Romans 12:14

“Bless those who persecute you.”

(Persecute – to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure; to cause suffering because of belief).

“I’m turning the TV down

Drowning their voices out,

Cause I believe that you and me

Can find some common ground,

See maybe I’m not like you

But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes,

If it means I might see

The world the way you do.”

(Revolutionary, Josh Wilson – a song about our current culture. Video is below).

Having mercy on others is right at the heart of what Jesus taught: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)

Why?

To have mercy on your enemies is to imitate your Father in heaven – “that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:45a). God’s mercy extends to those who are hostile towards him: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45b).

To have mercy like this marks you out from the world: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matt 5:46). We tend only to love people who are like us, or whom we like. But you are called to be different. Love your enemies. Show them the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:23). Pray for those who persecute you.

How can we receive God’s mercy ourselves and then show no mercy to others?

“Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen,

We’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different.

Why does kindness seem revolutionary?

When did we let hate get so ordinary?

Let’s turn it around, flip the script,

Judge slow, love quick…”

(Revolutionary)

We do not earn forgiveness by forgiving others, but Jesus says that our forgiveness of others is essential to receiving forgiveness from God. “You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part” (Matt 6:14–15).

Do it every day – receive mercy and forgiveness. Have mercy and forgive others.

Jesus explains the importance of prayer. He tells you to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Praying for your enemies helps you to see them as God sees them!

The theme of mercy is also at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12).

When we pray, Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 to:

Keep it quiet

“When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you and pray to your Father in private.” (v.6)

Keep it honest

“Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (v.6b)

Keep it simple

“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” (v.9a)

In what way can you bless those who persecute you?

Tom Weckesser

October 11 – Living Sacrifice – Don’t Hit Back

Read Romans 12:17-20, 1 Peter 3:9 and Proverbs 25:21-22

When I was a kid I could recall my parents telling me not to hit my brother or sister back during any disagreement. Pretty standard parental advice for siblings, especially for a middle child like myself. In the literal terms, hitting someone as an initial act or retaliation is not a good option, but how do these passages apply in 3 areas of our lives and not just in the sense of violence?

  1. Words

What we say and how we say it in today’s culture seems to be very tenuous. Some think they can say whatever they want on social media with no repercussion, but the words we use tell others a lot about what is going on in our hearts and minds.

Paul writes “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone” (Romans 12:17), but, most importantly, doing what is right in God’s eyes. Think about how that social media post or comment on someone else’s post sounds before sending it out. 

2. Actions

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” (1 Peter 3:9). Everyone has someone in their sphere that just rubbed them the wrong way. It always seems like they are putting you down or just always against you. The scripture today instructs us to not repay their unkind behavior back to them, but to, instead, show undeserved kindness to them. This is very challenging, especially if you know that you aren’t the person who should be apologizing.

Pray for patience and kindness to be part of your response to that person.

3. Thought Life

It’s easy to turn to harsh thoughts and want to think poorly about someone who has said or done something against you. Take those thoughts captive and, by doing so, apply the words in Proverbs 25:22:

“…you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Returning kindness as a response to an offensive act is difficult to do; however, praying for someone or flipping your thought life to the positive instead of negative is even tougher. 

There’s never been a better and more opportune time to show kindness to the opposite political party, the other side of the vaccination fence, or to someone who just doesn’t believe what you do.

So, the next time you have the chance to “hit back”, choose to respond with His unfailing kindness!

Drew Hilty

October 10 – Living Sacrifice – Sincere Love

Read Romans 12:9-13 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

W.W.J.D? What would Jesus do?

H.W.L.F.

He would love first!

Sincere love is to love others like Jesus did. It is genuine affection. It is not fake. It is active love.

It can include praying for another person. It includes using your spiritual gifts. Sincere love can include serving, teaching, encouraging and giving generously. It is doing it cheerfully. Ask yourself, “Am I lukewarm, hot or cold?” (See Rev 3:16)

Love the person right in front of you – with a kind word, a smile, or a helping hand. Get off your cell phone and talk to them. Get to know them. Ask them how their day is going… and then listen. Remember their name.

Take food to your neighbors. Stand and talk for a bit, if they seem interested. Just be friendly.

Be sincere.

Find a ministry at your church that matches your spiritual gifts and spend some time serving and using those gifts.

Hand out homeless bags when you see someone begging on the streets and pray for/with them.

When you take your kids to activities, don’t retreat to your car and listen to the radio or text people. Stick around and talk sincerely with any other parents who are there.

Love both those inside the church (Romans 12:10, 13, 15-16) and outside the church (12: 14, 17-21). Listen. Be patient.

“You lovin’ your neighbors then go let ’em know,

If you’re free, prove it,

If you’re not, lose the chains on your soul,

Come, freedom.”

David Crowder, “Prove It” – The first song on his setlist at the Wayne County Fair in September, 2021. Here was a man singing to hundreds of people in Wayne County saying that, if you are a Christian, then prove it with sincere love. (See John 8:36) Crowder’s ministry is to reach people who do not know the message of Jesus, including loving your neighbor. His ministry also encourages Christians to show sincere love to others.

Are you the aroma of Christ to others? (See 2 Corinthians 2:15).

Actions are one thing…but where is your heart? Are you doing these things to further the Kingdom or to make yourself feel better? Are you giving out of a desire to see God move as a result or are you just checking off a box?

Action is fake if it isn’t sincere.

WWJD?

He would love first…sincerely.

Tom Weckesser

October 9 – Living Sacrifice – Different Gifts

Read Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31

Growing up in a family of 5 kids was interesting, to say the least. We didn’t have very much money and, after my father suddenly died in 1959, we had even less.  However, every Christmas morning, all 5 of us would come bounding down the stairs to a living room FULL of presents! Bikes, dolls, train sets and more! Our parents loved us so much they wanted only the best for us and, if that meant putting aside a few dollars here and there, it was worth it to them to see the smiles on our faces. The presents eventually were forgotten and put away but the love that came from our parents never faded. 

God has some very special gifts for you, too, as you join Him in His mission here on Earth.

God knows what job in His Kingdom would be just perfect for you. The best part is He doesn’t just tell you to go do it but supplies you with the knowledge and skills you need to do it in the way of spiritual gifts. 

Why? 

Because He loves you and wants you to be the very best you can be.  How terribly sad it would be if God called you to teach and He equips you with the skills and desire to do it; but then you decide that it is too hard, doesn’t pay enough, too many hours in preparation etc. “I’ll let someone else do it!” 

Consider God’s plan as a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Each spiritual gift fits together to complete the total picture.  Without your participation, there is a hole right where your piece should be. Ask God what He has for you.  Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be the last one you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. God knows you better that you do yourself and He also knows what you are capable of doing better than you do too.

Out of all the gifts my earthly father gave me, there was one that was my favorite.  It was a stuffed skunk. Even though it is ragged and kind of bent to one side, it is worth more to me than anything in this world.  It was given to me the December before he died.  He said he specifically picked it out for me because he always called me his “little stinker.” I love it because it is from him and it was picked out especially for me.

God has a special gift for you, too, that is worth more than gold.  You need to treasure it. Why? Because it is from our Heavenly Father and handpicked just for you!

Seek it today and don’t miss out on God’s blessings for you!

Pat Arnold

October 8 – Living Sacrifice – Humility

Read Romans 12:3; 1 Peter 5:6; 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Joe Burrow, Saturday, December 14, 2019

Heisman Trophy Speech in New York City (An award given annually to the most outstanding college football player in the USA)

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…”Romans 12:3a

“All of my teammates have supported me and welcomed me with open arms, a kid from Ohio coming down to the Bayou, and welcoming me as brothers. It’s been so awesome.”

“…but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” – Romans 12:3b

“I tried to leave a legacy of hard work and preparation, and loyalty, and dedication everywhere I go. And, I’m surrounded by such great people that make that so easy.”

“…in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”Romans 12:3c

“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average. There are so many people there who don’t have a lot and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.”

In a night to honor him, Joe gave a speech focusing on others and pointing out what got him there – hard work, being prepared and dedication to his craft. He modeled Romans 12:3 by not thinking highly of himself.

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:6 that, when you are humble, God will lift you up. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice by honoring others and talking about noble characteristics that can help you do your best. (see Colossians 3:23)

“It is what God says about you that makes the difference, not what you say about yourself.”2 Corinthians 10:15-18

When you are humble, you consider giving to others – food, clothes, time, attention, financial assistance etc. Think of yourself in sober judgement: Do you look for opportunities to help those in need? Just look around you now as there are many opportunities to give and be an example of Christ!

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is a Christian sports ministry impacting the world for Jesus Christ through the influence of Christian athletes and coaches. If you look closely at sporting events, you will see these people trying to make a difference for Jesus Christ. They are playing for “an audience of one.” That audience is Jesus. Are you playing for an audience of one? Being humble is a great way to do that.

After Baylor won the men’s NCAA basketball championship this past April, they stood in a circle on the court and humbly thanked God in prayer. Coach Scott Drew said, “We are a Christ-centered program. We do a players’ Bible study and a chapel service…those are great times for all of us to grow spiritually.”

Are you living for an audience of one? What are some ways that you can show humility starting today?

Tom Weckesser

Joe Burrow’s Heisman speech has affected positive change in Ohio | College Gameday