September 21 – Anxiety – Birds and lillies

Read Matthew 6:25-34

As you look back over your life, can you identify moments where you thought your circumstances were much bigger than they actually turned out to be? Can you recall thinking that you were sinking when God, in turn, had no such plans to allow that to happen?

I was changing our 18-month old son’s diaper when I got a call from Kelly telling me that she had just lost her job.

“Uh, what?” I question as I fasten the straps of Mattie’s diaper and place him on the floor.

God has this habit of blessing me with peace in crazy moments. I encouraged Kelly and told her that we would talk when she got home. Once I hung up and sat down in Mattie’s rocker, the tears started to come. As Mattie is crawling around the room, I think to myself:

“How on earth are we going to make it?”

“The budget is already tight. Is this even possible?”

“How am I going to stay strong for Kelly and lead my family?”

Through the blurriness of my tears, I call my dad and tell him the news. Looking back, I guess I was reaching out for hope and the slightest hint of light that things would be okay.

Dad told me that God wasn’t surprised by this and would help us through this trial. He assured me that not only was God for them but they were to.

Simple but effective.

Our reading today provides such a perspective to our trials. When we really stop to think that God cares for and provides for animals and flowers…things that don’t further the Kingdom of Heaven in the slightest…it brings us hope.

“Are you not much more valuable than they?”

These aren’t Matthew’s words or any other disciple. These words are straight from the lips of Jesus.

Our reading tells us that if God cares for and provides for material things, how much more does He care for us?

When we are struggling with anxiety, it is very easy to think that our situation is unique. While it is unique for us individually, there are people all around us struggling. Some of the battles are known while many more are not.

In what way are you going to, first of all, live in God’s provision? What circumstances in your life to do you need to give over to God and allow His will to be done? Who do you know who is struggling that you need to show them this hope that we learned about today?

Three years have passed since I got that phone call from Kelly. I can confidently tell you that God took such good care of us. The best was yet in front of us and it still is today.

God is for you. He loves you. He will take care of you.

Jake Lawson

September 20 – Anxiety – Peace from God

Read John 14:27

I love this verse! Every time I read it I am flooded with peace. Let’s read it one more time, one sentence at a time.

Peace I leave with you”: His peace is already here. A gift already given.

My peace I give to you”: His promise to continue to supply us with peace.

I do not give to you as the world gives”: Who robs us of peace? The world does. Which is exactly why true peace cannot come from this world, not from anyone (or anything) in it. It must come from God.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And if we can be strong enough to not just believe this verse but receive it, God is going to give us a peace to combat any circumstance or fear we face.

Do you feel peace right now? I do. It pours over me every time I dig into each line. It doesn’t change my circumstances but it does give me the strength to not allow my circumstances to change me.

There is so much fear, doubt, concern, anger and anxiety in our world right now and our Father’s choice of attack against this onslaught by the enemy is always the same: PEACE. But how do we test the voice we are listening to as we seek peace? Here’s a helpful comparison I once read:

God’s Voice: stills you, leads you, reassures you, enlightens you, encourages you, comforts you, calms you and convicts you.

The enemy’s voice: rushes you, pushes you, frightens you, confuses you, discourages you, worries you, obsesses you and condemns you.

“As for me and my house, we serve (listen to) the Lord”

Joshua 24:15.

What an easy way to serve the Lord!

The simple act of accepting His peace can change not just your life but it will become a calming beacon of hope to several lives around you. Take a moment and receive it. No matter how frustrated or fearful your circumstances are, the Holy Spirit is with you wherever you find yourself reading this.

Lord, let the reader feel you literally take the weight off of their shoulders. I speak healing and deliverance to their heart and mind. Calm their spirit. Deep breath. Receive His Peace.

Nate Torrence

September 19 – Anxiety – The place for your anxiety

Read 1 Peter 5:7

Over the last 12 years of my life and walking with the Lord, He has continually shown me that my safe place is at His feet. 

If you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, then you may already know that one of my favorite stories in the Word is 1 Samuel 1 and 2. 

The biggest reason I love reading Hannah’s story is because it is one of rawness and realness. It is one that shows just how safe it is to bring everything to the Lord, no matter the situation, circumstances or emotions involved.

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned that Jesus doesn’t just know about what I am going through but that He cares about them and me. I used to think that “taking my thoughts captive” meant I needed to suppress them and cast them aside. What Jesus wants is that we bring them to Him so that He can walk with us, hold us and show up during all that is going on. 

The root cause of my anxiety has always been the fact that I lack control. My thoughts and emotions run wild and I can’t think straight, but in circles and it seems as though I can’t calm anything down. In those moments, I don’t try to force myself to stop; I go to a quiet space, close my eyes, envision myself walking to the throne room and just sitting at the feet of Jesus. 

As I sit there, He one by one takes my cares and struggles and holds them for me. 

It’s in that moment that peace enters in and I’m able to see straight. I am able to determine what is real and what is not and I am able to surrender control. 

We have no way of knowing what Hannah said to the Lord in 1 Samuel 1, but what I can gather is that she was all over the place (to the point that Eli thought she was drunk) and she couldn’t seem to calm down. She had no control over her situation and had no way of fixing it so all she was able to do was go before the Lord and be raw and real with her circumstance and surrender it to Him. She literally had to give it over and walk away, believing and trusting that the Lord had her in the palm of His hands. 

The Lord blessed her beyond measure. 

How many times in your life do you experience anxiety and try to just stop it? How many times in your life do you lack control of a situation to the point where you aren’t sure what to do or where to go?

The answer for all of it is Jesus. Jesus changes everything. It is in him we gain peace and joy and are able to move forward, knowing that He not only knows about the things in our lives, but He cares for them and us. 

What cares do you need to allow Him to take? I urge you and pray over you that you go before Him, laying down at His feet all that you are and all that you have.

You will find, He is always there!

Kelly Lawson

September 18 – Anxiety – Prayer

Read Philippians 4:6-7

The goal is peace.

The kind of peace that pervades every corner of the heart, every inch of the mind. When life gets dark and the road ahead is full of fog, that goal is easier said than pursued. 

Like when the phone blows up with family conflict. And discussions about who is to blame for the world’s violence dominate social media posts. Then there’s the violence right here in our own land. And don’t forget the just plain busyness that fall brings as the holidays approach, the kids’ sports seasons are in full force, and work is an endless pit of long to-do’s with not enough people to pull it off.

Still, the goal remains.

The peace of God to guard those corners of your entire being in every situation. The thought of it truly passes all understanding because anxiety is a very real part of this world. That’s why God used Paul to help us navigate the stress and anxiety. In these two verses, Paul tells us how to deal with it, how to present your requests to God. And He gives us three tangible instructions to help.

  • Pray about it. No matter what the situation, talk to God about it. Your son is struggling with his math homework? Pray about it. Your prognosis looms dark and unknown? Present it to God as you spend time with Him. Seek His heart. Find intimacy with Him as you talk with Him.
  • Petition God. Don’t just talk to Him about it. Ask Him for clarity. Ask Him for healing. Ask Him to act according to His will, to make His will yours. Just ask. 
  • Draw near with thanksgiving. Because His character is good and everything He does is perfect, approach Him with gratitude for what He is doing, even in this circumstance. Even if He chooses not to change it.

I’m not suggesting it’s as easy as 1-2-3. But when we take these steps and make the move toward God, truly letting Him be in charge, He works un-understandable peace somehow. And He will use that peace to protect us and keep us, even in the stormiest, darkest, foggiest circumstances.

Bria Wasson

September 17 – A Changing Culture – Parenting

Read Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

That is sometimes easier said than done.  Just what is “the way he should go?”  This little “bundle of joy” didn’t come with an owner’s manual. . . or did they?

Nothing is more precious than to hold a newborn baby in your arms for the first time.  They stretch and squirm, maybe let out a few little purrs and squeals.  They might blink their eyes as they adjust to this strange new world of light.  Soon they start looking around and may even focus on your face.

They stare at you mystified at what they are seeing.  Eventually they start to imitate you.  You smile, they smile, you frown, they frown – so fasten your seatbelts, your job of parenting has begun.  

It can be scary. There are plenty of books and even YouTube videos on how to take care of your baby physically, but parenting involves more than physical needs.  And, in our changing culture, you might think this is just too complicated. 

But is it? 

God has given each of us an instruction book of life, the Bible.  It doesn’t just apply to adults but to raising children as well.   You might think, “That’s a pretty thick book.  How could I ever find what I need?” You can start with the ten commandments. They pretty much cover everything that our culture is trying to turn upside down! Jesus even made it easier for us when He narrowed it down to just two.  Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you think about it, no matter how crazy the world or culture changes, those two commandments never change and they apply to everything.

From day one this little “bundle of joy” has had you under surveillance.  Watching your every move, your expressions, your reactions, your speech patterns and words.  They have been imitating you because you, to them, are their guide through this jungle called life.  You yell, they will yell, you get frustrated easily, they will do the same. But if you are kind and generous, and love others, guess what they will do?  You love the Lord, not just in words but in actions, they will do the same.

Let’s face it, life is rough! Kids don’t need parents who are “saints”, ones who never make mistakes, know all the right answers. They need GENUINE parents who make mistakes, have problems but, most of all, confess those mistakes and seek God’s help to correct them!

What kind of example are you setting for your kids, and the kids around you, through your actions and words?

Be genuine!

Kids can detect a fake in a second!

Teach them to love God and His ways (not the world’s) and, when they are old, they will not depart from it.  

That’s a promise!

Pat Arnold

September 16 – A Changing Culture – Serving Others

Read 1 Peter 4:10

I have been a part of Grace Church for the entirety of my life. As I think as far back as my mind allows, I am reminded of just how many people personify our reading today. What’s amazing is the fact that people are just so different. Even to this day, there are people who are extroverted and those who are introverted. Some enjoy working with their hands while others use their words. There are people that you see on stage who use their gifts to honor God but there are even more behind the scenes who are obeying God just the same and their serving often goes unnoticed.

We are each a part of the body of Christ and understanding that you play an important role within the larger body of Christ positions you the best to honor God with your gifts and to further the Kingdom.

Finding exactly where you fit is key to using your gifts and abilities to honor God and further the Kingdom. That is why we have put together this FIT assessment which will help you discover what your fit is!

https://gracechurch.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/161/responses/new

As we have learned throughout this series, we are living in a changing culture. It has unfortunately become normal to look out for yourself and do whatever you can to put yourself in a better position than others. However, God is calling us to something greater. Jesus Himself didn’t come to earth to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). While it certainly shouldn’t be looked upon as selfish to be served by others, our mindset should be out-focused and looking for ways that we can make other people’s lives better, pointing people towards Jesus the whole time.

If we serve with a wrong mindset, what are we really accomplishing?

Jesus talks in Matthew 6 about the religious leaders of the time praying in public so that people will see them and think highly of them. I challenge you to, in your serving, try your best to do so under the radar.

After all, who is it that you are serving? Why are you serving?

God has blessed all of us beyond measure and the least we can do is give back to Him and His Church by serving.

What excuses are you using not to serve?

Here at Grace Church, we have a saying that “saved people serve people.” A natural response to what God has done in our lives is to identify our gifts and use them to better people’s lives and further the Kingdom of Heaven.

How are you getting plugged into service for God’s glory and not your own?

Jake Lawson

September 15 – A Changing Culture – Opportunities

Read Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5; 1 Peter 3:15

We are followers of Jesus Christ. We are the light that once was darkness. The ones who used to live asleep until Jesus showed up and made us His light. We are light in the dark where evil prevails and pointless moments abound.  

So “make the most of every opportunity.”

Paul wrote these words, not just to Christians in Ephesus, but to those in Colosse as well. When Christ-followers walk with eyes wide open, looking for ways to redeem a moment, the fruitless becomes fruitful; the light of Jesus Christ and His truth become visible to those who don’t yet know the hope of eternity and real life. Culture changes one moment at a time when you and I intentionally look for opportunities to let the truth of Jesus Christ be seen.

It might start with a smile, a nod, a mere acknowledgement of a person who might not otherwise feel seen. Make the most of an opportunity like that, because our God is the God who sees.

Or maybe you’ll be driving to work and someone will cut you off in traffic. Make the most of the opportunity to bless and not curse them. Pray for them instead of showing your irritation. Maybe pray for your own heart, too.

There are so many opportunities to redeem the moments.

Maybe you’ll be walking your dog and you’ll pass by a neighbor you’ve never met. Pause and think of a way to make the most of that walk. 

It starts with following Jesus into every next step.

If you’re not walking with Him, then the less-than-fruitful moments remain as they are and the culture you and I live in stays fruitless. “(L)ive not as unwise (foolish, rejecting God’s leading) but as wise.” The way to walk fully into each moment is to humbly let God be the Lord of your whole life, asking God how to redeem each moment and claim it for Him.

Are you standing by, ready to redeem the moments in your day? Start by looking for just one. Then look for ways to let Jesus shine through you and go for it! Let God change the culture, one redeemed moment at a time.

Bria Wasson

September 14 – Loving others

Read John 13:34-35 and 1 Peter 3:10-12

I must admit that it certainly is hard to be a Christian in today’s culture. Yes, we have the promise of eternity with God Almighty, but it doesn’t always make walking through today’s challenges easy. Just a couple of scrolls on your social media of choice and you find just how divided and dark our world is. I find my spirit getting bogged down and discouraged.

My heart breaks.

It breaks because, not only is our world so divided, but my mind shifts to our children, Mattie and Emma. What kind of world are they going to grow up in? How soon until they are confronted with sinful people with evil intentions? How will this take a toll on their spirits and faith? Will they be able to handle it?

I can feel tears well up in my eyes when I am reminded of the hope that we have as believers. As a tear breaks loose from my eye, I grin as I am reminded just how small our world is in the grand scheme of eternity.

One of the things that is increasingly difficult for people today is loving one another. In such a dark and darkening world, the Bible is clear that we are to love one another.

Simple as that.

Believe it or not, I used to question my dad when it came to school stuff. He would help me with homework and I would still disagree with his answer. For those of you who don’t know, my dad holds a PhD from THE Ohio State University. Why would I ever disagree with someone like that? I can still see the look he would give me when I would question his work. His look seemed to say, “I don’t know what to tell you…this is how it is done.”

The same is true with our reading today. When Jesus told His disciples to love one another, He meant just that. There is no room for “but what about…”. I would guess Jesus would give a similar expression to His disciples as the one dad gave me, “I don’t now what else to tell you…love one another means love one another.”

It is hard to do but, as followers of Christ, we are called to love one another. This means the people who are hard to love. This means the people who disagree with you. This means people who talk ill of you.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Love one another.

How do you show people Jesus inside of you?

By loving one another.

Taking it a step further, 1 Peter 3 tells us to pursue peace.

Do you pursue peace? Are you going out of your way to pursue peace with those around you?

What steps are you going to take to love the hard to love? Who do you need to make amends with? How can you go out of your way to take peace to those around you?

As dark as this world is, our command is simple…love one another and pursue peace with those around us. This is how we shine out in a changing culture.

Simple as that.

Jake Lawson

September 13 – A Changing Culture – Politics

Read Romans 13:1-7

In our current “Changing Culture” series, we are taking a look at how a believer is to live as a Christ follower in a society and world that is undergoing radical change.

Well, I drew the short straw! I am the one addressing the subject of the Christian response to government and politics.

OK, I am exaggerating. I chose the topic from a list of areas that deserve consideration. Still, there is no doubt about it – this topic is a volatile one. I can think of no other time in my nearly 60 years of life when the political landscape has been so tense. The divide over topics like racial issues, COVID responses, and immigration is vast. The distance between political parties is growing.

Still, Paul’s admonition to believers in this passage is rooted in the reality that God establishes governing authorities. This is more than the principle that God has established government in a general way. It includes the recognition that individual leaders are God’s servants. He uses them to punish wrong. He uses government leaders for our good. Read the passage again and note those truths.

These ideas are not difficult to understand, but they can be challenging to embrace. In our current political climate, we may be tempted to push back. Keep in mind that first-century believers could have done that as well. The Roman government at the time was not particularly sympathetic to Christians and their convictions. Still, Paul did not hesitate to write these truths.

In light of those principles of God’s sovereignty in government, then, Paul calls believers to:

  1. Subject themselves to government (vv. 1, 5)
  2. Pay taxes (vv. 6, 7)
  3. Provide revenue (v. 7)
  4. Demonstrate respect (v. 7)
  5. Exhibit honor (v. 7)

Can you find biblical examples of exceptions to the overarching principle of subjection to government? To be sure. Hebrews in Egypt protected baby boys in spite of the king’s decree (Exodus 1, 2). Paul challenged governing authorities in Philippi when they acted contrary to their guidelines (Acts 16:37). Peter chose to obey God when rulers in Jerusalem commanded him to stop speaking out in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:16, 17).

These exceptions are real, but we must be careful not to make them our default setting. Our default setting as believers is one of subjection and of sincere prayer for those in authority…while seeking to win those around us to the person of Christ rather than our preference in life.

Steve Kern

September 12 – A Changing Culture – Honesty & Integrity

Read Luke 16:10 and 1 Peter 3:10-12

“Honesty and Integrity are absolutely essential for success in life, all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity.”Zig Ziglar

Would you say this is true?

For me, I believe that anyone can develop both of these attributes but, for the most part, it takes divine intervention and life change to cause the two to build and prosper. Once built, it takes prayer and practice to continue. 

In both my professional and personal life, I pride myself on honesty and integrity. This was not always the case. Before I started following Jesus, I didn’t put much stock in honesty or integrity. I wasn’t very dependable and really only did what I wanted and got away with a lot of the time because honesty wasn’t something I really cared about or what the ramifications were. Then I met the Lord, I started following Jesus and listening to His Word, and practicing the holiness of what it meant to be different from the world around me. 

The Lord showed me, little by little, that being honest with those around me sets me apart from most and adds value to not only my work ethic but also my relationships. He showed me that integrity is something that takes a lot of surrender and that the actions and words coming from my life bleed into who I am performing for.

If my life is to honor Jesus, then it should be an audience of One. 

As Luke reminds us, what we do with little, we will do with much. No matter the tasks at hand or circumstances that surround us, how we act with any scenario changes how people see us. Do they see Jesus within your life?

The past year has been an extremely difficult one for me at work. With a lot of transition and a lot of changes, it would have been easy for me to just take the easy road and do the bare minimum to get by. However, because the Lord has instilled within me integrity, I am able to surrender my own selfishness and work for the audience of One and show that I am different in my work ethic.  The Lord instilled within me honesty, and, because of that, I am to stand tall with knowing I am doing all that I can do and make sure that I am as true to the job as I can be. 

Whether at work or in your personal life; have you ever not had integrity or were not honest? How did you feel after? What ramifications came from it? How did you start seeing yourself? The bottom line of these two attributes is that they honor the Lord and show respect to those around us. 

Peter mentions that the Lord sees righteousness, right standing, and in that we become more like Jesus and less like the world. 

And that is the goal – to be different, to be set apart. 

May we be different than the culture around us and stand on integrity and honesty to set us apart from the rest.

How are you going to do this starting this week?

Kelly Lawson