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

October 7 – Living Sacrifice – Be Transformed

Read Romans 12:2 and Galatians 1:4

August 2011 began the biggest year of my life.

I found myself in the central Florida town of Sebring at a major crossroads in my life. While I was a follower of Christ, I was, in no way, honoring the Lord through how I was living my life. There was unrepented sin in my life and my maturity level was that of, well, a 19-year-old.

Even today (29, married with a son, Mattie, and a daughter, Emma, to be born any day), I look back on that time in my life and remember how important that was for my life. It was that year when I finally released control of my life to Jesus and began cleaning up my life, moving in the direction of becoming a more fully devoted follower of Christ.

In what way has God transformed your life?

A huge part of being a living sacrifice, as this series has been teaching us, is being transformed. Romans 12:2 talks about how we need to not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

The first step in living transformed is to identify areas in our life where we are conforming to the world. Where are our priorities out of line? In what way are we blending in rather than standing out? While it’s different for everyone, understanding our weak points helps propel us into the transformation that needs to take place.

Secondly, Paul tells us that we need to renew our mind. Personally, I would love to know what Paul was thinking when he penned these words. What does renewing your mind look like? For me, this involved looking at my life in a whole different perspective. Instead of living in the here and now, how can I live with my future in mind? How can I begin thinking long term? What decisions do I need to make in order to put myself in the best position to be a beacon of light to people?

Next, this involved me taking action. Good thoughts don’t hold much weight if they aren’t acted upon. I needed to cleanse my life of the sin that I had allowed to creep in and I needed to begin building the foundation of my life upon Christ. Tough decisions needed to be made and battles needed to be fought. Surrounding myself with people who would help in the process, not just agree with everything I said, was huge. Honestly, I needed to start listening to loved ones who had been trying to help for so long but I never let in.

How can you live a transformed life? I would encourage you to identify areas where you are conforming; generate next steps and take action!

Paul tells us within his letter to the church in Galatia that Jesus gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age so why would we live in bondage to sin? If we have been freed, why not live transformed?

Begin the transformational process today!

Jake Lawson

October 6 – Living Sacrifice

Read Romans 6:5-14, 12:1-21

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”Romans 12:1a MSB

A child of Christian missionaries, Peter Furler is a guy who co-founded a band in his parents’ garage in Australia in 1985. They called themselves Newsboys. They eventually sold their instruments so they could buy airline tickets to come to the USA – and few people had heard of them and they were broke when they got here.

Then they started writing and singing Christian songs about sincere love of others. Their first tour was titled “Counter the Culture.” Their songs are about placing your body before God through worship (Romans 12:1 – IT IS YOU), being dead to sin (6: 5-7 – GOING PUBLIC) and being rescued by God (v. 7:24) – RESCUED). 

Place your body before God and live in the instructions of Romans 12. Offering your body to God as a living sacrifice may sound extreme. Why would anyone want to do it?

But that is exactly what Paul calls us to do in verse 12:1. Paul shows us practical ways of living as Christians in a mixed-up culture and our need to commit ourselves totally to God as a living sacrifice. The chapter promotes the two great commandments: to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Romans 12:10-21 offers examples of ways we can love other people sincerely and therefore offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God and His will (v 2). Chapters 12 and 13 of Romans parallel the teachings of Jesus. These teachings are the basic foundation of a living sacrifice.

Have you made your life a living sacrifice by honoring Jesus in your everyday, ordinary life?

Place your body before God as an offering with the following teachings from Romans 12:

The process of being transformed in how you think. Focus on Jesus! (v 1 and 2).

Be honest in self-evaluation – avoid an attitude of superiority or arrogance.

Be teachable. (v 3).

Sincere love (inside and outside the church) – Show love first in what you say and what you do. – Romans 12:9-13; Phil 2:3; John 16:33.

Bless and rejoice – If you are a Christian, you have been rescued by Jesus (1 Thess 1:10). When things go wrong, rest if you must, but don’t quit! – Romans 12:14-15.

Make friends with nobodies. Do not be the great somebody. Discover beauty in everyone. – Romans 12:17-20; 1 Peter 3:9; Prov 25:22.

Overcome evil with good – Romans 12:21; Gal 5:22; 1 Cor 13:4.

Can you place your body before God in every area of your life?

Tom Weckesser

Newsboys – Rescue (Live)

October 5 – Living Courageously – Self or God Confidence

Read Psalm 56:3-4 and 2 Timothy 1:7

 “Have confidence in yourself and faith in your ability to succeed.”

This is a slogan we used while coaching high school boys’ basketball. This slogan was plastered on the front of the bus so, whenever you would get on or off the bus, you would see it. It may have helped our boys become a little more confident when we played road games on a different court in front of fans who were rooting for the other team. It was hard to measure whether signs like that helped. It was definitely a positive sign and It could help young people think in a positive way.

We talked about Jesus and encouraged our players to have a positive attitude and be self-confident with poems like IF by Rudyard Kipling and THE MAN WHO THINKS HE CAN by Walter Wintle. We hoped and prayed that the same message would carry over and into their lives as they moved into adulthood.

We would pray before every game. That is the key idea! We would pray The Lord’s Prayer together in the locker room after every game. We talked about God and how He is always with you (Romans 8:31). We tried our best to model confidence and faith in God.

When a person has God-confidence, he is depending completely upon God and His strength to handle the things in life. It’s not about your strength or the confidence that you put into earthly things. God is at work in your circumstances. Having a worldly focus means putting your confidence into things like money, education, people, and appearance among other things. To have confidence in God and in ourselves is something many of us lack at times.  Even Timothy seemed to lack confidence at times.

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.”

2 Timothy 1:5-7 MSG

So, focus on God’s truth.

Self-talk can help you become more confident and more dependent on God (2 Cor 10:5b). Memorize and repeat scripture verses and worship songs to yourself. Repeat it in your mind. Scripture and prayer are our weapons!

While teaching high school seniors, I would stand in front of about 25 students and sometimes I was not real confident. By repeating the lyrics to a worship song, it would give me more self-confidence and God-confidence, knowing that I’m working for God, not men (see Col 3:23). One example is a song titled “Here’s My Heart Lord” by Casting Crowns: (video below)

“Here’s my heart, Lord

Speak what is true,

I am found, I am Yours,

I am loved, I’m made pure,

I have life, I can breathe,

I am healed, I am free.

Here’s my heart, Lord

Speak what is true.”

Live with courage. Encourage yourself and others with self-confidence and God-confidence.

Pray for God’s guidance!

Why not start now?

Tom Weckesser

October 4 – Living Courageously – Daily Bible Study

Read Psalms 119:105 and Matthew 4:4

Why is daily Bible study so hard? I really think it is one of the enemy’s greatest tricks. No matter how great the experiences we have had in the past, at some point, we will begin to feel it is monotonous. Maybe we will get turned off by a weird chapter that doesn’t mesh with our present culture or we begin to feel the temptation that it is more beneficial to just listen to a podcast by our favorite speaker or worship from our favorite playlist.

Hopefully, by mentioning these common roadblocks, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

You are not alone.

This is an overused, unoriginal attack of the enemy. You need to label it and fight against it. Fight toward The Word. You are not having a crisis of faith. Rather your faith is being fought for.

We read in the verses above that the Word is literally as important as eating food. We know that without eating food we will die.

Pretty important, eh?

But, if I’m being honest, I don’t just need food, I love food. A pancake breakfast? A Chic-Fil-A lunch? A juicy steak dinner? Any of these sound insanely tempting but being told to read my Bible daily can feel as if I’m on some sort of spiritual diet.

Why is this?

The answer is simple. It’s because Satan doesn’t want you reading your Bible!

We need to stop approaching our Bible time as reading mere words on a page. This time is a doorway that leads to a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. This is not a collection of stories for entertainment or antidotes for self-help. God wants to communicate with you through His Words.

Literally.

The Word is “a lamp to your feet and a light on your (daily) path” It is a compass to your day. When we read our Bible, it is like putting an address into a navigation system and asking for directions.

Right now, pray out loud, “Lord, speak to me. What do you want to say to me that will guide my day today?” Now begin reading in your Bible wherever you feel led and read until a verse pops out. This may be immediate or this may be several chapters deep. But you will feel a flutter in your gut. A moment that is not “from you”. This is the Holy Spirit speaking to you through His Word. He is giving you your direction. It will be to a person, to a prayer, to a truth within, to a destination that needs dealt with TODAY.

Now, this is getting exciting!

Welcome to daily Bible study… enjoy the ride.

Nate Torrence

October 3 – Living Courageously – Live for Jesus

Read Mark 12:28-31

A man had a strained relationship with his neighbor. Whenever they would see each other they would shout at each other over trivial matters. The man was bothered by it. So, he decided to be patient with his neighbor by not raising his voice at him. It was difficult and actually practiced it at home in front of the mirror! He took deep breaths when the neighbor would raise his voice at him. The man was determined to have self-control, so he would respond in a very low and respectful tone, despite his racing heart.

The man then decided to look for ways to be kind to his neighbor. When the neighbor had to have his driveway repaved, the man offered to let the neighbor park in his driveway. He did! Then the man sent his neighbor a Christmas card with a scripture verse in it (Luke 2:11) as well as a lyric from a Christmas carol “let every heart, prepare him room” from the song Joy to the World.

Did the relationship improve? Maybe. Hopefully.

But the man was trying to live for Jesus and it is something you and I can do on a daily basis.

Being consistent in prayer is something that can help one live for Jesus.

We can serve others and can start by serving the ones we are closest to, such as our spouse and family. Serve by listening to them. Serve your spouse by intentionally putting their interests above your own.

We love others by being humble. Keep your mouth closed when you’re hurt so that your spouse is not wounded by your attack of words.

Check your ego.

We love God by studying the Bible daily. Which book in the Bible do you know the least about? Why don’t you and a friend start to read it and talk about what you read?

How we talk and how we live are keys to the Jesus that people see in us.

Love God by sharing His word. Share your story of what He has done in your life.

Prevent temptation. Jesus was tempted. (See Matt 4:1-11) While temptation is not a sin, we can resist and prevent it by what we think about, what we read about, what we watch, who we spend time with, the music that we listen to and where we go.

Be consistent in attending church. Go with neighbors, go with people you love or go by yourself. Just be there!

Put God first (See Exodus 20:3). He wants to be your number one priority.

Love God by living for him. Your audience is one: Jesus.

Love people as you would want them to love you.

Love others by developing loving relationships with both believers and nonbelievers.

Love God by remembering that you are free from your past. (See John 8:36).

How do you love God and how do you love others? I challenge you to grow in these areas starting today!

Tom Weckesser