August 29 – Heaven FAQ’s – Is Heaven really unimaginable?

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-10

Sing, imagine, and focus on heaven!

In 1993, I attended the first large Promise Keepers conference in the stunningly beautiful setting of Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado. There were 50,000 men in attendance. Sitting in the upper deck with two friends, the music and the messages were very uplifting. I learned more about being a Christian man and being a leader of my family. We sang AMAZING GRACE which was memorable with all the male voices. Written by John Newton, the fifth verse – which is about Heaven – was joyful to sing:

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’d first begun.”

We were singing about Heaven with men from all over the country who were called to be better men, better dads and better servants in churches through Jesus Christ.

While singing songs like Amazing Grace and reading scripture, I find the peace of God and hope for the future. Jesus said in John 14:2:

“I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

Can you imagine Heaven? Bart Mallard recalls standing by the grave site of his father (Bub) with his grandmother, who turned and whispered, “I can only imagine what Bub’s seeing right now.” That idea lodged itself in Bart’s mind. To envision his father in the presence of Jesus became his chief source of hope. And later Bart and Mercy Me sang I CAN ONLY IMAGINE (1999).

“I can only imagine

When that day comes

And I find myself

Standing in the son.

I can only imagine

When all I will do

Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine

I can only imagine.”

Is your heart focused on heaven?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Colossians 3:1

Is your mind focused on Heaven?

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Colossians 3:2

We can sing Christian songs, imagine Heaven and focus on some characteristics of Jesus such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience! (Colossians 3:12).

“Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling

Calling for you and for me

See on the portals, He’s waiting and watching

Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,

Ye who are weary, come home,

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, “Oh, sinner, come home.”

(Will L. Thompson, 1880).

Focus your life to come home.

Tom Weckesser

August 23 – Heaven FAQ’s – What will happen to my body?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

We’ve all done it at one time or another…maybe even every day. We’ve all stood in front of a mirror and noticed everything that seems wrong, off, or imperfect about our bodies. Perhaps it’s the size or shape of a facial feature. Perhaps it’s a mole or something about your hair. Or maybe it’s a nasty scar that will never go away – an ugly reminder of a painful injury from the past.

When Scripture talks about our resurrected, eternal bodies in 1 Cor. 15, we see words like “glory”, “imperishable”, “power”, and “spiritual”. Those probably aren’t words that come to mind when you’re standing in front of that mirror. It would be easy to assume that when God resurrects our bodies, that he would just do away with all of those imperfections that we see. In fact, it would probably just be better if he just ditched this body altogether and replaced it with something that resembled the body of a superhero! Surely a resurrection body looks more like Superman than what I see in the mirror.

The problem is, that’s not how God looks at us or our bodies at all! In fact, God values the body you see when you stand in front of that mirror! It’s important to Him because He made it! 1 Corinthians 15 gives us clues into what our resurrection body will be like. Verse 21 refers to Christ as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Then verse 49 says “so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” The resurrections that happen after Jesus will be similar to his own. His resurrection is the blueprint for all future resurrections and his resurrected body is the perfect prototype! Here’s what we know for sure about Christ’s resurrected body:

  1. It was HIS actual, physical body (Matt 28:1-15)
  2. He was recognizable (John 20:20)
  3. He ate and drank (Luke 24:30-33)
  4. He had SCARS! (John 20:25-29)

When Jesus conquered death in glory, he took his body with him! The tomb was empty! He appeared to his disciples in the flesh, scars and all! For Jesus, glorification didn’t mean trading his body for Superman’s! It was still his body (every last particle) but it was immortal, powerful, and completely holy! All of the particles that make up your body matter to God too! Guess what? In heaven you’ll probably still have those “imperfections” you see in the mirror now, but you won’t be disappointed at all. You’ll finally see what God sees now—his child who he loves with his whole heart…for all eternity!

Ps – I’ve always thought that I should be cremated when I die. I want my ashes scattered far and wide so that when Jesus resurrects my “body”, all of the particles will fly through the air every which way and come together in the sky!

Particles matter!

Matt Carter

August 20 – Heaven FAQ’s – Of what importance are the things I do on earth?

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-23

Fires capture our attention!  Ever since I was a little kid, I have been mesmerized by the way the flames dance and do their work.  Growing up as a farm kid, we were always burning something and I was intrigued by what I would find in the ashes the next day… nails, a bottle, maybe some wire.  It made me wonder why certain things burned up and others made it through the flames. This puzzle caused me to throw more things into a fire to see what happens (note to my 9-year-old self – don’t place that aerosol can in the burning barrel on laundry day… it was amazing how far the ashes were strewn onto the white bed sheets drying on the line when the can exploded…. sorry, mom).

Paul uses the idea of fire as he teaches about the bema seat judgement – the judgement reserved for believers after this life is over. This judgement is referred to as the bema seat because of Paul’s reference in passages like 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 when he likened our work in this life to the Greek games where the winner was taken to a platform (called the bema) and received the prize for his accomplishments in the games.

It is important to understand that the bema seat judgement is not about our salvation.  We read in 1 Cor 3:15 that the builder whose work is destroyed will suffer loss but yet will be saved only as one escaping through the flames.  Paul is saying this person won’t have any reward from this judgement but by God’s grace will spend eternity with Jesus.

So how does this judgement work? As we read in 1 Cor 3:12-15, our work will be tested by fire and whatever good we have done will not only pass the test but bring about a reward.  I love how Paul uses the 6 building materials to illustrate our work… ranging from gold to straw.  We know how these materials fare when placed in a fire… the first three come out unscathed, the last trio not so much.  In the same way, our works in this life undergo God’s scrutiny.  Some of our labor will be rewarded while others won’t pass the test.  So often I think I am doing something amazing for God only to realize my motives were not stellar as I wanted people to see what I did… poof, just like a handful of straw thrown into a campfire. Other times, with pure motives I used the gifts God gave me, stepped out in faith and obeyed… that’s silver and gold!  This picture makes us think about what we do and our motivations that drive us as we serve.  Let’s use our gifting to make a difference in the world around us today… and, if given the chance, be very careful what you throw into the burning barrel on laundry day.

Randy Moomaw

August 2 – Perseverance – In the race of life

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9:24b

“…I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”  verse 9:27b

In high school golf matches, players and fans get disqualified. Basketball players get disqualified from games for their actions or words. In high school basketball, you are disqualified if you have five fouls.

Sports are like life – things go wrong. Just like in our lives.

How you react makes all the difference.

What an amazing challenge it is when things go wrong. I try to run in a way to get the prize of eternal life but then I fail. So, I pull up my socks and keep going and I try to run in a way to get the prize and I get knocked down again. I fail because of my own decisions and my own lack of perfection.

It is an ongoing challenge.

The Christian life is like a race and like a fight. You are running to honor the name of God and fight against evil.

The way we run and the way we fight make a difference. Do we use God’s weapons of love, patience and kindness, like Jesus Christ? Or do we use the weapons of evil and violence in this world? Either way, it can be contagious.

If we run in such a way as to get the prize, it means we are striving to do and be like Jesus. We can encourage others in our language, actions and, perhaps, motives. If we live a life of immorality, we are living to honor and please ourselves, not God.

The way we run and the way we fight make a difference in whether we have a share in the gospel (verse 23), whether we seize the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (verse 24) and whether we gain the crown of righteousness and life (verse 25). We have to work and plan with our actions to not be disqualified from the race (verse 27).

“FIX MY EYES” is a song by For King and Country taken from Hebrews 12:2 that gives some ideas on how to run the race:

“I’d love like I’m not scared,

Give when it’s not fair,

Live life for another,

Take time for a brother,

Fight for the weak ones,

Speak out for freedom,

Find faith in the battle…

Fix my eyes, on You.”

So, persevere by never quitting through prayer and patience.

Never give up.    

Tom Weckesser

April 29 – The God Who Comes Through – He designed that the sacrifice of a lamb would lead to the salvation of people

Read Exodus 12:1-28, John 1:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7

In our world, appearances are everything. Vanessa Van Edwards says that, within seconds of meeting someone, we have already made an initial judgment on them. Our impressions of people, either accurate or not, stick with us for as long as we know someone.

I will distinctly remember being told in high school that I would be guarding a 6’10” out of town basketball phenom who had a full ride Division 1 scholarship. I remember him running out of the tunnel with his team and immediately pondering why I got into playing basketball in the first place. The game was about to start and, as I stood behind him, I was looking straight at the number on his back. Before the game even started, my impressions of this guy were overwhelming. In case you’re wondering, that game didn’t go so well for me.

When I was born on May 26th of 1992, I was 11 pounds and over 20 inches long. When the delivery doctor brought me to mom, his first words and the first words ever said about me were supposedly, “Oh, wow.”

When my wife, Kelly met me, I was 19 years old and straight out of high school. Let’s just say my maturity level was that of a 19-year-old and, to this day, I still ask Kelly what her first impression of me was and she insists it wasn’t all that bad. She was supposedly able to look past my immaturity because we were married 5 years later.

The imagery that God uses throughout the Bible is something which always amazes me. He constantly uses imagery that portrays Himself, not as a warrior king, but a humble servant. For example, in Matthew 21, when Jesus enters Jerusalem, He chooses to ride on the back of a donkey, a sign of peace and humility, rather than a horse which would imply a warrior or king.

Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that God would deliver His people out of Egypt via a lamb, again, not the most triumphant of animals. God tells Moses to have the nation of Israel spread the blood of the lamb on their doorpost so the angel of death that was coming that night, would pass over them and thus deliver them from death. This is incredible foreshadowing on how we would be saved from our sin by a result of the blood of Jesus, or Lamb of God, as He was commonly referred to.

Blood was so important to God in the Old Testament because it was the lifeblood of the creature. It is only fitting that, only through the blood of Jesus, we can be forgiven of our sins and experience eternal life.

Understanding the symbolism behind God and His work through Jesus paints a much different picture. A picture that shows us His plan for the deliverance of the human race thousands of years before the cross.

Jake Lawson

April 24 – Grace – If it weren’t for grace…

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The focus of our current devotional series is on the wonderful, matchless grace of Jesus. It is, indeed, broader than the scope of your transgressions and far greater than all your sin and shame. As the song states, this amazing grace has a sweet sound to it!

So, how does our Scripture reading for today fit into such a study on grace? Among many, this chapter is known as the “resurrection chapter.” The specific portion you read focused on the essence of the gospel. It reminds us that Christ…

  • Died for sins
  • Was buried
  • Was raised on the third day
  • Was seen by many

Paul listed himself as one of the eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, part of the outcome of that Damascus Road encounter (Acts 9:1-19) was his own commissioning as an apostle who would “proclaim [Christ’s] name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) Even though Paul was honored by his new title and responsibilities as a “sent one” (close to the literal meaning of “apostle”), he never forgot his past. He considered himself unworthy of his calling because of the way he had previously persecuted God’s people.

Although your story is different, the principles are the same. You too have a past that has made you unworthy, but you have a calling as one sent in the name of Jesus.

Verse 10 points to the grace that makes all of that possible.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am…” It was God’s grace that allowed Saul to become Paul, an antagonist to become an apostle, one who used to persecute the people to become one called to perpetuate the message. Don’t forget…it is God’s grace that prevents your past from defining you.

“…and his grace to me was not without effect.” Paul is saying that he took his new title and calling seriously. He did not accept the cleansing and reject the calling.  Don’t forget that God’s grace doesn’t just cleanse your past from sin. It also calls you to a present life characterized by mission and ministry.

“No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Paul gave his all for the call. But even that was not to his credit. It was a mark of God’s grace. Don’t forget…even that which you offer in response to God is made possible by His grace.

Steve Kern

November 13 – Prayer for My Kids – Live Lives of Love

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

As a mother, when I was pregnant with Mattie and Emma, I prayed the same prayer and still do to this day: “That they love God and love people as they follow after Jesus”. 

First Corinthians 13 is probably one of the most well-known passages of the Bible as we have heard it at almost every wedding. Even though it is one of the most well-known, it is probably also one of the most overlooked passages because we hear it so often but probably do not take the true meaning into consideration when we listen to it.

It is one of the verses that changed my life and outlook on love itself after my Bible school teacher, Dr. Randall Smith, explained it as; “Love is a verb”.

How I read 1 Corinthians 13 now: 

“Loving someone can mean long suffering.

To love means to be considerate.

To love means we are not discontent or resentful.

Love is not self-satisfying or self-absorbed

Love honors others.

Love is not out for oneself.

Love means forgiving.

Love knows truth.

Love does not look like this world.

Love protects, trusts, holds hope, and perseveres.

It never fails.”

I never thought of “love” as an action, as something we must do and not just feel until I put it to work and was shown this true kind of actionable love from other believers. 

In knowing that, it is not just an emotion but an action, I pray that my children and children everywhere exude and learn what true love is and show it to those around them so that, those they come in contact with, see a difference of love. 

I pray that they see Jesus in how my children love. 

Jake and I are blessed to have a son, Mattie, who loves everyone. When he sees another kid, even a stranger, he automatically says “That’s my friend!” Mattie already is showing actionable love to those around him at just the age of 4. I thank God for this every day. I thank God for the village he has surrounded our family with that helps our son learn what true love is and that, as he grows, he follows after Jesus and continues to practice the actionable love Jesus shows us. 

I want you to go back and read 1 Corinthians 13. If you have children, I want you to pray each line over them. If you don’t, insert your own name. I pray that we all examine our lives and see what perspective of love we hold and allow the Lord to work through that and change it, so that we, too, can show the action of love and not just the emotion.

Kelly Lawson

October 24 – I Will Remember – Do This in Remembrance of Me: The Wonder of the Lord’s Supper

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:

I Will Remember – YouVersion Plan

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

Read Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

One of my favorite times with the local church is when we observe the Lord’s Supper together. It is one of the most intimate, reflective, and celebratory times we have. Now I understand while some may call it communion, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper is a sacrament (or an ordinance in some traditions) that all Christian faith traditions observe as it has been handed down to us from Christ himself. 

Go back in time to that first Lord’s Supper. Moments before Christ would be betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, flogged, and crucified, he gathered his disciples together for one last meal. But it wasn’t a normal meal—it was a deep, meaningful, and sacred one. 

What’s interesting about the institution of this meal is that it was replacing another deep, meaningful, and sacred meal that the Jews observed. That meal was called the Passover, a meal Jews shared to celebrate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. 

At Jesus’ meal with his disciples, he began by breaking bread and speaking about how this was his body given for them. Following the bread was the wine. He held up the glass and described this cup as the “new covenant” in his blood—blood poured out for all people. 

As you could imagine, for Jesus’ disciples, it was a weird meal to say the least. However, it would come to make total sense with Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It was then they realized why Jesus uttered, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As a result, they continued to observe the meal. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25, Paul describes how the early church observed the Lord’s Supper. He explains how the practice of the Lord’s Supper proclaims “the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The institution of the Lord’s Supper wasn’t meant to be just a time of recalling Christ’s death. Sure, that is part of it. But as N.T. Wright suggests, “The present moment (whenever) somehow holds together the one-off past even (the Lord’s death) and the great future when God’s world will be remade under Jesus’ loving rule (until he comes).” 

Therefore, when God’s people observe the Lord’s Supper—remembering the death of Christ—there is a celebration (for what he has done), there is a consecration (for what he is doing in and through us now), and there is an anticipation (as we long for his coming when he will fully make all things new).This is the wonder of remembering Christ’s death and resurrection through the Eucharist with the saints. 

Questions for Reflection

Take a few moments to think through the implications of Christ’s death in your life. Thank him for what he has done. 

Now ask him what his death and resurrection mean for those around you.  

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