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

September 28 – Living Courageously – Be Bold and Confident

Read Psalms 23:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 15:58

If I were to ask you to imagine a bold and confident person, what are the characteristics that come to mind?

In my head I think of a warrior of some type. One who is setting the pace of their battle with confrontation rather than being forced to react to it. A gladiator of action. But after reading the verses above, I am presented with a different perspective: one I believe to be the true imagery of boldness and confidence.

Psalms 23 contains one of my favorite word pictures:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

Now, to me, that is a pretty strong example of boldness. When in the presence of my enemies, I will not be planning an attack nor will I be planning a defense to their attack. Instead, I will go sit at a table God has prepared for me and nonchalantly eat a meal right in the center of the room. I trust in His perspective on the situation so much, I will throw out any notion of fear or retaliation and sit with my sword on the ground. I will defuse the room and my own anxieties. I hate to eat when I’m nervous.

So, what a true example of inner peace, to actually EAT in that environment.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul gives us a similar visual of a spiritual warrior when he says: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” We might want to label this as some sort of “act of stubbornness” (IE: YOU CAN NEVER GET ME TO MOVE OR CHANGE MY MIND!) But I believe Paul is referencing the ability to walk straight into the center of an “unsafe for Christians” environment and not be shaken. To be calm in the eye of the storm… to have enough self-control to stand firm and not be moved!

What is your definition of being bold and confident? Is it more sword swinging than table sharing?

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone of a different political view or religion? Could you talk about hot topics without being overrun by your own emotions? What good is a perspective if we lack the ability to convey it in a calm, inoffensive way? I encourage you to be more than just a person with opinions. Seek perspective based within actual relationships.

That, to me, is the true definition of a bold and confident spiritual warrior.

Never forget, our most poignant spiritual battles have nothing to do with who we defeat and everything to do with who we save.

Nate Torrence

August 18 – 5 – Believers and the Lost

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15

Crop development and home construction are both processes. You aren’t able to place a sweet corn seed in the ground and to instantly husk, boil, butter, salt, and eat a luscious ear of it. No, it takes weeks of development and the addition of heat and water at the right time. Construction, likewise, is not as simple as imagining a concept and being able to instantaneously move in. Instead, different contractors with different areas of expertise typically play key roles in seeing the end product become reality.

The apostle Paul used agriculture and construction metaphors for understanding the spiritual practices of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. What, then, are the takeaways for us as we consider how God might use us in contributing to the conversion and spiritual development of those in our world? Here are four thoughts:

  • Be faithful…it is a process! Although conversion itself happens at a point in time, a person has often had repeated contact with believers and numerous interactions with biblical truth prior to that. Certainly, there are exceptions, but you and I should, by and large, commit to a process.
  • Be cooperative…it is a team effort! Paul talked about planting while Apollos watered. He laid the foundation while others built upon it. Humbly acknowledge that God wants to use you AND others in seeing people come to faith and discipled as He builds His church. In fact, readily introduce people to other Christ followers in the hope that exactly that will happen.
  • Be dependent…it is the Lord who brings results! Even though people contribute to the development of the harvest, it is ultimately God who makes things grow. It is no wonder that Paul described himself and other Christian laborers as “co-workers in God’s service” and those with whom they worked were “God’s field” and “God’s building.” Express your dependence on Him in prayer.
  • Be accountable…your work will be examined! Paul described different types of construction materials in this passage. He also points out that our work in cooperating with Him in the building of His church will be tested by fire. This should cause us to examine things like faithfulness, methods, and motives. Reach out as those who will give an account.

Faithful, cooperative, dependent, and accountable…those thoughts should impact the way that we seek to win others to faith, assist them in growth, and integrate them into Christ’s church.

Steve Kern

July 30 – Foundation for Life Change

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

The kids had finally done it! They built a Lego Tower from the floor to the ceiling…

and then it happened.

It only took one brief moment, but it was inevitable. The tower went crumbling to the floor. There were no tears, but a good number of laughs and a “Oh man!” but we knew it was going to happen. Do you know why? It’s simple really; the tower did not have a strong foundation. The “foundation” of the Lego Tower was one little Lego and then the hands of the kids and leaders holding it together.

We all know that having a strong foundation is the key for the survival of any structure and it is the key to all of our lives as well. In Grace Kids our “WHY” behind what we do is to create a foundation for life that is based on Jesus Christ. As it says in 1 Corinthians 3: 10-11:

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Christ is the foundation for our faith, for all of our lives and our goal in Grace Kids to partner with families to build that foundation for life on Jesus. So, when kids go out of 6th grade they understand that God loves them, that he wants a forever friendship with them and they are going to know him more and more!

So, over the next few days you are going to hear how we hope to partner with families to build a foundation for life on Jesus. And we do that by keeping things simple, safe and fun! Be sure to read over the next few days!

I invite you to pray a few things over the course of this series:

  1. That all kids in Wayne County will hear about the love of Jesus and make Him their forever friend
  2. For Grace Kids to find the best ways to support and partner with families
  3. For your next step with kids and families: To pray for them and/or to volunteer

Thank you for partnering with us as we work together to build in kids a foundation for life based on Jesus Christ!

Tim Boucher

July 17 – Leadership – Teamwork

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and 12:20-25

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”1 Corinthians 9:24

Have you ever noticed that, at a high school or college sporting event, usually the captains of the teams meet and shake hands a few minutes before the game at half court or at mid-field? It is a time for leaders to demonstrate sportsmanship and respect for the game. They briefly discuss the ground rules for the game with the officials and they are reminded that they are the leaders of their team. These leaders were either voted on by their teammates or picked by their coaches. But they should have leadership characteristics such as integrity, self-control, resilience, accountability, humility, positivity and confidence. They need to lead by example and be selfless.

People notice!

Some captains are excellent leaders and some captains are not. Leadership skills are not common, but they can be developed and taught. Picking the leaders is a key to success for any team.

To live and lead on the team that loves Jesus Christ is a war. It is a battle of good (Christ) – such as loving and serving others, compassion and patience – versus evil (Satan) – such as selfishness, greed, human trafficking and abortion. Every single person has spiritual gifts that are indispensable (1Cor 12:22) in the battle. Every little example you set and every word you say is crucial. If everybody on the team is doing their part, then you have a team that is difficult to defeat. If you have selfless, patient leaders, it can make a big difference. What are the priorities in your life?

Consider this priority: “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

Look at the words of Jesus Christ:

“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.”Matthew 12:30 MSG

To succeed, we need to know the word of God. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Cor 9:24b. This verse is about how we live our lives.

Let’s live as leaders with integrity, self-control and resilience.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”1 Corinthians 9:25

An athlete is in strict training for a blue ribbon or gold medal. The Christian is in strict training for the crown of eternal life in heaven with Christ.

We need teamwork and leaders in this fight against evil. Be alert and in top condition. Know the Bible. Use God’s weapons such as kindness, gentleness and self-control. Use your spiritual gifts to get the prize!

Tom Weckesser