November 9 – Attributes of God – Love

Read 1 John 4:1-21

“Oh, I just love that dress on her!”

“I love pizza!”

“I love that sports car!”

“I love football!”

We use the word “love” in tons of ways every day. But, no matter how much we enjoy something, we are only talking about a surface kind of human love, which can change from love to hate in a blink of an eye.

A harsh word, bad service, burnt crust, lost games can change that love into hate in an instant.

Even a couple said to be “So much in love” can fade into “They were so much in love!” quickly, leaving the rest of us wondering what had happened.

Humans are not perfect.  We mess up.  We say and do stupid or hurtful things sometimes without even trying!

But that is not how God loves.   And, if we think of His love through our human eyes, we can quickly become disappointed in Him too.  He is not a sugar daddy or even a heavenly ATM.  He loves us so much that He won’t let us have what He knows will hurt us in the end.  If we insist on going our own way, He loves us enough to let us do it so we can learn from our mistakes.

As our verse states, it isn’t because we first loved God.  No! He first loved us.  He loved us so much that He couldn’t let us go on living in sin with no hope of redemption.

He  saw how men had changed the perception of a loving God who offered forgiveness for our sins into one of a ritualistic God whom we needed to fear.  He saw the corruption that was going on in the temple, a place where people should have been able to go for comfort. The priests had made up hundreds of laws that they said the people needed to follow in order for them to not be condemned, while all the time lining their own pockets and puffing themselves up to be “holier than thou!”

God couldn’t allow that abuse to continue so He sent us Jesus.

God’s love is often referred to as “agape love.”  That is the highest form of love.  It is defined as a pure, willfully sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good.  It is an unconditional and enduring love for all.

God sent His son because He wanted to get his children out of bondage to all the regulations and to show us how to truly love each other, not by our human definition of love but with His agape love.

Have you known God’s love in your life? Take time to thank Him for it every day.

If not, all you have to do is ask and receive!

It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, young or old. If you think of yourself as a hopeless sinner or not. God is waiting to hear from the one He loves unconditionally. That would be YOU!

Pat Arnold

September 11 – Life Verses – 1 John 5:11-13

Read 1 John 5:11-13

Doubt… that little voice in the back of your mind that keeps you from being settled and assured in life.  I don’t know about you but doubt had played havoc on my spiritual life for years.  Let me tell you a little of my story and how God used His Word to resolve my doubt.

I became a follower of Christ when I was in grade school.  During junior high I began having conversations with a friend at school about how long eternity would last.  As we would jokingly say “yeah, that’s a long time but add 100 more years…” it began to settle in my heart that this eternity thing was a long time.  At that point I began to question where I sat with my salvation.

Not wanting to miss what God had for me, I began a process where every day after I got off the school bus I would ask Jesus to be my savior – “just in case I hadn’t said the prayer properly the 50 times I had said it before.”  (by the way…I became quite proficient in praying the sinner’s prayer)

This went on for months and I was unsettled in my heart where I would spend eternity.  It was at that time I found a few verses that answered my question and settled my doubt.  I realized there was an amazing promise when we choose to have a relationship with Jesus.

Those verses that made a difference that day (and for the years since) are found in 1 John 5:11-13   “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

There is something powerful that happens in your heart when you are sure of something.  I love the fact that Jesus doesn’t make us wonder if our name is in the book of life, but with confidence, and without a shadow of a doubt, we can KNOW that we have eternal life! (this is where you say “Amen!”)

Randy Moomaw

Ps… It has been a few years since those awkward junior high days but God still uses these verses to remind me of my citizenship in heaven.  Why not take a few moments today to meditate on these verses… have you made that decision to follow Jesus as your Savior and Lord?  If so, this promise is for you!  I am an advocate of memorizing scripture…why not commit this one to memory?

August 19 – Heaven FAQ’s – Can I be confident that I’m going to Heaven?

Read 1 John 5:10-14

A while ago, I had the unique privilege and opportunity to lead a high school men’s Grace Group. My co-leader and I had been with these guys since they were freshmen and here we were in the fall of their senior year. Helping shepherd these young men as they developed and made their faith their own was an experience I will not soon forget, and frankly, will always cherish. One of my favorite things about our group of guys was their curiosity about Jesus and their high-level thinking about their faith. I found myself challenged after each Sunday night gathering to be a better man, leader, and follower of Jesus so I could be ready to field their questions the next time we met.

A question that undoubtedly arose each year is one we all at some point or another have considered, or may even ponder regularly.

“How can I be certain I am going to heaven?”

The question for most folks who have been around church for any length of time might seem obvious “by trusting in Jesus.” At face value, this response might seem oversimplified and leave the questioner with more questions than answers. “How do I know if I truly trust Jesus?” “How do I know if I trust Him enough to get into heaven?” “So Taylor, if I trust in Jesus now, does that mean I don’t have to do anything to get into heaven?” These are all common (and fair) followup questions I would get from our guys after giving my initial response.

John gives us a great word in our reading today that speaks directly to these issues. Assurance in heaven is simple. It’s a black and white issue that all too often people try to complicate. While the response “trust in Jesus” might seem oversimplified, candidly, it is not. When John was writing 1 John, he was writing to the church at a time when there were false prophets trying to complicate, water down, and even pick away at the credibility of Jesus and the gospel message. There were literally theological attacks on all fronts. Sound familiar? I have an affinity for this book because John tries to reaffirm the key principles of faith in Jesus in a short, concise, and loving way.

His message in the final pages of this letter to the church is clear. Do not over complicate the matter. Jesus came for you. He came to eliminate all the entry requirements that existed in the old Jewish law. He came to bear your burden, your sin, your failures before God because He loves you. He wants to spend an eternity with you. All you have to do is make one simple choice. Choosing to love Jesus, trust Him, and follow Him with your life is your confidence that one day you will meet our King of Glory in heaven. I know it sounds simple. But that’s the point. Jesus took on the complications so we did not have to. My friends- this is the gospel.

This is what love does.

Have you trusted Jesus with your life? If the answer is yes, brother or sister, I’ll look forward to seeing you in heaven. If the answer is no, and you want to make this life-changing decision today, send an email to Jake at Grace Church jlawson@graceforohio.org – Jake wants to pray with you, celebrate your faith in Jesus, and provide you with resources to grow in your faith.

Taylor Bennington

August 18 – Heaven FAQ’s – What are the entry requirements for Heaven?

Read John 14:1-7 and 1 John 5:11-13

Quantum physics, derivatives, why people dream, explaining the word “the,” –  these are all things that are difficult to describe and understand. It would take serious education to understand most of this list. Yet, we don’t take them for granted. They are understood as a part of life and we don’t question their existence, because we have faith in them being integral to everyday living.

However, there are plenty of areas that are questioned within our world and often by our family, friends and even ourselves. We think about them, debate them, and dismiss them; yet the answers are right in front of us. One of these concepts is the requirements for spending eternity in heaven. Many think they can earn their way to heaven by “doing good.” Others dismiss eternity as life ending when we take our last breath. However, Jesus answers this question point blank in John 14:1-7. Thomas (I hope I never earn a nickname preceded by “doubting”) asks Jesus how to know the way to eternity with God. Jesus answers in verse 6-7,  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

It is clear in this short phrase that Jesus confirms heaven and how to spend eternity with God. If you place your faith in Jesus, ask for forgiveness of your sins, and turn your life to God, you will spend eternity in heaven! It isn’t difficult to understand, it doesn’t take significant education, it is clear, simple and free!

Now the real question comes down to: “Are you going to trust Jesus?” When He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” do you believe Him? 1 John 5:11-13 says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Make your choice, who are you going to believe? Where are you going to place your faith? In your own thoughts and deeds? In some other religion? Or…are you willing to place your faith in Jesus, the only person to ever walk this earth, live a perfect life, and beat death by resurrecting to life?

Whatever you choose, do it today because we aren’t promised tomorrow!

Jeff Walter

May 28 – Secret Sin – Sin Defined

Read 1 John 3:4

One topic that we like to dance around as believers is sin.  Most of us know what sin is.  However, some of us try to justify our own sin.  We have all heard people say, “Well, my God wouldn’t punish for ________”.  Some of us also think that our sin isn’t as bad as the next person’s.  “Well, maybe I have done this, but at least I didn’t do this like _____”.  

So, what is sin?  How did sin enter the perfect world created by God?  What happens to us because of sin?

Sin, by definition, is a transgression of the law; lawlessness. Doing something in opposition to the Word of God which defines sin for us. We do not get to choose for ourselves what is and what is not sin. 

“…everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”1 John 3:4

The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Not one of us is without sin as we all have fallen short of God’s standard.  Adam and Eve were no strangers to this. The first man and woman gave in to their sinful nature when tempted in the garden. God has given us all free will. He does not force us to love Him and follow Him.  God was not caught off guard or surprised by the sin of mankind.  He is sovereign over all things.  But He allows us to make our own choices, even though they may harm us.

When God had finished creating the world, He “saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed” (Gen 1:31). Sin was not part of the plan and was not decreed by the will of the Creator. All sin comes from the creature as does its desires. 

“…but each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown it gives birth to death.”James 1:14-15

Romans 6:23 says “for the wages of sin is death.”  Just like earning money for doing a job, we receive wages for our sin.  It could be one sin or it could be millions; but one sin is enough to separate us from God and His “gift of eternal life”. God is perfect and would be unjust if He did not punish us for our sin. But He loves us so much that “while we were still sinners, (He) died for us” (Romans 5:8).  He sent His perfect Son to take the punishment for our sins so we could be forgiven!

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”Colossians 3:5

Or as theologian John Owen once said, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you”. What is in your life right now that is in opposition to the Word of God? What is pulling you away from Him?  Don’t put it away for later.

Kill it!

Nate Mills

March 5 – A 7 Day Conversation with Ruth Friend LPCC – Fear vs Love

Read 1 John 4:18

During this week, we are going to be listening to Ruth Friend, a licensed professional clinical counselor and dear friend of Grace Church, as she teaches us about the value of mental health and how we can go about honoring the Lord through it.

Today we talk about the relationship between fear and love.

February 7 – Faithfulness – He is Forgiving

Read 1 John 1: 5-10; Colossians 2:13

I love talking about God’s forgiveness, don’t you?  Everything I’ve ever done (or will do) wrong is covered by God’s forgiveness, thus giving me a free pass to heaven.  It’s Christianity 101!  We often overlook, however, that God’s forgiveness necessarily implies that we have sinned, and that our repentance is a blessing which allows us to easily see God’s faithfulness.

Let’s think about our sin differently.  Imagine that a terrible crime has been committed, and the victim immediately forgives the perpetrator.  The criminal is ecstatic about being forgiven and boasts about their newfound freedom.  Isn’t there something wrong with the criminal celebrating deliverance from a crime for which they refuse to take responsibility?  Yet, we do that continually to God, and it’s no less offensive to Him.

When we speak of God’s forgiveness without acknowledging our sin, it’s like using a calculator before learning how to do arithmetic.  You have no idea how great the remedy is when you don’t know what it’s saving you from!   Here’s what John and Paul are telling us today: “..You, who were DEAD in your trespasses [sin]…”; “… If you say you have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness [sin], we lie…”; “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…”; “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar…”  The common thread here is that forgiveness is necessary because of our sin…  since “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all…” (God is Holy), our sin requires God to act.  And boy, did He act!

God’s word is SCREAMING at us that forgiveness and repentance are two sides of the same coin.  Our repentance actually increases our joy by making God’s free gift MORE of a blessing once we realize where we’d be without it!  Here is where God’s faithfulness REALLY shines… when we humbly come before God’s throne to repent of our sin, we are ALWAYS forgiven by a loving, merciful God.  In case you’re wondering; always means EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  To make His gift more complete, we are also promised that God “… will remember their [our] sins no more” (Heb. 8:12).  This is an amazing demonstration of God’s faithfulness for His church; the acknowledgement that God is faithful to forgive our sins FOR ALL TIME; He is faithful unto eternity.

Here’s how you can use these promises: make repentance part of your daily prayer routine; ask God to make you aware of your sins, and actively speak those to God, asking Him to forgive you.  Thank God for His amazing grace, and remember that you don’t need to be ashamed when you come before God, because He knows what you need before you even ask it (Matt 6:8).  There can be no shame when God promises that your sin is NOT held against you!  Praise God that He is faithful to forgive!

Craig French

February 5 – Faithfulness – He Died for Sinners

Read Romans 5:6-11, Isaiah 53:4-5 & 1 John 1:9

I can’t keep promises. I don’t think I’m known as an irresponsible person but I do let people down. I let myself down. I don’t follow through. I get lazy. Forgetful. Defiant.

I can’t be 100 percent anything. God, on the other hand, is 100 percent faithful, 100 percent pure, 100 percent good, 100 percent forgiving.

Do you trust that? It took me a long time.

I spent years confessing the same sin over and over. I was wearing it. Remembering it. Under it. Until God opened my eyes to my unbelief. If you would have asked me if I thought I was forgiven, I would have said, ‘yes’. If you would have asked me if there’s any sin Jesus couldn’t forgive, I would have said, ‘There isn’t.’

But saying and living are two different things. In my head, I was guilty. There was weight in my steps. I wasn’t free.

I was a slave.

Until, I let go of it and believed that what God said was true.

As I loosened my grip on any power I thought I had in deserving His love and admitted my pride, I was unhooked from the how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid train of thought for the last time. I clung to my Savior of compassion that has always known all of the missteps I would and still will take. He died for them. He’s not surprised by them.

And He is faithful and just to forgive them as I confess them.

Once you were alienated from Christ and enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now, He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death and resurrection to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Col. 1:21-22) I knelt down that day blinded by accusations. But belief raised me to see the invitation to take Jesus at His word. I was free to rest in His righteousness and surrender my memories. As I did, He reminded me they were also leaving His memory, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103).

Earlier, I mentioned that I’m not 100 percent anything. However, through faith in the Faithful One, I’m 100 percent forgiven. Will you confess the sin you’re carrying and step into the freedom Jesus has secured for you?

Shelly Eberly

September 30 – Attributes of God – Love

Read 1 John 4:1-21

“Oh, I just love that dress on her!”

“I love pizza!”

“I love that sports car!”

“I love football!”

We use the word “love” in tons of ways every day. But, no matter how much we enjoy something, we are only talking about a surface kind of human love, which can change from love to hate in a blink of an eye.

A harsh word, bad service, burnt crust, lost games can change that love into hate in an instant.

Even a couple said to be “So much in love” can fade into “They were so much in love!” quickly, leaving the rest of us wondering what had happened.

Humans are not perfect.  We mess up.  We say and do stupid or hurtful things sometimes without even trying!

But that is not how God loves.   And, if we think of His love through our human eyes, we can quickly become disappointed in Him too.  He is not a sugar daddy or even a heavenly ATM.  He loves us so much that He won’t let us have what He knows will hurt us in the end.  If we insist on going our own way, He loves us enough to let us do it so we can learn from our mistakes.

As our verse states, it isn’t because we first loved God.  No! He first loved us.  He loved us so much that He couldn’t let us go on living in sin with no hope of redemption.

He  saw how men had changed the perception of a loving God who offered forgiveness for our sins into one of a ritualistic God whom we needed to fear.  He saw the corruption that was going on in the temple, a place where people should have been able to go for comfort. The priests had made up hundreds of laws that they said the people needed to follow in order for them to not be condemned, while all the time lining their own pockets and puffing themselves up to be “holier than thou!”

God couldn’t allow that abuse to continue so He sent us Jesus.

God’s love is often referred to as “agape love.”  That is the highest form of love.  It is defined as a pure, willfully sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good.  It is an unconditional and enduring love for all.

God sent His son because He wanted to get his children out of bondage to all the regulations and to show us how to truly love each other, not by our human definition of love but with His agape love.

Have you known God’s love in your life? Take time to thank Him for it every day.

If not, all you have to do is ask and receive!

It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, young or old. If you think of yourself as a hopeless sinner or not. God is waiting to hear from the one He loves unconditionally. That would be YOU!

Pat Arnold

September 16 – Heaven FAQ’s – Can I be confident that I’m going to heaven?

Read 1 John 5:10-14

Over the last four years, I have had the unique privilege and opportunity to lead a high school men’s Grace Group. My co-leader and I have been with these guys since they were freshmen and here we are in the fall of their senior year. Helping shepherd these young men as they develop and make their faith their own is an experience I will not soon forget, and frankly, will always cherish. One of my favorite things about our group of guys is their curiosity about Jesus and their high-level thinking about their faith. I find myself challenged after each Sunday night gathering to be a better man, leader, and follower of Jesus so I can be ready to field their questions the next time we meet.

A question that undoubtedly arises each year is one we all at some point or another have considered, or may even ponder regularly.

“How can I be certain I am going to heaven?”

The question for most folks who have been around church for any length of time might seem obvious “by trusting in Jesus.” At face value, this response might seem oversimplified and leave the questioner with more questions than answers. “How do I know if I truly trust Jesus?” “How do I know if I trust Him enough to get into heaven?” “So Taylor, if I trust in Jesus now, does that mean I don’t have to do anything to get into heaven?” These are all common (and fair) followup questions I would get from our guys after giving my initial response.

John gives us a great word in our reading today that speaks directly to these issues. Assurance in heaven is simple. It’s a black and white issue that all too often people try to complicate. While the response “trust in Jesus” might seem oversimplified, candidly, it is not. When John was writing 1 John, he was writing to the church at a time when there were false prophets trying to complicate, water down, and even pick away at the credibility of Jesus and the gospel message. There were literally theological attacks on all fronts. Sound familiar? I have an affinity for this book because John tries to reaffirm the key principles of faith in Jesus in a short, concise, and loving way.

His message in the final pages of this letter to the church is clear. Do not over complicate the matter. Jesus came for you. He came to eliminate all the entry requirements that existed in the old Jewish law. He came to bear your burden, your sin, your failures before God because He loves you. He wants to spend an eternity with you. All you have to do is make one simple choice. Choosing to love Jesus, trust Him, and follow Him with your life is your confidence that one day you will meet our King of Glory in heaven. I know it sounds simple. But that’s the point. Jesus took on the complications so we did not have to. My friends- this is the gospel.

This is what love does.

Have you trusted Jesus with your life? If the answer is yes, brother or sister, I’ll look forward to seeing you in heaven. If the answer is no, and you want to make this life-changing decision today, send me an email (tbennington@live.com). I want to pray with you and celebrate your faith in Jesus.

Taylor Bennington