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 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

September 19 – Anxiety – The place for your anxiety

Read 1 Peter 5:7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord blessed her beyond measure. 

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

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

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

You will find, He is always there!

Kelly Lawson

September 16 – A Changing Culture – Serving Others

Read 1 Peter 4:10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What excuses are you using not to serve?

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

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

Jake Lawson

September 15 – A Changing Culture – Opportunities

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

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

So “make the most of every opportunity.”

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

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

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

There are so many opportunities to redeem the moments.

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

It starts with following Jesus into every next step.

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

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

Bria Wasson

September 14 – Loving others

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

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

My heart breaks.

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

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

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

Simple as that.

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

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

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

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

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Love one another.

How do you show people Jesus inside of you?

By loving one another.

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

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

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

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

Simple as that.

Jake Lawson

September 12 – A Changing Culture – Honesty & Integrity

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

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

Would you say this is true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you going to do this starting this week?

Kelly Lawson

September 2 – Missions Spotlight – Jason and Christy Carmean

Read 1 Peter 5:1-5

Ministry: Training a next generation of spiritual leaders in Africa

Missionaries: Jason and Christy Carmean

There may not have ever been a time when it has been more difficult to pastor a church in the United States than our current time. On any given current subject, a variety of thoughts, opinions and positions exist. Pastors seek to navigate all of them to give effective spiritual care to the flock.

As we read Peter’s words to the dispersed church of his day, we are reminded of the priorities of the pastor as he ultimately gives an account to the Lord for his work.

The command that is given is to shepherd the flock of God that is among you (verse 2). Just like a real shepherd, they were responsible to the owner of the flock (God) for the care of the sheep. In Cameroon, we have shepherds who move flocks of animals from one place to another. The animals do not belong to the shepherd, they care for them for a season. The shepherds are rewarded if the animals are healthy. They are punished if the animals are unhealthy or have died.

Here are some observations from the text:

  1. Being a spiritual shepherd is hard, but good shepherds are motivated by a deep sense of God’s calling in their lives. 
  • Spiritual shepherds are responsible to the Lord only for the way they shepherd. At the same time, the life of the spiritual shepherd is to be lived as an example to the flock that is under their care. Pastors are not perfect examples, but they are good examples. 
  • The sheep are called to be subject to the shepherd. They are to willingly place themselves under their spiritual leadership. 

Here in Cameroon the church has gone a generation without pastors and qualified spiritual shepherds. The impact of that is often seen in the church. Most Grace Brethren Churches in the U.S. do not have the issue of not having pastors and so the tendency can be to underestimate the importance of good spiritual leadership in the life of a local church.

We have the privilege of investing in a new generation of pastors here in Cameroon and hope that we are helping them understand the importance of being good spiritual shepherds who will give an account to the Lord first for the way they lead.

Pray:  Please pray for a second promotion of students who will graduate in January 2022 and be called into spiritual leadership of the local churches in Cameroon, Africa.

August 27 – Missions Spotlight – R and Y

Read 1 Peter 2:9-25

What does the Bible say about how we are to live among unbelieving neighbors and co-workers?

Peter’s words in verses 11 and 12 hit the nail on the head. Having just described us as chosen people belonging to a holy nation, he uses the word “foreigners and exiles.” I found the words here extremely helpful in understanding how to live in a Muslim country. The passage describes being accused of doing wrong. My wife and I live in a country where the Christian presence is below 1%. In fact, in the school where I teach, I am the only Christian.  In our neighborhood, we are the only Christians. The people in my work place and around us have grown up in a culture where they have been told many false things about Christians and what evil people we are. How can we be a presence in a community like this and make an eternal impact? Peter gives clear instructions where his readers were in a situation similar to ours.

Whether we live in a Christian community where we are surrounded by unbelievers or living in a Muslim country where we may be the only Christian a person may ever meet, the principle Peter lays out is clear: our actions and conduct speak louder than our words. By living above reproach and doing my job with excellence, I have been able to rise to a level of leadership at the school where I work. My wife has been the assistant to the president of the kickboxing association and traveled in a leadership position to a number of countries with the national team. Through these opportunities we have been given a platform for many to see the difference Christ makes in our lives. Would these opportunities have ever arisen if we were not careful to walk in a manner that was pleasing to God?

What about you? Are you living such a “good life” among unbelievers that they see your good deeds and glorify God?

Paul tells the Ephesian church in Ephesians 5:15-16: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” If we seek to be used by Him, we must take stock of how we are living our lives. May we live in such a way that those who don’t know Christ will glorify God on the day He visits us!

R&Y

Pray: We are in a time of transition, pray for Y as she is seeking to begin a new work among the elderly.

August 8 – 5 – Relationships

Read Colossians 1:16, Romans 3:23, 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 10:9

It was inspirational being on the staff of a Christian summer camp for high school kids. The camp would start on a Sunday. It would end on Saturday morning, where everyone would get in a big circle and hold hands and sing a song called “Friends”, written by Michael W Smith. Most came on Sunday as strangers and some relationships would continue after the camp ended while others probably would not. The high school kids were from all over Ohio. The song is about relationships and friendships and it is a reminder of the hope of Christ and that we can pray for each other when we are apart:

“And friends are friends forever

If the Lord’s the Lord of them.colo

And a friend will not say never

‘Cause the welcome will not end.

Though it’s hard to let you go

In the Father’s hands we know.

That a lifetime’s not too long

To live as friends.”

Two Christian friends will be friends in this present life and the life to come. To be an influential Christian, the relationship must have trust and honesty. Do you have 5 relationships in your sphere of influence who you can encourage, intentionally try to bring closer to Jesus and ultimately share the gospel with them?

Having people in our lives who we have developed a relationship with makes it easier to talk about spiritual things. If they know that you are trying to live with integrity and to live in a way that honors God, then they may be more likely to listen to what you say.

In his bestselling book “The 5 Love Languages”, Gary Chapman explains that there are 5 key ways that we all feel loved, and most of us feel loved in 1 or 2 of them. The 5 ways are spending quality time, hearing loving or affirming words, receiving thoughtful gifts, gentle loving touch or having things done for us. As we develop new relationships, learning the other person’s language and showing love in meaningful ways is an action that can bring meaningful results.

Romans 10:9 a verse that can be easily shared with other people. It is a good one to memorize.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you are living as an excellent Christian example, then you are already making a difference for His kingdom.  To have a relationship with 5 people is a way to influence others and evangelize. Who are your “5”? If you don’t know, who are those that can make up your “5”?

Being a good role model is also extremely important. Keep working at it. It is truly “the good life.”

Tom Weckesser