June 25 – Names of Jesus – Living Stone, Cornerstone

Read 1 Peter 2: 4-8

“Jesus is the rock of my salvation, His banner over me is love” is a song we used to sing at a Christian church camp. Once you sing an uplifting song like that, you never forget it. But I never really thought much about the message – that Jesus is “the rock”.

I grew up listening to “rock music.” I went to concerts and heard rock groups perform. Once I became a Christian, I began to recognize lyrics that honored God and lyrics that did not.

Then I started listening to Petra, a “Christian rock group.” They influenced me in a positive way. I liked the music and the lyrics were admirable and pure. They encouraged me to live my life in an honorable way. John Schmidt was the lead singer of Petra and I still like to listen to him sing. I took my family and some friends to see Petra one time. My friends thought the music was too loud but I loved it and found the words, often based on scripture, to be encouraging and helpful in living in our culture. We started a FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLETES group at the high school I taught at and based it on the Petra song “REVIVAL: START WITH ME” and Colossians 3:23.

I have learned that Petra is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra is also a rock. Petra is a feminine given name – a feminine form of Peter, which is derived from the Greek word “petros” meaning “stone, rock”.

The rock on which the church is built may be Peter’s inspired confession of faith in Jesus Christ in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said in verse 18: “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”

The word “rock” is used about twenty-four times in the book of Psalms with reference to God. Here is an example.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”.  Psalm 18:2 NIV

Dear Lord, let me build every aspect of my life on the rock of Jesus Christ, my salvation. His banner over me is love!

Tom Weckesser

Questions to consider

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • What are some benefits of having Jesus as the “Chief Cornerstone” in your life? What are the consequences of not having Him in that position?

December 25 – Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled – God’s Triumph Through Christmas

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Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled

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Read Luke 2:6-15, Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and 1 Peter 1:19-20 God’s Triumph Through Christmas! When we celebrate Christmas there is a sense of wonder we should have in how God fulfilled the Promise of Jesus Christ. First we remember the prophecies He revealed through the Prophets of Old. Then there was all that the angel spoke to Mary and Joseph. Now we come to see everything that God said would be has come true. What we celebrate is really to us the culmination of the truth of God’s word. That God would send His one and only Son into humanity in the human form of a baby! Everything that God promised and foretold would happen have come true! Praise God that it is so! We first see the reality of it all in the town of Bethlehem. In the very town that the prophets foretold- Mary gave birth to the Son of God and named Him Jesus. (Just as the Angel told her to.) He was really born in a manger because due to the census they all traveled to Bethlehem to partake in; there was no room for them in the inn. God still provided for their needs still keeping with the fulfillment of the promise. Next we see real witnesses of the actual time and places surrounding the Messiah’s birth. Besides Mary and Joseph themselves, God sent the angel once again to announce the birth of Christ. He came to the Sheppard’s telling them that a Savior was born for them who is Christ the Lord. He gave them a sign telling them where the Messiah would be and what He would be dressed in. After the angel left, they left their sheep and went straight to the very place where the angel told them He’d be. They witnessed the Christ child, Mary and Joseph. They left there worshiping and praising God because what they saw confirmed what the angel had told them. Can you imagine being a part of what they experienced? What a humbling experience it would have been! The next witnesses were brought to the Christ child sometime after His birth. A star led them to the Christ Child. God used this star up in the heavens to lead the magi to Christ where they worshiped Him and gave Him gifts. Then on top of this, God protected Jesus, Mary, and Joseph from Herod’s jealousy, envy and wrath as He sent the angel once again to Joseph in a dream, warning him of Herod’s plan telling him to flee from there and go to Egypt. Here again God provided in His infinite wisdom a plan to protect His Son until the appointed time some thirty plus years later when He would die for all mankind’s sin. Joseph was obedient again and left in the night to Egypt where they would await the angel’s word, which would confirm that it was safe to return. It seems that God also provided protection to the magi, as I believe He gave them the wisdom to go home by a different route. A route by which they’d find safe passage home that would avoid contact with Herod and his pending wrath, as he aimed to kill the Christ Child. All of God’s promises came to reality, with physical and written proof. God is faithful and we can celebrate the triumph of Christmas through our Savior’s birth! My prayer for all of us is that the reality of all that God spoke, wrote, planned, and fulfilled, will keep us in awe of His power and majesty. Each year, may our Christmas become more worshipful and thankful as we celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- the Fulfillment of God’s Promise! What God promises, you can always trust will take place down to the very last detail! God keeps His promises! Questions To Get Started With:
  • How do the scriptures confirm all that God promised which is why we celebrate Christmas at all?
  • How does the knowledge of God’s fulfilled promises impact your Christmas celebration?
  • If you don’t know Him, then don’t you think it’s time that you receive His free gift – especially during Christmas! The best gift of all is Jesus!
  • Maybe you do know Him but have taken a step away from your faith and relationship with Him? Don’t you think it’s time to recommit yourself to Him and truly celebrate Christ’s birth?

December 8 – Open Letters – Rejection

Read 1 Peter 2:4-8

Dear Rejection,

You managed to steal some time in my life that I will never get back.  You ruled my heart in middle school when I didn’t get invited to ‘that party’.  You tore at my identity when I heard adults talking about how bad my parents were.  You even entice me daily when I open social media to a photo of close friends doing things together, knowing I wasn’t invited.  You almost took me to the point of no return when I experienced the ultimate rejection – in the most sacred of relationships.

You will never again have the last say in my life.

Before becoming a Christ follower, I held on tightly to how you saw me.  If I’m honest, you ruled my life.  Surrendering my life to Jesus changed all of that.  Not immediately, but over time, as I spent more and more time with Him.  God’s Word teaches me in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that I am made new in Him.  When I look to Him first, He never fails me.  Where I have failed is each time I resort back to my old ways, instead of turning to the promises in God’s Word, I allow you to have a foothold in my life.

Rejection, you reveal – you clearly show me – what is most important in my life – Is it more important to allow you to steal my joy or to show the world the love I have in Jesus?

Rejection, you refine – God allows you to happen to refine me into something much, much more for His future plans.

Rejection, you can lead to revelation – God knows my future, He holds it in the palm of His beautifully scarred hand.  I believe His plan for me is perfect.  He may take me through some of your darkness to make my light shine even brighter for Him.

Rejection, you are going to happen, as this is a very fallen world.  However, 1 Peter 2:4-8 beautifully explains to me how my reaction to you changes everything.  Peter said it is often the stone that the builders reject that becomes the very thing that God builds up.  I’m clinging to that.  What you meant to harm me, God will use for my good.

Rejection, you do not have the last say in my life.  

Jesus does.

December 6 – Open Letters – Solitude – Part 2

Read 1 Peter 5:8

Dear Solitude,

In yesterday’s letter, I wrote about the good side of your coin – the heads side – spending time alone with Jesus. Today I’m writing you about the dark side of your coin – those times when I approach you, Solitude, as if I was entirely alone with no one to hear my thoughts. Tails! Solitude, on this side, you are bad.

The words of a song by Paul Simon came to mind as I pondered writing this letter to you.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Acting as if I am spiritually alone always ends in destruction.  On this dark side of you, Solitude, the Evil One comes masquerading like an old friend.  When I “talk with darkness,” his lies are veiled as a lovely vision. A vision that softly creeps up on me in ways so insidiously believable it leaves seeds of deception, where I am most likely to be misled.  Next, when I’m “asleep at the wheel”, those seeds sprout and bloom into more visions in my brain. Then slowly, quietly and steadily, I am overtaken. Unless, that is, I recognize these deceptions by holding the visions up to what I see in the truths of the Scriptures.

The other part I’ve learned of your bad side, Solitude, is that I am most vulnerable when I am not in community with other Christ followers. Why do I say that? Because 1 Peter 5:8 tells me that the Enemy is a prowling lion: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I don’t watch a lot of Animal Planet, but this much I’ve seen: predators look for those animals away from the protection of the herd. A little sheep is having a good time wandering by itself, munching on some tasty grass. The next instant, a lion springs out of nowhere and that poor little lamb is now dinner. That lamb gets devoured, much like I can be, if I wander from the protection of the Body of Christ. When I believe the lie that I can live successfully in spiritual aloneness, it gets ugly.

What have I learned about your bad side, Solitude? I must always be wary of any feeling that I am altogether alone; wary of any voice that would whisper to me in the “darkness.” And lastly, I am most protected when I stay close to The Good Shepherd and the rest of the Flock.  That’s one of the reasons why we, at Grace, say “Life is Better Together!”

November 17 – Prayer for my Kids – Don’t be anxious

Read 1 Peter 5:6-7

Peter knew what it was to be afraid of stuff. He knew that anxiety tore up a peaceful mind, a single-minded commitment to the Jesus He trusted. It’s what had led him to the fireside, watching and denying the Christ He’d been following for years. Anxiety and fear made Peter deny even knowing the One about to be crucified for his own sake. Then it led him to shame and regret, the worries of all that he should have said, all that he could have done.

I know it too. Anxiety can keep me from the life that Jesus came to give me. I don’t want that for my kids. But Peter’s letter gives me two specific ways I can pray against this for my kids. He said,

  1. Humble yourselves.
  2. Cast your anxieties on God.

Humility undergirds every part of this section of Peter’s letter to the Jesus-followers who had been scattered all over the known world. They were suffering because of the God they’d chosen to serve. It’s a humility that exists only among those who have entrusted themselves to the God who has worked out a way for actual, living hope. It’s humility as a verb — the choice to humble oneself because of the forever and real hope of an inheritance that includes every spiritual blessing and all the grace of God Almighty. This humility leads to the second directive.

Cast your anxieties on God.

Without humility, the ability to cast one’s cares is out of the question. If we don’t believe that God is bigger and more capable than we are to take care of the whole of our lives, then we’ll never be able to turn over our fears to Him, never be able to trust His concern for our worries and the things that we’re most afraid of letting go. 

So, I ask the God who created them to grant my kids the strength to humble themselves. Because to humble oneself is no small task. It means entrusting everything they care about, all the ways they worry, to Him, and believing these matter to Him, letting Him take care of all of their cares.

I beg Him for this strength in my kids because worries and cares can consume to the point that they start to believe they know better than God does, that they care more about these things than He could. I pray they know how deeply He cares and I wait and watch for His work in them, even as I cast this worry onto Him and trust.

In what way can you humble yourselves before God? What anxieties are you struggling with that you need to cast on God?


Bria Wasson

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