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 30 – Living Courageously – Don’t Compromise Morals

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and Matthew 6:19-24

When we got our one dog, we had an invisible fence installed. She couldn’t see it, but she knew where to stay because she would feel a little shock from her collar.  She soon learned the boundaries and wouldn’t even cross that line when her collar was off.

We set it up, not to hurt her, but to protect her. She was free to run and play and enjoy being outdoors as long as she stayed within the boundaries. Why? Because we loved her and we knew that, if she went outside that boundary, she might get tempted by what she saw on the other side, wander off and get lost.  

God has set up for us an “invisible fence” through laws and rules He wants us to follow. Not because He wants to be mean, but because He loves us and doesn’t want us to get hurt or lost in our way. The only difference is He has also given us free will and so we set our own boundaries through morals.  If our personal morals line up with God’s, everything is good.  However, we humans are often willing to push those boundaries to the point of breaking when tempted by what we see others doing and seem to be getting away with.

There is a saying that, “The grass is always greener on the other side”.  But, as the comedian Erma Bombeck used to say, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank” too.  Temptation looks nice and green – even fun – but it is what is hiding beneath the surface that can destroy us.

The fall into temptation usually starts with, “Well, maybe just once.”  Then that just once leads to, “Well that didn’t hurt!” or “Who is going to know?”  Before you know it, we are trapped in sin and wondering how we got there or how we find our way back home.

Friends can be that temptation. Jesus warned us to not be yoked to unbelievers. Being “yoked” implies submission. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus tells us to take up HIS yoke, submit ourselves to Him every day and in every way!

He is the only one we should be yoked with or submissive to. 

Should we never associate with unbelievers?  NO!  Jesus Himself was known to be in the company of sinners.  How are they ever going to meet Jesus if we never introduce them to Him? However, they shouldn’t GUIDE our lives. 

Only Jesus should do that.  

What morals do you hold tight to?  Do you have boundaries that you will not cross?  Are they solid boundaries or are there cracks in your invisible moral fence? 

Remember, the world is watching us.  YOU might be the only Bible they ever read!  Make sure they are able to clearly see God’s guidelines written on the pages of your life.

Pat Arnold

August 23 – Missions Spotlight – Jim Hocking

Read 2 Corinthians 9:13

Ministry: Tackling water poverty in one of the world’s most forgotten countries. Our goal? Clean, lasting water for every man, woman, and child in the Central African Republic.

Missionary: Jim Hocking

I’m an ordinary man, serving an extraordinary God. And looking back on my life, I am still amazed at how He used a simple act of obedience back in 2004 to dramatically change the lives of those living in one of the poorest countries in the world.

For most of my working adult life, I was a missionary in the Central African Republic. I personally saw what the lack of clean water was doing to Central Africans and, when given the opportunity to take over a water well drilling business from a friend, I hesitated. I had never ever drilled a water well in my life! How was I supposed to be obedient in doing something I had no clue how to do? Being obedient to trust that He would provide knowledge, wisdom, and training I needed was very difficult for me. I didn’t know how to start a nonprofit or how to raise funds for expensive water wells. I didn’t know what would happen with the national staff. How was I going to take care of them financially, let alone the impact this would have on my wife and family? I had a lot to process and wrestle with God about.

A few weeks later, following the Lord’s lead, we moved forward with taking over the drilling and maintenance business, renaming it to Water for Good. As trusting and obeying goes, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but the Lord was constantly by our side. Through rough terrain, a civil war, figuring out how to get supplies to a landlocked country, and many other obstacles, the Lord has blessed Water for Good’s efforts by allowing almost a million Central Africans to drink clean water on a daily basis. To date, we employ 81 Central Africans who have drilled 1,017 wells and maintain 1,869 water systems. We will not stop until the whole country has clean water! Please be praying for our team as this year has brought many challenges, including a COVID outbreak for our drilling and maintenance team, as well as rebel activity, causing safety concerns.

My prayer for you is that you make the conscious decision to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, asking God to use you in an extraordinary way as an ordinary man or woman. All He needs is a willing son or daughter who wants to serve Him. Take the pressure off of yourself to do “big things” and put that expectation onto God. He can use your “yes” in ways you would never imagine.

To learn more, visit our website at https://waterforgood.org/ or join us on social media @water_for_good

Jim Hocking

August 22 – Missions Spotlight – John McCollum

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1–15

Ministry: Asia’s Hope…Providing family-style care for orphaned children in SE Asia

Leader: John McCollum

As Executive Director of Asia’s Hope, I can identify with both the donors in Corinth and the recipients in Judea. We rely on the generosity of churches in developed countries to meet the needs of more than 800 orphaned children and 200 indigenous staff living at our 35 family-style children’s homes in Cambodia, Thailand and India.

We learn in this passage that the Corinthian Christians were among the first — and most eager — participants in Paul’s financial appeal for the church in Judea, which was suffering under persecution and poverty. Unfortunately, the church in Corinth was losing its enthusiasm and having second thoughts about fulfilling a commitment for funding the ongoing work.

After commending the faithfulness of those in Macedonia, Paul affirms the Corinthians. And then Paul addresses the questions lurking in the minds of his audience: “How much should we give? How long do we have to keep giving?” 

Instead of offering a command or giving them guidelines that could limit their generosity, Paul lays out principles that inform my work as Asia’s Hope’s primary fundraiser.

We should be motivated by gratitude to God, not by guilt or fear. Our generosity is not only a result of our gratitude, it’s a litmus test of the sincerity of our love for God.

We should give at our maximum capacity. Paul highlights the faith of the Macedonian church who gave “even beyond their ability.” He answers the implied question of “How much is too much?” by saying, “The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’”

The oft-bandied notion that financial generosity always leads to unhealthy ‘dependency’ is one foreign to the Bible. The text here is clear: God connects our brothers’ and sisters’ suffering with our excess. Those who truly love God will be moved to energetic and ongoing generosity to His work around the world.

Imagine if we, as American Christians, believed not only that our generosity demonstrated our love for God, but that we should give to global ministry until there was equality between our church and family and churches and families in places like Cambodia, Thailand and India. Would any child have to die of starvation? Would any parent ever need to hand their kids over to traffickers? Would any person on the planet not know that Jesus and His people loved them?

As you pray for Asia’s Hope, please ask God to pour out His love so extravagantly on the church in America that congregations, families and individuals respond with “Macedonian-style” generosity toward orphaned and vulnerable children around the world.

John McCollum is the co-founder and Executive Director of Asia’s Hope (www.asiashope.org). He and his wife, Kori, live in Columbus, Ohio. They have a teenage daughter and two adult sons.

August 9 – 5 – Blinded

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4

When I was just out of high school, I was involved in a somewhat serious mountain biking accident. As I was being shuttled to the hospital, my vision tunneled into complete darkness. At nineteen my mind immediately jumped to the worst possible diagnosis. I had hit my head so hard that I was now blind. Within minutes I also began to go deaf… and the next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. My dad was sitting in a chair next to me. I had suffered a pretty severe concussion along with some road rash but I was so thankful to have regained my vision.

I’ve read today’s verse several times throughout my life, and for the majority of them I have focused on how conniving the “god of this world” is. What an evil and frustrating game he plays in blinding the minds of unbelievers from the light of the gospel. But this morning after being reminded of my biking story… my focus turned onto the actual victims of the verse:

The Blinded.

What a hopeless feeling that must be. I take for granted being brought up in a Christian home. I don’t know that I can comprehend that kind of silent, spiritual void. I think of this last year and how much I have relied on my personal relationship with Jesus to get me through on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. My relationship isn’t perfect but it is real. It is something I can grasp hold of. It is one that the enemy would have loved to prevent from ever happening.

Today let’s pray for the unbelievers whose minds are being blinded by the enemy. We pray with a broken heart…Christ’s heart. How devastating to have lived so many years without once feeling “a peace that transcends all understanding”. (Philippians 4:7).

“Lord give us compassion to ‘see’ the unbeliever’s blindness, their circumstances, their hardships and perspective. We wait with patience in Your process.”

And make no mistake, we will rejoice when the blind finally see their “Dad” sitting bedside. He was always there.

Our God is faithful.

What are you doing to share the gospel with and influence such people for Christ?

Nate Torrence

July 27 – $ – Generosity

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

God’s economy doesn’t always make sense.  It isn’t always ‘logical’ and definitely NOT of this world!

You see, in God’s economy we read things like this: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything” (Proverbs 11:24).

Also, “Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38)

How does that work exactly?  Well, I’m still learning that myself, but God provides sufficiently and sometimes lavishly.

I remember a time early in our marriage when I had changed jobs and our income was reduced by a decent amount.  My wife and I had the decision to make on some of the ‘extra’ giving that we were doing at the time.  Should we continue our giving (taking a leap of faith to trust Him) or should we stop some or even all of that giving? 

Now, let me hit pause and say that I’m not sure there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ answer here and that you need to be wise in what is realistic for you and your situation.  However, for us – in this situation – God was asking us to continue to give extra and I think He has honored that in several ways.  Honestly, we felt the truth of these verses above ring true, as we really didn’t ‘miss a beat’ as far as income.  I’m not even sure my wife would remember that decision to this day because it seemed like the next step or really, obedience, to us.  (And before you think too highly of me, you can ask my wife about 1,000 other times where I wasn’t as generous.  If you know us, you know that she is truly the generous one!)

Generosity, or generous living, can mean generosity with finances, but it doesn’t end there. Generosity could mean sharing your finances or your resources or your skills or your time. 

We have so much to give! 

One of our church’s values is that “It all belongs to God.”  We believe that because it’s biblical (Psalm 24:1).  And if we truly believe that, then what are we doing about it?  You see, if you own a car and a house, you’re in the top 5% (at least) of the world in terms of wealth!  So, you are already rich, whether you feel it or not!

Now, I don’t want to guilt trip or peer pressure you into giving.  In fact, in today’s reading, Paul is writing to the Corinthians and says NOT to do that, but rather says that you must each decide in your heart how much to give. 

God loves a cheerful giver (vs. 7)!

So, ask yourself this question, “What is God calling me to give?”  Perhaps some of you need to start giving period.  Perhaps some of you need to start tithing.  And perhaps God is calling some of you to give to a specific cause, something extra, or to someone specifically.  I’d challenge you to spend some time talking with Jesus today and asking Him what He’s calling you to give…because He’s already promised that He will provide (vs. 8).

Danny Artrip

July 21 – Leadership – Vulnerability

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I was the student/athlete who brought in Christmas gifts for all my coaches and teachers growing up. It was great, until it went all wrong. I was a freshman and was coming out of the locker room after practice with the few gifts that my mom had stuffed in my gym bag for my coaches. Abruptly I encountered an upperclassman who said, “You bought the coaches Christmas gifts?!?! … Give them to me.” She took them from my hands and walked into the coach’s office and handed each of my coaches the gifts I had for them. She said, “Merry Christmas!”, they shared a special moment of joy and celebration together, and then she walked out. We both had the same first name too, so the “To:” and “From:” even worked out for her. Tears and anger welled up inside of me. Worse yet, when she came out and saw me standing there empty handed, she looked me in the eye and called me a brown-noser.

None of us like being bullied, nor do we like to be in situations where we can be taken advantage of. That’s why the word “vulnerability” makes some of us cringe. Being bullied is one thing outside of our control, but being vulnerable is something we choose. And it puts ourselves in a position where others can hurt us. To be vulnerable is to be able to let others know that we don’t have it all together, that we aren’t picture perfect, and that we have weaknesses. And when others know where we are weakest, they can choose to take advantage.

Paul talks about his weakness and how God responds to his weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The reality is that we all have weaknesses and all are needy. Whether we are physically or emotionally exhausted, going through something that we don’t feel like we can bear, finding ourselves living in sin, or a number of other situations, it’s clear that we are all in need of strength from God. Weakness drives us towards dependence on the Lord. As we admit our need to God, He moves in on our weakness and provides His strength as we depend on Him.

Vulnerability is risky, but it’s also brave. It puts our pride on the line, but also leads to great reward. It’s the driving force of connection. Every time I finally get to a place that forces honesty before my Creator, He meets me there with His generous grace that never runs out (just like He did for Paul). He welcomes me in and gives me everything I was looking for, a new hope and a new power through Him. Vulnerability has taken my relationship with others and with God to a whole new level.

We can self-protect and build walls that keep us from being known by God and others. Or we can tear down the walls of our hearts and let others and God in to even the weakest places of our lives. When we do, God promises that His power will prove strong even there.

Rachel Snyder

June 23 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Worship and Discipleship

Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Matthew 7:17-20

Jesus’ final instructions to us at the end of Matthew read: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  Known as the “Great Commission”, this seemingly simple instruction encapsulates the entirety of what we are to strive for on behalf of the great gift of grace given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus.  Making disciples is the job of a Christ-follower.  But what does worship have to do with discipleship? 

Everything, as it turns out.  

Our American vernacular sometimes unintentionally distorts the meaning of words which can have drastic consequences for those poor souls unaware of the word’s original meaning.  In the church, “worship” has sadly become this.  What do you think about when you think about worship?  Do you picture singing songs in church, or in your car driving to work?  Do you think about a church service?  Sitting in your favorite room praying and talking to God?  All of those are examples of things that are most certainly worship. 

However, many believe that worship is only doing one or more of those acts, or acts like them.  According to Webster, ‘worship’ can be a noun or a verb…the FEELING of reverence or adoration (noun) or SHOWING reverence or adoration (verb).  True worship of Jesus is best exemplified by the verb form.  We know this because in Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus teaches us that healthy trees bear good fruit, and we can recognize good trees by their fruit. SHOWING our devotion and adoration to Jesus is how we recognize, display, and offer true worship (our ‘fruit’).  Absent our acts of worship, Jesus’ gospel is merely another good-sounding idea, or philosophy of living to an unbelieving world.  

Please don’t be discouraged if you think you’re not living a life full of worship…reading this devotion is an act of worship! Even if your life lacks visible signs of worship, you can take steps to worship more freely! Simply devote some of each day to showing your love of Jesus by changing some of your actions, words and tasks already present in everyday life! Pondering worship is an act of worship! Worship can be prayer, acts of service, singing, scripture memorization, encouraging a friend, sharing God’s love, and so on. Our worship is a life serving Jesus.  Praise God that THIS particular path is so wide!

When thinking about effective discipleship of lost friends, it is IMPOSSIBLE to do this without a life devoted to worship. Is it more authentic and real to merely talk about the hope and peace Jesus offers, or for people to see your worship and wonder why you are so in love and devoted to Jesus?  Which speaks more powerfully?

Lord, we love you, and we want our lives to show it!  Let our lives show a lost world who is the only One truly deserving of our worship! 

Craig French

May 1 – Say What Now? – “Embrace your Weakness and I’ll Give You Strength”

Read 2 Corinthians 13:1-10

“He was sheer weakness and humiliation when he was killed on the cross, but oh, he’s alive now—in the mighty power of God! – (2 Corinthians 13:3 MSG)

From the age of five, James was raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm in Jackson, Michigan – they had moved from Mississippi. James found the transition to living with his grandparents in Michigan traumatic and developed a stutter so severe that he refused to speak. “I was a stutterer. I couldn’t talk. So, my first year of school was my first mute year, and then those mute years continued until I got to high school.”

James said that his stuttering created humiliation: “In Sunday school, I’d try to read my lessons and the children behind me were falling on the floor with laughter…my stuttering was so bad that I gave up trying to speak properly.”

James credits his high school English teacher, Donald Crouch, who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry, with helping him embrace this weakness. “‘Jim, this is a good poem. In fact, it is so good I don’t think you wrote it. I think you plagiarized it. If you want to prove you wrote it, you must stand in front of the class and recite it by memory.’ Which I did. As they were my own words, I got through it.”

James said his teacher got him talking and reading poetry, which sparked an interest in acting. By embracing the weakness, it eventually became a strength.

Known today as James Earl Jones, this man worked hard and eventually became a Broadway, television and movie star, and is well-known for his voice as Darth Vader in Star Wars. Jones has spoken some of the most memorable lines in the history of American film. He is known for his voice. But he was once afflicted with a severe stutter.

Examples of weakness are impatience, restlessness, a temper, greed, looking at pornography, selfishness and others. Jesus was weak when He died on the cross on Good Friday. He had been beaten, broken down, had his face spit on, whipped – pieces of skin hung from his back, verbally abused, naked and humiliated. And He was able to overcome all of this through the resurrection!

And Jesus provides a way through Him to overcome our weaknesses by recognizing, admitting and then embracing them.

It involves work (see Colossians 3:23), focus (see Hebrews 12:2) and opportunity (see Eph. 5:16).

Have you asked Jesus to help you embrace a weakness and work to overcome it? Is there anything specific that you need to bring to the Lord?

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

If Christ sets you free – you can now try to forget your past mistakes and not focus on them. They are on the ocean floor (see Micah 7:19).

You can live free through Jesus Christ. You can embrace weaknesses and ask God for strength!

Tom Weckesser

April 22 – Be Ready – Be Ready to Give

Read 2 Corinthians 9:1-11

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”2 Cor 9:7 NLV

He had been with the Corinthian people and they had pledged generous gifts; he is checking in with them, reminding them of their promises. Paul realized that the follow through was the hard part.  Things happen.  People forget or they realize that they had pledged way more than they could really afford.  Paul was reminding them of what they had said and to plan on completing their promise so they can do it willingly and not begrudgingly.

It is so easy to get swept away in the moment when you see starving children or abused animals on TV.  We sometimes find ourselves pledging everything under the sun to the cause!  Sometimes our emotions take the place of logic and we give out of a sense of duty rather than generosity!

I remember a church service when we were first married.  We were expecting our first baby, I wasn’t working, and we were living on my husband’s salary.  At that service we were asked to make a promise to God on what we would give.  Being newly married and living from paycheck to paycheck, we didn’t have a lot of money to give.  But my husband promised we would always give whatever we could.   I remember putting on my card that I would dedicate my life to service within the church.

We kept both of those promises.

When an opportunity came up to help teach a Bible school class, I did it.  The next year I got to teach the class by myself, which lead to teaching Sunday school.  I really liked teaching by then and, when Jon got laid off work again, I decided to go back to college to get my teaching certificate. With my mom’s help and a series of events that made it possible, 3 years later I had my degree and my first official teaching job. 

I never forgot my promise to give of myself to God’s church and continued teaching Sunday School and Bible School. In the meantime, my husband, being the manager of our finances, faithfully kept putting our offering in the offering plate every week.  Sometimes, when he was laid off, working for $1 per hour shoveling manure, the offering was small but we always gave what we could. Forty years of teaching and fifty years of marriage later, we both agree that that was one of the best pledges we ever made! Were we miraculously made rich?  Financially, no! Spiritually, God has given us riches untold!

What is God asking you to promise to give to Him, His church and His people? Remember, God doesn’t just want your money.  He wants YOU!  He wants your dedication!  He wants your time, talent, and your heart and He doesn’t want you to give sparingly or begrudgingly.  We are told to give willingly and generously!

Is it time for you to have a talk with the Master to see what He wants from you? In what way can you best serve God and His Kingdom?

If you let Him lead you, you won’t regret it!  

Pat Arnold