April 22 – Grace – Grace in the Old Testament

Read 2 Timothy 1:9

Is the Old Testament only about law?

People often think the Old Testament is all about law and the New Testament is all about grace. Does this mean that death and resurrection created a more gracious God? John 1:17, says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” After reading this verse, you would think it concludes the idea the Old Testament is law and the New Testament is grace. 

The truth of the gospel is God’s grace is the foundation. He didn’t become more gracious. Grace has always existed. Salvation is impossible without grace. The Bible simply focuses more on grace in the New Testament. 

God knew we would need saving from sin when He created us. He had life, death, and resurrection planned out from the beginning of time. All along God had a gracious plan to redeem each and every one of us through grace.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s gives undeserving grace time and time again to a number of individuals.  

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). The world was so evil God regretted creating mankind. One man, Noah, was faithful to God. This alone was enough for God to save his family from destruction. 

Moses was far from perfect, but God continued to choose to walk beside him and listen. God showed grace to a man, Moses, who killed another with his bare hands (Exodus 4:13). These are just two of many grace stories.

God chooses us every time. He never runs out of grace even when we feel like we have completely failed Him. Lean into God when you are in a deep valley or on the top of a mountain in life. God is the strength we need. 

Where in your life do you need God’s grace and to ask for forgiveness?

Are there times you need to be more gracious like Christ?

October 5 – Living Courageously – Self or God Confidence

Read Psalm 56:3-4 and 2 Timothy 1:7

 “Have confidence in yourself and faith in your ability to succeed.”

This is a slogan we used while coaching high school boys’ basketball. This slogan was plastered on the front of the bus so, whenever you would get on or off the bus, you would see it. It may have helped our boys become a little more confident when we played road games on a different court in front of fans who were rooting for the other team. It was hard to measure whether signs like that helped. It was definitely a positive sign and It could help young people think in a positive way.

We talked about Jesus and encouraged our players to have a positive attitude and be self-confident with poems like IF by Rudyard Kipling and THE MAN WHO THINKS HE CAN by Walter Wintle. We hoped and prayed that the same message would carry over and into their lives as they moved into adulthood.

We would pray before every game. That is the key idea! We would pray The Lord’s Prayer together in the locker room after every game. We talked about God and how He is always with you (Romans 8:31). We tried our best to model confidence and faith in God.

When a person has God-confidence, he is depending completely upon God and His strength to handle the things in life. It’s not about your strength or the confidence that you put into earthly things. God is at work in your circumstances. Having a worldly focus means putting your confidence into things like money, education, people, and appearance among other things. To have confidence in God and in ourselves is something many of us lack at times.  Even Timothy seemed to lack confidence at times.

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.”

2 Timothy 1:5-7 MSG

So, focus on God’s truth.

Self-talk can help you become more confident and more dependent on God (2 Cor 10:5b). Memorize and repeat scripture verses and worship songs to yourself. Repeat it in your mind. Scripture and prayer are our weapons!

While teaching high school seniors, I would stand in front of about 25 students and sometimes I was not real confident. By repeating the lyrics to a worship song, it would give me more self-confidence and God-confidence, knowing that I’m working for God, not men (see Col 3:23). One example is a song titled “Here’s My Heart Lord” by Casting Crowns: (video below)

“Here’s my heart, Lord

Speak what is true,

I am found, I am Yours,

I am loved, I’m made pure,

I have life, I can breathe,

I am healed, I am free.

Here’s my heart, Lord

Speak what is true.”

Live with courage. Encourage yourself and others with self-confidence and God-confidence.

Pray for God’s guidance!

Why not start now?

Tom Weckesser

September 27 – Living Courageously – Be Prepared

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-8 and Matthew 24:44

“Be prepared.”

It’s the Boy Scout motto. Founded in 1910, The Boys Scouts of America developed this motto because they wanted young people to be prepared to react quickly to an emergency. World War I was coming, and soon the Boy Scouts — a service-minded organization — would need to help out.

To be prepared in Boy Scouts means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” Over a century later, they still teach young people to be prepared.

Some of us learned The Boy Scouts laws which are to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. These are all noble goals to strive for. It is also part of being prepared for life.

The verses above are about the second coming of Jesus! So how do you be prepared for that? We can start by speaking about the truth of God in love, talking to others about spiritual matters and know that we need to be equipped to patiently talk about and carefully defend our faith in Jesus. We can be growing as Christians on a daily basis and help others grow. We can be a great and godly example to others.

“Be prepared in season and out of season” has been the theme of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), an interdenominational Christian sports ministry impacting the world for Jesus Christ through the influence of Christian athletes and coaches. They use this verse to remind young people to practice their sport and their Christian faith more than just in season. It is part of being prepared. I find it inspiring when an athlete talks about their faith in Jesus after participating in a challenging sporting event. It tells a world that is full of spiritual junk food that they are prepared and ready for the return of Jesus!

To be prepared includes patience – to be able to accept delay, suffering, or interruptions in a reasonable way. To be patient encourages thoughtful and appropriate responses to comments or criticisms. It means to BE PREPARED to wait, take a step back if necessary, and consider the consequences of a decision before proceeding.

Are you patient?

In the Bible, Jesus fully demonstrated these virtues of patience and being prepared. He overlooked arrogance from religious leaders, did not condemn the skeptical, listened to the lost and endured much suffering. Patience is selfless and an expression of love!

Are you prepared to be patient?

It is part of living courageously in a world that has turned its back on God.

Tom Weckesser

August 11 – 5 – Sower

Read Matthew 13:1-23 and 2 Timothy 2:23-26

Sandwiched between a zealous-spiritual-retreat-attender named, Augusta, and a forced-to-retire-too-young Marine named, Michael, I was in for a memorable flight. As we dove deep into conversation, it seemed ‘Gussy’ was more devoted to her retreat leader and his ‘hole up and prepare for the end of the world’ message than she was to Jesus. Michael looked the picture of health on the outside but was all pins and screws on the inside. Under enemy fire, he had suffered traumatic injuries and the loss of several comrades. This led to more pain in the loss of his marriage, full-time fatherhood, the ability to sleep, and any hope for inner peace.

As we chatted I began to share my hope in Jesus and Michael and Gussy began to form an alliance of attack. My words were met with laughter and condescension. They called me a ‘parrot’ that didn’t really understand what I was saying…that I didn’t know the first thing about Got. That the Bible was flawed and couldn’t be trusted. As the pride of proving myself welled up in me the Spirit popped it with some sharp truth:

“Have nothing to do with foolish arguments. The Lord’s servant must be kind. Shelly, they’re not listening to you anyway.”

So, I listened to them…for four hours. I only spoke during the few gaps of silence uttering, “Jesus, can we just get back to Jesus?”

We never did.

In the respite of my silent car on the drive home I had the strength similar to someone who had just climbed a mountain. Or maybe scaled some really rocky soil.

But, by God’s grace, I have a different soil story about a different Michael. He grew up across the road from our home and was raised on religious rules. I started hauling this kid around with my kids around age 10. He was in my house daily becoming like family. There were many times I’d talk to Michael about a relationship with Jesus. His lack of response made me walk away wondering if I was too preachy or if I Bible thumped the poor kid. But one day when he was seventeen he showed up at my kitchen door and told me he was ready. This precious young man was ready to surrender his life to Jesus. My feet floated across the grass as we made our way to the garage so my husband, Keith, could be in on this momentous occasion.

Talk about some good soil. Spirit fertilized, plowed, and ready.

I still wonder about Gussy and Michael, the Marine. I wonder if some tiny nugget of truth took root in their hearts that day. It was a rough exchange. But I’m still glad I sowed. I don’t have to wonder about my other Michael as he is faithfully following Jesus today.

Who is the Spirit prompting you to listen to or talk to today? We just never know, so let’s continue to sow!

Shelly Eberly

May 18 – What Does the Bible Say About Itself?

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12

“The most influential book of all time.”

“No other book like it.”

I’ve made those statements about the Bible.  But what does the Bible say about itself?  I would answer that in several ways. First …

  1. The Bible is an awesome book. The word “awesome” is used and abused today. I’ve even heard some use the word “awesome-est,” as if something can be more than awesome. Experiences and people are described as awesome when they are anything but that.

But the Bible is truly an awesome book because it is “inspired” by God (2 Timothy 3:16). That doesn’t mean “inspiring” like a gorgeous sunset. Rather it is the product of God Himself!

The word “inspired” means “God – breathed” or “exhaled” from God. No wonder it’s called the Word of God. The Bible is the product of God directing human authors to write exactly what He wanted to have written (2 Peter 1:20-21). I don’t fully understand how that supernatural process worked, but it can be described as nothing less than “awesome.”

And beyond all of that, the Bible is not a collection of principles, platitudes, or lessons. It is a thrilling story of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. From beginning to end, the plot of Scripture spotlights Jesus Christ, God’s Only Son, the Redeemer of Mankind.  Jesus said: “…These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (Matthew 5:39-40).

Furthermore,

2. The Bible is an accurate book. Because God‘s character is true, His Word is trustworthy, completely reliable. Some suggest that the Bible is accurate when it speaks about theology but not accurate when it speaks about history or science. But if the Bible is not fully reliable at every point, how can we be sure it’s reliable at any point? Every word of God is described as “flawless” (Psalm 12:6), “eternal” (Psalm 119:89) and “perfect” (Psalm 119:96). If it is not accurate, it is worthless.

3. The Bible is also an authoritative book. The Bible is the Owner’s Manual for effective operation in this world by every human being. This means that every opinion, statement and belief should be tested by the question: “What does the Bible say about this?”

In fact, God expects us to obey what He said in His Word. Obedience is not optional. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

4. The Bible is an adequate book.

The Apostle Peter said that God has given us “everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures have been given so that we might be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Someone said, “While the Bible may not tell us everything we want to know, it does tell us everything we need to know. Its truth isn’t exhaustive, but it is enough.”

Think of this! One book, penned by 40 different human authors on three different continents in three different languages over a period of more than 1500 years, provides exactly what we need for this life and all eternity.

It is an endless supply of riches!  

No book will ever claim more of your life than this book. And no book will ever give you more of life than this book.  Why not treat God’s word with the respect it deserves and allow it to have its rightful place of preeminence in your life?

Bob Fetterhoff

April 24 – Be Ready – Be Ready to Proclaim Truth

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The book of 2 Timothy is the final letter the Apostle Paul is known to have written while in prison for preaching the Gospel and written just prior to his execution for his faith in Jesus.  Paul is writing to Timothy, who is his son in the faith -someone in whom he has discipled and invested.  The letter to Timothy is a bold charge to persevere for the Gospel despite suffering (which is mentioned in every chapter of this letter: 1:8, 1:12, 2:3, 2:9, 3:11, 4:5).  And what Paul was telling Timothy about 2,000 years ago applies to all who claim to follow Jesus Christ today as well. 

Paul tells Timothy in verse 2 that, at the end of the day, we are going to be held accountable before God and give an account of what we have done.  Do we believe what we claim?   It is of eternal importance to preach the Word and to proclaim the Gospel.  Paul says we should be ready in season and out of season.  We are to be so saturated by the Word of God in our lives that, when an opportunity presents itself for us to proclaim the Gospel, to share the truth, to share the reason for our hope, we are ready!

Paul also says to “rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching”.  This may sound intimidating to some.  The Greek for rebuke is epitimao meaning to warn or correct.  Pastor Voddie Baucham Jr says, “I don’t write the mail, I just deliver it”.  We are to share with complete passion and patience.  If someone does not understand it, explain it to them. 

Teach them and don’t give up on them.

In verse 5 we read “but as for you, exercise self-control in everything”.  The Word of God should be so in our blood stream that it floods out the word to men.  This way, when we face any situation, we can ask ourselves, “What does Christ want of me?”  I have heard it said before that you may be the only Bible a person reads.  People are watching your actions.  People are watching how you respond to all sorts of things.  People are watching the things you post on social media.  People are watching how you are handling the current events. 

Do you handle it in a way that lines up with the Word of God?

As the apostle Paul writes this from a Roman jail cell, he also tells Timothy that he will endure hardship.  Think of the faith witness and testimony of Paul, the Apostles and the early church.  Many of them faced persecution and hardships.  Faithfulness to God will typically come with some sort of suffering. 

Putting your faith in Jesus will cost you something. 

We are reminded to do the work of an evangelist, to proclaim and share the Good News.  By doing these things we are fulfilling our ministry.  Every Christian is in ministry.  We all have a gift and a calling.  And this final charge that Paul wrote to Timothy also applies to each of us who follow Jesus today.

Starting today, pray for opportunities to share the hope that you have with others! Is there anyone in your sphere of influence that you can share such hope with now?

Are you ready?

Nate Mills

April 20 – Be Ready – Ready to Do Good!

Read 2 Timothy 2:15-22

Be ready…be “prepared for every good work.”

When you read that statement, you likely begin to think in terms of having your eyes open for opportunity to serve people. To be sure, that is an important aspect of blessing others. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of a Christ follower is the fact that he/she does good works (Matt. 5:14-16; Eph. 2:8-10).

Still, the thrust of this passage is less on having open eyes and more on having a clean heart. You probably noted how Paul is like a pendulum in his writing, swinging between a call to correct understanding of God’s word and its antithesis…false teaching. I am sure you saw how he contrasted ungodliness, iniquity, and youthful lusts on the one hand and righteousness, faith, and love on the other. Paul is concerned about what we believe and how we live…about faithful theology and God-honoring theopraxis. (The word theopraxis combines two Greek words: theos meaning God and praxis meaning practice.)

And with regard to the theopraxis, if we really want to be prepared for good works, we must experience cleansing.

The apostle’s illustration is clear, isn’t it? Your household has the kinds of containers that he describes. You have the fine china or dinner dishes that are only brought out for special occasions. They are used for honorable purposes. Meanwhile, there is also the trash bin…or maybe even more graphic, the container that is carried around when a person feels nauseous. It serves a less honorable purpose. God’s children are to be like the first kind of container.

We are to be…

  • A vessel for honor
  • Useful for the Master
  • Truly prepared to do the good works that are part and parcel of the Christian life

In order to do any of those, Paul reminds us that we must cleanse ourselves from the dishonorable things of life. In fact, here is the way that the Apostle John describes our cleansing.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9)

Our role is that of confession…of acknowledging the shortcomings of our deeds, words, or thoughts to God. Then did you notice what He does? He forgives…He purifies.

Thank you, Jesus, for making us useful to the Master!

Steve Kern

March 7 – The Gospel of Matthew

Read Romans 15:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16

Have you ever read anything and thought to yourself, “What on earth did I just read?” Maybe you’re reading something that you’re familiar with and your brain kind of spaces out as your eyes scan the words on the pages, thinking of the hundreds of things you have to do that day.

When I was little, I was very much a reader. I’m a 90’s kid so I’ve read most of the Berenstain Bears books as well as any mystery book I could get my hands on, such as The Hardy Boys series. It was nothing for me to sit down and smash out chapters of a book with little effort.

I have used the excuse that reading in college kind of thwarted my desire to read. The pages and pages that we were “required” to read quickly turned into me scanning the pages without retaining much at all.

This scanning-type reading can easily become how we read the Bible. Am I the only one?

Starting tomorrow, we are going to begin a read-through of the gospel of Matthew. What you’re going to read is going to be a biography or story-type writing. You’re going to be tempted to scan because there’s a good chance you have read some of this before.

I want to bring Romans 15:4 to your attention as we prepare for this 4-week series:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

As you read the book of Matthew over the next 4 weeks, I challenge you to read each day with anticipation. What can you glean from these chapters? Second Timothy 3:16-17 says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

If you read with an open heart, open to whatever the Holy Spirit will bring to your attention, your life can change by reading something that might even be familiar to you.

I’m excited for this challenge. Get ready for tomorrow by preparing your heart today!

Jake Lawson

March 19 – Faithful – He Remains Faithful

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-26

Over the years, I have witnessed some “worship wars.”  That is not a modern day reality show, whereby worshipers are judged with regard to sincerity, quality, and biblical accuracy of their worship.  Instead, it has been people at odds with one another over music style, instruments, volume, and more.  Thankfully, there is no single musical style that exclusively pleases God.  And thankfully, tension is relieved at Grace by offering two different venues with two different styles.

Ever wonder what songs were used in the first century church?  It is safe to say that this predates songs like “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” and the use of electric guitars.  Occasionally, the Scriptures let us listen in to some of the lyrics.  In fact, many theologians agree that 1 Timothy 2:11-13 represent words to a Christian song, with which the early church was apparently familiar.  Of special interest to us are the words that remind us of God’s faithfulness in verse 13:

“…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 NIV)

Before we consider God’s unconditional faithfulness in claiming His children, let me point out that there are promises of God that are conditional.  For example, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)  Did you notice how my forgiveness is contingent upon my confession?

Meanwhile, aren’t you glad to know that God’s faithfulness in claiming Christ followers as His own is not contingent upon the degree to which we are fully surrendered and obedient at any point in time?  He remains faithful to us in spite of lapses when we are unfaithful to Him.  His faithfulness is not a wishy washy uncertainty that should cause you to question, “Will He stand by me as one of His children?  I mean look at what I have done/thought/said?”  Thankfully, He is forever faithful in spite of our faithless moments!

He is a faithful God!

Steve Kern

May 19 – Trip to the Holy Land – Qumran

DAY 7 – QUMRAN

Theme: Accuracy & Authority of the Word of God

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?  If so, why?  After all, the Bible reminds us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16 – NIV).  How can we know that the Bible was originally “inspired by God?“ A stop at Qumran helps clarify this issue.

In 1947 in a cave of the Judean desert called Qumran, a Jordanian shepherd boy stumbled on to what is arguably the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century – the Dead Sea Scrolls.  He had no idea that the priceless clay pots of Qumran contained a wealth of evidence for the character of the Scriptures.

Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered, the oldest copies of the Old Testament, known as Masoretic texts, dated about 1000 AD.  Jewish tradition says that scribes carefully hand-copied each book in the Hebrew Bible so that no mistakes were made. In fact, if a mistake was discovered in an ancient scroll, it would be discarded and destroyed. When scrolls became frayed and worn, they also were destroyed.

But how do we know the scribes did not edit those ancient documents to make them look like they had supernatural origin? After all, in the Sixth Century BC, Daniel prophesied about four great kingdoms that would eventually rule the world 1500 years before the Masoretic texts were completed. How do we know that later scribes did not change the words of Daniel to make it look like he was actually writing prophecy about the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans? It’s one thing to describe accurately what has already happened in this world. That’s history! It’s something else to look ahead and accurately portray what will happen. That’s prophecy!

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were analyzed, they dated about 200 years before the time of Christ. That’s 1200 years earlier than those Masoretic texts!  The clay pots of Qumran yielded fragments, even major sections, of every book in the Old Testament, except the story of Queen Esther.  The scholars placed Dead Sea Scrolls and Masoretic texts side-by-side.  What do you suppose they discovered? You could basically draw an equal sign (=) between them. There were no substantial differences that threatened the theology of Old Testament authors.

In other words, God not only inspired His Word, He preserved His Word for all of us. If the Bible is not accurate, it is not authoritative. The Dead Sea Scrolls remind us that the Word of God we hold in our hands is reliable. It’s authentic. It can be trusted. “It is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NLT).

Prayer of reflection:  Father, help me to build my life around the accurate and authoritative teaching of the Word of God.

Bob Fetterhoff