August 19 – 5 – Developing Relationships

Read Romans 10:14

“Avoid the bubble.”

I learned this lesson the hard way shortly after giving my life to Christ. Many of us know the feeling. Giving your life to Jesus is the best decision you ever make. The feeling of freedom, grace, and love is beautifully overwhelming. Faith in Jesus also gives you a new family – a family of fellow believers who become your brothers and sisters in Christ. The community you gain in the Church is simply amazing. Truly- you gain a group of friends, mentors, and role models that are second to none. However, the temptation to only want to “hang out” with those like you is very real. Our passage today clarifies that it is not only right but our calling as Christians to be outside the Church, interacting with and befriending those who are not saved.

Jesus’s final words to us before He ascended into heaven were “therefore, go and make disciples…” (Matthew 29:11). Our work is not done until every person hears the life-changing message of the Gospel. It means we have to have friends that are different than who we are. In all transparency, I struggle with this quite a bit myself. I have many friends who are believers and I have many friends who are non-believers. My issue is that I put my friends into boxes; I talk church things with my church friends and non-church things with non-church friends. The Lord has burdened my heart today to be more intentional about being more whole. I can try my best to live the light of Jesus in front of my friends, but, without sharing my testimony and His gospel with them, how will they ever know how my life truly changed forever?

I say this because life change really is just one invitation away. This is a cornerstone of our ministry at Grace Church. I love Grace because of our heart for missions at home and around the world. But, by nature, this value we hold demands interaction. It warrants relationships. The passage we read today underlines the importance of this value. Paul essentially asks us to consider the following: 1) if you are not the light of Jesus, who will be? 2)  If you won’t invite this person to experience the life God has for them, who will? 3) If we closed the doors of Grace today and said “OK, we have enough now,” then what’s the point?

We have been afforded this gift of grace, not to just enjoy ourselves, but to share with others.

I wonder if you’d join me today in praying that God would bring people into our lives who need to experience the hope of the Gospel? Pray that we would live, love, and share boldly as Jesus did so the friends in our lives could be pointed to the joy we have in eternity.

Taylor Bennington

August 18 – 5 – Believers and the Lost

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15

Crop development and home construction are both processes. You aren’t able to place a sweet corn seed in the ground and to instantly husk, boil, butter, salt, and eat a luscious ear of it. No, it takes weeks of development and the addition of heat and water at the right time. Construction, likewise, is not as simple as imagining a concept and being able to instantaneously move in. Instead, different contractors with different areas of expertise typically play key roles in seeing the end product become reality.

The apostle Paul used agriculture and construction metaphors for understanding the spiritual practices of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. What, then, are the takeaways for us as we consider how God might use us in contributing to the conversion and spiritual development of those in our world? Here are four thoughts:

  • Be faithful…it is a process! Although conversion itself happens at a point in time, a person has often had repeated contact with believers and numerous interactions with biblical truth prior to that. Certainly, there are exceptions, but you and I should, by and large, commit to a process.
  • Be cooperative…it is a team effort! Paul talked about planting while Apollos watered. He laid the foundation while others built upon it. Humbly acknowledge that God wants to use you AND others in seeing people come to faith and discipled as He builds His church. In fact, readily introduce people to other Christ followers in the hope that exactly that will happen.
  • Be dependent…it is the Lord who brings results! Even though people contribute to the development of the harvest, it is ultimately God who makes things grow. It is no wonder that Paul described himself and other Christian laborers as “co-workers in God’s service” and those with whom they worked were “God’s field” and “God’s building.” Express your dependence on Him in prayer.
  • Be accountable…your work will be examined! Paul described different types of construction materials in this passage. He also points out that our work in cooperating with Him in the building of His church will be tested by fire. This should cause us to examine things like faithfulness, methods, and motives. Reach out as those who will give an account.

Faithful, cooperative, dependent, and accountable…those thoughts should impact the way that we seek to win others to faith, assist them in growth, and integrate them into Christ’s church.

Steve Kern

August 17 – 5 – Take Advantage of Opportunities

Read Ephesians 6:19

If you are a mild or diehard sports fan, you’ve probably watched some of the Olympics games that took place in Tokyo recently. Athletes from all over the world, who had trained for 5 years, finally got their chance to compete to be the best in their sport. Some competitors might have trained multiple hours a day, only to have 1 minute to ‘take advantage of their opportunity’. 

Two of the great stories were Suni Lee in gymnastics and Matt Ludwig in pole vault. Suni Lee was pushed into the spotlight very abruptly as Simone Biles decided to pull out of the all-around gymnastics competition. What a way to take advantage and earn a gold medal!

Matt Ludwig was sitting in his apartment in Chardon, OH, just missing the Olympics narrowly, when he got the call from his team that he needed to get to Tokyo to compete in pole value due to another teammate’s injury. Now Matt didn’t fare as well as his gymnast teammate, but what a story about being prepared to answer the call! 

So how does this relate to our scripture for today, you ask?

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”Ephesians 6:19

We, as believers, like the athletes above, have to be ready to “jump” at the opportunity to share the hope of Jesus whenever we have the chance. It could be at work over a cup of coffee, in the dairy aisle at the grocery store, or on a walk in the park. Sometimes these opportunities come out of the blue so we need to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Here are a few tips to be prepared for those openings: 

1. Pray for the right words to speak. It’s not you and I speaking, He’s giving us the opportunity and right words that each person needs to hear. 

2. Prepare by studying daily. Spend time in the Word so you are equipped to handle those tough questions. 

3. Put yourself out there. This one I’m pointing the finger right back at myself. It’s tough to be vulnerable, share your faith with an unbelieving friend, and risk them saying ‘no’ or affecting your friendship. 

 It doesn’t take years of training to qualify to be able to share the hope of Christ with others, just the courage that, when the opportunity comes up, each of us will jump in.

Will you look for that opening today?

Drew Hilty

August 16 – 5 – Burden for the Lost

Read Romans 10:1

Do you ever feel this kind of burden to share Jesus with others? Do you also have times where, along with the burden to share Jesus, there is a coexisting feeling of fear? We say that life change is an invitation away, but we don’t often talk about how some days the invitation part is the most challenging part about sharing Christ with others.

Here’s the problem: when I’m afraid and don’t share Jesus with others, I am being disobedient in my relationship with God, and letting fear win is just not worth it. Unfortunately, that goes for you too. It’s brutal, but the Bible doesn’t simply suggest we share the gospel with others, it CALLS us to. I could list endless verses that so “gently” tell us to GO and SHARE.

On my very first mission trip in 2013, I got the experience of leading someone to Christ and, since that day, my heart has had a huge burden for the lost and broken people in our world. When I meet new people, one of my first thoughts is wondering if they know Jesus or not. I begin to pray about what my relationship with this person will look like and how God is going to use me to bring others to him.

Trust me, I know it’s scary and challenging to share Jesus, and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I just don’t feel like it.  Often times I wake up in a “I don’t want to talk to people” mood. I know that it’s important to connect with people on a deeper level and be willing to share the gospel with them. However, it’s not always something that is my first response.

I am sometimes terrified of sharing God with others. I fear rejection, fear of changing our friendship, and, most of all, fear they won’t like me anymore. Here’s the thing: when they say “no” to me, they’re not saying they don’t like me; they’re simply not ready. In those moments, it can be discouraging, and I feel afraid to ever bring it up again. However, like I said before, letting fear win is letting Satan win.

So, I pray.

I pray for opportunities to share about my faith in the most natural and loving way possible. I pray and ask God to give me the words and strength I need to be brave and to boldly share Him.

Friends, it’s up to us to choose to move past the fears and speak up about who Christ is in our lives and who He could be in the lives of others, even when we don’t feel like it. I’m confident that Jesus didn’t wake up the day of His crucifixion, feeling like being beaten, yet He did it because He knew that doing so gave us a chance to be saved. Similarly, God uses our willingness to share the gospel as a chance for others to be saved.

Are you willing to fight against the fears and pray for opportunities to share the gospel with others?


Let’s go!

Michelle Perrino

August 15 – 5 – Faithful and Persistent Prayer

Read Luke 18:1-8

Maybe you’ve heard the story of D.L. Moody. He had 100 friends who didn’t know Jesus personally, so he prayed for them every day. Every day, this man prayed for his friends to find real life in Jesus, to see the truth and begin a relationship with the God of the universe. By the time Moody died, 96 of those friends had begun personal relationships with Jesus. And the final four of them responded to His truth at his funeral. 

That’s what God can do through the faithful and persistent prayer of His followers. It’s why Jesus told this story to His disciples that day.

God hears the prayers of His people. He listens and He hears. He never wants us to stop asking Him. Like the widow and the unjust judge, we ask and we ask and we ask yet again and He listens and He hears. 

I have some friends who need Jesus in their lives. They need His truth to soak in and change their hearts and heal their lives and turn their relationships toward Him. I have prayed for each of them. I’ve prayed for them by name. I’ve talked to God about their situations. I’ve begged Him to change their hearts, to show them how much they need Him, to make His truth and grace and love and mercy clear to them using whatever means He chooses.

For years I have prayed.

Still, they don’t know Him.

Still, I pray.

Because God is just and He hears and wants my friends to know and follow Him. If even an unjust judge who doesn’t fear God can end up granting a woman her request because she just. won’t. stop. asking, then the God who is holy and righteous and good can certainly do the same.

Are you praying faithfully for your five? Don’t stop! There is yet hope. Don’t give up. He will yet answer. So be faithful. Be persistent.

He hears you and He loves them.

Bria Wasson

August 14 – 5 – Opportunities to Minister

Read Matthew 5:16

I’ve found myself in some pretty secular settings. I think all too often, we, as Christians, bubble ourselves and don’t put ourselves in positions to talk with people who need Jesus. On one hand, you have church where you are one of several hundred believers, and the other, you are the outcast because you are a person of faith.

Such a setting was when I worked at a local restaurant which, at least during my employment, was known for being a sketchy place to be, much less work. Because my mindset was just to put in hours to pay for my online schooling, I had tunnel vision when I first started.

However, our reading today talks about the value, and command even, for believers to let their light shine so that people may see Jesus through your actions. Here I was, going to Bible school and finding myself in the midst of homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, idolaters and the mix.

I had a choice to make.

I could remain tunnel visioned or I could open up and allow my actions to reveal the God to whom I have surrendered my life.

The more I was around my coworkers, the more I found that they were simply … people. Sure, they had (very) different priorities in life but they were still created in the image of God.

Just as light illuminates a dark room, you have great power, because of Jesus in you, to shine a great light into the lives of the lost.

What does “letting your light shine” look like? Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t look like. It absolutely doesn’t look like Bible-thumping people into submission. If I were to walk up to the gay guy and unleash a fury of Bible verses and condemn his lifestyle and demand he repent on the spot, how do you think that would go?

When I was at a co-worker’s house and someone pulled out marijuana and asked who wanted to smoke, what value would it be if I sprinted out of the house, screaming, “Lord, deliver me from evil!”

Let me be very clear: This isn’t saying that we need to participate in sin. However, if you want to reach the lost, go where they are. Live like a surrendered follower of Christ. Live by a different set of standards. Communicate love and care to those around you and take advantage of moments to share the reason for the hope that you have.

You’ll be surprised what doors open up as a result of your God-like example.

Knowing that I was going into ministry, a couple of co-workers said that they would go to a church that I was pastoring. By the way, one of the guys had a visible tattoo of a burning Bible. What about the guy that I was able to share the gospel with who was living with his girlfriend? What about the outspoken atheist I was able to get breakfast with and boldly talk about my beliefs?

Light is only effective if it is in the midst of darkness.

Are you staying in a bubble? While not giving in to sin, what can you do to surround yourself with people who need Jesus?

You may be the only light someone ever experiences.

Jake Lawson

August 13 – 5 – Slaves to Sin

Read Romans 6:17

Slavery, a word that conjures up images of the horrors of the past.  Chains, helplessness and hopelessness all come to mind at the mention of the word.  Thanks be to God, that blot on our country’s history has been eradicated, but the self-imposed slavery to sin that people put on themselves every day is alive and well.

Slavery to drugs, alcohol, adultery, stealing, lying and even food have many in its grip, leaving feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness and despair.

Paul in Romans 17:19 states it this way:

“…for I do not do the good I want to do, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.”

Sometimes our sins are kept private but other times they are spread across headlines in the local newspaper, leading only to more shame and despair.

Before we start feeling smug, the Bible tells us, “We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Next time you shake a finger or look the other way at a brother or sister who has slipped into the grips of sin, think about how you would feel if everything you did or thought that was wrong in the eyes of God was spread across the headlines in big bold letters for everyone to see.

God demonstrated His own love for us in this: “While we were STILL sinners Christ died for US!”  and broke our bondage to sin.  It is up to us to introduce others to Christ so they know He did the same for them. Then, the transformation involves change and change is hard.  How we as Christians react can help or hinder.

Once a man went to church for the first time.  He forgot to turn off his cell phone. Right in the middle of the sermon, it went off.   His wife and all the people around him, even the pastor, were angry and wouldn’t talk to him.

He never went back. 

Then he went to a local bar and spilled a drink all over the table and floor.  The waitress gave him a cloth to wipe it up, bartender poured him another drink.  A man sitting beside him struck up a conversation with him and told him that the same thing had happened to him.  The man went back to the bar every day. 

So, what is your reaction to people who are trapped by sin?  Do you point a finger, or do you give them a towel to wipe their tears, offer a hand to clean up their mess, listen to their story and let them know that they are not alone?  Sometimes all people want is for someone to talk to and to know they are not alone.

We are the light of the world. God wants us to be the FLASHLIGHTS leading others out of the darkness of sin and into the light of His love.

Shine on!

Pat Arnold

August 12 – 5 – Softened Hearts

Read Ezekiel 11:19

“How many times do I have to tell you?”

These are the words of an exasperated mother or father which you may have spoken or heard on occasion. They may not be the exact words of God, but the sentiment seems similar as we read the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had developed a pattern of behavior over the generations where they would live in accordance with His law for a while, then fall away from it little by little until they were living in complete sin. It is not so different from society today. We are influenced and distracted by social media, news outlets, and rogue priorities which drag us away from God’s best for our lives.

I was recently speaking with a young mother who was sharing her concern about sending her young daughter to preschool. She was concerned about her daughter picking up bad behaviors from fellow classmates. Up until this point, the little girl’s mother had kept her daughter sheltered from bad influences and felt pretty confident that she was raising her daughter in a Christ-centered world. She was doing a good job of focusing her daughter on what was important and right. How could she think of releasing her precious child into a classroom where children would break the rules, talk back, and not share appropriately? These may seem minor, but they are huge to a young mother who has committed to doing her best to raise the next generation to honor God.

This scenario made me think of how we approach life in the “real” world. As adults, we should be steering clear of dishonorable behaviors and habits that pull us away from God’s best. So how do we get back on track?

We ask God for softened hearts.

In Ezekiel, we find God conversing with Ezekiel about how bad things were getting. God chose Ezekiel to be His messenger, telling him,

“I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their hearts of stone and give them tender hearts instead . . .”

A softened heart is one that is willing to submit to God’s way and involves surrendering a hard-heart which gets distracted by things that pull us away from God. A hard-hearted person thinks their way is better than God’s and that no change is needed.  A softened heart is willing to recognize our flaws and make changes. When our hearts are softened, we are teachable and willing to try again to live up to God’s standard. We have a “singleness of mind” – a focus on God’s desires for each of us.

So, although we may not be able to shelter ourselves or the next generation from a society that has lost sight of godliness, we can respond with a softened heart. We can own our mistakes and make changes to get back on track.  How can we teach the next generation to respond with a soft heart?

Do you have a soft heart? Are you willing to make changes to get back on track with God when you tend to wander? Think of the people you influence each day –your kids, your co-workers, your spouse, your neighbors. Pray for them to have a soft heart.  Trust God who is in the business of changing the hearts of man.

Tammy Finney

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

August 10 – 5 – We are harvesters

Read Matthew 9:35-10:1

If you pause from your driven, task orientation long enough to do a little people watching, what do you see? What adjectives would you use to describe those scrambling around Walmart, seated at a restaurant, outside in your neighborhood, or gathered at a sporting event? Angry? Happy? Opinionated? Fed up? Comical? Lonely? Misguided? Hurting?

As Jesus went about His ministry, He was people focused. He recognized their need for the good news of the kingdom and shared it. He saw the pain they experienced in their bodies and healed it. Still, the adjectives and word pictures He used to summarize what He observed in people were “harassed, helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Is that an accurate description of those in your people watching experience? I will let you decide. Certainly, we must say that anyone without Jesus is helpless in that they do not recognize their source of real help and shepherdless in that they are not following the only Good Shepherd.

Christ’s observation of the condition of people led Him to two responses. First of all, it created in Him a longing in the deepest recesses of His life. This compassion was a yearning within that they might experience peace and help in Him as their shepherd.

But the second response was the sharing of a prayer request. He recognized that the spiritual harvest was larger than the harvesters at that time could possibly bring in. So, He invited His followers to pray. He asked them to invite God to release more workers so that the harvest could be brought in.

Let’s pose some pressing questions to help us to process the present-day implications of this account.

  1. Do you attempt to see people through the eyes of God, recognizing their desperate spiritual need?
  2. Does the reality of the lostness of those around you move you with a deep longing to see them come to faith in Christ?
  3. Are you praying that God would raise up people to join in the harvest?

There is one final interesting twist to the story here. Jesus ended up calling and sending the very ones He had asked to pray. The ones who pray for more people to share the Good News of Jesus must be sharing themselves. We all are harvesters. Who are you sharing with?

Steve Kern