May 14 – A Changing Culture – Honesty/Integrity

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

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

Zig Ziglar

Would you say this is true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you going to do this, starting this week?

Kelly Lawson

May 13 – A Changing Culture – Work

Read Colossians 3:22-25

On my way to work one day, I noticed multiple signs in front of businesses, factories, and restaurants advertising the fact that they were “Now Hiring.” If you go to a restaurant today, you may not only see the sign inviting applicants but you may also experience the reality of the need for more workers. There are often longer wait times or “drive thru only” options. For some employers, the problem is larger than just finding willing applicants. They struggle to find workers who can pass a drug test or who will show up for work for more than a few days.

The unchanging Word of God gives work instructions for God’s people in our changing culture. Here are some clear principles:

  1. God created us to be workers. Adam and Eve were given instruction to subdue the earth and rule over other living things (Gen. 1:28, 29). Even the Ten Commandments remind us that God created us for a rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest (Ex. 20:8-11). Of course, this work is not limited to gainful employment indicated above. It is demonstrated in countless ways.
  2. God designed us to work to provide for our families. Through both financial provision and compassionate care, we are to see that the needs of those closest to us are met (Ex. 20:12; 2 Thess. 3:6-10; 1 Tim. 5:3-8).
  3. God intended that we give our all when we work. Our boss is ultimately not a man or woman above us on a hierarchical org chart. We work for Christ! We should do so with gusto and in recognition of our accountability to Him (Col. 3:22-25).
  4. God planned that we give ourselves to His work. This is more than just the work we do to earn a living or to maintain a household. His work includes the ways we contribute to making disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). His work includes loving our neighbor as ourselves (Lk. 10:25-37). Paul tells us that we are to “always give ourselves fully to” His work (1 Cor. 15:58).

In the midst of a changing culture, Christ followers should be among those who work the hardest but maintain balance. They have an appropriate temporal and eternal perspective.

Does that describe you?

Steve Kern

May 12 – A Changing Culture – Hypocricy

Read Matthew 23:23-32

There is a big difference between solid wood and veneer furniture. Certainly, there is a difference in price as a piece made of oak through and through is more expensive than a thin oak sheet glued on to something cheap underneath. There is a difference in quality as, under the veneer, you often find some kind of particle board that is subject to swelling if it gets wet and to crumbling if it is hit.

In today’s reading, Jesus speaks pointedly to those in His day, who were merely veneered followers. Externally, one could see their attention to the smallest detail of giving, but internally they lacked a genuine heart of care and concern for others. Outside, they seemed clean and appealing, but inside they were all about selfish pursuits and pleasures. They were like beautiful tombs filled with the remains of the dead. Seven times in this chapter, Jesus expressed “Woe” to these veneered hypocrites.

You have probably noticed, but Jesus reserved some of His most critical words for those characterized by hypocrisy…this inconsistency between appearances and reality. But hypocrisy is not a problem unique to the first century. In fact, it is something that captures the attention of God and of our culture today when it is uncovered. Unfortunately, news reports go viral when prominent Christian leaders are exposed as money-hungry managers, substance abusing shepherds, power-hungry pastors, or adulterous elders.

Leaders aren’t the only ones who run those risks and face these pitfalls. The Father desires integrity and authenticity from every one of His children. And even though many unbelievers in our changing culture don’t embrace the person of Jesus, they often have an internal expectation that, as a Jesus-follower, you will demonstrate those two ingredients: integrity and authenticity.

So, if others were to cut below the superficial, the external, the visible aspects of your life, what would they find? Would it be solid oak through and through? Or would they discover something far different than what the surface seems to indicate? For God’s glory and for the sake of His gospel, be the same sincere Christ-follower in the recesses of your heart and life that is portrayed to others.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

(Ps. 139:23, 24)

Steve Kern

May 11 – A Changing Culture – Managing Money

Read Ecclesiastes 5:10 and Matthew 6:24

The subject of “money” is a tough one, especially for the Church. The Bible mentions several warnings of its temptations. Yet, we also know that money is a significant resource to help those in need and a natural effect of hard work and biblical perseverance.

So… to want money or to not want money?

My personal thought is that money in itself is not the problem; it is our desire toward it that gets us into trouble. Most people whose primary drive is financial gain lead themselves to their own suffering: arrogance, selfishness, elitism, loneliness, regrets of corrupted character, broken relationships from the sake of the pursuit. With a list like that, you’d think we would learn to stop our foolish desires toward money.

Ask a wealthy person and they will agree that “Money creates more problems than it solves.” Ask a financially strapped person and they will reply, “I will freely take those problems off your hands and not complain about it.”

I try to manage my outlook on money within two guidelines:

Never trade your calling or integrity for monetary gain. God will never ask this of you. Ever. In fact, you may be tested in very grey, minimal moments before given greater opportunity. I believe every success story of a Christian in business includes a moment where they had to say “no” when worldly logic would say “yes”. They must rise up and deny themselves an easy pass when even colleagues around them say “Don’t worry, no one will ever know” Make no mistake, there is no greater worship for those called into business than this moment. We are nothing different without our integrity. Stay strong.

Always remember that money does not buy happiness. No matter what I feel I want, God is all I will ever need. Happiness comes from being content. And, luckily, contentment costs us nothing. Rather, it is a hard-fought mindset that shouts to the world, “I do not need to need more!” There is something so freeing in that statement. Fight to find holy contentment.

If you are truly in need – be it food, shelter, clothing or medication – please reach out to us. That is what our church is here for.

If you do not need any of the above, take a moment to be thankful to God for all you do have, it’s more than most. If you live in plenty, pray about where you may be willing to deny yourself the next time you find yourself spending. There is nothing you can buy that feels better than giving!

Nate Torrence

May 10 – A Changing Culture – Handling Success

Read Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 16:3 and Psalm 101:5b

“Just bought a book on narcissism. It’s great. It’s all about me.”

Have you ever watched the old video segments of The Beatles in 1963 from The Ed Sullivan show? You would see that these guys were hungry for success and had worked hard to produce pleasant music. They were young and ready to make some money. They were enthusiastic, excited and singing love songs such as THIS BOY (my favorite), SHE LOVES YOU and I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND.

Then, as I watched old video segments from 1965 through 1969, their attitudes changed. A lot of my friends say that their music got even better but what I saw were guys who weren’t as hungry and excited. They were burnt out. How could they not have been burnt out with the fame they experienced?

As they approached 1970 when the band broke up, they became drug addicts. Their music changed from love songs to drug songs such as LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS and DAY TRIPPER. Many people liked the music better. I didn’t. What changed?

Then on March 4, 1966 The Beatles’ John Lennon said, “We are more popular than Jesus.”

Reactions included radio stations banning Beatles music and rallies of boys and girls stomping on their records and bonfires of Beatles material.

Audio Adrenaline, a band of 5 Christian men aged twentysomething, sang a song titled NEVER GONNA BE AS BIG AS JESUS in 1996. This song was a response to The Beatles’ claim that they were bigger than Jesus.

“Never gonna be as big as Jesus
Never gonna hold the world in my hands
Never gonna be as big as Jesus
Never gonna build the promise land
But that, that’s all right, O.K. with me.
I could build a tower to heaven
Get on top and touch the sky
I could write a million songs
All designed to glorify
I could be about as good
Good as any human could
But that won’t get me by.”

How do you handle success? Do you work to avoid arrogance? When you become successful, it is natural to become arrogant and not realize it – too much pride, personal superiority and thinking you are more important than others.

But Jesus said to seek Him first:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”Matthew 6:33

That is how to avoid arrogance and handle success in a modest way.

Today, we have a culture that has changed. Arrogance and narcissism seem to be common. Jesus said to seek Him first.

Pray for humility!

As Christians, many parts of our life are UPSIDE DOWN from the rest of the world.

Avoid arrogance.

Do you seek Him first in all that you do?

Tom Weckesser

May 9 – A Changing Culture – Heartache

Read Psalm 34:18

Do you ever feel like life just hits you where it hurts?

Like you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, just enjoying your day and, all of a sudden, life comes up and punches you in the gut? The punch was so hard you lost your breath and completely fell to your knees. You’ve forgotten where you were going and what you were doing.

Hopefully you haven’t literally, randomly been punched in the gut that you dropped to your knees, but perhaps it sounds familiar because you’ve also had this feeling. Life is just hard. Sometimes it’s so painful and it was something you weren’t expecting. Those painful moments in life completely change everything.

Not just for that day, but forever.

Think about the most painful time in your life. For some of you, this thought comes quickly and maybe you think of many different excruciating times. For others, there might be one thing that stands out.

Personally, I can pin a few moments to be some of my most painful memories. Maybe you’re walking through this season right now, as we speak. So, do you have that most painful moment? Okay, now I want you to think about the people who willingly took the time to talk to you about that specific thing. Maybe they didn’t have the words, but they acknowledged it simply by giving you a hug and saying,, “I am here for you, and I love you.”

How much did that matter for your healing?

Perhaps you haven’t experienced that because maybe you haven’t talked about that painful thing. If that’s the case, imagine the pure freedom that would come with just simply talking to someone about it, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a traumatic event that happened to you, a friend who broke your trust, or some type of abuse inflicted on you by someone in your life. Are you afraid to talk about it because you think people are going to judge you for feeling something? Are you afraid that it will be awkward?

What’s holding you back?

Here’s what I know, God promises us to be near to the broken hearted. Just like the friend you let into that painful space in your life, God wants you to let Him into that place. When you trust God to hold you in those moments, there will be such healing. I know it can be scary to be vulnerable with others and sometimes even with God, but, even when it’s hard, He will still be there. We’re not promised that life as a follower of Christ would be easy, but we have been promised that His presence will be there when times are tough.

What better love is that, for someone to be in the heartache with you? Maybe today you need to write it out and share with God what’s going on internally. Maybe you need to yell it out to Him. Whatever way you process things, be intentional this week to do just that and lay your pain and broken heart in His hand so He can save you as your spirit is crushed.

Michelle Perrino

May 8 – A Changing Culture – Adversity

Read John 16:16-33

Deafening silence, fine mess, seriously funny, genuine imitation- all oxymorons that clearly confuse us! 

Today’s reading seems like it falls under the same category. Jesus speaks of both sorrow and joy in the same sentence. Paul also reiterates this in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Sorrow and joy are contradictory words in our world, but Jesus brings unity to them. They are not rivals, but rather companions. Learning to live with these as companions is a key to the peace that Jesus mentioned in John 16:33. His purpose: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

His promise: “In this world you will have trouble.” His power: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Since I was a little girl, I have sung the chorus, “Standing on the promises of Christ my King… Glory in the highest I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God.” We tend to gravitate toward and pick out the promises that make us feel good, but in today’s passage, Jesus promises that we will have adversity. We all have experienced that. Just last evening I received a phone call with discouraging news regarding an extended family member. The promise of “you will have trouble” is not foreign to any of us, but do we live in Jesus’ overcoming power?

Last summer, during our continued long wait for full-time employment for my husband, I became bogged down in discouragement. Reading in Psalm 40, I found that I could relate to the pit of destruction and miry clay in which David was stuck. Living in adversity, sorrow and joy were at odds with each other, but the power of Him lifting me out of the pit and setting my feet upon the rock- the rock of Christ- making my footsteps firm restored my joy and peace. Psalm 40:3 says, “And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” How do we sing in the midst of adversity? By allowing sorrow and joy to walk side by side.

I love the bookends in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk begins with the cry, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help?” The prophet concludes his book with his heart’s resolution, “even if, I will.” Even if the circumstances do not change, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (see Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Yes, sorrow and joy can coexist. We will have adversity, but Jesus’ power offers us His peace. Our situations that cause us sorrow may not alter, but He gives us the power to live in His joy.  In my Bible’s margin of Habakkuk, I wrote, “Do we judge God by our circumstances or judge our circumstances in light of the character of God?” God has not changed and His power is available to us so that we can be sorrowful, but always rejoicing.

It’s really not an oxymoron!

Charline Engle

May 7 – A Changing Culture

Read Romans 12:1-21

At a wedding, I watched a dad walk his daughter down the aisle. Most people were looking at the beautiful bride but I noticed the dad. He looked nervous and about to faint. I thought he might need a wheelchair because he was so shook up. But then a few years later, I was the one walking my daughter down the aisle. It was a serious, wonderful and beautiful opportunity. It is all about a change in life, especially for the bride and groom. But also for the parents. And change can be difficult. It is an adjustment but an inevitable part of life.

How do you handle change?

In the same wedding service, the pastor leading the service started talking about Romans 12 and dealing with changes in your life and culture.

He read verse 9: “Love must be sincere.” He suggested to “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.”

Is love the center of who you are?

In a rapidly changing culture, sincere love can make a difference. Love other people with patience, quiet listening and kindness.

He then read verse 10b: “Honor one another above yourselves.” The Message says “practice playing second fiddle”. Can you play second fiddle or does your ego want you to always be first, always be right and constantly interrupt others?

The MSG says, “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”

Romans 12 is full of ideas about how we can live in a changing culture because of what is true. How do we respond to the amazing mercy God has shown us?

This new series is about culture change and what the Bible says about dealing with it. Prepare your heart to read about something everyone experiences: adversity. Can you make adversity your asset? The challenge is to be content in any and every situation. Christ is the secret (see Phil 4:13).

In the next few days we will be looking at culture, change and heartache, handling success, managing money, loving and serving others and more. How can I maintain a Christian attitude in all things? How do we make the most of every opportunity?

Let’s get rid of the me-first attitude of this world and renew our minds with the view of the culture through God’s eyes.

We must break free from, rather than conforming to, the me-first way the human world prefers. We must have our minds renewed, to look at the world through God’s eyes.

Are you adjusting to the culture changes?

Tom Weckesser

September 17 – A Changing Culture – Parenting

Read Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

That is sometimes easier said than done.  Just what is “the way he should go?”  This little “bundle of joy” didn’t come with an owner’s manual. . . or did they?

Nothing is more precious than to hold a newborn baby in your arms for the first time.  They stretch and squirm, maybe let out a few little purrs and squeals.  They might blink their eyes as they adjust to this strange new world of light.  Soon they start looking around and may even focus on your face.

They stare at you mystified at what they are seeing.  Eventually they start to imitate you.  You smile, they smile, you frown, they frown – so fasten your seatbelts, your job of parenting has begun.  

It can be scary. There are plenty of books and even YouTube videos on how to take care of your baby physically, but parenting involves more than physical needs.  And, in our changing culture, you might think this is just too complicated. 

But is it? 

God has given each of us an instruction book of life, the Bible.  It doesn’t just apply to adults but to raising children as well.   You might think, “That’s a pretty thick book.  How could I ever find what I need?” You can start with the ten commandments. They pretty much cover everything that our culture is trying to turn upside down! Jesus even made it easier for us when He narrowed it down to just two.  Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you think about it, no matter how crazy the world or culture changes, those two commandments never change and they apply to everything.

From day one this little “bundle of joy” has had you under surveillance.  Watching your every move, your expressions, your reactions, your speech patterns and words.  They have been imitating you because you, to them, are their guide through this jungle called life.  You yell, they will yell, you get frustrated easily, they will do the same. But if you are kind and generous, and love others, guess what they will do?  You love the Lord, not just in words but in actions, they will do the same.

Let’s face it, life is rough! Kids don’t need parents who are “saints”, ones who never make mistakes, know all the right answers. They need GENUINE parents who make mistakes, have problems but, most of all, confess those mistakes and seek God’s help to correct them!

What kind of example are you setting for your kids, and the kids around you, through your actions and words?

Be genuine!

Kids can detect a fake in a second!

Teach them to love God and His ways (not the world’s) and, when they are old, they will not depart from it.  

That’s a promise!

Pat Arnold

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!

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