August 25 – Missions Spotlight – Steve and Celeste Kern

Read Acts 17:22-33

Ministry: Reaching Germans and those migrating to Germany

Missionaries: Steve and Celeste Kern

Migration is a volatile topic these days. Political opinions about immigration policy are polarized. Indeed, there are no simple solutions to answering the difficult policy-related questions of “Who?” “How many?” and “Under what conditions?”

As we read Paul’s words spoken to the Greek philosophers gathered in the first century, however, we glean a divine perspective of the movements of people. Set aside your political convictions about immigration for a moment, as you read these words once again.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26, 27)

Here are some observations from the text:

  1. The Lord made the nations. He instructed man to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28), and, at Babel, He ensured that reality (Gen. 10:1-11:9). These nations are more than the roughly 200 entities recognized by the United Nations and marked by governments and geographical boundaries. They are thousands of people groups often defined by culture and language.
  2. The Lord determines the chronology and geography of the nations. In other words, God sovereignly orchestrates the movements of these people groups. Thus, migration is neither an accident nor a surprise to God.
  3. The Lord has a redemptive purpose in the movements of people groups. He formed them and orchestrates their times and locations so that they would seek Him. He uses migration for the purpose of salvation.

Last decade, more than 2 million people migrated to Germany as they fled from danger in their own countries of origin. While these people flee opposition to seek asylum, the Lord desires that they also find the Savior.

We will have the privilege of serving alongside of other followers of Christ as we ask God to draw the unreached to Himself.

Pray: Please pray that God prepares the way for our final deployment to Germany later this year. Ask Him to draw people from the nations to Himself!

Steve and Celeste Kern

August 2 – Foundation for Life Change – Get in a Group

Read Acts 2:42-47

As an introvert who is energized by time spent alone, I find it difficult to be proactive when it comes to getting involved in community. As time has passed, I’ve found that my growing understanding of the importance of being in community has allowed me to become more proactive. But there was certainly a time I avoided getting too involved with any type of group setting. Throughout middle school and high school, I remember going to youth groups every once in a while. I did not attend consistently and, when I did attend, I feared being lonely. Yet, I dreaded any sort of small group connection. I didn’t realize at the time how beneficial a Grace Group could have been for me and my relationship with Christ!

The Bible is clear that community among believers is a part of the full life God has for us. At the very start of the Christian church recorded in Acts 2:42, we learn that the believers were devoted to fellowship. They met together, prayed together, worshipped together, shared everything they had, and just enjoyed one another’s presence. Acts 2:47 says, “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” God moves in big ways when we are united as a group of believers. What an incredible example this is for us today!

In Grace Students, we encourage every student to be a part of a Grace Group because we believe life is better together! Getting involved in a group provides a student with a consistent, life-giving community centered around God’s Word. I believe this applies to all ages of people. In groups, we grow closer to God and to each other, all while taking our next steps with Jesus. Being involved allows us to experience community the way God intends for it to be.

If you aren’t yet part of a Grace Group, my encouragement to you is to take your next step and get plugged into one!

Student Grace Group Registration Form: https://gracechurch.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/409/responses/new

Adult Grace Group Registration Form: 

Sidney Rupp

June 16 – Wait, who? – Ananias and Sapphira

Read Acts 5:1-11

At the time of this writing, Kelly and I’s son, Mattie, is a couple of months shy of turning 4. It’s crazy to see the development already taking place with him! He is an extremely busy not-so- little boy who loves to get into things and experience new adventures. Recently, we have been turned on to kinetic sand (check it out!) and have since purchased some for him to play with.

Well, one morning, I’m getting ready for work and, for just a couple of minutes, take my attention off of Mattie and come back into the room to see sand all over the carpet (we constantly tell him to keep his toys on the table). I must have said something like, “Oh my goodness” with some kind of shocked expression on my face because Mattie read it, got out of his chair, came over to me and hugged me, saying, “Aw, it’s okay, Daddy”.

To what extent do you go to get away with doing something?

Our reading today talks about a married couple who tried to pull a quick one on God and paid the price. Ananias and Sapphira sold some land and offered the money to the apostles. The only thing was that they kept a portion for themselves. Essentially, they were claiming to giving it all to the work of God when they actually weren’t.

The couple’s plan was to go in at different times and Ananias didn’t get too far before Peter sniffed out his lie, saying that he not only lied to them but to God and Ananias fell down dead on the spot. Sapphira came in, not knowing that her husband died for lying, and she meets a similar fate as a result of not being truthful.

Our reading ends with the verse:

“Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

What are we supposed to do with this story?

Lying is something that God takes seriously, if you haven’t yet realized. A lying tongue is something that is even said to be hated by God (Proverbs 6:16-19) and has detrimental consequences to everyone.

In my eyes, the application is simple: strive to be truthful in all aspects of your life.

What are some areas in your life where you are most tempted to compromise the truth? When do you most stretch the truth or not tell the whole truth?

It is not my intention to tell you that God will strike you down the next time you lie, but I do want to communicate just how much God detests a lying spirit. My challenge goes out to all of us to take an honest inventory of our lives and repent of any lies that we have told or are living and move toward a more truthful life!

Jake Lawson

June 15 – Wait, who? – Dorcas

Read Acts 9:36-43

Years ago, I remember driving by a funeral home as someone was unloading a model airplane from their vehicle and carrying it inside. My guess is that airplane was placed on display as something a deceased loved one had made or at least enjoyed. It was likely something important to the one who had passed…perhaps even something, for which he/she was known.

What objects would your loved ones place on display at your funeral? What kinds of things would depict your values and priorities?

The eight verses from today’s reading seem to describe a similar scenario. A woman named Tabitha (also called Dorcas) had passed. As people assembled for what might have been the first-century equivalent of calling hours, women are there with articles of clothing that Dorcas had made by hand. But she was more than an accomplished seamstress. That clothing was apparently reflective of her reputation as one who did good and who helped the poor (v. 36). She probably made clothing and gave it to those in need…like the mourning widows in the upper room that day.

Still, that isn’t all that Dorcas is known for. She is also known as one raised from the dead by the power of Jesus. Even though we only read a few verses about her here, the story of her life spread beyond the widows gathered throughout the entire community there in Joppa. As a result, many people believed (v. 42).

Can we go back once again to where we began? What is it that you are known for? What will you one day be remembered for? Model airplanes? Your sports fanaticism? Your contribution to your work? Your commitment to Candy Crush?

Even if you are committed to doing things that help others, you must be careful. In the end, Tabitha’s good works stemmed from more than a humanitarian bent. Her help of the poor served a greater purpose than mere philanthropy. She was a follower of Jesus (v. 36). Ultimately, both her generosity and her resurrection brought fame to the name of Jesus.

What are you known for? Who gets the credit for it?

Steve Kern

June 13 – Wait, who? – Phillip

Read Acts 8:26-40

Life change is an invitation away.

This is one of my favorite values of Grace Church. If you really think about it, the Gospel message is all about invitation; Jesus inviting us to live in freedom and spend eternity with Him by accepting the free gift of salvation He offers to us by belief in His life, death, and resurrection from the grave. The passage we read today highlights for us the power of invitation, the power of God to use inconspicuous moments for eternal impact, and how saying “yes” to the nudging of the Spirit can help play a part in changing someone’s life.

I cannot help but put myself in the shoes of Phillip in this story. After all, he could have been anyone of us. Going about his normal day-to-day business and suddenly sensing God calling him to make a move or have a conversation. You know that thought or sense you get when you are prompted to “go talk with that person” or “go visit this place.” Rather than saying “no”, and writing the feeling off as something he had just cooked up in his head, Phillip said “yes”. That “yes” and the work of the Spirit in the Eunuch’s life had eternal significance. There is something so beautiful in the simplicity of this passage. God using His messengers to share His love, and witnessing the life change of the Gospel before our eyes.

As you are reading this devotional today, I am sure each of us can recall “the invitation” that helped play a part in our salvation story. For some, it might have been a friend inviting you to come to church one Sunday, or a colleague inviting you to a Christmas service, or, if you are like me, the enticement of a free lunch after service with your grandparents. No matter your invitation story, I think we can all agree it played a part in the most important decision of your life.

I wonder today who God might be calling you to invite. Whose story He wants you to be a part of. Would you join me in praying today that God would allow us to play a role in someone’s life like Phillip was to the Eunuch?

Friends, life change truly is an invitation away. The power of the Gospel never ceases to amaze me.

Taylor Bennington

May 11 – What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

Read Acts 2:42-47

When I think of church, I think of _________________.

-Vacation Bible School with Mr. Steve and Mr. Randy.

-My Grace Group, past and present. 

-Years of Kalahari and Mission Trips. 

-Serving.

-Life change.

Now it’s your turn to fill in the blank. When you think of church, you think of _________________.

Whether your initial memories and feelings about church are positive or negative, there is probably something that comes to your mind when presented with the topic. The Bible is so clear that church is more than a building, feeling or experience – rather it is actually a movement. It’s a body. It’s not just talking about a church, but THE Church. 

Here’s what we know… the Church is for God, for us, and for the world (Acts 2:42-47). 

For God (v47) – The Church was created by God to glorify Him and to make His name known to the multitudes. It is the Church which brings God the greatest glory and that happens through our worship to Him in everything we do. When we are faithful in serving Him, He is also faithful to the promises that He has made to us and uses our lives to bring more people to Himself. 

For Us (v42-46) – The Church is a movement of people who have been saved by grace, through faith. It is a body of believers who have many personalities, passions, and gifts (1 Corinthians 12) that all have ONE mission – to share the gospel in whatever way they have been designed. This body of believers exists to encourage one another, to work together, and to live in community with each other.

For the World (v47) – Finally the Church exists for the world. Jesus declared that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). We are here to do the same, to serve and love others so that they might see the hope found in only Jesus and be saved! The Church did whatever they had to do to share the Good News of Jesus and because they were servant-minded, the Church grew! 

Now let’s step back and look at your life… 

Do you often remember that your life exists to glorify God? Does your circle of community include going to church, being involved with a Grace Group of other believers, and using the gifts you’ve been given to expand God’s Kingdom? Are you living servant-minded with the lost people around you? If the answer to any of those is ‘no’ then today is the day to make a change! Head to woostergrace.org to get plugged in and jump in to all that the Church was created to be!

Becca Harbaugh

November 2 – Philippians – Intro & Context

Read Acts 16:11-12 and Philippians 1:1

In northeastern Greece are the remains of what was once considered a major city in the day of Paul’s ministry. In fact, Acts 16 tells us that Philippi was the first “Jesus community” that Paul started in eastern Europe. You can read about Paul’s story starting late in Acts 7. After Paul gave his life to Christ, he spent the rest of his days relentlessly traveling around Turkey and Greece planting churches, training leaders and ministering to many. The New Testament from Romans to Jude are all letters that individuals wrote to gatherings of people. These letters are called “epistles”. No sooner do some hear the word “epistle” before they hear “Pauline” before it. Paul single- handedly wrote around 2/3 of the New Testament with such letters to churches that he has planted or to mentees in his ministry.

While these letters were written all throughout his journey, 4 of them were written while Paul was in prison. These are commonly referred to as the “Prison Epistles”. I still can’t fathom the dedication that it takes to be thrown into prison for doing what you have dedicated your life towards, only to think, “Oh, you know? I should probably check up on those churches I planted.” If you read Acts, you will soon find out that the guy never took a break.

Now, Philippi was known for its patriotic nationalism which, in turn, means that a good amount of them didn’t take too kindly to Paul’s teaching that Jesus was the Messiah and not Caesar. After Paul left Philippi, the followers of Christ there experienced much of the same resistance and persecution. Paul is writing this letter to them to encourage them and to also thank them for a financial gift they sent him while he was in prison.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

These words, which Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth, echo much of the same theme of Philippians. Paul encourages the Philippians that they need to see their story as a living expression of Jesus’ story. Throughout the book, you will see several examples of Paul telling the Philippians about imitation.

As you follow along with this study for the next 6 days, I challenge you to think about who your life is imitating. Do you claim to be a follower of Christ? Is this public knowledge? When people see you, do they see Jesus? Paul tells the Philippians at one point that, “for me to live is Christ”. Paul wanted the only word people could say about him, after seeing how he lived and carried himself, to be “Christ”.

Do people think the same about you?

Do they see any difference between their life and yours? Just as Paul encouraged the Philippians to follow after and imitate Christ, we should heed the same challenge.

Come with me as we study Philippians.

Jake Lawson

October 17 – BLESS – What does this mean to you?

Read Acts 8:26-40

Imagine the scene.

You’re called to the gates of Heaven. You’re at a loss for words because of the spectacular beauty that surrounds you. All of the stories and speculation that you heard during your earthly life come nowhere close to what you see. At that point in time, nothing else matters. You see the streets of gold and can feel the very presence of the Lord. At this point, you look off to the side to see a friend overcome with emotion. This is a friend that you had invited to church many times but were never really sure anything stuck with them. You tried to have spiritual conversations with them but, according to you, you didn’t get anywhere. They ended up accepting Christ! Through the tears, this friend says, “Thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”

You never really know the impact of investing in someone can have. You never know if you are the only Jesus they will ever experience. You don’t know that the time you passed up to talk to them was the last time you were ever going to talk to them. Your voice, your invitation, your care could be just what they need to turn the page in their life…turning the page to eternity with Christ.

What amazes me about this BLESS series that we have gone through is the deliberate layout of the letters. First, we learned that we need to begin with prayer. Next, we need to listen to others. We then find out ways that we can intentionally invest in others followed by identifying ways that we can serve them. All of these steps describe the framework that goes into softening their heart to the gospel. What amazes me is that there are 4 steps which take place before the gospel ever comes into the picture.

What does this show you?

To me, it shows that there is so much more to evangelism than the presentation. How are you going to present the gospel to someone that has no interest in hearing it? How are you going to present the gospel when the person isn’t really convinced you care about them and truly want what’s best for them?

In our reading today, Phillip exemplifies the BLESS acrostic well. It’s much more than a presentation. It’s about caring for, investing and guiding them towards Jesus.

It is our prayer that, through this BLESS series, you have been equipped and encouraged to invest in the lives of those around you like never before. We pray that you leave this series with a game plan of how you are going to reach those close to you with the hope of the gospel and live out each of the letters of BLESS.

You never know, your invitation may be what convinces them to cross from death to life.

Jake Lawson

July 20 – United: Church – Acts 6

Read Acts 6:1-7

In today’s terms, the Jerusalem church was a “mega-church” from the day of its birth (Acts 2:41). But growth continued as more and more people came to faith in Jesus (Acts 2:47; 6:1). In fact, the most recent estimate of the size of the church had the number of men alone at about 5,000 (Acts 4:4). With growth came challenges to their unity. Having begun as a diverse group from many different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds (Acts 2:5-11), those differences had caused division.

Early on, the church had given attention to serving the marginalized in their midst. Widows were among them. These women without husbands had real needs. The church had assumed the responsibility of providing food for them every day. God was using His people to give to these widows their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).

Unfortunately, some of the widows were being overlooked. It didn’t seem to be the result of random oversight. Instead, it was specifically the Jews with a Greek background. They were not receiving food.

Thankfully, the apostles wisely chose not to set aside their own calling. They did, however, develop a plan for addressing the problem…a plan that incorporated other people. The plan did not erase the differences, but it did address the disunity. In just a short time, unity was restored and the Jerusalem church became a multiplying movement once again (Acts 6:7).

Did you know that God seems to glory in the dimensions of diversity of His church? Whether male or female, regardless of income, independent of employment status, irrespective of ethnic background, and unrelated to mother tongue (Gal. 3:28; Rev. 5:9), we are all one in Jesus. But with differences comes the potential for disunity. We must guard against that, lest our Christian witness be diminished!

Perhaps one of the greatest differences represented in the 21st century church is age related. Those differences have become so defined that sociologists have even developed names and stereotypes for different generations (builders, boomers, generation X, millennials, and generation Z). Which generation are you? How do you relate to the others?

But the unity of the church is preserved when we intentionally seek to cross the invisible lines of demarcation. Unity is preserved when we intentionally engage with, love, and serve those different from us. Unity is preserved when we intentionally take the first step in the direction of others different from us. By keeping disunity at bay, the gospel can move forward without hindrance.

Steve Kern

July 7 – United: Country – Acts 2

Read Acts 2:38-47

I married my opposite. Just last night we were having a heated “discussion.” We want the same things but the expanse between us is like trekking through a briar patch. I always get my feelings hurt. He always has a strong opinion expressed in a stern tone. He’s kind, but intense and I want to escape. It’s been our pattern for 38 years.

I know…that’s a long time. I used to say Jesus is the glue that holds us together. Now I say, surrender to Jesus is the glue that holds us together. After all of these years, through smooth waters and briar patches, we are still each other’s favorite people. Being able to let go of offenses and move our preferences behind what Jesus wants can feel impossible, but, by God’s grace, it is possible, and we have a pretty beautiful relationship.

Acts 2 tells us the believers enjoyed the favor of all the people. That’s a tall order. Favor isn’t given out easily. How did these Jesus followers not only gain the notice of their community but also their favor?

In verse 38, Peter told the people, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Ahhh…the precious Holy Spirit. He is our unifier, the source of our life change, our surrender, and our belonging. The Spirit takes a church full of opposites and unites them in purpose and power. If they will let Him.

If they will remain steadfast in remembering what they have in common. If they will lay down offenses, preferences, and disappointments and trade them for Spirit led lives devoted to the truth, to fellowship and prayer, and to sharing with anyone in need. These believers were experiencing the power of the Spirit and were full of generosity and consistency. All the good fruit of the Spirit was wrapped up in their glad and sincere hearts full of praise. Sounds like a pretty healthy body to be a part of, doesn’t it?

We can be sure they had differences, but in their grace-rooted surrender they found some glue to hold them together. In their submission and obedience to the same Spirit, they shared common desires and goals. Their uncommon actions were renowned for being full of love and faithfulness. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The whole reason the church is on the planet!

We have to get this right. I’ve never witnessed a more divided world, and worse yet, splintered body of Christ. Satan is loving our division and the Holy Spirit is grieving. I don’t want to be a part of that and our families, neighbors, country, and world deserve better from us. They’re longing to see the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives. It starts when we look in the mirror and ask God to reveal where we are a source of division instead of unity.

Ask Him who you need to get in touch with to restore your relationship and take a step toward unity? I know who I’m going to call.

Shelly Eberly