July 7 – Back to the Basics – The Holy Spirit

Read John 14:26

We’ve walked through many aspects of the basics of our faith in this series, from the Bible to the Trinity. The Trinity is God, the Father, Christ is the Son and then we have the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is God existing eternally in 3 persons. We may think 3 people, but they all are one. As a new believer, this may get a little confusing and you may wonder why, but I would encourage you to keep on reading.

Let’s look back at the gospels for just a moment.

Jesus walked the earth, the one Son of God, our Savior. He walked the earth, healing and restoring people, teaching and prophesying and, when He knew what was to come of His life and His resurrection, He knew we would still need Him. So, He sent His Spirit.

The Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been in a moment where your life seems to unravel? Where one thing after another happens and you aren’t sure how you’re going to get through it all?

I bet you have, we all have. Living in a fallen world, striving to follow Jesus, is not an easy task. However, as John points out, we are not alone.

The Holy Spirit is known as the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Counselor and many others. God sent His Spirit alongside us to guide and direct, to comfort and counsel, to point back to truth and To encourage us to live in such a way that glorifies the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is not someone to fear or reject. The Holy Spirit is a gift from our Savior and given to us to guide and direct. The choice though, to listen, is our own.

One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 4:14-16:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I love this passage so much, not just because we have Jesus who can relate and sympathize with our weakness, but, because of Jesus and the access through the Holy Spirit, we get to go before the throne room of God Himself.

This series is “Back to Basics” but there is nothing basic about the Holy Spirit.

I pray and encourage you, wherever you are, that you take a moment and just enter into the throne room and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, praise the Lord for who He is, what He has done and what He continues to do.

Kelly Lawson

July 6 – Back to the Basics – Jesus Christ

Read John 1:14

MercyMe recently played at The Alive Music Festival in Stark County in front of 10,000 people. They started to sing one of their songs titled WORD OF GOD SPEAK:

“Word of God speak, would you pour down like rain, washing my eyes to see, your majesty.”

And guess what? It actually started to rain at that moment. It was very memorable.

“Word of God” is another name for Jesus Christ. It is interesting to read about history and all the events that have happened on this earth before we got here. The Bible is about Jesus Christ and it’s the greatest history book ever written. Jesus Christ is called many names in the Bible, such as The Word (John 1:14), The Truth (John 1:14), Light of The World (John 8:12), Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16), The Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:6), Chief Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), Bread of Life (John 6:35), and Good Shepherd: (John 10:11).

It is written in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh.” This shows that Jesus existed before He took on the flesh of humanity. In the New Testament, “The Word of God” (1 Thess 1:8) is mostly good news from God. The word spoken by Jesus is truly the word from heaven.

Consider this: “Christianity is the only religion in the world that is based upon historical evidence. The evidence of Jesus Christ is absolutely overwhelming. No one can disbelieve in Christ because of a lack of evidence.” (James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion)

Jesus said that He would return from the grave. Then He did and it was witnessed by over 500 people. In all of the writings of Buddha (founder of Buddhism), Confucius (Chinese philosopher) and Lao-tse (Taoism) you will not find a single example of predicted prophecy. The glory of Jesus is revealed in His death, resurrection and the miracles that He performed. “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”. (John 2:11)

The Word of God is the message of the Bible and He said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – (Luke 10:27)

Isn’t this love something that we all can strive for? How are you going to do this?

Tom Weckesser

July 5 – Back to the Basics – Sin & Salvation

Read Romans 3:23, 10:9

Are you a sinner?

Am I a sinner?

What is sin?

Recently, we were on a long trip and I got a speeding ticket in another state. I have all sorts of excuses – I normally set the cruise just about the speed limit, the car ahead of me sped up every time I tried to pass, etc.

However, the fact is that I did something wrong and the officer simply called me on it.

This makes me think of an example I heard many years ago regarding sin. Let’s say you only had 3 thoughts a day, out of thousands, that would be displeasing to God (sin). That doesn’t sound so bad. However, if we look at that over the course of a year, that would be more than a thousand. And, if we add it up over the course of the average lifetime it would be over 75,000! Now, what if those were parking tickets? Can you imagine coming before a judge, with 75,000 parking tickets and expecting him to just ignore them? What do you think would happen?

The Bible sums this up very clearly: we are ALL sinners. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Bible also tells us that God is perfect (holy) and just and He requires that same from us.

So, God’s standard is perfection and none of us meet that standard – what do we do now!?

There’s nothing we can do, on our own, to ever meet God’s standard.

BUT, God knew we wouldn’t be able to go through life being perfect, so He made a way.

That “Way” is Jesus Christ.

He came to earth, lived a perfect life, willingly died on the cross in our place and rose from the dead. He paid the price for us, so we could be reconciled to God the Father and spend eternity with Him in heaven! So, the only thing we can do is to accept the free gift of forgiveness from Jesus Christ. We do this by humbly admitting to God that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and accepting Jesus as our Forgiver and striving to follow Him for the rest of our lives.

I don’t know about you but, when I think of who is better equipped to lead my life:

                An all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present God whose very nature is love

                                                                OR

                Me – a flawed, self-focused person who can only see a tiny part of the overall picture

I choose God!!

When we accept Jesus as Forgiver and Leader, an incredible thing happens: our sins, everything we have done or will ever do wrong, gets transferred to Jesus AND we, in turn, get this righteousness of Jesus. This means that now, when God the Father sees us, He no longer sees our wrongdoing but, instead, sees the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ!

So, what is holding you back from being forgiven and entering into a relationship with the God of the universe?

Don’t let anything stand in your way – accept God’s forgiveness today.

It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make!

Mike Molter

July 4 – Back to the Basics – Creation

Read Genesis 1:1 and Colossians 1:16

“In the beginning, God created…”

When sharing the Gospel message to the unbeliever, this is the beginning!  We so often overlook this important truth when discussing the Gospel, but did you know that this is often the truth claim that presents the biggest hurdle for believers and non-believers alike?  It’s important to focus on this truth, because without establishing God as Creator, the rest of the Gospel message just sounds like a nice idea, or a good story.             

The claim that God created everything explicitly states that He created it.  All of it. By Himself. More quietly, though, it implicitly states several other things.  I pray that by considering these out-workings of Creation, you are drawn to conviction and praise of God the Creator!  

First, if He created it, He owns it! God owns his Creation.  And after reading Colossians 1:16, there should be no doubt about how much of our physical world He is responsible for! God is the rightful owner of it all, which grants Him dominion over it!  Dominion means “ruling or controlling power”, which means He makes the rules, and all perfect understanding can be found in Him!  His dominion is the reason for the moral certainty of Christianity.  The scientific laws that govern our physical universe and the moral laws that are universally accepted in our society can be known and trusted because God is Creator!

Secondly, if He created it, it is good!  We know this because God is good (goodness), and God doesn’t change (immutable).  This means that God doesn’t stop being good for a moment in order to do something dastardly. If God is good, then there must be some other reason for things that we perceive in God’s Creation as not good. 

Lastly, if He created it, it ultimately answers to Him! This is perhaps the most difficult thing for sinners to accept.  The Bible says that ‘even the rocks cry out to Him’… how much more then should we?  If God created it, He owns it, we know that it is good, and we are compelled to accept His Lordship over all that makes up our lives.  For sinful hearts that yearn for self-control and self-determination, this can be difficult. 

As you ponder God’s creation, let us pray and consider the aspects of Creation that affect the Gospel; the bigger story about God loving us so much that He pursues us even to the death and crucifixion of His Son.  Science, culture, and even well-intentioned Christians debate methods, time frames, and specifics of Creation that are awesome things to ponder, and make for super interesting reading.  When boiled down, however, the ultimate implication of God as Creator is that He owns it, He is Lord over it all, and it is Good! 

When we see this truth properly, we can submit to Him with full confidence in our salvation.  Spend some time marveling at God’s Creation, and thanking Him for the complex beauty that makes up our world. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Craig French

July 3 – Back to the Basics – The Trinity

Read Matthew 3:13-17

In the first century, many came to John to be baptized. Their baptism served as a statement of their personal repentance. Meanwhile, Jesus, being the perfect Son of God, never sinned and did not need to repent. It is no wonder John hesitated about baptizing Him! Still, Jesus allowed it as a demonstration of His commitment to the righteous desires of God and, perhaps, as a precursor to His future identification with the sins of men and women.

But, our focus today is on the audio-visual experience that followed His baptism. As Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased (Matt. 3:17).” The baptism of Jesus, you see, is one of the clearest demonstrations of the trinity.

What do we mean when we say “trinity”? If we add a letter to the word, we gain some insight…tri-unity. One God, three persons. This biblical truth is summarized in our church Bylaws: “There is one, and only one, true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the Creator and Lord of all, existing eternally in three persons, never less and never more – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

We worship and serve one God. That’s right, we are monotheists. Moses made it clear that “the Lord our God is one… (Deut. 6:4).” He is not one among many. There is no one who rivals Him in power and authority. No wonder He warns us about having any other gods before Him (Ex. 20:3). He and He alone is deserving of our concentrated devotion and service.

This one God has existed from eternity past as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, we are not surprised to read how the Bible elaborates, for example, on the opening description of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). In the New Testament, we discover that it was Jesus who played a key role in that creative process (Jn. 1:10; Col. 1:15, 16; Heb. 1:1, 2). Meanwhile, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the earth as the creation process unfolded (Gen. 1:2).

This one God existing eternally as three persons is not only responsible for creation, He is the One capable of making you and me into New Creations. And He is the One deserving of our unwavering fidelity.

Steve Kern

July 2 – Back to the Basics – The Bible

Read Jeremiah 9:23-24 and Proverbs 9:10

Many of you reading this have been in some sort of relationship where you wanted to spend every waking hour with someone.  And when you were not together, you would talk on the phone for hours on end.  Some of you may even remember life prior to cell phones and the ancient technique of writing a love letter. Can you remember the joy of opening up that love letter?  You couldn’t wait to hear from your loved one.  You couldn’t wait to learn more about them and fall further in love with them. 

If we claim to love God more than anyone or anything else, then why do we struggle to spend time in His love letter to us, His Word?  Sadly, I’ve heard many friends over the years tell me how they wish they just had the time to get into the Bible. However, they had plenty of time to watch the game, work on their hobby, and binge watch the next show on Netflix. 

And yet you say you love God?  And you don’t want to hear from Him? 

The Bible is the revelation of the character and will of God.  It tells us who He is and how we can live in relationship to Him. Not only does it reveal to us who God is but it also describes who we are, our human existence and why we are here on earth, where we are going and why it matters.

It is not just enough to know things about God but KNOWING Him means everything – the type of intimate knowledge that a husband and wife have for each other. A couple know the likes and dislikes of their spouse.  What they love, what they hate.  And the great thing about the Bible is that it teaches us the attributes of God, the characteristics of God and He never changes.  His Word never changes.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:

“This is what the Lord says:

‘The wise person should not boast in his wisdom;

the strong should not boast in his strength;

the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.

But the one who boasts should boast in this:

that he understands and knows me

that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,

justice, and righteousness on the earth,

for I delight in these things.’

This is the Lord’s declaration.”

Proverbs 9:10 says:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

We come to know Him through his Word.

I could go on about Scripture verses that point out the importance of knowing Him.  One of my favorite quotes is from C.H. Spurgeon who said “a Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t”. 

Brush the dust off of your Bible!  Set a time aside to study it daily.  Study it to know Him more and more daily. 

Make it a priority.

If you need a reminder to do it, let me ask you this: what is stealing time away from the Lord?  Is it the TV?  Set your Bible on the remote.  Is it video games?  Set your Bible on your gaming station.  Spending too much time on social media?  Put the Bible app where your social media apps once were. 

How much do you love the Lord?  Do you want to know Him more?  The Bible is a great way to spend time with Him daily.

Nate Mills

July 1 – Back to the Basics

Read Proverbs 2:1-5

This past year I had my students write “how-to” paragraphs. They had to pick something they knew how to do, and write the steps needed to do the task. One particular seven year old wrote about playing baseball. He had just joined his first baseball team and was so excited to write all about what he knew after two weeks of practice, as if he knew everything now. He wrote about how to throw the ball correctly – step with your left foot, throw with your right arm. Next, he described the basics of hitting – when the pitcher throws the ball, you should swing the bat and hit the ball. (If only it was that easy!)  Finally, when you hit the ball, he explained you should run to first base as fast as you can. It was a simple explanation and he was exactly right with his instructions. A good ball player will remember to do the basics every time he plays. A good coach will bring a team back to the basics of a game when they get in a rut or experience a losing streak. The point is to remind the players to return to the simple things that work, those that are most effective and are key to playing well.

Do you ever feel stuck or as if you are falling behind in your walk with God? I know I have experienced that from time to time. I don’t stop believing in God, I just slow my pursuit of Him and let other relationships or commitments take precedence. When this happens, I need to recognize it and do something to get back on track.  I need to get back to the basics of my faith and start practicing the simple things that make my relationship with the Lord so valuable. We could all learn how to get back to the basics of our faith whether we are currently in a dry season or to have a plan for when those seasons come.

Just as in baseball, there are some basics to our faith. Proverbs 2: 1-5 teaches us to actively search for God’s wisdom–the basics of our faith, found in the Word of God. We need to spend time making sense of what we learn from that search, and then we need to live our lives according to the knowledge and understanding we find. Over the next several days, we will be learning about those basic truths that are foundational to our faith. Whether you are a rookie or a seasoned veteran of the faith, I hope you will read with an open heart and mind in order to solidify your faith foundation. The fundamentals of our faith are key to our everlasting relationship with Christ. While the ability to do simple things is not what earns us salvation, it does deepen our understanding of God. It helps us get to know the One who loves us so much He was willing to die for us. It helps us be able to extend that same grace to others. Having a firm handle on these basic truths prepares us to give an answer for the hope we have because of Christ.

As you finish reading today, take a minute to reflect on your own relationship with God. Are you in a rut or struggling to connect with God? Do you have a firm understanding of what you profess to believe? In a quiet moment of prayer, ask God to show you an area that needs a little tune-up or revival. Getting back to the basics will only make us all better.

Tammy Finney