May 24 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ ascension

Read Acts 1:9-11

“…after he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from them. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”


Can you imagine standing there talking to Jesus and all of a sudden, He is floating up into the sky? 

Talk about a defining moment! 

What did the disciples do?  The Bible says that:

“First, they worshiped, then returned to tell others about it!”

That is the same thing the shepherds had done after they heard of Jesus birth from a choir of angels!

They couldn’t contain themselves!  They had to go tell about what they had seen and heard!

Can you imagine the conversation among themselves, reliving that moment over and over?  Then after they were filled with the Holy Spirit, with new strength, confidence and determination they went out into the world to share what they had been eye witnesses to. They  faced prison, persecution and death but they still continued to tell their story!

They couldn’t be quieted!  They had seen for themselves the power of God and HAD to share it!  Thank God they did, because here we are 2,000 years later and their eye witness testimonies are still being told!

If you are a follower of Christ, what was your defining moment? Was it at a church service, youth camp, at the bedside of a dying parent or friend?   Where was it? Have you told anyone or have you kept it to yourself?  Do your kids know when you met Jesus? How about your spouse, your neighbors, friends, or coworkers?   If not, what is holding you back?

The best part of this Scripture is that Jesus is coming back just like He and the angels said!

I get goosebumps just thinking about that glorious sight that the disciples saw so many years ago and is promised to us at His second coming:

“And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound

and the Lord shall descend,

Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!

Oh, my Soul!”

Are you looking forward to Christ’s return?

Will you welcome Him with open arms or will you want to run and hide your eyes? Can you proclaim….

“What a day that will be

When my Jesus I shall see

When I look upon His face

The one who saved me by His grace

When He takes me by the hand?

and leads me to the Promised Land

What a day, GLORIOUS day that will be!”

Pat Arnold

May 23 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ resurrection

Read Luke 24:1-49

My husband, Keith, grew up on a farm on a dead-end road. There’s a sign by the end of the driveway warning ‘no outlet,’ and yet, car after car proceeds past it only to turn around when they realize the warning was, indeed, true.

Why do we insist on checking out all the possibilities only to find them dead ends?

Here’s a deeper question. Why are we prone to look for the living among the dead?

We knock on wood.

We hope for the best.

We dig deep within ourselves.

We consult all of the voices of wisdom at our fingertips.

And we find ourselves back at square one. Out of luck. Living far from the ‘best.’ Exhausted. Misguided, or worse yet, deceived.

Since the moment I first read it, the imagery of Psalm 115 has captured my mind and heart. We read:

“idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”


All that we erect in our hearts and all that we bow down to rooted in ourselves and the world is dead.

There’s no help there.

No salvation.

No rest.

No hope.


the resurrected Jesus showed himself to a couple of dead souls walking down a road. They were sad. Disappointed. Jesus had been their hope of a better present and future and they believed He was dead.

And Jesus did what he always does. He revealed himself as they could take Him in. He gave them some history. Some reasons why they might want to look His way. And then, when they got to their destination, He kept walking.

“Wait, please come in and stay with us!”

And He did.

Jesus, our living Savior, wants to be invited in to stay.

“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”

Revelation 3:20

Our God is alive, relational, present, listening, speaking, tasting, seeing, and more! Oh, how I want to be like Him.

Do you?

Shelly Eberly

May 22 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ crucifixion

Read Luke 23:1-56

Raising of the Cross”


The painting “Raising of the Cross” depicts the crucifixion of Christ. Notice the man at the foot of the cross wearing a blue painter’s beret.  Obviously, this man is not from the 1st century – this man looks out of place.  And yet, there he stands, lifting the cross with the others. Who is this man? 

It is Rembrandt himself, who has pictured himself at the foot of the cross.

Why did Rembrandt place himself at the foot of the cross as Jesus is lifted up, and crucified?   For no other reason than to tell the world, that he, Rembrandt, was a sinner.  His sins, like the rest of mankind’s, sent Christ to the cross. Rembrandt recognized himself as a man of rebellion, who chose repentance, and received redemption.

At the crucifixion of Jesus there were 3 crosses:

A cross of rebellion (Luke 23:39)

The cross of rebellion held the thief that remained bitter in his heart.  We see the rebellion in the Roman Government who was indifferent; in the crowd who was hard-hearted; in the Jewish leaders who were hostile; and in the thief who completely rejected Christ.  This thief saw and heard the same things that the other thief saw and heard, but chose to remain in a state of rebellion to Christ.

A cross of repentance (Luke 23:40-43)

At the cross of repentance, we have the other thief.  This thief acknowledged the justice of God in the punishment of his sin. He acknowledged Jesus as Lord.  His salvation was personal, secure, and guaranteed by the words of Jesus.  The cross of repentance teaches us that the way of salvation is simple.  The thief was saved simply by asking the Lord to save him.  Because this thief asked Jesus to be forgiven and to enter into paradise, he received redemption.

The cross of redemption (Luke 23:47)

The cross of redemption, on which Jesus was crucified and died, provided redemption for those who chose to believe.  Christ’s voluntary sacrifice at the crucifixion was a defining moment of Christianity. Christ’s last statement on the cross was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

In this statement He:

Completed all Old Testament prophecy.

Completed the ceremonial law.

Completed the work of man’s redemption and salvation.

Man now has the ability to appear before a holy God,

man is reconciled to a holy God,

and man is considered righteous before a holy God.

Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection was the biggest defining moment of all! Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have eternal life!

This is your defining moment!

You have a choice:

Remain at the cross of rebellion or move to the cross of repentance.

Jesus was in the middle of the 2 thieves.  Both thieves were guilty of sin and both had a choice to make with eternal results: life with Christ or a life without Him. 

Rembrandt chose the cross of repentance.  He knew that his sin put Christ on the cross.  Do you realize that your sins also, put Christ on the cross? 

What will you choose today?  Look at the picture again, but this time, picture yourself in the place of Rembrandt at the foot of the cross. 

I call Heaven and earth to witness against you today,

that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. 

So choose life in order that you may live….

Deuteronomy 30:19

Your choice, will be your defining moment!

Janene Nagel

May 21 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ temptation

Read Luke 4:1-13 and 22:39-46

“Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”Luke 22:46

Recently, my wife, Birdie and I had pretty good seats for a Petra concert at the Akron Civic Theater.

One of their songs is titled, “Who’s on the Lord’s side?”

Wow! What lyrics!

“You’ve been running

…for a long time…

You better get right while

He may be found.”

“You better choose this day – tomorrow’s not promised to you.”

In Luke 22, Jesus said, “Get up.”

Are you actively working at and dealing with temptation? If not, this can lead to a falling of your faith.

Jesus is talking to His disciples, who were sleeping. They were exhausted, a time that a person is vulnerable to fall into temptation. Jesus was fasting and had not eaten in 40 days (See Luke 4). So, His hunger was great and His resistance was low.

At times like this, the devil seems to make temptations seem attractive.

We all have our weaknesses and temptations. It could be drugs, adultery, stealing, corruption, homosexuality, drunkenness, lying and more.

Be alert. Stand firm. Temptation is not a sin. But how we deal with it might be. You may have to turn around and run the other way. Ask God for direction.

Stay alert!

In Luke 4, Jesus was alert and He stood firm. He refused to give in to the temptation of Satan.

What a defining moment.

Then, having been repulsed twice by Scripture, the devil quotes scripture to try to tempt Jesus in 4:10-11. Jesus responded with complete trust in God (v 12).

“He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, full of grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”Luke 22:45-46

Get up. Hit the devil with a scripture verse such as this one: “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Luke 4:8.

Memorize it.

Run from temptation. Run. Turn around and go the other way.

Pray for strength!

Tom Weckesser

May 20 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ baptism

Read Luke 3:1-38

When we consider that God incarnate would submit Himself to be baptized by a mere human, it is powerful.  The opening of the Heavens and the Spirit descending as a dove (Luke 3:23) are moments where Jesus hits a newly recognizable level;


However, there is a verse in Luke chapter 3 that is set apart as a defining moment in this account. It reads as:

“Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’

Luke 3:12

The value of society’s collective hate for the ancient tax collector cannot be understood in full by our present-day culture.  It is hard to conceptualize the contempt for the ancient tax collector when Americans reap the value benefit of tax breaks that we get when we give to church and charity. I am not saying that any of us like paying taxes or that we don’t see deep flaws and live frustration among the political landscape and the IRS code.  However, our current tax brackets, write offs and refunds pale in comparison in generating the hate that the ancient world tax collector felt.  The ancient world collector was a cheat and liar who capitalized fortune off of common people while exploiting the poor.  But, in this defining moment, even the tax collector was baptized and (don’t lose sight of this), was baptized chronologically before Jesus the Messiah.

Luke chapter three is clear; John’s words were powerful, cutting and convicting.  He was bold and different. Who else had so boldly stood up for justice while calling for the repentance of sin (verses 3-9) among all people? He even had the tenacity to call out Herod, the tetrarch, on a godless marriage and “all the other evil things he had done” (verses 18-19).  This led to people thinking in their hearts that he must have been the Messiah (verse 15).  Yet, the one who was greater, the true Messiah, Jesus seeks baptism from John…just like the tax collector did!

This defining moment strengthens the reality of incarnation: God among sinful people.

Ancient religions throughout the world carry a similar theme: Powerful god/gods/goddesses existing in realms of superiority where the acceptance of the human race is contingent on approval measured by efforts, ceremony and ritual.  However, the one that stands defined, set apart exclusively, is the one where the incarnate walks in the footsteps of the tax collector and brings God to live among the level of those who need Him most.

Do you ever feel that what you have done holds you back from the full life you have in Christ? This defining moment is so powerful because even the most hated in that culture was responding to the good news of Jesus and finding new life in Him…even before His ministry started!

Who you were and what you have done doesn’t disqualify you from the hope of Jesus. In Jesus, you have forgiveness and a new life!

In what way have you discovered the glory of your new life in Christ? What impact has His forgiveness made in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Joe Rubino

May 19 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ birth

Read Luke 2:1-52

I don’t know about you, but one of the most defining moments in Jake’s and my life was when Mattie was born. Here we were, this young couple, married just under 2 years, with a baby about to be born. I mean, it was a lot and we still had a lot to mature in and figure out, even when it came to a successful marriage. There we were, welcoming a tiny human into our lives and hearts…everything changed as we knew it. Time was spent differently, Money was looked at more closely…

Nothing would ever be the same after this baby boy.

In Luke 2, we not only see the defining moment of a young couple’s life changing, but we see prophecy come to be fulfilled.

The story of Jesus’ birth is just the beginning of things changing for Israel and the Gentiles. Little did most everyone know that this tiny human would also be sovereign, save mankind, and go on to be one of the greatest teachers of all time. 

For so many years, people prepared for the birth of the Messiah. Not only prepared but did so with expectation and prepared with anticipation.

Now, here He was.

There is a song that the Worship team introduced our church to at Christmas of 2020 which always comes to mind when I think of the birth of Jesus. The lyrics read: 

You can see my promise
Even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child, oh

Though the winter is long even richer
The harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs even greater
Your promise for me like a seed
I believe that my season will come
And when I finally see my tree
Still I believe there’s a season to come

Like a seed You were sown

For the sake of us all

From Bethlehem’s soil

Grew Calvary’s sequoia

You see, the defining moment of Jesus’ birth was so much greater than changing the lives of two young people…the Lord used Mary and Joseph as vessels to bring forth a greater plan that would be Jesus’ rise, fall and, ultimately, His victory.

One of the main issues people have with Jesus is that they don’t see Him for who He is. Jesus wasn’t just another baby, He was/is the Son of the living God! This baby would turn water into wine, heal the sick and raise people from the dead…including Himself! This baby would give His life so that those who believe in Him can have the hope of eternal life!

What place does Jesus have in your life? Are you actively giving Him the praise that He deserves? Just as this baby grew to change the world as we know it, He can and will do the same in your life, if you let Him.

Kelly Lawson

May 18 – Defining Moments – Paul

Read Acts 9:1-43

One of the things I enjoy the most about being a part of the body of believers at Grace Church is baptism.  It is so powerful to hear the stories of life transformation that has taken place in the lives of believers.  Everyone has a different story, but we all have one thing in common: 

Our lives have been eternally impacted by Jesus and we will never be the same.

Perhaps the most impactful conversion story I have ever read is that of the apostle Paul, which is recorded in our reading today of Acts 9.

The apostle Paul (then Saul) was a man bent on persecuting Christians. This chapter begins by telling us that Saul was “breathing threats and murder” against the followers of Jesus.  Just chapters before, we see Saul giving the consent to the murder of Stephen. This event was witnessed by and given the stamp of approval by Saul.

Saul was well versed in the Old Testament.  He was a Pharisee and was educated by Gamaliel, who was one of the most notable teachers of the Jewish Law.  But Saul wanted to stop the spread of this new religious sect known as “The Way”.  He wanted to devote himself to seeing those who were followers of Jesus persecuted, imprisoned, or even killed because of their faith.

While on a trip to Damascus to arrest the Christians there, he had a life changing moment.  An event that would not only change his life for eternity but also an impact so massive that we are still seeing its effect today.

During his journey, a light from heaven flashed around him and Saul heard a voice calling out to him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks and made certain that he would never be the same again.

Jesus was no longer physically on the earth.  If you persecute followers of Jesus, you are persecuting Him.

Given the history of the persecution of the early church by Saul, it would be safe to say that the believers there would not have been very likely to trust Saul.  It would be as if Osama Bin Laden, who spent decades of his life terrorizing the United States, showed up in our country and claimed to be a devout patriot of the United States. 

Crazy. Very unlikely.

Yet, this is precisely what God did.  There was no going back to the old way of life for Saul.  At that very moment, his life was changed forever.  The passion he once had for persecuting the followers of Jesus was replaced with a desire to see all people (Jews and Gentiles) come to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is available in Jesus alone.

The man who once sought to destroy the church would now be a church planter.  He would be shipwrecked, stoned, and left for dead, beaten, imprisoned, and whipped for his faith.  The one who sought to stop the growth of the Christian faith now became its most important missionary. Saul would become Paul and would author the majority of the New Testament, preach, and teach the gospel and ultimately give his life for this faith in the one he once persecuted, Jesus.

Just as Jesus did the miraculous in Paul’s life, He can do the same with you.

Are you holding onto anything that you should surrender to Him? Are you in a place where you are able to be used by God?

If you open yourself up to God and His plan for your life, it’s safe to say the world could very well never be the same.

Nate Mills

May 17 – Defining Moments – Stephen

Read Acts 6:8-7:60

Who do you look up to? 

A teacher, athlete, actor, friend? 

I have some friends who I greatly admire.  These friends, first and foremost, love the Lord and their families.  But, I’d have to say, the people I look up to most are my parents.  My mom was a Proverbs 31 woman.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Proverbs 31:30

She supported my dad, served in her church, cared for her family and had an inner beauty that was unmatched.  My dad is a disciplined man, who serves in his church and was extremely successful in the business world, working with a high standard of ethics for himself and those who worked under him.

“They chose Stephen a man full of faith and the Holy spirit…

Stephen, a man full of God’s grace …

they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke…

he had the face of an angel.” Acts 6:6,8,10,15

Stephen was a man to “look up” to.  He was a man of faith, grace and wisdom. He was chosen to help care for the widows and for distribution of food.  The Jews began to argue with Stephen, but could not stand up to his wisdom, given him by the Spirit.  So, in their anger, they seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin where he was falsely accused of blasphemy.  Stephen spoke of their history –   Abraham to Moses, and to Jesus the “Righteous One”.  Stephen rebuked them for their unbelief. 

“…they killed those predicting the coming of the Righteous One. 

And now you have betrayed and murdered Him” Acts 7:52

At this they took Stephen outside and stoned him to death. 

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit,

looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God,

and Jesus standing at the Right Hand of God”Acts 7:55

In his suffering, Stephen looked up and saw the heavens “rolled back like a scroll” (Rev 6:14).

Did you catch that? 

He saw Jesus, STANDING! 

Jesus who is “seated at the Right Hand of God” (Luke 22:69, Hebrews 12:2), is standing!  Jesus saw the suffering of Stephen and stood up for him.  When Jesus sees you suffering, know that He stands up for you!  Jesus took on our nature and took that nature-flesh back to Heaven, so that He could be seen by human eyes-Stephen’s eyes. Jesus, through His death on the cross, tore the veil that separated us from Heaven. Heaven is now opened up to man and Stephen is able to commune with God. Stephen was in the presence of the Omnipresent God.

This presence gave Stephen strength in the midst of his suffering.

It gave Stephen hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.

It gave Stephen peace in the midst of a violent scene.

Stephen chose to look Heavenward, physically with his eyes and spiritually with his heart. This defining moment in Stephens’ life, wasn’t the fact that he was stoned, or that he spoke truth, and was willing to die for the truth. 

The defining moment in Stephen’s life was looking up at the exalted and standing King.

Where do you look for strength? Do you look up to people in your life?  The people we choose to look up to should point us to Christ. Are others looking up to you? For those who may be looking up to you, do you point them to Christ?

“Look up” to the God who created the heavens and all their glory and is our strength. The God who gave His Son for our salvation and is our hope. The God who promises His constant presence, who is our peace.

Begin today, to define your moments, by “looking up.”

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up…”  Acts 7:55

Janene Nagel

May 16 – Defining Moments – Nathan and David

Read Psalm 51:1-19 and 2 Samuel 12:1-14

Until Nathan confronted him, David was stuck in his own secret prison of shame from the darkness of what he’d done. “For I know my transgression, and my sin is always before me,” he’d written in Psalm 51. Not only had he taken the wife of another man, he’d secretly had that man murdered. So, I have to wonder if the exposing of David’s secret sins released a high-pressure valve in his heart as Nathan spoke on behalf of God.

All the shame and the guilt David had been carrying alone was found out.

Murder, adultery, lying, deceit.

He’d been trying to hide it in his heart, but God had seen it all. As soon as David heard that God knew his secrets, he was undone. So, he quickly confessed. And David’s broken confession became wholehearted repentance, a turning point for him.

“I have sinned against the LORD.”

2 Sam. 12:13a

We know from what he wrote in Psalm 51 that he missed the intimacy he had enjoyed with the Lord for so long. And so, spirit-crushed and utterly broken, David affirmed his wrongdoing and was forgiven just as soon as it was said.

“Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin.’”

2 Sam. 12:13b

David was a broken man who had fallen hard into sin and guilt and shame. I imagine it was among the darkest times of his life. But his brokenness was all that God required.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

Ps. 51:17

David needed to turn from his pride and stop trying to keep his shameful secrets from the only One who could save him from them.

Perhaps you can relate to the darkness of secret shame and the isolated prison of guilt. Maybe you need a turning point, too. Maybe you’re tired of trying to hide it from the God who already sees it. If so, this good news is for you! Come clean with God. Just agree with Him about the shame, let Him know that you know. Tell Him that you’re broken and seek forgiveness. He is ready to restore you, to walk you to the turning point just like He did with David. It’s time to turn to Him and let Him rebuild you.

It’s time for God to make you new.

Bria Wasson

May 15 – Defining Moments – David and Bathsheba

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-27

It all started out so innocently. 

There was no intention of sin when King David walked up on his roof one spring evening.  As he glanced out upon his kingdom, something caught his eye.  From the roof top of his palace in Jerusalem, he looked down and saw a beautiful woman bathing.  We all know better than to stick around and take a closer look.  And King David was no different.  In I Samuel 13:14, it says that David was “a man after God’s own heart”.  He was one who historically was obedient to the Lord, even in the craziest circumstances.

This time, David let his guard down.  The warning signs were flashing in his head.  STOP!  Do not take a second look!  She is not yours! However, David ignored the warning signs and. what started out as something innocent, ended up as adultery and murder.

It’s easy for us to read this and be judgmental about David.  He had to know better.  He was a married man; she was a married woman.  His mistake ends up in a plot to cover up his sinful act and, when that plan fails, he takes it a step further and has Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, put in the most dangerous place on the battlefield so that Uriah would end up being killed.

2 Samuel 11 is a section of scripture that should scare each one of us to death.  If King David, a man after God’s own heart, can fail, then we can all fail.

How can we make sure that we do not fall into this same pit that David did?

We must be proactive!

The first thing we all must do is to put up a wall. Keep the enemy out. Make it difficult to fall into temptation. The beginning of 2 Samuel 11 says “in the spring when kings march out to war”.  David sat this one out. He stayed at home and was not where he should have been.  How about you?  Are you visiting websites you shouldn’t?  Taking a second glance?  Reaching out to people of the opposite sex on a social media platform?  Communicating/flirting with someone who is not your spouse?  Staying up late when your spouse is in bed?

Another important part of the construction of your wall is accountability. We need to have people who are willing to ask us the difficult questions and challenge us when needed. These are people who are in the battle with you.  These are individuals who you want in your foxhole during a battle – people who encourage us, not by telling us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear.  The type of people who can peel you back like an onion and see how you are doing inside.  This takes openness and honesty on your part but is oh so vital.

Work on constructing your wall daily by studying the Word of God and spending time in daily prayer.  Make reading the Bible a priority.   Memorize the Word so that, when you are tempted, you have something to encourage you.  Spend time in prayer communicating with God.  Lean on God in times of trouble.

When you are tempted, do not fight alone.  Tell God about it in prayer.  Contact your accountability partners, your battle buddies, and let them fight with you.

If David could fall, we can too.  But if we have the proper boundaries in place, it will be more difficult to fail. 

Be proactive and build your wall!

Nate Mills