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

May 10 – What Does the Bible Say About Marriage/Co-habitating?

Read Genesis 2:18-25

What does the Bible say about marriage?

Wow! It says quite a bit…and these 400 words are supposed to summarize all of that? Well, we certainly won’t address every detail, but let’s bullet point a few of the biggest takeaways. Whether you are married, single and wishing you were married, or have influence in the lives of others fitting into the above two categories, God’s word provides some important insights. Here we go!

Not everyone should marry! That may seem like an unusual place to start, but it is important to understand. Both Paul and Jesus point out that single life can be leveraged for the sake of singular focus of service for God and His kingdom (Matt. 19:11, 12; 1 Cor. 7:8, 9, 25-38). If you feel like you are missing out on something because you are not married or in a romantic relationship, you may actually be uniquely positioned to serve God and others.

Marriage involves a man and a woman! The Lord created men and women as beings with gender defined by anatomy. Beyond telling the story of the first marriage in this passage, Moses also draws out a principle for all time. Within marriage, a man and a woman leave and cleave (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5).

Marriage is the context for sexual expression! Indeed, God created men and women as individuals capable of sexual intimacy. But the One who created this intimacy also defined the context for its expression. The appropriate context is in a marriage relationship between a husband and a wife (1 Cor. 6:12-7:5).

Marriage requires love and respect! Both Paul and Peter outline the importance of those qualities for the marriage relationship. Just as in the relationship between Christ and the church, husbands are to love unconditionally and sacrificially. Wives are to demonstrate respect (Eph. 5:21-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).

Marriage was intended for a lifetime! That is part of the “one flesh” relationship. As we have often heard repeated in marriage ceremonies, “What God has joined together, let no one separate!” Divorce was never intended as an option for people. In fact, it is often a reflection of hardened hearts (Matt. 19:1-12).

The Bible makes some bold statements that define God’s intentions for marriage the way He designed it. There is blessing in pursuing His design!

Steve Kern

April 30 – Say What Now? – “Leave your Country, Family and Land and I’ll Give You a Nation, Name and Blessing”

Read Genesis 12:1-5

Abraham’s story is one of my favorites, maybe because of the trust exchange between Abraham and God. 

I’m so glad I’ve been re-reading Abraham’s story recently. 

As most know, Jake and I are expecting a baby girl, Emma, due in October. Trusting the Lord to try again after losing our baby last August was harder than I thought it would be. A good friend would ask me, “Are you scared? Are you ready?” I would always answer “Yes!” and “Yes!” I think it was because of the trust I have in Jesus. 

Knowing and believing the Kingdom perspective and knowing that Jesus changes everything helps my journey to sustain my trust in the Lord. Jake and I believe in a loving God who only has the best in mind for us, our family and our children. He is a God who loves us more than we will ever know. 

However, it is not always easy to trust. 

If you read Abraham’s story and think “he must be a super spiritual guy to be able to trust the Lord with all He asked Abraham to do”, the answer is no. Abraham was a normal guy just like you and me. He knew the Lord, He knew the power that God processed and He trusted Him because of his personal relationship with God. 

I think the difference between those who trust the Lord and those who do not is the question, “How well do you know God?”. 

Knowledge doesn’t equal intimacy and lack of intimacy equals lack of trust. 

I compare this to our closest relationship. For me, this is Jake. I don’t trust him just because I know about him, I trust him because I know him. I know him better than most. I see things most do not and vice versa. There is a trust exchange much like between Abraham and the Lord. 

When you look at your life, can you say that you fully and intimately know the Lord? In that intimacy with Jesus comes the trust exchange.

Do you have that? 

Charles Swindoll’s book “So You Want to Be Like Christ” dives into the notion that knowledge does not equal intimacy. He says in chapter three while focusing on slowing our pace through silence and solitude that “If you refuse to be still, if you do not seek times for silence and solitude, you may gain some knowledge about God without knowing Him at all”.

Abraham knew the Lord intimately and, therefore, the depth of trust was built. Asking Abraham to leave his home may have been scary and filled with uncertainty, but it was nothing compared to knowing and trusting his Lord and following after Him. 

Where are you? Are you filled with a depth of intimacy that allows for a trust exchange to grow or are you focused on knowledge and pride of pedigree?

As you read through Abraham’s story, put yourself in his shoes and see what your choice would be.

Kelly Lawson

April 26 – Say What Now? – “Build an Ark and I’ll Bring the Flood”

Read Genesis 9:6-22

We often see Noah’s ark depicted as a cartoon type of boat with a giraffe’s head sticking out of the top and an elephant squeezed onto the deck with a lion standing beside. It was really hard to imagine how large the ark would have been, let alone how 8 people could have possibly taken care of that many animals, feeding them and keeping them from killing each other. 

The details leave us with more questions than answers. How could such a vehicle be designed and constructed without modern equipment or computers? How could all of the animals fit in there?

Two summers ago, we took our grandkids to see the replica of the Ark that is on display in Kentucky and it all started to make sense. It is a sight to behold and, once you are inside, all your questions will disappear. 

We don’t know how much knowledge Noah had about ship building, but looking at this replica, one knows that, no matter how smart Noah was, there had to be divine intervention. However, building the ship isn’t the most important lesson learned from the story.  Noah’s willingness to say, “Yes!” to God, even when it seemed like an impossible task, should be the model for all of us.

Although the story of Noah centers around the Ark as it was a true masterpiece of man’s making, what was inside – eight righteous people – was God’s masterpiece that He wanted to preserve.

I can’t help thinking what it must have been like for the people who were not in the ark. I can’t even imagine how horrible it was for them to be drowning literally because of their sin.  They had no hope of being rescued. No chance of a passing life boat to take them aboard. Not even any chance of grabbing ahold of a tree or higher ground to climb up on!

No hope of survival.

That is the way some people feel today.  They are drowning in their whirlpool of one sin after another.  Maybe they have hardened their hearts and closed their ears to anything that people have said to try to help them.  It might be someone in a far-off land or your next-door neighbor.  Maybe it is someone in your own family. Just because a person has a smile on their face doesn’t mean that they aren’t dying inside.  They may have lost hope and can’t see a bright future for themselves.  There have been so many people dying lately of an overdose of drugs or committing suicide.

How very sad that is!

We, who are believers in Christ, are in His life boat and should be on a search and rescue mission.  Instead of turning our backs on people who are drowning in sin we need to be seeking and reaching out to them. Like Noah, when God shows us who He wants us to talk to or befriend, we should without hesitation say, “Yes!” It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, but just like Noah, God will be there to guide you and give you the strength and knowledge you need. Are you willing to reach out your hand, introduce the lost to the real first responder, Jesus, and pull them into the boat of eternal life?

Their life depends on it because, when the rain comes, it’s too late.

Pat Arnold

December 15 – Importance of the Old Testament – God’s Passion for People and the Nations

Read Genesis 12:1-3

Every four years, I really enjoy the Olympics. I love seeing the talent in every sport from the track and field events to gymnastics to archery. And, I have to admit, I enjoy cheering for Team USA. My upbringing has instilled a sense of national pride and patriotism in me.

That national pride and patriotism can sure be positive. But those two realities also can have a dark underbelly that can lead me to personal convictions of exceptionalism, superiority, and even xenophobia. I must remind myself that citizens of the United States are not somehow God’s unique, chosen people.

As we continue in our series on why the Old Testament is important, we discover today a nation that God did select. From Abraham, Sarah, and their offspring, God purposed to make a great nation. To Abraham and his descendants, He would give land and offer blessing. In fact, this nation would be a conduit of blessing to the other peoples of the earth.

That is quite a chunk to swallow, so let’s break it down into some bite-size morsels.

  1. The nation of Israel plays a prominent role in the Old Testament. They were to be a people of God’s own possession, set apart for His purposes.
  2. God’s offering of blessing to the nations is clear throughout the Bible. Israel was to be a conduit of blessing to the nations of the Old Testament. Some of the surrounding people were attracted to Yahweh as Israel kept the law. Meanwhile, the church is to be a bold witness for Christ as people intentionally go to share the life-changing gospel with the peoples of the world.
  3. Jesus is the ultimate offspring of Abraham, who offers blessing to all (Gal 3:15-17).
  4. Believers today are to follow the example of Abraham who was declared righteous on the basis of faith (Rom 4:18-25; Gal 3:7-9). Still today, we are justified only by faith.
  5. The church does not replace the nation of Israel, but God’s plan for Israel does serve as bookends to the church age.

Bottom line for today, you and I need to replace any kind of unhealthy national superiority. All nations of the world have incredible value in the sight of God. In both the Old and New Testaments, He exposes His plan to bless them in the person of Jesus. While you and I can cheer for Team USA, we must also be fans of and players in God’s plan to redeem people from every nation.

Steve Kern

December 14 – Importance of the Old Testament – We Understand What’s Wrong…

Read Genesis 3:1-24

If you read the news headlines, you are likely reminded of more that is wrong in the world than what is right. There are tensions between political parties, between races, and between nations. You might hear news of wars, of ecological challenges, of addiction, or of the latest leader who has fallen victim to sexual impropriety or lack of financial integrity.

How did we get here, anyway? In answering that question, we discover just how important the Old Testament is. Specifically, today’s reading offers us incredible insight.

At first glance, you may think that Genesis 3 is just the story of Adam and Eve. And, in some ways, it is that. God had clearly instructed them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Unfortunately, they caved to the temptation. There were consequences for their disobedience, and they were forced from the Garden of Eden. End of story, right?

Not so fast there! The consequences of their eating reach to us in the twenty–first century.

  • Enmity with Satan – Still today, he is like a roaring lion, seeking to devour and destroy people (Gen 3:15; John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8).
  • Pain of Childbirth – The development of special pain medications and epidural blocks serve as good reminders that giving birth is still painful today (Gen 3:16).
  • Creation’s Curse – Romans 8 personifies creation, describing it as frustrated and groaning in its longing for its ultimate, future liberation from the consequences of Adam’s choice (Gen 3:17, 18; Rom 8:18–22).
  • Work Challenges – Ask any person who seeks to accomplish a personal task or who works for an employer, and you will likely hear frustration (Gen 3:19.
  • Separation from God – The consequences of Adam’s choice demonstrated in exile from the Garden are also depicted in our alienation from God as well (Gen 3:22–24; Rom 5:8-10).
  • More than being handed the consequences for Adam’s sin, as his descendants, we have become guilty of and accountable for our own sin (Rom 5:12-21). That is how we got to where we are today!

But, thankfully, God provided a solution to all of the pain, suffering, frustration, and even to the separation from Him. He sent the descendant of the woman, Jesus, who crushed the serpent’s head through His death, burial, and resurrection (Gen 3:15; Heb 2:14). That is how we move beyond where we are today!

Steve Kern

December 13 – Importance of the Old Testament – We Meet the God Who Created Us

Read Genesis 1:1-31

When you think of meeting someone important, do you think of how you might look and what you might say? One time, I was meeting some important people from my husband’s office for dinner. Oh, the agony of what to wear! I debated whether to buy something new, or just wear something I already had. Should I wear a dress or pants? What will we talk about? What should I order for dinner?  Maybe I just shouldn’t go! Funny how I don’t have the same anxiety when it comes to meeting God. I know Him. I know He loves me and wants me to return that love. He has revealed this love throughout His creation.

You can know that love, too.

I know God loves me because He has provided for my every need.  He created the sun which gives me warmth and light. He created plants and animals which give me things to eat.  He created water which sustains my body, as well as all living things. Not only did He provide for my physical needs, He also provided for my emotional needs. He gave me other people to live life with. God created days for work and days for rest, seasons for planting and seasons for harvesting. He provided order to the environment in which I live so that I can depend on its patterns and cycles.

I know God loves me because He, the uncreated One, created me in His image. I have His fingerprints on my life. He didn’t fashion me after any other animal or any other extraterrestrial being. He made me in His likeness. He saved that special defining attribute for humankind. There is a special bond that exists between God and humans because of this. The all-powerful God wants to connect with me and you. He wants to have a relationship with us, His created ones. I know this because God did not create mankind, then walk away. He desires our love and wants to lavish His love on us and call us His children.  (1 John 3:1)

I also know God loves me simply by the glorious world He has given me to live in while I am on Earth. I have had the pleasure of visiting mountainous areas, beaches, and lakes in several different countries of the world. The views were magnificent! As I traveled to a secluded island in a remote part of Canada with my dad, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the ruggedness and beauty of the trees and water. I found myself singing “How Great Thou Art.” I don’t remember starting to sing that song; it was as if my soul needed to acknowledge the Creator and the words poured out of heart. I can have the same experience on my front porch as I watch my children play and hear the birds chatter and watch my garden grow. You can, too. Just look around you. We have been incredibly blessed by a God who loves us.

Through creation, we get to meet a God who loves us. The extent of His love is immeasurable. When you take a moment to meet with God, the Creator, you will know you are loved. Acknowledge how He has provided for your every need and made a way for an authentic relationship with Him forever. You will not feel judged or like you have to measure up to gain His approval. He made you for Himself. Spend some time today thanking God for all that He has created for you. Take a minute to look around you and feel blessed by His creation.

Know you are loved by the One who created you.

Tammy Finney

November 27 – By Faith or by Sight – Live Today Trusting God

To fully follow God, we must leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and finally…live today trusting God.

Abraham and Sarah faced a series of defining moments which included obstacles that had to be overcome. Two of these are shared in Hebrews. The first was related to God’s promise in Genesis for a nation to come from Abraham. He was 75 when they left home. Now he’s 99, Sarah is 90 and they have no kids. Suddenly, they find out they’re going to have a child. We discover that when they found out, they laughed (Genesis 17:17; 18:12). Yet the promise maker became a promise keeper. “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.” (Hebrews 11:11)

The second obstacle to overcome was related to this child. God now requested Isaac to be sacrificed. What!?! Isaac, their only hope and dream, was being tied up and placed on an altar by Abraham. The Hebrews author writes, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Abraham was willing to obey and sacrifice Isaac, believing God would raise him from the dead. He was willing to give everything to God. What a humbling thought. In the story’s original account in Genesis, we learn that, just when Abraham raises his hand, an angel appears and stops him. He provides a lamb to be sacrificed. Thousands of years before Jesus died on the cross, we see God painting a picture of it for us. Just like God provided a sacrificial lamb in Isaac’s place, He provided Jesus, His only Son, in our place. God is a promise maker and He is a promise keeper. Fully following God means trusting God in the moment.

There are only two ways to live – by faith or by sight. To fully follow God, you must live by faith. When we do, it changes our lives and countless others. Hebrews 11:12 says, “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:12)

Remember great opportunity rests inside great uncertainty. What is seen is temporary and uncertain. What is unseen is eternal and certain. God, His Word, and people will last forever. Nothing else is certain. So how will your defining moments be defined? By what is certain or by what is uncertain? What does it look like for you to fully follow God today? What do you need to leave behind? Do you need to focus on what is ahead? Where do you struggle to trust God right now? Wrestle with these questions. Invite someone you trust to give you feedback on what they would write about you.

Nick Cleveland

November 24 – By Faith or by Sight

Uncertainty. We all face some level of uncertainty, don’t we? Life is filled with uncertain moments like…when you get that text from a boss or significant other that simply says, “We need to talk,” or the moment a test or exam is handed out in class and the only thing you’re certain of is your name. No doubt the phrase “uncertain times” has become a bit of a catch phrase to describe our current reality. No matter if times are certain or uncertain, there are only 2 ways to live life…one is by faith and the other is by sight.

Last year, I took my sons to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We enjoyed our visit, but one experience stood out to us. It’s an exhibit called “A Game for Life” that features you sitting in a locker room, listening to virtual holograms of famous coaches like Vince Lombardi and players like Joe Namath. It’s a picture of what it’s like to live by faith in a world consumed by sight. When you live by faith, you can fully follow God even when life is uncertain.

In Hebrews 11, the author writes more about today’s central character than anyone else. While he lived thousands of years ago, I think you’ll be able to relate to some of his defining moments. His name is Abraham and he is considered the Father of Faith, because faith defined his defining moments. He faced many tests and they were turning points where he discovered that great opportunity is often hidden in the middle of great uncertainty. God makes a promise to him that is recorded in the opening of the Bible, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” (Genesis 12:1-4a)

 Abraham’s response to God’s promise shows us 3 ways to fully follow God when times are uncertain:

Leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and live today trusting God.

Which one do you struggle with the most? We’ll take a look into each one of these in this week’s posts.

Nick Cleveland

June 29 – United – Psalm 139

Read Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 139:13-16

We’ve all sung the song.  And if you’re a parent or a kids ministry worker, you may have even taught it.

“Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow

Black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the little children

Of the world”

It’s simple, but true. God loves the world. The human race is the pinnacle of His creation. Mankind is unique from all other of God’s creation, because mankind was created in the image of God.  That means each of us bears that image, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, color, or culture.  Each person, every human being, bears the image of God and is inherently worthy of respect and honor.

What’s more, all of us are descendants of the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve. If the Genesis account doesn’t make that clear enough, then maybe Paul’s words will, which he preached to an academic, cultured, but spiritually bankrupt crowd:

“From one man [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth…”

Acts 17:26

Think about that statement for a minute. Think about what it’s saying. The full capacity for the racial diversity we see in the world was resident in the genetics of Adam and Eve, because from one man God made all the nations.

King David reflected on that spectacular, creative genius in Psalm 139. There, he describes us as God’s handiwork. In fact, the word translated “knit” (v.13) speaks to the care and attention God took in the development of every one of us.

In a world rampant with fear, hate, prejudice, bigotry, racism, and discrimination, the follower of Jesus sees the diversity in our human race as God’s design and celebrates His handiwork.

But there is another truth associated with our descent from Adam, and it’s this: Adam sinned, and so we also have inherited his sin nature. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”

Romans 5:12

All of us, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, color, or culture need a Savior. We all have sinned against God, and we all need to be forgiven by God. Every person, created in the image of God and knit together by God, needs to repent of their sins and receive the forgiveness God graciously offers us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Embrace the beauty and dignity of every person in the human race and care enough to proclaim the message that will redeem it.

David Lawson