December 6 – Anxiety – Peace from God

Read John 14:27

I love this verse! Every time I read it I am flooded with peace. Let’s read it one more time, one sentence at a time.

Peace I leave with you”: His peace is already here. A gift already given.

My peace I give to you”: His promise to continue to supply us with peace.

I do not give to you as the world gives”: Who robs us of peace? The world does. Which is exactly why true peace cannot come from this world, not from anyone (or anything) in it. It must come from God.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And if we can be strong enough to not just believe this verse but receive it, God is going to give us a peace to combat any circumstance or fear we face.

Do you feel peace right now? I do. It pours over me every time I dig into each line. It doesn’t change my circumstances but it does give me the strength to not allow my circumstances to change me.

There is so much fear, doubt, concern, anger and anxiety in our world right now and our Father’s choice of attack against this onslaught by the enemy is always the same: PEACE. But how do we test the voice we are listening to as we seek peace? Here’s a helpful comparison I once read:

God’s Voice: stills you, leads you, reassures you, enlightens you, encourages you, comforts you, calms you and convicts you.

The enemy’s voice: rushes you, pushes you, frightens you, confuses you, discourages you, worries you, obsesses you and condemns you.

“As for me and my house, we serve (listen to) the Lord”

Joshua 24:15.

What an easy way to serve the Lord!

The simple act of accepting His peace can change not just your life but it will become a calming beacon of hope to several lives around you. Take a moment and receive it. No matter how frustrated or fearful your circumstances are, the Holy Spirit is with you wherever you find yourself reading this.

Lord, let the reader feel you literally take the weight off of their shoulders. I speak healing and deliverance to their heart and mind. Calm their spirit. Deep breath. Receive His Peace.

Nate Torrence

November 8 – Attributes of God – Truthfulness

Read John 3:33

“Always tell the truth.” Those four little words are ingrained into little ones’ heads almost as soon as they utter their first words. Most parents value teaching honesty. So why does it seem that adults stray from truth so easily? Perhaps it’s because honesty, rather than truthfulness, is taught.

Honesty and Truthfulness; Knowledge and Wisdom; Lie and Deception; Help and Compassion. Each pair of words we tend to use synonymously. However, examining each pair there is one common difference. The first word in each pair primarily deals with the head, while the second penetrates deeper to the heart. Truthfulness is deeper than honesty. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. A lie is a falsity, while deception is a motive. Help can be given even in the absence of compassion. The heart is what moves us to take action. Jesus was always more concerned about the heart.

From the beginning God knew that we would always wrestle with truth. When Satan entered the Garden of Eden, he didn’t just lie, his intent was to deceive. He is the father of all lies and there is no truth in him. In John 8:44, Adam and Eve were deceived because they acted on the lie- the lie that made them question what God said and why God said it. It was a lie that centered around facts and ignored the heart and the consequences. And that is the same lie that Satan still whispers in our ear.

One piece in our essential armor to defend against Satan’s attacks is the belt of truth. Paul didn’t call it the belt of honesty. We don’t just gird ourselves with lack of lies and sincerity, but with truth which calls us to action. Truthfulness puts feet to honesty. It’s what causes us to take the extra effort and return the overdue amount the cashier accidentally gave us, rather than just acknowledging that there was a mistake.

Before Jesus faced the cross, He prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)  Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Sanctify means to set apart or to make holy. Holiness is only accomplished by His word through Jesus Christ. But remember that truthfulness is shown. What greater demonstration of this than Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God is truthful and Jesus Christ, the Truth, died for us to make us holy by what He did!

We should be so thankful that we not only have an honest God, but a God who is full of grace and truth. A God who calls us to embrace the truth and always act with our heart, not just our head. So today, let’s not only always tell the truth, let’s always act on the truth! That kind of truthfulness will set us apart.

Charline Engle

October 29 – Personality of Jesus – Righteous Anger

Read John 2:13-17

If you are like me when you think about Jesus, you picture Him smiling, maybe laughing with His disciples, reaching out to heal someone or welcoming the children to come to Him.  You don’t usually picture Him as being angry. But, why not? Being angry is a part of being human just like being happy, sad, loving, or tired.  Jesus was divine but He was also fully human so, of course, He felt at times all the emotions that go along with being human.

But it is not the fact that He got angry, but it is why and at what He was angry about that counts.

Who did Jesus get angry with?  It wasn’t His fellow Jews.  He saw them as sheep without a shepherd.   It wasn’t His disciples who He had to explain things to over and over again or even the teachers of the law who were plotting against Him during His whole ministry.   It wasn’t even Judas who betrayed Him! Nor was it against the ones who crucified Him since He asked God from the blood-stained cross to “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

It was directed at what was going on at the temple that day. What did He see that caused that reaction?  He saw people who were going to the temple to worship God, but were being forbidden to do so for the sake of the almighty dollar.  Leaders who were put in that position to help people become closer to God were cheating the people and lining their own pockets. This was an offense against God Himself and the temple.

Yes, Jesus got angry, and, even though He acted, His anger wasn’t directed towards the people who were running the money changer tables at the temple.  It was against what they were doing.   Jesus wasn’t showing vengeful, out of control anger but righteous anger.  Righteous anger is defined as anger that is directed towards what angers God Himself.  It stems from an anger that arises when we witness an offense against God or His Word.  It is directed towards the sin not the sinner.

Jesus had come to Earth to bring people closer to God, but what was being done in the temple that day was putting needless road blocks between God and His people.

Even though Jesus showed anger, it is good to note He did not sin. No animals or persons were harmed, no property destroyed, and no money was taken!  His anger was directed at the sin, not the sinner.

Everyone at some time or another gets angry.  When we do, it is good to stop, take a deep breath, think and pray before taking any action.  What is it you are angry about?  Is your anger righteous or self-seeking?  If self-seeking, maybe you need to redirect it.  If righteous, an offense to God or His Word, then put on the full armor of God and boldly, wisely, prayerfully address it! Don’t let it simmer to the point of boiling over!

Pat Arnold

October 8 – Holding On

Read 1 Peter 1:1-2 and John 16:33

I had the great privilege to travel to central Africa in the fall of 2019 as a part of a team who was checking on a Grace Church sponsored ministry that was training up leaders, pastors and evangelists to carry the gospel to the most remote places in Africa. It was a very hot but amazing trip. I can specifically recall walking out of the N’Djamena airport and the culture shock hitting me. It was clear I wasn’t in northeast Ohio or even in America.

This was a whole new world.

I can’t help but think that is where Christians are in their faith. It is crystal clear that we are quickly transitioning to post-Christian culture where sin runs rampant and Christians are being called out and persecuted for our faith.

In the series that’s to come, we are going to study Peter’s first letter to believers scattered abroad. It was during this time where the first, and brutal, wave of persecution from the hands of Nero was on the horizon. Little did they know…maybe they did…just how intense this next season would be for them. Their faith would be tested to its very limit and they would be challenged, more than anything, with what position of authority they placed Jesus in their lives.

Would they bend under the gruesome torture at the hands of the Romans, as their bodies were lit aflame, or would they hold on to the truth of the gospel and the hope that they have been promised from Jesus?

In Peter’s letter, there are 6 distinct areas, or characteristics, that Peter encourages believers to hold onto in the midst of their upcoming persecution.

While verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1 lay out the context, I want John 16:33 to be the backdrop for this series. Among Jesus’ parting words to His disciples was:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Christians, at the time of Peter’s writing and us today, know that we have and will continue to face trouble for our faith as we will be ostracized and persecuted for it. In the midst of this, while knowing the true capacity of our trials, Jesus tells us to keep heart:

“I have overcome the world.”

While we will face storms for our faith, the battle has already been won. Believer, when we breathe our last breath, life doesn’t end…it truly begins.

As you start this next series, I encourage you to pray for hope and encouragement. It is our prayer that this series will give you something to hold on to in the mist of this culture shift.

Tough times are ahead. We are all in this together!

Take heart, however, Jesus has already overcome the world!

Jake Lawson

September 28 – Hard Questions – Why are there 4 different gospels?

Read John 20:30-31

“Our tendency in approaching the Gospels is to think of them as modern biography. We want them to give us all the facts about Jesus and especially to get the chronology of His life right…Yet, the Gospel writers did not set out to write modern biographies. They did not even know about it or realize that people would be interested in such issues in hundreds of years. What they did know about was ancient biography.

The point of such works was not to give a chronology of a life but to present selected facts so as to bring out the significance of the person’s life and the moral points that the reader should draw from it. The point is that, as was the case in ancient biography, the Gospels are not photographs of Jesus but portraits.”

When I walked into The Great Commission Bible Institute (GCBI) in August of 2011, I had no idea the amount of God’s Word I was about to get to know. I was a fairly new surrendered follower of Jesus and still trying to grasp and understand His truth and, boy, was I hungry to know more! But like most new followers, I was confused by a lot of things at first, especially why the Lord gifted us with 4 different portraits of Jesus’ ministry and time on earth. 

The Overview:

The Book of Matthew – The Words of Jesus 

The Book of Mark – The Works of Jesus

The Book of Luke – Chronology of Events

The Book of John – The Conflict of Jesus

Matthew’s gospel was focused on the words of Jesus. I say this mostly because its backbone was the main 5 sermons taught within its pages. (Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5, True Witness in chapter 10, What Heaven is like in chapter 13, Forgiveness in chapter 18 and The Olivet Discourse in chapters 23-25).

Mark’s pages skip the first 30 years of Jesus’ life and focus mostly on the workings of Jesus’ ministry

Luke enters in during the first church; think the book of Acts. He collects interviews from first-hand accounts and puts them in order chronologically (Luke 1:3).

By the time John’s writing Matthew, Mark and Luke’s writings had been already circulated through the church and Jews were trying to turn Gentiles to Jews. In my opinion, John is a Polemic Biography, meaning “to make a point” and the point being where we started:

So then, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20:30-31

I don’t say all of this for just the sake of knowledge and knowledge alone, but to give you context. Each God inspired writer (2 Timothy 3:16) has a purpose and that was to tell you the whole story.

Think of it this way; when you walk into a tattoo shop, what the artist does before he begins to tattoo skin is draw on translucent paper. Say someone wants an in-depth intricate piece that will take four sessions; each session has its own piece of paper. On its own, it may look great, but it doesn’t give you the fullness of what was intended. Once the artist stacks all four pieces on top of each other, you see the beautiful piece it was intended to be. 

Alone, each gospel tells the story of Jesus and it is good. However, God intended for us to have four different perspectives of Christ’s life and ministry that fit together to give us the entire perspective as it was intended to be.

Kelly Lawson

September 25 – Hard Questions – Why does God seem so angry in the Old Testament and loving in the New Testament?

Read John 1:18, Jonah 4:2 and Matthew 5:29-30

Throughout the Old Testament you can find books that indeed show the love of God. Read the end of the book of Job.  Look at the book of Ruth, Proverbs, and Psalms. But, at the same time, realize that mankind has been in rebellion to God since Adam and Eve.  Mankind has to face the consequences of sin.  We read in Hebrews 12:6

“For whom the Lord loves He disciplines and scourges every son whom He receives.”

Read now in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel:

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked rather than he should turn from his ways and live?”

Read this question again through those passages and still one more:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.”Hebrews 13:8

In the Old Testament, people were admonished to follow the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and spirit.  We are taught in the New Testament to do the very same. 

As we grow to be like Jesus, we will see more of His attributes in what we read of the Lord in the Old Testament. Our prayer today ought to be for God to open our eyes to the truth of His Word and not of our perceptions and ideas we have concerning it.  The Bible is the only book in all of human history where, at any point in history, we can talk to the Author of it about it.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God being declared to be “a compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness”.  In the New Testament, we see a more fully shown view of this in the sacrifice of Jesus for mankind. Jesus spoke of the Spirit being the Helper. The one to teach us all things.  It would be through the Spirit in each of us that we have our perceptions of God and ourselves seen through different eyes, Spiritual eyes. 

Pray each day for renewed understanding. We are told that God gives wisdom to all who would freely ask.   Pray that our misconceptions of God would be either answered to or removed from our way of life, our way of thinking.

Lastly…note that our Father in Heaven is our Father. Kids don’t always do what they are told and, when that happens, discipline follows. That does not mean that we are loved any less because of it.

David Brenneman

September 14 – Life Verses – John 10:10

Read John 10:1-21

“Living my best life.” Have you ever heard this phrase from someone? I see it all the time as I peruse Instagram. It’s an expression that Urban Dictionary describes as, “A stupid phrase used to portray a false reality that you can wake up and choose which “life” you want to live.” If only it was that easy. Perhaps we could just say, “Hey Alexa, I want to live my best life today.” And our day would transform before our eyes? That doesn’t sound half bad. I searched for all of the posts on Instagram with this tag, #livingmybestlife, and found a pile of photos and videos of people indulging in things that make them feel “happy.” I saw people posting  their weight-loss transformations, beach vacations, experiences with friends, alcohol, and positive thinking quotes. This is what culture calls, “the best life.”

While I’m not against positivity and doing things that make you happy… is it really the best life? What happens when I wake up and it’s not the best day of my life? When I have to make a dreaded phone call, or worse yet receiving one of those feared phone calls. Life isn’t always waking up and choosing “the best life.” Sometimes… we get stuck in a life that we never dreamed could ever happen to us. We become consumed in deep indescribable realities of grief, disease, divorce, depression, anxiety, addictions, debt, loneliness, and so many other things that creep in when we least expect it.

Yet, when Jesus talks about the best life, the full life, He’s not talking about waking up in the morning and doing all the things that make us happy. He’s talking about choosing to live life His way, for Him and with Him. Even when we find ourselves in the midst of crazy chaos, Jesus offers life with Him. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He’s promising the best life in the midst of the chaos of this world.

John chapter ten is full of language about peace, safety and joy found in Jesus. Jesus came so that we can have life. Realizing that Jesus came to this earth to die so that I can have life is the most sobering reality. The foot of the cross is the most humbling place to be. The place where I realize my sinfulness and embrace his holiness. His death and his resurrection made a way for me to find hope for all of life’s situations. I have found true life in Him. Safe in his pasture. Resting in His presence, even when there are wolves and thieves that are out to destroy me. Protected by Him, my shepherd. I find deep soul satisfaction as I pursue Him every day. You see, my friend, the abundant life has nothing to do with stuff. It has nothing to do with doing things to make you happy. It has nothing to do with waking up and choosing to “live your best life.” It has everything to do with giving up control and finding peace, safety, hope, forgiveness and the best life in Jesus Christ.

I wonder if we should drop the “living my best life” hashtag and lean into the best life that God has for us? There must be a conscious shift from pursuing the earthly things to pursuing the eternal things of God. The abundant life is about the reality that Jesus made a way for us to live life reconciled with Him, the best. Are you living the best life?

Rachel Snyder

September 13 – Life Verses – John 15:1-8

Read John 15:1-8, Galatians 5:16-26, Colossians 1:9-14 and James 3:13-18

I’m lacking as a gardener but my green-thumbed friend, Kristen, doesn’t seem to care. Visiting her this spring, she insisted on entrusting me with a portion of her Dahlia plants.

Nervous, yet eager to be a sensible steward of these precious, plant babies, I asked Kristen a lot of questions (I also did my fair share of Googling). I learned that Dahlia’s are high maintenance plants. Their voluminous blooms are too hefty for their spindly stalks so they have to be tied to stakes as they grow 5-6’ high.

Without connection to a stake Dahlia’s won’t produce fruit.

Without connection to Jesus; neither will I.

I remember when God seared John 15:5 into my soul as I was participating in a Bible study called Experiencing God. The Spirit began to gently unravel my stubborn independence and move me to a deeper dependence on Him.

Apart from me you can do nothing.

These words still arrest me making me humbly aware of my need to surrender and cling to the One who produces fruit in me. Often, I pray them back to Jesus as I step into the roles He has given me as I follow Him…Join me, Jesus, speak to me and though me, lead me, have your way, apart from you I can do nothing. On my not-so-great days, I barge forward forgetting my source and find myself uttering a prayer of confession…Jesus, forgive me for taking this all on myself, I didn’t pray, I didn’t wait on you.

I want to bear fruit, don’t you? I want to live a life that points to the One I cling to. As a flower expert can immediately recognize a Dahlia bloom, I want people to recognize I follow Jesus because I bear fruit that is rooted in Him…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I also want to bear abundant fruit. Did you know the more you cut Dahlia flowers the more blooms they produce? I didn’t, until I Googled it. We are the same. We can lean in to the pruning. God is a gentle gardener we can trust with the snips and setbacks. He is making us into a glorious garden.

Cling to Jesus, friends.

Dwell in Him.

Depend on Him.

Stay connected to the Vine and fruit will come.

Shelly Eberly

August 18 – Heaven FAQ’s – What are the entry requirements for Heaven?

Read John 14:1-7 and 1 John 5:11-13

Quantum physics, derivatives, why people dream, explaining the word “the,” –  these are all things that are difficult to describe and understand. It would take serious education to understand most of this list. Yet, we don’t take them for granted. They are understood as a part of life and we don’t question their existence, because we have faith in them being integral to everyday living.

However, there are plenty of areas that are questioned within our world and often by our family, friends and even ourselves. We think about them, debate them, and dismiss them; yet the answers are right in front of us. One of these concepts is the requirements for spending eternity in heaven. Many think they can earn their way to heaven by “doing good.” Others dismiss eternity as life ending when we take our last breath. However, Jesus answers this question point blank in John 14:1-7. Thomas (I hope I never earn a nickname preceded by “doubting”) asks Jesus how to know the way to eternity with God. Jesus answers in verse 6-7,  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

It is clear in this short phrase that Jesus confirms heaven and how to spend eternity with God. If you place your faith in Jesus, ask for forgiveness of your sins, and turn your life to God, you will spend eternity in heaven! It isn’t difficult to understand, it doesn’t take significant education, it is clear, simple and free!

Now the real question comes down to: “Are you going to trust Jesus?” When He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” do you believe Him? 1 John 5:11-13 says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Make your choice, who are you going to believe? Where are you going to place your faith? In your own thoughts and deeds? In some other religion? Or…are you willing to place your faith in Jesus, the only person to ever walk this earth, live a perfect life, and beat death by resurrecting to life?

Whatever you choose, do it today because we aren’t promised tomorrow!

Jeff Walter

July 15 – Fear of – Death

Read John 11:25-26

A friend’s 20-year-old son died in a car wreck when someone ran a stop sign and t-boned him at an intersection. Today there is a memorial to this young man on the campus of Malone College where he attended, with Romans 8:38-39 on a plaque. Later they had the required court case in the Wooster, Ohio courtroom, and my friend asked everyone in the courtroom to hold hands in a circle as he led a prayer of forgiveness for this person who accidentally hit his son.

The fear of death can be a strong and powerful force. But maybe we can encourage someone who lives under a constant fear of their own mortality. If you have ever gone into Hospice, you may have observed that only God knows when someone will die. The doctors and nurses can give an estimate of time, but only God knows.

When we will die is not a matter of accident or chance. The Bible makes it clear that our lives are in God’s hands. He knows the time of our death. The Bible says,

“Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months…”Job 14:5

God knows when our time will come. James says:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there.’ . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’”James 4:13, 15

God decides if we live and do this or that.

“So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:31

You are not at the mercy of man’s chance, carelessness or evil. You are completely secure in God’s all-knowing hands, and you will not die except at His decision. 

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.”Proverbs 16:33

Everything we need in life and death was bought by the blood of Jesus.

“To live is Christ, and to die is gain”Philippians 1:21

Every time the fear of death comes into your head, consider this prayer to God: “If you let me live, Christ will be honored on earth in my life.”

Then get on with your life, your family, your work and everything else that you do. Take a meal, clean the kitchen, hold the door for someone and be open to love others. Go about your daily life with a joyful uncertainty about when you will die because only God knows. So enjoy the day and do your best today. 

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

Be a blessing to someone today!

Tom Weckesser