December 26 – Gospel Readthrough

Read John 21:25

Today, Jeff Walter is challenging us all to grow closer to God and allow Him to reign supreme in our lives by reading through the gospels leading up to Palm Sunday (April 10).

If you text READ to 3302649459, you will receive a PDF of the 6 day a week reading plan along with an invite to our private Facebook group where we will be sharing our takeaways from each chapter reading!

In preparation for Matthew 1 tomorrow, it is important to share some context to the 4 gospels as a whole.

If you’ve read the gospels before, you will notice there are similar stories…many stories of Jesus appear, in varying detail, in more than one of the gospels.

Why is this? Why not just make one book with all of the stories in it?

Each of the gospels is an account of Jesus’ life and ministry, written from the perspective of 4 different authors. I have a study Bible, on which the first page of Matthew reads:

“The Gospel According to Matthew”

Matthew, being one of Jesus’ disciples, wrote down what he observed about Jesus – thus, the gospel or “good news” of Matthew.

I have always been in awe of our specific reading today. As John and other close friends of Jesus wrote down what they observed, the truth is that so much more happened than what they were able to write down.

How amazing is that?

How amazing is our Savior?

As we travel through the gospels over the next few months, we will pause on Sundays to review what we learned the week prior.

As you prepare your heart for this challenge, I pray that you would open your eyes to the words you are about to read. Don’t allow them to just be stories, but allow them to be challenges to you. How are you going to grow closer to God as a result of what you read? What changes do you need to make in your life and faith to become more of the person God created you to be?

I’m super excited to start this challenge with all of you! Be sure, if you have a Facebook account, to text in as described above so you can join in the discussion!

Jake Lawson

December 22 – Family Christmas – Grafted Into His Family Tree

The following is a YouVersion plan. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

Family Christmas

Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

Grafted Into His Family Tree

By Danny Saavedra

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 (NIV)

Irish novelist George Moore once wrote, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” There may not be a more apt way to describe our relationship with the Lord than this! We can travel the entire earth in search of purpose, significance, fulfillment, joy, peace, and belonging. We can experience all this world has to offer, and yet, we’ll never find what we’re looking for until we come home to Jesus. 

You see, Christmas is all about how Jesus, the Son of God, left His throne in heaven, humbled Himself, and became a servant, taking upon Himself the sins of the world and giving His life for us. It’s the greatest love story ever told: God loved us so much that He sent His Son to open the door for us to become part of His family. This beautiful story that began all the way back in the Garden with Adam—that God made known to Abraham with a promise, that He illustrated through Isaac, and reaffirmed to David—all led to the coming of the Savior. 

In John 15:5 (NLT), Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches . . .” The moment we receive Him and believe in His name, we are grafted into His family tree, which means we become fused, bonded to Him—the vine. We’ve been given the right to be called children of God. We’ve been given sonship and all the privileges that come with being an heir in God’s family. Not like one who is adopted into a family, but rather as one who is a natural born heir. When we receive Jesus, we die to our former life and are born again as children of God.

The Christmas story is the fulfillment of a beautiful promise God made; it’s the catalyst to His plan for reconciling us to Himself. It’s our history and our heritage, our past, the story of how we became sons and daughters of Almighty God. But it’s also our legacy and our future because we’re all part of the story! 

God is still writing His legacy of redemption every single day, bringing more and more people into His family through you, His children. In 2 Corinthians 5:17–20 (NIV), the apostle Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

Family, we want to leave you with this encouragement as we prepare to celebrate Christmas tomorrow: The God who created everything loves you so much that He made a way for you to be a member of His amazing, unique, diverse, and perfectly imperfect family. 

Today, and every day, celebrate Jesus and give honor and praise to God the Father who sent Him! Trust in the Lord and open your heart and life to be used by Him to bring more people into His family every day. There is power in your family story because it carries with it an amazing legacy. The line of Christ is your family heritage, a part of your story, so tell it every chance you get!

December 19 – Family Christmas – A Man After God’s Heart

The following is a YouVersion plan. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

Family Christmas

Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

A Man After God’s Heart

By Danny Saavedra

“For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” – John 7:42 (NLT)

Have you ever just had a moment that changed your life forever? The kind of thing where one minute, you’re just minding your own business, and the next, your world has been flipped, turned upside down? That’s exactly what happened to David. 

It’s a very interesting story. The Israelites were no longer happy being set apart and different from the other nations. They asked Samuel for a king like all the other nations had. This upset Samuel. He took it as a rejection. But God said, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7 NASB). 

So God appointed Saul, who the Bible calls the most handsome man in Israel; a tall, strong figure, a man’s man, a pillar of physical perfection. But soon, Saul showed that his heart did not match his appearance. He needed to be replaced. So, God sent Samuel again to find the new king. 

Samuel happened upon the house of Jesse, who presented seven of his sons to Samuel. God didn’t choose any of them. But it just so happened that Jesse had one more son—David, his youngest—who was out tending to the sheep in the field. When David arrived, immediately the Lord confirmed to Samuel that this was the one. 

Why him? What made David so special out of all the men in Israel, or even out of Jesse’s other sons, whom Samuel was very impressed by. Why? 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV), one of the most famous verses in Scripture, tells us: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

You see, David wasn’t just appointed, he was anointed by God! His life was changed in one instant because God saw his heart. In Acts 13, Paul tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart, one who would trust in the Lord, who would listen to God’s voice and obey. In David, we see humility, devotion, faithfulness, and a deep love for the Lord. He wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t need to be. 

David wasn’t God’s anointed because he did all the right things; he definitely didn’t. It was because he sought after God with his whole heart, even when he fell short. It wasn’t his virtue, bravery, or wisdom that made God choose him. And it wasn’t by his might that he was able to conquer Goliath. Rather, it was because he believed “in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV). 

Before the end of his life, God made David a promise; an ancient promise made to Abraham and reaffirmed to David in 2 Samuel 7:16 (ESV): “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” In Matthew 1:23 (NLT), we’re given the name by which this branch of David’s tree would be called: “Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Today, people around the world have the opportunity to experience a moment like David did, a moment that changes their destiny and turns their world upside down as they believe in the name of Immanuel—God with us, Jesus Christ, the LORD Almighty! For those who have received Him, rejoice! Praise God today for the gift of salvation through Jesus. And pray for those who have not yet experienced this amazing grace!

November 18 – Prayer for my Kids – Peace

Read Philippians 4:8-9 and John 16:33

A King offered a prize to anyone who could paint the best picture of peace. Many participated. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a peaceful and calm lake. The lake was like a mirror and beautiful, towering mountains were all around it with blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

The other picture also had mountains but these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky with lightning and rain. On the side of the mountain was a foaming waterfall.

When the King looked closer, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest…perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The second picture.

Do you know why?

“Because,” explained the King, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

Jesus Christ is our peace – the presence of God. It is not the absence of conflict. It is a Christian virtue that is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). It is the opposite of disorder or confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Teach this to the next generation with words and how you live.

Can you practice peace, maintain your composure and continue to think straight when you are in the middle of conflict or unrest?

This is an ongoing challenge but our kids need to see the peace of God in their parents. Peace is only possible because of what Jesus has done in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Tony Evans is a pastor who wrote a book titled RAISING KINGDOM KIDS and it offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.

He says that one way for the truths of the Bible to be conveyed in the home is for parents to talk about them and live them out each day, so kids can learn from both their actions and their words.

Talk about Jesus when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (See Deuteronomy 6:7)

If you have the love of Jesus down in your heart, you have peace. Recognize it and live it out. It transcends all understanding and will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7). 

Tom Weckesser

November 12 – Miracles of Jesus – The Third Day

Read John 20:1-31

Over the last several days we have explored the miracles of Jesus. How He turned water to wine, made the blind see, and allowed the crippled to walk. Each of these miracles and the many more He performed during His brief time earth on speak to the holiness of our Savior and the remarkable power He had to transform lives.

However, no miracle He performed is as transformational and beautiful as His resurrection from the dead. 

The resurrection changes everything.

Jesus’s resurrection from the grave is the defining factor of our faith. Rather than being asked to believe in principles and ideologies that secure our place in eternity, we are asked to believe that our God, Jesus, came to this earth to show us what love truly means. To be a sacrifice on our behalf so that we can spend an eternity in Heaven with Him. 

I love how our passage today ends. 

“The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”John 20: 30-31

The miracles we have considered throughout this series inform our understanding of Jesus and the power of who He is. The miracle we consider today, the resurrection, changes who we are, where we spend eternity, and will shape our lives forever so long as we believe. Our God has conquered the grave!

I invite you to share with me today in reflecting on the beauty of the Gospel. The hope we find in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Understanding that we believe by faith that Jesus actually came to this earth, died for our sins, and did indeed rise from the dead so that we could spend an eternity with Him in heaven.

This is what Love does. Hallelujah! 

Today, consider what does the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection mean to you? How does it change the way you live? How does it influence hope?

Taylor Bennington

November 7 – Miracles of Jesus – Water into Wine

Read John 2:1-11

I don’t know about anyone else, but I may have a slight addiction to sweet tea. Now, when I say sweet tea, I don’t mean the kind of tea that is “fruity sweet”. I’m talking all of the sugar type “sweet tea”. When people serve sweet tea, while grateful for it, I’m immediately skeptical of exactly which type of tea I’m about to drink.

I have a glass of sweet tea (or two…) just about every night for dinner and, I know many of you are saying, “Golly! You need to drink some water”. I know this. Water’s just boring but I’m working on it. Anyway, there are times where I open the fridge to grab some Milo’s only to see that I finished the last of it the night before. There have been some trips to Dollar General as dinner is being served because I just have to have my sweet tea.

Again, I know it’s a problem…I’m working on it.

I imagine the same emotions were present when the wedding coordinator in John 2 discovered that they were going to run out of wine. Imagine the panic that was immediately present and the cold sweats that came when they thought of the shame that this would bring, not only to them, but the married couple as well.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have overheard the panic because verse 3 tells us that she told Jesus simply that there was no more wine.

Why did she tell Jesus? In what way did this concern Jesus?

I’m guessing it was because she knew that He could do something about it.

The conversation between Jesus and Mary in verses 4 and 5 is borderline hilarious. Jesus asks why this concerns Him and that His time to publicly reveal Himself as the Messiah hadn’t yet come. However, Mary just tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. According to the text, Jesus never agreed to do this. His mom just signed Him up for something.

Has this ever happened to you? I know there were times where my mom would say, “Don’t worry, Jake would love to help!” The look of “Seriously, Mom?” that I would give, I wonder, if it’s the same one Jesus gave Mary.

Regardless, Jesus turns stone jars full of water into wine, thus, His first miracle that is recorded in the gospels.

What does this miracle tell us? What can we take away from it?

According to the text, it was through this miracle that His disciples believed in Him.

What is it going to take for you to believe Jesus is who He says He is? Do you view Jesus as the churchy bearded guy on coloring pages or do you truly believe that He is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world?

Take a moment to thank God for being who He claims He is. What is going to be the tipping point for you to FULLY place your trust in Him? What’s going to convince you to surrender your life to Him?

Allow this story to act as a catalyst for you.

Jake Lawson

November 5 – Miracles of Jesus – Walking on Water

Read John 6:16-21

My daughter used to hate storms. The cracks of thunder. The heavy swaying trees. It was enough to send her into our bedroom time and time again. But, within the worst of those storms, her terror quickly doubled down as her mothering instincts also set in. You see she had 2 pet bunnies that were housed outside…and, if the tornado sirens were blaring, I would find myself trudging on a water-logged rescue mission to get Dottie and Ginger to safety.

I was never welcomed very kindly by those bunnies. They would kick me like a speed bag. But in the end, it was always worth the giant hug I would receive from my little girl. She sure loved those bunnies.

While reading today’s passage, I saw a parallel to my own story. Both about a child asking a father to save those they loved from a storm. But also, what stuck out to me was when the Scripture talks of the fear those men felt as they saw Christ coming to save them. I couldn’t help but remember the fear in those bunnies’ eyes as I approached them in the downpour.

How often, when we are in the midst of chaos, do we choose self-protection rather than opening our arms to the Father? We will huddle in the corner and kick with all our might because storms are scary. It’s hard to trust the idea that the Holy Spirit is actually on its way to supernaturally save us from our circumstances. How foolish and naive to not hide and take shelter from the storms. But faith tells us, we will never find peace in the boat.

Peace is out there.

It’s within the storm.

Peace walks upon the waves and beckons us to have the faith to stand up and stare that storm down (In Matthew, this would be the moment where Peter would have run out on the water toward Jesus).

My daughter is older now and a few months ago she turned to me and said: “You know, I don’t mind thunderstorms as much. I even like to listen to the rain now.” What a difference a little life experience can make.

If you are in a storm right now, I pray you can find your feet once more. That you will lean over the rail, face the darkness and search for the miracle that is on its way. No matter the size, I can promise peace within it and that it will pass at some point. My goal and prayer is that one day, I might even learn to enjoy the sound of the rain as I wait for my Dad’s arrival.

Nate Torrence

November 4 – Miracles of Jesus – Feeding of the 5K

Read Matthew 14:13-20, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-15

The account of the feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all 4 Gospels and is the only miracle of Jesus to be so recorded. The account is relatively short and objective and each version of the events sets the stage by telling how tired and exhausted the disciples and Jesus were. They were seeking a retreat from the crowds. However, they were followed by people wanting to hear more from Jesus. As the day is coming to an end, the disciples encourage Jesus to send the crowds away to find food for themselves. Jesus does the unexpected and tells them to feed the crowd.

Feed the crowd? With what? We’ve been with you all afternoon with no time to cater a meal to this huge crowd. Plus, we don’t have enough money to buy food from the villagers. You know this isn’t exactly a business area where food can be easily purchased.

Can you hear the excuses? Can you hear the desperation going on behind the scenes? This task was a daunting, if not an impossible, one.

Can’t we just let these people find their own food and we can go and find a place to rest?

How do you respond when you are given a seemingly impossible task? Do you let the circumstances overwhelm you? I know I do. I tend to focus on my abilities and my time just like the disciples did.

One of the disciples was able to round up a bit of food. Did he maybe laugh when he handed it over to Jesus, saying something like: “Here, this was the best I could do on such short notice. See, I told you so, there isn’t much food to give to these people.”

Jesus took the food (perhaps with a sly grin) and prayed to ask God’s blessing on the food. Then He began distributing it to the people. The disciples lined up and each took a basket of food to share with a group in the crowd and repeated this process until all were fed. When they were all finished eating, the disciples were able to collect 12 FULL baskets of leftovers!

It was a miracle! 

The disciples’ focus was on the here and now and the overwhelming task at hand. Jesus was concerned with the process . . .how to conquer that overwhelming task. Jesus demonstrated how to trust God with the daunting task we may face – yes, even the seemingly impossible task!

Trust God. Ask Him to intervene and then do your best. God would not ask you to do something that you can’t handle. God can use that tough task to get your attention back on Him. He will not abandon you in your time of need. He will more than supply your needs just like in the miracle of feeding 5,000 (Philippians 4:19). 

Are you facing an overwhelming task? Are you exhausted from keeping up with the day-to-day tasks of life and just can’t handle one more thing? Stop focusing on the task(s). Look to Jesus and ask for His help. Pray for a perspective change. Ask God to use you to do impossible things!

Tammy Finney

November 3 – Miracles of Jesus – Another Catch of Fish

Read John 21:1-14

Not everything in life goes as we would have hoped or planned. 

When someone goes out fishing, they do not plan on coming home empty handed.  They plan on coming home with some fish to eat.  There were disciples of Jesus who were fisherman by trade: Peter, Andrew, James and John (one third of the twelve disciples) prior to following Jesus.

So, after the crucifixion, resurrection and Jesus appearing to His disciples, Peter decided to do what he and a few of the others were familiar with; go fishing.  Several of the others joined Peter to go fishing at night, which was typically when a professional fisherman would go out with the intention to return with a fresh catch to take to the market.  Peter knew what he was doing.  Fishing was his business, his profession.

As we read in John 21 we see that their fishing trip was unsuccessful.  They were fishing all night and had nothing to show for their efforts.  This is reminiscent of Luke 5 when Peter was out fishing and came back empty handed, only to have Jesus tell him to go out again.  Taking his boat out and obeying Jesus, he hauled in a great number of fish. 

So, the disciples are out fishing about a hundred yards away from the shore when Jesus calls to them from the shore, asking them if they had caught anything.  They did not know it was the Lord at that time.  But He called out to them again to cast their nets to the right side of the boat and they would catch some fish. 

Keep in mind, these are professional fisherman.  This is not their first time on the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and the Sons of Zebedee were familiar with how to catch fish.  They had their nets out all night with nothing to show for it, yet they listen to the suggestion of the call from shore to move their nets to the other side.   And the result was a catch so large that they could not pull it in due to the number of fish.  John even gives us the exact number of their catch – 153!

Peter realizes it is the Lord who just performed another miraculous catch.  Notice what Peter does next.  He puts on his outer garment and jumps in the water.  Typically, when someone takes a plunge to swim, they take off the outer garment.  But Peter, ashamed and humbled, covered himself.  He was embarrassed for he had recently denied the Lord, so much to be ashamed of, yet he dove in and swam with all his might to get to the shore as quickly as he could to see Jesus. 

Jesus was not done with Peter.  Yes, Peter had sinned; he had forsaken and denied the Lord.  But Jesus showed him miraculously again that he was calling Peter to follow Him, just as He had done previously.  Jesus was still providing the catch and He wasn’t done with Peter. 

They were just getting started!

In what area(s) of your life has Jesus given you a second chance? Do you ever feel like you have shamed Jesus so much that He has given up on you?

That’s not the case!

I challenge you to surrender your sin, regret and pain to the Lord and seek His forgivness.

He isn’t done with you yet…not even close!

Nate Mills

October 28 – Miracles of Jesus: Introduction

Read John 20:30-31

“Miracle” means a marvelous event or an event that causes wonder. In Christian theology, a miracle is an extraordinary event that cannot be explained in terms of ordinary natural forces. (THE NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, by Douglas and Tenney).

We have the opportunity to see miracles in nature every day around us such as a changed life for Christ, a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the protection of people that God provides, the beauty of a changing flower, the miracle of a repaired relationship, a life-changing surgery and much more.

How about the miracle of a baby’s birth? Colton Dixon sings a current song about his new view of God and the miracle of the baby he and his wife recently had:

“How do miracles just happen like that?

You can say the stars aligned, but

I know that it’s more than timing.

Right before I hit the ground, somehow You came along and found me.

Some will say it’s magic.

But I know that You did all that.

You’re the reason, there’s no doubt.”

But the miracles of Jesus Christ show us that He is the Messiah and they are key components of Christianity. There are many miracles of Christ recorded in the gospels that are selected by the writers from among a much larger number.

Not all the miracles are listed.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book.”

John 20:30

John writes about just some of the many miracles of Jesus.

“They are written so that you will know and believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that by believing you will have eternal life.”

John 20:31

Miracles of Christ include changing huge amounts of water into high quality wine, walking on water during a storm, multiplying a small amount of food into an abundance for many thousands of very hungry people and more.

Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Besides healing the sick, Jesus Christ did many more miracles – most of all “The Empty Tomb” when Mary Magdalene – who witnessed the crucifixion – went to the tomb of Jesus early one morning and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. This is the greatest historical event in human history. Jesus is risen! He is alive!

The Christian miracle of grace is shown with the change of the mind and life of the person who puts their faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

Have you put your faith in Jesus?

Jesus loves you. Since the miracles of Jesus show us that He is the Messiah, how does this affect your life?

Are you living for Him today?

Tom Weckesser