September 7 – Life Verses – Galatians 6:10

Read Galatians 6: 1-10

My mom makes the most awesome cookies. Warm and soft with melted chocolate chips straight out of the oven, or cold and crunchy from a stash in the freezer, they are just one of the many ways she has shared love over the years. When Sharon and I travel to San Diego to see our son and his family, there is always a bag of “Grandma’s cookies” for them.  Missing the opportunity to take a gallon sized bag of her love to them would be unthinkable. While transporting them requires care to deliver intact cookies and not a bag full of crumbs, in one sense it’s easy because we have anticipated each trip months in advance.

Opportunity : Doing good things for others can be like that. We anticipate. We buy gifts for birthdays, weddings and special occasions. Unless we are mindful, though, it can be easy to miss the opportunities that God provides when those situations appear to pop up out of the blue.  He will provide each of us opportunities. Do you try to keep your spiritual eyes and ears open for them?

Doing good:  Mom’s cookies are delicious. But I wouldn’t be doing good if I gave a whole bag of them to someone who is diabetic or who is trying to lose weight.  With each opportunity, God also expects us to prayerfully consider what is actually most beneficial for that person.  As you pray, do you pray for wisdom in how to best respond?

All people:  Not just the people we like.  The opportunities God provides are not filtered down to just those people we are close to. They are not reserved for folks just like us. They are the “all” from every tribe, tongue and nation. “All” even includes those who want nothing to do with religion.  Who would God place in your path that you might otherwise be unlikely to encourage?

This became my life verse when God opened my eyes to the last part of today’s verse: “especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.  While doing good to “all people” is important, we, as a family, should be even more aware of and sensitive to our brothers and sisters in Christ. When our hearts beat with love, our lives will be marked with generosity and encouragement for them.

What can you do? Doing good can be meeting physical needs, but it more frequently means encouraging them spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. Each one of us can find joy in doing good because these opportunities will always be within reach of what God has already provided. Remember that only a part of those resources are financial. Encouraging others takes place in so many ways through acts of kindness, praying with and for them, being a listening ear, or things as simple as a smile and a hug. Pray today that God would use you to bring joy and encouragement into the lives of those around you – especially to your family!

Wade Karhan

September 6 – Life Verses – Romans 15:14-33

Read Romans 15:14-33

“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.”

Romans 15:21

Although I suppose I believed in the idea of God growing up, I was uninformed about who He is and what He had done and is doing. You see, I did not attend church or read the Bible. Still, I thought I had this whole spiritual life figured out. In my mind, God was pleased with people who did good things, and He received them into heaven.

But the Holy Spirit corrected my perspective as a teenager. At age 14, I heard the gospel for the first time. I learned of the implications of my sin and of God’s provision for it through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. I am so glad that God used someone who was willing to share with me as one who had never heard and had never been told.

That was the calling that Paul sensed on his life. He was passionate to take the life-changing message of Jesus to the unreached. In today’s reading, after having been on multiple mission journeys that included present day Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece, he had his sights set on proclaiming Christ in Rome and beyond. His ambition was to take the gospel to the other end of the Mediterranean – to Spain. He knew that those people were beyond the influence and the gospel witness of established churches. He knew that there were people like me who had never heard and who had never been told about the resurrected Christ. And so he aspired to go.

Romans 15 is a favorite passage to me because it reminds me that there are many others in the world like me. There are people out there that are, on the one hand, ignorant. On the other hand, however, many of them have their own spiritual system all figured out. But their version is all wrong. People like me live in my neighborhood and among the nations. They must hear of the grace of God in Jesus.

Steve Kern

September 5 – Life Verses – Colossians 3:23

Read Colossians 3:23

“Let my life song sing to you…”

Casting Crowns

My first job was at Griffin’s’ Prescription Center working for $1.65/hour. Back then I enjoyed having a little bit of money but I probably cut corners sometimes and maybe didn’t do as good a job as I could have.

I then became a student at Ohio State where my main focus was not academic. I had many jobs including working at McDonald’s just for the pay, an oil company where employees would sleep on the job and I saw them drinking beer on the job, and a construction job where I’d try to do as little as possible just to survive the long, hot days. I became a landscaper for a boss who was deaf who fired me because I asked him for a raise.

My focus was money.

Then I finally became a teacher and a high school basketball coach. My aim was to win basketball games.

It was about that time that I became a Christian and recognized the importance of doing a good job even if nobody knew it but me. I then realized that God was my boss and, no matter what I’m doing, I need to be working for Him. That realization changed my attitude toward work, family, church and everything that I did. My focus became to do the best that I could possibly do – and to go the extra mile in absolutely everything.

I coached six different high school sports and I focused on encouraging high school kids and not just winning games. I officiated high school basketball and football for many seasons and focused on sportsmanship, safety and helping to make sports a great learning experience. I became a huddle leader for The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and tried to teach young people to work for God, not men. We gave away over 1500 FCA coins with Colossians 3:23 on them to team captains. Let me know if you want one.

For me this verse is about attitude and way of life. It helps me emulate Jesus Christ. It has helped me deal with difficult people and difficult jobs. Every job can be a Christian ministry! And it’s not just about working – it’s about everything that we do! No matter what I’m doing, I’m working for God, not men.

Tom Weckesser

September 4 – Life Verses – Colossians 1:16-18

Read Colossians 1:16-18

As most, before we chose to live for Christ, we chose to live for ourselves.

From about 6 years old, singing was a love of mine and at age 10, musical theater became a passion. With my mother also being a singer, she took us to an audition for The Sound of Music. Although I didn’t audition for any role, I got the bug. It was all I wanted to do. To be on that stage, my name in lights, everyone applauding my name. Then it happened, and kept happening. I got cast for role after role, I sang more and more. I was applauded more and more. I went to school in New York City for a semester after my senior year of high school and, like every young girl from a small town with big dreams, as I moved back home, I swore I would be back. But…God had other plans.

For so long I loved the stage because for two and a half hours I could become someone else. For two and half hours I had another name, another past, another story to tell and that fed into my identity.

At the age of 21, when my life changed and turned a complete 180 for Him, this verse was one that spoke volumes to me.  This verse changed my entire perspective of whose name should be in lights and I gave up musical theater.

The letter of Colossians was written by Paul to a small church who forgot their purpose. They needed reassurance of their identity. This verse speaks several truths about finding your purpose. It gives your purpose meaning. Until you know and accept that you were created by God and for God, nothing will make sense. You can’t have a fresh start until Jesus comes first. Knowing your purpose also gives your life and mission motivation. We are consistently motivated to live His mission when we live out our purpose.

This verse is my life verse because it reminds me daily that, whatever I produce with my hands, whenever I serve with the gifts He has given, whatever I say or do, however I act, it is FIRST and foremost for His glory and not my own.

Our purpose starts with Him, ends with Him and He is in between.

I pray that as you read Colossians 1:16-18, you begin to offer up the identity that you cling to and replace it with the purpose that you were made by God and for God.

Kelly Lawson

January 1 – Life Verses – Philippians 2:3-4

Read Philippians 2:3-4

A couple years ago, Psychological Science published a study suggesting that people are becoming more individualistic.  And that’s not just an American trend, it’s a global trend.  In general, life is becoming more and more about us.

And many of you are thinking, “I didn’t need a scientific study to tell me that!  I see it every day!”

Entitled consumers.  Fascination with celebrity. Infatuation with appearance. Obsession with “likes.”

Yet, somehow, all this entitlement and narcissism and self-centeredness doesn’t sit well with us.  Deep within, we know it’s a problem.  But why?

While it’s totally consistent with our fallen nature, it’s completely contrary to our created design.  And as Christians, it’s inconsistent with our new creation.

The problem with being consumed with ourselves is that we are oblivious to the concerns for others.  We lack empathy.  When I put me first, I put others second.

Paul admonishes us to change our focus.  He said,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Most people don’t get up in the morning and spend energy thinking about how others are doing. Most people are only concerned with their own pursuits. And that’s why many people are unhappy with their lives!

Value others. Pick your head up from your phone and see others and their needs. Change your focus.  Shift your attention away from yourself toward others. Find ways to encourage others and build them up.  In fact, Paul says that saying “no” to self and “yes” to others will bring joy into your life.

Throughout my lifetime I have missed more opportunities than I would care to count because my eyes weren’t open or directed toward the needs and the consideration of others.

Let’s agree to put others first. Let’s agree to look out for the interests of others.  Let’s agree to think of ourselves less and others more.  And let’s spread some joy.

David Lawson

 

December 31 – Life Verses – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we

might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

When I think about a “life verse,” what instantly comes to mind for me is 2 Corinthians 5:21. In fact, I would describe 2 Corinthians 5 as my favorite chapter of Scripture, specifically verses 11-21.

I love verse 21 because it succinctly sums up the story of the Gospel: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). When Jesus went to the cross, He took on our sin, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness. What a trade! Our sin was charged against Jesus while His perfection and righteousness was applied to us. This is the beauty of the Gospel: that Jesus took our punishment and offers us not only forgiveness, but a way to be in a relationship with God.

That is why Paul, throughout the rest of chapter 5, encourages and challenges us to be Christ’s ambassadors! If we have been made into a “new creation” and have received this great mercy, how can we keep it to ourselves? Instead, we must realize that we who have been reconciled with God have been assigned what Paul calls the “ministry of reconciliation.” This means, simply, that we all have a job to do: to tell others about the incredible gift that Jesus has given to us, and to invite them to receive that same gift themselves.

I would consider this my life verse because it is my reminder of my duty. I am not here to serve myself. I am who I am because of Christ and Christ alone and because of that truth I have a God-given responsibility to reach others with the same message that reached me. I hope that you would consider the responsibility God has entrusted to you as well. We have been called by God to implore others to come back to Him. I love that truth because it reminds me every day of the reason I am on this earth.

Billy Starkey

December 30 – Life Verses – Isaiah 24:5-6

Read Isaiah 24:5-6

About 2 years ago, I flew on an airplane for the first time in as long as I could remember. I was with a couple of friends and am certain that of the three of us, I was the one most fearful of flying. The night before we flew out, my mom sent me a text with the verse Isaiah 26:3-4 which says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” I memorized Isaiah 26:3-4 and I remember reciting it every time my thoughts would drift towards fear and the unknown. As I fixed my mind on reciting that verse, He gave me real and unexplainable peace as we flew. To this day, reciting these two verses in my mind when I am anxious has been God’s way of helping me navigate many of life’s challenges.

Isaiah 26 is a song of praise to God for deliverance of His people from destruction. To help you understand the context of this song of praise, recorded just two chapters beforehand, Isaiah prophesies about the devastation that is to come on the earth in the last days. This includes the judgment and destruction that will come to those who have deliberately chosen to disobey or reject God by the time of His return (Isaiah 24:5-6). Though this time of judgment will bring great devastation, the Lord is to be praised because of His faithfulness to those who choose to trust and obey Him. Those who choose to trust and obey Him can have true peace of mind. Believers will not experience the punishment that nonbelievers will experience in the last days, and Isaiah is praising God for it in chapter 26.

In a world of people who experience anxious thoughts daily, believers have access to peace that goes beyond understanding through trust in God. When worries creep into our mind, we have the power through Christ to fix our mind on the truth of God’s Word by memorizing and reciting Scripture rather than dwelling on our worries. Our circumstances may not get better, but in the middle of them we can choose to focus on the eternality of God and praise Him like Isaiah did. The road to having peace of mind is found in training our mind to think on the things of God even when our circumstances are devastating.

Sidney Schar

 

December 29 – 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

December 28 – 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

December 27 – Life Verses – Philippians 1:21

Read Philippians 1:21

I remember seeing some shirts for young teens in a store and one sparkle-filled, bright pink shirt caught my attention.  It had in large black letters loaded with sequins the phrase “it’s all about me!”  I can only imagine the person who would wear that and what it would be like to be a friend to him or her.

I’m sure you’ve seen shirts with the motto YOLO on them.  It stands for You Only Live Once.  It was made popular in 2011 by a rapper.  It’s kind of become like a carpe diem kind of expression that is freeing people to do whatever they want because they only live once.  Life is defined in many different ways by people.  I’ve heard people say things like: “work is life” or “Starbucks is life” or “grandkids are life” or “sports are life”.  If someone decided to fill in the blank for your life how would they describe what the aim of your life was; “___________ is life.”

That thought has been in my mind for decades as I ponder my life purpose and the verse that has guided me through the ups and downs of life.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and in chapter 1 he was discussing the tension he felt between continuing here on earth or being with God in Heaven.  Some days I’d rather just be with Jesus in Heaven and away from the burdens of this life.  Other days I don’t want to miss what’s going on in the lives of people I love.  It’s a real tension.  And he boils it down to this one phrase…which is my life verse:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

This verse gives us 3 really important words for life:

Perspective.  Paul starts with “For to me.”  Life in Christ is not about you anymore.  You see everything differently.  Like in a football game when the quarterback is struggling and he comes off the field, puts on the headset, and is coached by someone up in the press box who sees the game from a different perspective.  Jesus gives us access to our Father who has an elevated perspective.

Purpose.  Next Paul gives a life mission statement when he says, “to live is Christ”.  In English class we learn the word “is” means an equal sign.  Life = Christ.  The fact that through Christ we have received forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit to guide us changes everything about our life.  We have hope to break chains and cycles and we live to make Jesus famous.  I want my life purpose to be all about Christ.

Promise.  Paul finishes with the phrase, “to die is gain.”  WHAT?!?  You can only believe death is better than life if you are confident that what is to come is better than what is now.  A relationship with Jesus promises us peace with God now and His presence forever in a place called Heaven.  It’s a promise of no more pain, suffering, or loss.  Paul essentially says, “the best is yet to come!”

So today make your aim His perspective, purpose, and promise.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

Nick Cleveland