May 21 – What Does the Bible Say About Lying?

Read Proverbs 12:22 and Luke 16:10

Is it possible to regain someone’s trust after it has been lost?

I was coaching a varsity high school basketball game and it was a very close and competitive game. The other team scored a basket with five seconds left in the game but they were still behind by one point with the clock winding down. They were out of timeouts. My team did not even have to inbound the ball because the clock would run out. We would win. So, a player on the other team told the official that she had lost a contact lens out on the floor. So, the official stopped the clock with four seconds left in the game! Everyone looked for a contact lens on the floor for a few minutes. Guess what? Nobody found it. I learned later that the coach told his players to fake losing a contact lens in a situation like that to stop the clock.

Dishonesty and lying are like a tornado – a funnel-shaped cloud in a large storm system. It is mobile, destructive and can be violent. Have you ever seen one? When a tornado touches down, the devastation and damage can be immense. Property is destroyed, trees and bushes are broken, houses are leveled and cars are turned upside down. The lives of people are changed and lost in just a few moments. Be prepared. Stay calm! Go to the southwest corner of your basement. Get in a bathtub. Have a safe shelter for you and your family. Public schools have tornado drills every April “just in case” a tornado hits.

Dishonesty and lies may be worse. They are a pandemic: “prevalent over a whole country or the world.” (Oxford Dictionary). Lies are mobile, destructive and can result in violence like a tornado. The Bible says: “The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy.” (Proverbs 12:22).

Are you trustworthy? Can people rely on you to be trustworthy?

It takes time to develop trust from other people. You cannot do it quickly. You have to earn it by acting with integrity. This includes not lying or misleading people. It is how you act. It is intentional.

It is who you are!

Consider your daily actions. Consider the decisions you make on a daily basis. Are you trustworthy? Your best friends know if you are. Ask them.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”Luke 16:10

This verse is one of the most profound accurate statements I’ve ever heard. It is the responsibility of every follower of Christ to be trustworthy which is part of being a faithful and wise servant.

Trustworthiness is demonstrated through actions.

Tom Weckesser

December 25 – Word Became Flesh – Go and Tell

Read Luke 2:8-20 and Matthew 2:1-12

Have you ever heard somebody sing “Gloria In Excelsis Deo”? I mean really sing it. Especially the Gloria part. It is from the song “Angels We Have Heard on High.” From Latin to English it means “Glory to God in the highest” from Luke 2:14. It is about praising God.

A guy named Rich Jones came to Wooster High School to sing as part of a Christmas program assembly for all students. I was 17 and watching the program in the gymnasium that still stands today.

I remember exactly where I was sitting and he instantly became the greatest singer I’ve ever heard. The passion, strength and tune that he sang “Glooooooooo-r- ia In Excelsis Deo” was in a way I still have never heard since. I recall exactly where I was sitting and the impact it had on me. It “brought the house down.” Every time I sing this song I think of that moment. That was just about 50 years ago.

The only thing that would match that moment was a few minutes later when the same guy started singing “fall on your knees” and that’s exactly what he did in front of 1500 high school kids – he fell on his knees while singing “O Holy Night”. He did not miss a beat. And again, every time I hear that song I think of that concert.

On that day, I got a glimpse of something that was beyond human comprehension about the child Jesus Christ. I got a glimpse of peace on earth – a deeper, more lasting peace – a peace of mind and soul made possible because of the Savior. Peace with God is received by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and His favor rests on Christian believers. I heard Rich sing it, I read it in the Bible (Luke 2:14) and I believe it.

Two verses before that, in verse 11, is the greatest announcement ever made in human history in my view: “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Are you aware of the significance of these verses and some of the music that came from them? Are you aware that Christ also brought conflict (Luke 12:49)? The peace with God that we talk and sing about at Christmas involves opposition to Satan and his work.

The significance lives on.

As the shepherds were told to “go and tell” many years ago, we are told to do the same! Who do you know that needs to be told about the good news of Christ?

Tom Weckesser

December 23 – Word Became Flesh – Trusting God’s Plan

Read Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25

“God, what in the world are You planning?”

Have you asked yourself this question before?

There have been several times, even in the past couple of years, that I have asked this exact question. I remember how I felt when I found out Kelly had lost her job a couple of years ago when Mattie was 6 months old, when we found out we miscarried our second child, when my good friend was admitted into a rehab center, when my Grandma declined quickly and passed away, and when one of our cars got totaled and we were in no position to purchase another car.

I recall, in those moments, taking a deep breath and dialing a spiritual phone to talk with the Creator of the universe. You know all the Christian things to say like “God always has a plan”, “where God guides He provides” and so on. However, when you find yourself in such a position, it’s so much harder to trust in God’s plan for your life because you have no idea what He is up to.

I’d imagine Mary and Joseph were in a similar boat. Here was Mary, a young teenage girl finding out that she was pregnant via the Holy Spirit, and Joseph, trying to believe that what Mary was telling him was true. Their lives were completely turned upside down and they were going off the word of an angel from Heaven.

Try to imagine the moment the angel Gabriel left Mary. Mary is finally alone after being told that she is pregnant and the baby is the Messiah that had been promised for so long.

“Uhhhhhhhmmmmm, what now?”

(Jake’s translation of what probably didn’t happen)

If you read on in the gospels, you will find that both Mary and Joseph both trusted in God’s plan for them and, because of that, the world would never be the same.

How often do you find yourself in the position of asking God what His plan is? Do you really trust that God knows what’s best for your life and that He will always be right next to you guiding you through life’s many challenges?

Imagine the board game Candy Land. The board contains a long and windy road that gets you from the bottom to the castle at the top. The game is full of shortcuts and scary people like Lord Licorice, who always freaked me out as a kid.

You see, God has your life mapped out from start to finish. He knows what trials you are going to experience and what trials He is going to save you from and what you have the strength to endure.

Do you believe that?

As hard as it was for me to trust in God’s provision in those moments, I had to ask myself, “When has God ever failed me before?” and “When did He ever let me down?”

Never.

God loves you. He has a plan for your life and even though you can’t see Him, He is right next to you with His arm around you, guiding you through life’s many ups and downs.

He never fails.

Jake Lawson

December 21 – Word Became Flesh – Exemplify Humility

Read Luke 2:7, Matthew 21:1-11, Philippians 2:3-8 and Luke 19:1-10

The opposite of humility is arrogance, which is an attitude of offensive displays of superiority or self-importance. You can be confident without arrogance. Can you be a person with an attitude of humility?

Humility is often seen as being modest and a low view of one’s own importance. It could also be the experiences some people have had this year in a pandemic. A great view of humility is in Luke 2.

Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem:

“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Luke 2:7 NIV

So Jesus was born in a stable – a building set apart and adapted for keeping horses. A barn. Inside was a manger which is a trough – a long, narrow, open container designed for animals to eat or drink out of. It also has been called an open receptacle, usually boxlike in shape, used mainly to hold water or food for animals. So, you could say Jesus was born in a trough.

What a humble birth!

A feeding trough in a barn is usually dark. Darkness can keep the flies away in summer. There’s not much light in a barn. So, it is interesting that Jesus – born in a dark trough – was the Light of the world. The darkness is the world we live in. The Bible says that:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

John 1:5 NKJV

Was it a coincidence – circumstances without apparent cause – that there was no room for them in the inn? In my view, no. I do not believe in coincidences. Instead, this was a demonstration of humility. To be born in a stable. This was the will of God – His good, pleasing and perfect will. No improvement can be made on the will of God (Romans 12:2 NIV Study Bible comments).

Michael W Smith wrote the Christmas song GLORIA and  Mercy Me sings it. I listen to it at 100 amplitude.

“How could Heaven’s heart not break

On the day, the day that You came?

Salvation’s reason to celebrate…”

Jesus was born in a very humble place. He performed many humble acts in His short lifetime of maybe 33 years. For example, He took the form of a servant and washed the dirty feet of the disciples…even the feet of an enemy (Judas Iscariot), to give us an example of serving in humility (John 13:6-7). Then Jesus said, “I have sent you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (v. 15) The message is to treat people the way that Jesus would treat them. Jesus definitely has the attitude of humility.

Do you practice humility every day?

Tom Weckesser

December 9 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the merciful…”

Read James 2:13 and Luke 6:36

“Mercy me. Get a real job.”

These were the words of the grandma of Bart Mallard before he wrote the amazing song, “I Can Only Imagine.” He sings now in one of my favorite musical groups – Mercy Me. Was his grandma showing mercy or simply paraphrasing “Get your act together!”?

I don’t know but I like the song.

Mercy is another name for compassion or lenient treatment. Do you have a merciful attitude?

Jesus said to be merciful in Luke 6:36.

Another one of my favorite bands is Elevation Worship. I recently heard these lyrics:

“You take what the enemy meant for evil

and you turn it for good.”

It is from the song, SEE THE VICTORY.

Here is an example in the words of Nicky Gumbel, a Christian minister:

“Earl had far too much money. He did not need to work. He took all kinds of drugs, including heroin. At the age of thirty, he ended up in a hospital. Someone came to visit him in the hospital and gave him a New Testament. He was thrilled. The paper was very thin and was ideal for rolling joints. He rolled his way through Matthew, Mark and Luke. When he came to John’s Gospel, he started reading. As a result of reading the words of John’s Gospel, he encountered Jesus. He was filled with joy. The psychologist in charge of his case was a very beautiful young woman, who had been a model. One day she said to Earl, ‘Look, I have it all – success, beauty and endless qualifications – yet I am not fulfilled. Your life is a mess, yet you seem to have something – a PEACE and a JOY. What is it?’ Then he led her to FAITH in Jesus Christ. They fell in LOVE. Later they were married. Earl and his wife were great friends of ours at theological college in Oxford. His life had been radically changed by the words of God in the Bible.”

Mercy me, that is life change!

“Which do you prefer? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?”  (1 Cor 4:21 NLT)

I think it is uncommon to show mercy to others. But it is something that a Christian should strive for. (James 2:13). Tony Dungy wrote a book about it.

You can purchase a blue wristband that says DARE TO BE UNCOMMON from the Christian ministry of Tony Dungy. In his book THE UNCOMMON LIFE, Tony Dungy talks about mercy. The wristband is a personal reminder to be merciful.

Do you need a reminder?

Tom Weckesser

November 17 – Red Letters – “It’s not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick.”

Read Luke 5:31-32

I have volunteered at a local hospital emergency room for the past 10 years. People that come in are often very sick. Sometimes they’re on the verge of death. The Emergency Squad brought in a man one day who had a heart attack downtown near an ATM machine. I worked along with a nurse and gave the man CPR.

I have seen people sick with pertussis, emphysema, diabetes, epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, influenza, pneumonia, heart disease, cancer and more. These people really need a doctor. People come into the ER who have been beaten up. You just never know what type of sickness the next person who comes into the ER might be experiencing.

Other times people come in and doctors can’t figure out why they came into the Emergency Room. They have a hangnail or need a band aid. Some people come in looking for illegal drugs because they are drug addicts and they make up a story that their back hurts. Some people come in who are not sick. They do not need a doctor.

I have seen people who are spiritually sick at the ER. They have had a difficult or even traumatic experience and they do not know what to do or where to turn. This is what Jesus meant when He said that healthy people do not need a doctor, but the sick do. Unbelievers are “spiritually sick” because they are separated from the Lord and stand in need of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

He is the cure!

They need a doctor. They may be someone who knows nothing about Jesus Christ. Just like I know nothing about birds. The cure is to build their life on the timeless truth of the teaching of Jesus. You know – the red letters of Jesus’ words. The cure is the knowledge that all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus said, “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:12–13). Jesus compares Himself to a doctor who had come to help those who are sick. Matthew was a patient in need of healing. The sickness was sin, and Jesus was the doctor.

Regarding people who are spiritually sick, the Bible says they are more than sick – they are dead.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” -Ephesians 2:1

Believers may also be spiritually sick in that they are living in unconfessed sin or do not pursue Christian spiritual growth. Do you need a doctor?

Tom Weckesser

October 13 – BLESS – LISTEN to Others

Read Luke 18: 35-48

For over five years I have had the privilege of coaching debate teams. Being a debater is an incredible opportunity for any high schooler to develop their abilities to communicate effectively and professionally from a young age. As a former debater myself, I know the benefits of being a part of this program. Perhaps, however, the hardest part of learning how to debate, and certainly the hardest part of coaching and teaching debate, is emphasizing the importance of listening. Succeeding in a debate is as much about listening as it is about effectively orating your arguments.

In 2020, it appears as if listening to others, especially those we disagree with, is a non-option. Civil discourse and finding common ground, at least for the time being, are strategies seemingly only employed in the past. The example Jesus provides to us in our reading today, however, should inform us how we, as Christians, should engage in culture and with others. Much like succeeding in a debate round, this passage in Luke shows us that successfully engaging in life often means hearing out those who are not like us.

At face value, there could not have been two more opposite folks than the main characters in this passage. On one hand, we have Jesus- Lord, Messiah, the Savior, and a man that, at that time, was literally followed by huge crowds. On the other hand, we have a blind beggar- very poor, outcast by society because of his impairment, and a reject. Notice how the crowds wanted to keep them separated. Culture and society would not have these two engage in dialogue. It would be taboo.

Jesus was a trailblazer. He came to show us what love is and what love does. He is love. Jesus shows us, in this instance, that two very different people from two very different walks of life can engage together. Jesus, at this moment, shows us that to listen is to show love. This moment is also striking because, as much as the crowds wanted to keep the man separated from Jesus, it was his faith that caught the attention of Jesus. Not who the beggar was or what he did. It was his faith that Jesus admired. Trusting Jesus in faith set this man free from blindness, and it is that same trust and faith in our Savior that will set you and I free from the burden of our sin.

I wonder who you are feeling pressured by society and culture not to engage with? My prayer for you and I is that, in these difficult days, we will heed the example of Jesus and show love to people who think differently than we do by genuinely listening to them. Listening out of love, not out of obligation.

Taylor Bennington

October 12 – BLESS – BEGIN with Prayer

Read Luke 10:1-12

One of my best friends in high school lived on an apple orchard. We had picnics there in the summer. At the time of harvest, they would take ladders to trees and start work early so they could pick their fruit to sell and make applesauce. I always knew I was welcome in that orchard.

But I would not have been so bold as to picnic or even to wander around that apple orchard, if I didn’t know the people who owned it. Especially at harvest time, I wouldn’t have dared step foot into that orchard because it didn’t belong to me.

When Jesus sent 72 of His followers out to all the places and towns He was about to go, He made sure they knew whose work they were bidding, whose land they were preparing.

“The harvest is plentiful,” He said, “but the workers are few.” (v.2)

Then He likened the places they were about to go to a field that was ripe for the harvest. A field that belonged to the Lord Himself.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (v.2)

It was His harvest, His field, and they were His workers appointed to do His work. In every one of these words Jesus spoke, He never once led His disciples to believe that any part of that field belonged to them. He never even suggested that any one of them had made the harvest what it was – plentiful and ready. It was all His.

In fact, Jesus is the only one who took action in these first two verses. Jesus appointed. Jesus sent. Jesus told. The only action demanded of the workers? Ask.

The harvest field still belongs to Him. This world, this county, this town, this neighborhood. It’s His for the harvest. That’s why we are to ask Him. Our job starts with the ask. Always. It begins with prayer.

It’s where Jesus began His instructions for those 72 disciples. And it’s where you and I need to begin too. Ask. Pray for workers for the harvest. Pray for your friends whom He loves.

Yes, pray. Ask. Let Jesus take the lead as you go into the ready harvest and tell about the real life He came to give them.

Bria Wasson

September 22 – Heaven FAQ’s – Will we know and interact with others?

Read Luke 9:29-33

This pandemic has really thrown a wrench into facial recognition. My phone won’t open when I’m wearing mask. How annoying.

But failure to not recognize a face isn’t just annoying; facial recognition is something God designed as part of being human. Recognizing a face is one of those things we take for granted. It really is a wonderful thing. When a friend passes you driving and you wave – friendship. When your spouse is arriving home at the airport – at last, there they are! When you lay eyes on your newborn – love.

So will we recognize each other when we get to Heaven? Will we spot the ones we love who have trusted in Jesus and found a home in Heaven? Or will facial recognition fail us? Will Heaven be a relational reset?

When we picture Heaven, we easily imagine a celestial city. But scripture says that Heaven is rather a new earth (Revelation 21:1, 4). If that’s the case, then I imagine Eden, but with humans on the other side of their mistakes, forgiven and redeemed. They’re still imbued with that signature touch of God and made in His image.

But enough philosophizing. What clues does scripture give us? Well, there’s Luke 9:29-33:

“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)”

First of all, Moses and Elijah seem to recognize 1. Each other; and 2. Jesus. It doesn’t appear like they took times for introductions before chatting. And second, Peter, James and John, who like all good Jewish men revered Moses and Elijah, knew who they were seeing hang out with their master.

That’s a great clue. But I guess what convinces me most is who I know Jesus to be. Have you ever known God to disguise or hide good things from people He loves? Isn’t He in the business of opening our eyes so we may see? (2 Kings 6:17) Wasn’t Jesus awakening people’s awareness to Him and helping them recognize His goodness?

At this point in my dad’s life, he can’t recognize my face. He furrows his brow as he concentrates on my eyes, but nothing clicks. I look forward to the day Heaven’s breath fills his lungs; when he suddenly sees and recognizes his Savior, who, by the way, he’s never seen before. And I know he’ll spot the son my wife and I never got a chance to hold. For some reasons, I think the two of them will recognize each other.

Ben Framstad

 

September 21 – Heaven FAQ’s – Will I eat and drink in Heaven?

Read Revelation 19:1-10 & Luke 22:14-23

I’ve been called many things in my life. Some of them, I’m not too proud of. However, when I was little, people called me the human garbage disposal. As is the case with many younger boys, I had quite the appetite. Legitimately, people would invite me over to their house to clean out their fridge. My metabolism was insane as I never went over 200 pounds until after I graduated high school. I was always the tall and skinny guy…not so much anymore.

I have always had a loving relationship with food for as long as I can remember. To this day even, my brother and I, if we know we are going to be eating at mom and dad’s that night, will text mom asking what’s on the menu so we can be excited for it…sometimes the day before. This is also exemplified by the Lawson family’s love for popcorn. We’ve toned down a little bit but there was a time where we would fill a mixing bowl with popcorn, which would be for one person, which would be consumed with minimal effort.

A question that many people have is if there is going to be eating in Heaven. As a “foodie” I can agree that that is a good question! To answer it, I want to draw you to the 19th chapter of Revelation. In the first 8 verses of our reading, you are given the context of what is called the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. This is a meal that will take place in Heaven including all believers in Christ for all of time. I’m not going to do it justice so I would encourage you all to read the first 8 verses and try to visualize just how incredible a scene that will be!

What I want to draw your attention to are 4 words in verse 9:

“…those who are invited…”

As mentioned previously, this is a celebration for those who have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Those who die apart from Christ will not be at the table, instead they will be experiencing eternal torment in Hell.

Those 4 words should shake us to our core. Who do you know that, if they were to die today, wouldn’t be invited to this meal? Who do you know that believes in God but doesn’t yet have a personal relationship with Him? Who do you know who is still living in their sin?

This is a meal they can’t afford to not be at.

Imagine what it would be like getting to Heaven and seeing a familiar face in line. It’s with tears in their eyes that they say, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.” You could be the last time they hear the gospel in their lifetime.

Who do you know that needs to secure an invitation to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb?

Jake Lawson