August 22 – Heaven FAQ’s – What will life be like for those who don’t go to Heaven?

Read Luke 16:19-31 and Mark 9:42-49

I don’t remember a lot of firsts in my life like learning to read, walk, sing, ride a bike or swim.  To me, I have always been able to do those things. Likewise, I don’t remember not being able to talk to God. I’ve prayed for friends who were hurting or for God to give me strength to get through tough times since I was little. As a young child, I remember talking to God many times while riding my bike up and down a side street in our neighborhood.

Through the years, our conversations have gotten more complex, along with my professional, financial and parental worries.

Talking to Him and feeling His presence with me has always brought me comfort and assurance that, no matter what, He would be right beside me.

Sometimes He would ask me to do things. Sometimes I would question the reason or my abilities, but He always came through and equipped me for whatever I needed to complete the task.

One time, however, was different.  I can’t remember what it was that God was urging me to do, but I do remember I was not eager to do it.  Everywhere I turned, He was reminding me of the task I did not want to do.  If I turned on the TV, there it was.  If I read a book, it would appear in the text.  If I was talking to a friend, there it was again. I felt like I was in a bad Jim Carrey movie!

As I was driving to work one day, I turned on the radio and there it was again!  I had had it! And without thinking I shouted, “God, just leave me alone!” Just that fast I shouted, ” NO!”  Because right there on Oak Hill Road in Wooster, Ohio all alone in my car, I truly believe that God gave me a glimpse of what it would be like totally without God!

Oh, there weren’t any little men running around with pitch forks and with horns on their heads.  I didn’t stick around long enough to feel the fire, but it was real!

It was just a total absence of God, and I couldn’t stand it for even a millisecond!   There was total emptiness, total despair, total isolation rolled all into one.

How sad it is for people around us who don’t know God, who feel that emptiness, despair, and isolation every day here on Earth.  Their financial condition has nothing to do with their “Heart for God” condition. I know some very financially poor people who are millionaires spiritually!

All the money in the world can’t buy you a ticket into heaven and spare you from hell’s fire.  Like with the rich man in the passage, once you die, it is too late to change courses.

It is up to us to introduce people we meet to our God and His Son Jesus before it is too late!

Hell is more than a cuss word.  It is a real place and you definitely don’t want to live there eternally!

Pat Arnold

July 4 – Names of Jesus – Prophet

Read Mark 6:1-6

Jesus showed up in His hometown with His 12 best friends. He began to teach. His authority was from God, not other humans.

He was a hit, impressing practically everyone. “We had no idea He was this good!” they said. “How did He get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”

But in the next breath they were finding fault with Him: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known Him since He was a kid. We know His brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does He think He is?” (Mark 6:1-3 MSG).

Even after all the miracles of healing which Jesus worked, He still was not accepted even in His own town. As He taught in the synagogue, there the audience was amazed how this ordinary man, whom they knew as a carpenter, could attain such wisdom. They rejected Him.

Why? Perhaps they did not know what He had done. Perhaps they were jealous. But they did not welcome Him, even though He was a prophet and the Son of God. At a later time, He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.”

A prophet is a spokesman for God (Exodus 7:1 and John 4:19). The teachings of Jesus apply to us today:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”.   Mark 10:45 NIV
(Jesus was a servant)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. (Jesus is the only way).

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”.  Matthew 6:33
(Our priorities are important).

“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”.   Matthew 5:16 NIV
(Our daily attitude can positively affect others)

“… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”. Mark 12:30
(The greatest commandment).

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31.
(A great way to live).

Tom Weckesser

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • Where did Jesus receive His authority and why is that so important?
  • Based on the shared definition of a prophet, how can you be one today? Who can you bring closer to Christ?

April 15 – Easter Week – Good Friday

Editor:  This week is Easter Week, also called Passion Week and Holy Week.  During each day this week, Every Day with God will focus on some of the events involving Jesus on the different days of this week, which ultimately led to His death and resurrection. 

Read Mark 15:21-40

On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull (Mark 15:22) The sky turned dark for three hours (Mark 15:33). Jesus cried, “Father! Into your hands I commit my spirit!” and He died (Luke 23:46).

But why did Jesus have to die?

From a human perspective, the Jewish leaders plotted against him, Judas betrayed Him, Herod and Pilate tried Him, and the Roman soldiers executed Him. As Luke puts it, “Wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).

But Acts 2:23 says, Jesus was “handed over by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” To understand the death of Christ, we have to understand that He died for two main reasons:

1. Jesus Died to Bring Us Near to God.

The Apostle Paul declares: “You who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).  All humans stand condemned before God. Our sins separate us from Him whose character is holy and perfect.  

By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. He died for us…. in our place.  To bring us near to God, “Christ died for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet. 3:18). If “the unrighteous” is all of us, “the righteous” is Jesus Himself.

When we trust Christ for our salvation, we are making a trade. By faith, we trade our sin and its death penalty for His righteousness and life. This is called the “substitutionary atonement.”

Christ died on the cross as our substitute. Without Him, we would suffer the death penalty for our own sins. “He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The writer to the Hebrews puts it another way: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

Some object, “Shedding blood seems so barbaric. Is it really necessary? Why doesn’t God simply forgive us?” Because God is holy, He must judge sin.  At the cross, God poured out His judgment on His Son, satisfying His own wrath and making it possible for Him to forgive us.

But there’s even more…

2. Jesus Died to Reveal God’s Infinite Love.

God reveals His majesty and power in creation.  His promises to Abraham show His concern for the whole world. But at the cross, we witness the final and dramatic proof of His love and justice.

Romans makes this clear: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Christ’s death puts beyond all doubt the fact that God loves us.

God doesn’t forgive us by turning a blind eye to our sin or by overlooking it. Forgiveness is costly. At the cross we see not only God’s love, but also the seriousness with which He takes our sin.

Where would we be if God had not sent His Son to die for us? Without the cross, we’d be “darkened in our understanding of God and alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:18).

The death of Jesus simply changes everything. I pray each of us will join Paul in saying, “I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Bob Fetterhoff

April 11 – Easter Week – Monday

Editor:  This week is Easter Week, also called Passion Week and Holy Week.  During each day this week, Every Day with God will focus on some of the events involving Jesus on the different days of this week, which ultimately led to His death and resurrection. 

Read Mark 11:13-18

Do you know that God sometimes gets angry? When asked to describe God, people often say, “God is love.”  And He is!  But, contrary to what some believe, that’s not His only quality. Among many other ways He is described, God is also holy!

God is not some gentle, soft spoken grandfather-in-the-sky with a casual indifference to what is happening here on earth.  When things in this world get radically twisted from what He planned, it angers Him!

Does it surprise you to learn that Jesus got angry?  While walking from Bethany to Jerusalem on Monday of Holy Week, He cursed a fruitless fig tree. Jesus knew that fig trees bear fruit twice a year — in June and September. This was April.  Even unripened fruit should have still been available for Him to eat, yet it was fruitless, so Jesus cursed the tree.

In the same way, the nation of Israel was professing to be fruitful and faithful (waving palm leaves as He entered their city), yet the Jewish people were fruitless in practicing their faith.  Someone wrote, “Profession without practice was the curse of the Jews.”   A few days later, the Jewish leaders would deny their King and crucify Him.

Nowhere is God‘s distaste for religious hypocrisy more evident than when Jesus cleansed the Temple on Monday of Holy Week. When He arrived at the Temple, he found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He began overthrowing their tables and cleared the Temple by saying, “My temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).  Apparently, the merchants had forgotten whose house the Temple was!

The events on Monday of Easter Week set up the events which happened on Thursday. By clearing the temple, Jesus criticized the leaders who allowed and promoted the activity happening in the Temple. He rebuked the religious leaders and told a parable meant to criticize them (Matthew 21:45-46).

The religious leaders had been concerned about Jesus before this, but His actions on Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week clinched it. They wanted him dead!

So why did Jesus flip the tables?

1. The religious leaders were turning what was supposed to be God’s house of prayer into a marketplace! 

  • It had even become a place where those selling animals and exchanging currency were ripping off the people. Greedy merchants probably cheated their buyers whenever they could, especially during the feasts when pilgrims from far away crowded the temple area.
  • Was Jesus upset at the Temple becoming a market place?  Sure!  Was Jesus upset that there was dishonest gain and “robbery” happening in the market place?  Absolutely.  Was Jesus upset that the religious leaders of His day were part of the problem in the Temple?  Yes! Most likely, it was a combination of all the above.

2. The market cut off the Gentiles from their place of worshipping the God of Israel. 

  • The court of Gentiles was a promised worship location for the Gentiles, built specifically in the Temple for those outside the Jewish faith to worship the God of Israel! They were supposed to be included, but were restricted by the practices taking place at the Temple. 

Here are some crucial questions for all of us, based on these events from Monday of Easter Week:

  1. Do I create barriers in my life that distract people from seeing the presence of God?
  2. Does the profession of my mouth match the attitudes in my heart before God?
  3. Are my personal resources used in a wise, God-glorifying way?

Bob Fetterhoff

April 10 – Easter Week – Palm Sunday

Read Mark 11:1-11 

Palm Sunday!

Instantly most of us think of palm branches, donkeys and Easter. It’s one of the best recognized Christian holidays on our calendar.

In some churches, children hear the story in Sunday school, wave palm branches while marching through the aisles of a worship service and picture themselves welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. Nothing substitutes, however, for actually standing on the Mount of Olives to imagine the scene on the first Palm Sunday 2000 years ago. It’s a moving moment, even for the stoics.

The shouts of the crowd long ago provide some of the most familiar words in the Bible: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9b).  Zechariah’s prediction was fulfilled in this moment: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, and a colt, the fall of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9b).

What was behind the events of that first Palm Sunday? Some Bible students believe that, when the people waved palm branches, they were making a political statement – like waving a national flag to commemorate when the Maccabees revolted against Antiochus, the Syrian tyrant. After all, palm branches were used to celebrate that victory!

For sure, some in the crowd hoped that Jesus would reestablish the glory of the Davidic kingdom to Israel. They thought He might be the One to fulfill the words of Isaiah: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” (Isaiah 2:2).

The first coming of Christ was not designed to establish a political kingdom, however. In the eternal plan of the Father, Jesus came as a Suffering Servant who would be “…pierced for our transgressions, …crushed for our iniquities”. (Isaiah 53:5). Clearly “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b).

A few days after that first Palm Sunday, the religious leaders stirred up the crowd to yell, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Talk about the whim of public opinion!  Is it hard to imagine that some of the same people who wanted to crown Jesus as king demanded His death a few days later?

Well, it’s not hard for me.  As I look honestly at the cracks, crevices and corners of my life, I see the inconsistency, rebellion and sin in my own heart. I recognize that, at times, I “speak out of both sides of my mouth.”  I pledge undying love and loyalty to my Lord and Savior yet still choose to disobey his clear guidance for my life. 

I understand what Paul meant when he said:

“I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:21-24). 

Is there any hope?  Am I just doomed to imitate the fickleness of the 1st Century crowd that ultimately called for the crucifixion of my Lord?  

The only answer is to immerse my heart, mind and soul with the following words of Romans: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 7:25;8:1-2).

Bob Fetterhoff

February 20 – Gospel Readthrough – Mark 16-Luke 4 Review

The day after Christmas, Jeff Walter challenged us to draw closer to God by reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leading up to Easter.

This week, you read Mark 15 through Luke 4.

We thought that it would be important, as we continue to make our way through the gospels, more specifically Matthew, to pause once a week to reflect over what we have read so far.

A huge part of reading the Bible, or internalizing any kind of biblical truth for that matter, is application. How are you applying what you’ve read to your life? In what way are you going to become a more fully devoted follower of Christ as a result of your reading?

So, whenever you are reading this Sunday, February 20th, what lessons are you taking away from Mark 15 through Luke 4? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there are a lot of takeaways from these chapters, but I challenge you to focus on even just one.

Take today to reflect on this past week’s readings and pray for God to open your heart and ideas to the principles you will receive this next week as we read chapters 5-10.

Thanks for taking on this challenge!

FYI, we have a private Facebook group for this challenge where people can interact with others and share what they’re learning. If you are interested in joining this group, email Sharon (skarhan@woostergrace.org) to receive an invite!

Jake Lawson

February 15 – Gospel Readthrough – Mark 16

Read Mark 16:1-20

“He has risen. He is not here.”

I very much enjoyed it when Phil Wickman sang at our church a few years ago. He sang about Jesus and the songs encouraged me about living my life in a way that honors Him. The next year, Birdie and I and some friends went to Akron to see MercyMe in concert. They also sing about Jesus.  They sing about Easter. Singing can be a thankful expression of freedom.

His Name Is Jesus is a song about Easter by Phil Wickman:

“The King is in the room,

Come see the scars of love upon His hands,

We’ll watch the darkness flee at His command,

Who is this King?”

“His name is Jesus,

Light of the world,

There’s freedom in His name.”

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection – what a moment that must have been!

“The hands of the resurrected Jesus had scars on them… ‘Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe’…As He said this, He showed them His hands and feet…” (from Luke 24: 36-41 Jesus Appears to The Disciples).

How is there freedom in the name of Christ?

“…there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1

The freedom in His name is explained here:

“And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Romans 8:2

So, the Spirit of Jesus Christ frees you from the sin that we all are guilty of. As a Christian you are free from your past. You once were lost. Now you are found and free!

David Crowder also sings about the same life-giving freedom that Christ offers – from sin’s power that leads to death – in his song PROVE IT:

“If you’re free prove it,

If you’re not lose the chains on your soul –

Come, freedom.”

The fact is that in Mark 16, the resurrection is about freedom. It is about freedom from sin. You and I have an opportunity to be free from sin through Jesus Christ. By asking Him into our lives, we can take the step to freedom from sin.

The apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23) wrote about it in John 8:36 –

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

The King is in the room!

Tom Weckesser

February 14 – Gospel Readthrough – Mark 15

Read Mark 15:1-47

“The King is in the room!

Come see the scars of love upon His hands.”

HIS NAME IS JESUS by Phil Wickman

“Scourging” or “flogging” is a verb that means to whip or to torture. Scars and death follow.

Flogging happened before every Roman execution, except for women and Roman soldiers. To crucify (15:13) is to put a person to death by being nailed to a cross.

Jesus was flogged with a short whip with several braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls were tied at intervals. For scourging, He was stripped of his clothing – and His hands were tied to an upright post. His back, buttocks, and legs were flogged usually by two soldiers who took turns. The severity of the scourging depended on the mood of these guys and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of death. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the back of Jesus with full force, the iron balls would cause deep bruises, and the leather thongs would cut into the skin and more.

As the flogging continued, the lacerations would become bleeding flesh.  Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for the person to go into shock. After the scourging of Jesus, the soldiers taunted Him. He was insulted by people passing by (v 29), was mocked by the “leaders” (v 31) even by the two criminals who were crucified alongside Him (v 32). But one of the criminals later repented and asked to be a part of Jesus’ kingdom.

What changed this guy’s mind?

“Name another king like this?

Who is this King?”

The Romans did not invent crucifixion but they may have perfected it. As torture and capital punishment, it was designed to produce a slow, painful death with maximum suffering.  It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the worst criminals.

“Who is this King?

His name is Jesus

Light of the world.”

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild pain reliever. Jesus tasted it but He refused to drink it (Matt 27:34).

It was common for insects to burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites. Also, it was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals. A follower of Jesus named Joseph asked Governor Pilate for the body of Jesus. He took it down and wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in the tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one has yet been laid.

There’s never been a love so great

He died so we could live.”

Are you aware that what happened next is the cornerstone of the Christian faith?

Take a moment and think of Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. Thank Him and commit to live for Him as a result!

Tom Weckesser

His Name Is Jesus (Live) – Phil Wickham | Harbor Point Worship

February 13 – Gospel Readthrough – Mark 9-14 Review

The day after Christmas, Jeff Walter challenged us to draw closer to God by reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leading up to Easter.

This week, you read Mark 9-14.

We thought that it would be important, as we continue to make our way through the gospels, more specifically Mark, to pause once a week to reflect over what we have read so far.

A huge part of reading the Bible, or internalizing any kind of biblical truth, for that matter, is application. How are you aiming to apply what you’ve read to your life? In what way are you going to become a more fully devoted follower of Christ as a result of your reading?

So, whenever you are reading this Sunday, February 13th, what lessons are you taking away from Mark 9-14? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there are a lot of takeaways from these chapters, but I challenge you to focus on even just one.

Take today to reflect on this past weeks’ readings and pray for God to open your heart and ideas to the principles you will receive this next week as we read Mark 15 and 16 while entering into Luke.

Thanks for taking on this challenge!

FYI, we have a private Facebook group for this challenge where people can interact with others and share what they’re learning. If you are interested in joining this group, email Sharon (skarhan@woostergrace.org) to receive an invite!

Jake Lawson

February 12 – Gospel Readthrough – Mark 14

Read Mark 14:1-72

We see in this chapter it was getting to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Things were getting intense.  The church leaders were testing Jesus at every move and Jesus was even talking about His own death.  During intense times, people’s real beliefs, motives and fears come out.  In this chapter, three distinct kinds of followers of Jesus can be found. Let’s take a closer look at them and see if you can find yourself among them.

First there was Judas. 

We don’t know much about him except he was a disciple.  Jesus had chosen him to be one of the 12.  He had been with Jesus for most of the 3-year ministry and had seen all the miracles and events. However, Judas had his own agenda for what HE thought Jesus’ ministry should look like.  He expected Jesus to come charging in with a great army and take over the oppressive Romans and, when he saw that that was not happening, he took matters into his own hands. To the point of actually turning his back on Jesus and selling Him for 30 pieces of silver.

Do you know anyone like that? They are Christians, go to church, maybe even volunteer for things but they have their own ideas of who Jesus is and what He wants for their lives.  This follower prays for things, but, when it doesn’t happen the way THEY think it should, they take on a negative attitude about anything that has to do with God.

They might even try to take matters into their own hands which never turns out right.  Do you know someone like that? 

Could that someone be you?

Next there is Peter. 

Like Judas, Peter had been a loyal follower for 3 years. Jesus even told him that He was going to build His church upon him and his faith. However, when facing his own physical harm and pressed to stand up for Christ, he caved and denied Him completely.  

Do you know anyone like that? They go to church every week, maybe even lead a group. But outside of the church where the people around them have false ideas and beliefs about Christ, where they might be mocked or might need to defend Christ, they deny knowing Him for fear of being shunned. Do you know someone like that? 

Could that someone be you?

Then we have the woman with the oil.

 She has seen Jesus work in her life.  She is willing to risk everything for Him.  She doesn’t let the jeers and scoffing of the people around her make her lose her focus on Christ.  She cherished her one-on-one time with Him.  Do you know someone like that? 

Could that someone be you?

What type of follower are you?  Are you willing to risk everything for Christ or do you need to lay yourself at His feet and ask for forgiveness?   

He is waiting.   

It’s never too late!

Pat Arnold