July 3 – Names of Jesus – Messiah

Read Matthew 16:13-20

Have you ever been sightseeing and find yourself overwhelmed with the history of a certain location? This happened to me 7 years ago when I was fortunate enough to be a part of a group that traveled to Israel. We saw incredible sights the entire week, many of which you find yourself just in awe being anywhere close to the site of historical and biblical events. One day, we traveled to Caesarea Philippi. Up until that point, I had heard about it and knew it was in the Bible having to do with Peter confessing Christ. However, a new perspective swept over me when you’re actually standing on the same rock in the same location Jesus was all those years ago.

This hole in a cave was a pagan center of worship. People would sacrifice animals and throw them down into the hole which was believed to be the entrance to Hell itself. The magnitude of being at that exact location was overwhelming. There were carvings in the wall that portrayed the sacrifices that took place there. Definitely an eerie feeling.

It was at this location that Jesus took His disciples and asked them who people said that He was. The disciples gave Him some generic answers like, “John the Baptist”, “Elijah” and even “Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. This wasn’t the answer Jesus was looking for.

“Who do you say that I am?”

You may be reading this and think that you know who Jesus is. Perhaps Jesus is someone that you talk to when things get rough. Maybe your only knowledge of Jesus comes in December when you hear the Christmas story read. Do you really know Him? Do you know what He has done for you and wants to do through you even today?

When Jesus asked the disciples directly who they thought He was, Peter responded by saying:

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter was confessing that Jesus was who He said He was. Through all that he had experienced during his time with Jesus, Peter was confessing that Jesus was the anointed Savior of the world. Upon hearing this, Jesus said, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (the grave) will not overcome it.” It is unclear if Jesus was referring to the literal rock they were standing on or on the truth that Peter just confessed.

Regardless, who do you say Jesus is? Do you say that He was a good guy? Do you say that He was a guy who said a lot of controversial things and performed miracles? Or do you say that He is the anointed Savior of the world? Will you allow Him to occupy that place in your life? Do you know for a fact that, even today, He can save you from your sin problem that is putting you on the fast track to Hell?

Will you confess that Jesus is who He said He is? Will you identify Jesus as Messiah in your life? Imagine all that He can do through you if your foundation is the same truth Peter confessed!

Jake Lawson

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • What are the consequences of not putting Jesus in His rightful place in your life?
  • How have you benefited from Jesus being #1 in your life?

June 28 – Names of Jesus – Immanuel

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Do you know how your parents came up with your name? Some parents just like the way that a name sounds. Others choose (or avoid) names based on someone else they knew by that name. I knew a family with the last name “Sweet.” They named two of their daughters “Very” and “Truly.” I guess you could also say, then, that some names are given to intentionally bring a smile or cause a laugh.

Meanwhile, biblical names often carry with them some kind of significance. They can, at times, serve as an identifying statement about the person that bears them.

Through our current devotional series, we are looking at the names for Jesus. Many of the names ascribed to Him give us insight into His character and the nature of His life mission. As Joseph contemplated what to do after learning of his wife’s pregnancy, He was assured by the angel that Mary’s pregnancy was the result of the Holy Spirit’s action…not that of another man. The angel also told Joseph about two names for his step son:
Jesus – In talking about names for Jesus, we may not expect that even that name has significance. It is more than just a random first-century name that sounds nice. It is the Greek equivalent of the Old Testament name Joshua. “Jesus,” you see, means “Jehovah is salvation.” Thus, His very name reminds us of man’s biggest problem and His life purpose …to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Immanuel – It was just two verses later that the angel also introduced a name that gave insight into the Savior’s identity. He is “Immanuel” or “God with us” (Matt. 1:25). We dare not forget that we worship one God (Deut. 6:4) who is three persons at the same time (Matt. 28:19). Jesus is the Son of God who became human (Jn. 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:5-11). His deity was demonstrated through more than His name. You can see it in His claims (Jn. 8:58), His abilities (Mk. 2:5-12), and His attributes (Jn. 1:48-51).

Both of these names are personal for you. Jesus entered into the world as one who not only knows what it is to be human but also as one who can divinely do something about your needs…even your greatest problem of sin. Jesus can save you! Immanuel is with you!

Steve Kern

Questions to consider

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • In what way does the truth of God being with you bring encouragement?
  • What are some ways that you can provide encouragement to someone else through this name of Jesus?

June 10 – Enough – asking enough?

Read Matthew 7:7-11 and Philippians 4:6-8

A pastor once said, “Prayer is exchanging our broken perspective for God’s divine perspective.”

How many times have we prayed to God for strength or wisdom and this or that but failed to ask for the patience to wait for the answer?

Often, we tend to use God as a Heavenly ATM machine, making our requests known expecting the answer that we were looking for. Do you trust God’s perspective of your life…His divine perspective? How often do you allow your prayer life to become clouded due to your own emotions and misguided motives?

God is our LOVING father. He won’t give up on you but you may have given up on Him because you haven’t gotten the answer to prayer you wanted?

Maybe you need to examine your motives.

Are you asking for peace in your decisions, contentment in what you have, safety from your own mistakes, strength to face the hardships of life?

Are you praying for your team to win or for everyone to do their best?

Are you praying for fame and fortune or peace with what you have?

Does it fit in the list we find in Philippians 4:6-8? Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?

Remember God has promised to answer your prayers but He is not a “Heavenly ATM Machine” where you put your request in, say the right words and immediately you get what you asked for. God has promised to answer prayers but, we need to remember He might not always answer, “Yes!”  He might say “WAIT, it is not the right time.” “Wait, you aren’t ready to handle that!” “WAIT, think about it, do you really want that?”   “WAIT, I have a better plan!” And the one that is hard for us to take, “NO, it isn’t good for you.”

God is always listening, so keep on asking, but don’t be afraid to also ask, “Why?”  and then be patient, in the midst of all that is going on around about you to peacefully WAIT for an answer! In all of this, know that He has your best interest in mind and, if we exchange our broken perspective for His divine perspective, we can be used best for His glory!

Pat Arnold

April 17 – Easter Week – Easter Sunday

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 Matthew 28:1-10

Perhaps, the three most hopeless letters in the alphabet are, “DNR.”  They stand for “Do not resuscitate.”  Those letters are placed on a wristband of fallen soldiers on the battlefield.  They’re used in hospital rooms. 

Panic, fear, and uncertainty because of the coronavirus produced a sense of hopelessness in our world over the last 24 months. It’s not only in the time of a pandemic that the fear of death disturbs us, however. Author Max Lucado wrote, “Death. The bully on the block of life. He… badgers you… he taunts you…: you, too, will die someday.”

Resurrection Sunday reminds us that Christ has conquered death, that He has opened the way for us to experience new life here and now, and that a glorious eternity awaits us. 

In fact, because of the resurrection of Jesus, we can experience hope in several ways:

  1.  We can know the hope of complete forgiveness.

Almost everyone would say, “I have a hard forgiving myself for something I did… or I have a hard forgiving someone else.”  Sometimes it’s both!  The resurrection of Christ guarantees that His death accomplished all that the Father required for our forgiveness.

Because Jesus conquered death through His resurrection, God the Father offers us the hope of complete forgiveness.  The Apostle Peter wrote: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”(1 Peter 1:3)

  •   We can live with purpose and direction today.

When we trust what Christ accomplished for us, God’s indwelling Spirit changes who we are at the core of our being. We become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We can be the people we were created to be, the people Christ died for us to become.

Jesus promises His people fullness of life.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  It’s so easy to get caught up in the cares and concerns of life that we forget what Jesus promised us. This fulness of life is the birthright of those who know salvation through faith in Christ.

The Hope of Easter likewise should impact how we live. Paul encourages us, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

  • We can also have the confidence of eternal life.

Christians will enjoy the resurrected life just like Christ did, with glorified bodies raised in power (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). We suffer in this life with pain and illnesses.  But in the life to come, you and I will not suffer.  Jesus just said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who live” (John 11:25-26). Those who are in Christ know that death is not the end for us.

This is our great hope. This is what sustains us in times of suffering and doubt. The Hope of Easter frees us to live life because we no longer need be haunted by that cosmic bully – death.

Because of the resurrection of Christ, there’s coming a day when God will “Wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there’ll be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain, for things will have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). 

That gives us hope!

Bob Fetterhoff

April 14 – Easter Week – Thursday

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 Matthew 26:17-30

On Thursday of Passion Week, Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare the Passover.  Why was that so significant?  What is the symbolism involved in the Passover Meal? 

Early in the ministry of John the Baptist, he saw Jesus and cried, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b).  But why did John say that?

Our first answer to those questions comes from an event that occurred 4,000 years ago. Abraham knew God had promised to make him the father of many nations, yet God commanded him to sacrifice his only son by Sarah.  So Abraham took his son, Isaac, up Mt. Moriah to offer a sacrifice. When Isaac asked about the lamb, Abraham assured him that God would provide the lamb (Genesis 22:6-8).

From that time forward, the entire Old Testament can be summed up with one question, “Where is the lamb?”  Israel began its history as a nation 500 years later by following God’s instructions to place the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels of each house. That same night, the death angel took the lives of all Egypt’s firstborn but passed over the houses that had the blood of a lamb on the door.  For the last 3,500 years, Jewish families have meticulously prepared an annual Passover Meal to celebrate what happened that night.

For generations, Passover lambs were even raised in Bethlehem, just a few miles from the Temple. In those shepherds’ fields, a very special breed of sacrificial lamb was raised and nurtured to be brought to Jerusalem at Passover to be slaughtered to cover the people’s sins. Jesus, however, did not have His beginning when He was born in Bethlehem. Mary’s Lamb is the Lord of heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

For Christians, Passover pictures a greater reality. In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God provided the perfect sacrifice that could take away sin through His death on a Roman cross.  In fact, all the sacrificial lambs offered in the Old Testament point to Jesus Christ. 

In Exodus, God said to take the lamb’s blood and put it on the doorposts and lentel of the house. The angel of judgment is coming through the land of Egypt, but “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13b). They could have put a perfect living lamb outside that door, but it would have done no good.

Salvation does not come from the life of Christ but from the death of Christ. Salvation is not learning lessons from the life of Christ, but receiving life by faith in the death of Christ.  The Bible says, “Without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

Adrian Rogers summarized all this for us: “Jesus came as He did, born of a virgin, to be what He was, sinless. He was what He was, sinless, to do what He did, die for our sins. And He died for our sins so that He, being what He was, might make us what we were not: children of God!”

Bob Fetterhoff

April 13 – Easter Week – Wednesday

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 Matthew 26:14-16

Did you ever have a day where you thought you had “nothing to do?”  No items on your “to do” list.  No appointments, meetings or responsibilities.  Just a blank slate.

It’s easy to assume that Jesus had “nothing to do” on Wednesday of Passion Week.  The Gospels don’t record any specific event associated with that day, so we aren’t sure exactly what He did.  Bible students have even dubbed this “Silent Wednesday.”

Wednesday may have been the day Judas chose to betray Jesus.

“Then one of the twelve disciples—the one named Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?’ They counted out thirty silver coins and gave them to him. From then on Judas was looking for a good chance to hand Jesus over to them” (Matt. 26:14-16).

That’s why some call it “Spy Wednesday.”

So what did Jesus do while His life was being sold for the price usually associated with the purchase price of a slave?

I can imagine Mary and Martha preparing for Passover which required shopping, cooking, and planning. Was everyone around Jesus pre-occupied with important preparations for the holiday?

I can’t say for sure, but I’m convinced Jesus took time on Wednesday to find a quiet spot so that He could sit with His Father His death would be a horrendous ordeal. Whenever He faced significant moments in His life, He spent time with the Father… and this was THE MOMENT for which He had been born as a babe in Bethlehem.  He was about to accomplish the purpose for which He entered the world.

How will you choose to spend your Wednesday of Easter week?  In the same way you spend every other Wednesday?   Are there preparations for Easter you need to accomplish?

Maybe we should spend some of this day like Jesus did. Is there time in your schedule to simply turn the world off, take a walk, and spend some time with your Father?  Why not take time during lunch or during the drive home to simply quiet your heart and think about what Jesus did that Wednesday—and the significance of the events in the days that followed.

Why doesn’t Scripture tell us what Jesus did that Wednesday? Maybe because it was the day Jesus chose to spend privately with God.   After all, that was the pattern of his life. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  (Mark 1:35).

If Jesus felt the need to get up and pray “a great while before day,” then maybe, just maybe, you and I need to as well. The Father would love to have that time with you.  

Bob Fetterhoff

April 12 – Easter Week – Tuesday

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 Matthew 21:23-27 with Matthew 22:15-39

Have you ever felt manipulated in a conversation? Questioned about your motives? Painted into a corner?  Jesus experienced all of that and more on Tuesday of Passion Week.

It was the day when the religious leaders questioned His authority four separate times by sending their best minds to trap Him. The reason is clear: they had already made the decision to put Jesus to death (John 11:47–53).

Imagine that… the verdict came in before the evidence was even presented! Talk about a kangaroo court!  These religious leaders believed they had to catch Jesus saying something to prove He was a false teacher, because they could not condemn an innocent man before the crowds.

So these religious and legal experts asked Jesus four separate questions:  

Question #1—By what authority are You doing what You’re doing? (Matt 21:23–22:14). The religious establishment identified and approved teachers in Israel, but they denied Jesus’ credibility as a rabbi. So, Jesus asked them a question they refused to answer: Was John the Baptist sent by God? He was, and he was accepted as a prophet by the people even though the Sanhedrin didn’t ordain him.

Question #2—Should we pay taxes to Rome? (Matt 22:15–22). The Jews hated that pagan Gentiles had desecrated their land and forced them to pay exorbitant taxes. They truly believed they had Jesus here, and a simple “yes” or “no” would do it. But Jesus answers with amazing wisdom: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Question #3—Is there marriage in heaven? (Matt 22:23–33) The Sadducees thought this question was the “stumper.” They didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection or in angels because they only believed in the Torah (first five books of the Bible). So, Jesus, used the Torah, to answer their question and correct their wrong understanding.

Question #4—Which is the greatest commandment in the Mosaic Law? (Matt 22:34–40) This last question was the most complex since there were 613 commands in the Old Testament. If Jesus chose one out of the 613, He’d alienate many who disagreed with Him. Jesus sums up the entire OT law with the greatest and second-greatest commands: love God and love others… mic drop! 

Four challenges—four complete defeats! Jesus sent the greatest theological and legal minds of His day home with their tails between their legs! Matthew tells us that afterwards, “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.” (Matt 22:41).

Jesus doesn’t just know everything there is to know about everything; He knows all things from a divine perspective—a view that emanates from His holy and righteous character. Because of this, He can and should be trusted at His word, not challenged. As Paul wrote, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

Bob Fetterhoff

January 30 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 25 through Mark 2 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 Matthew 25-Mark 2.

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 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, January 30th, what lessons are you taking away from Matthew 25 through Mark 2? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there is 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 chapters 3-8.

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

January 27 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 28

Read Matthew 28:1-20

Did you ever wonder why when Jesus was arrested all of His disciples fled?  He was the one who they left everything for.  The person who they gave up their livelihood to follow.  He gets arrested and they bolt!  He is tried by the Jewish leaders and then is crucified and only one disciple we are told was present. 

But something happened.  Something life changing.  As a matter of fact, it is the greatest event in the history of the world!  You see, these same disciples who fled Jesus when He was arrested had experienced something so amazing that they ended up taking the gospel to the ends of the earth,suffering greatly and dying violent deaths.

They saw the risen Jesus Christ!

Three days after being crucified, dying an excruciating death and being buried, Jesus rose from the grave.  Their leader had been killed so one would think that those who wanted Jesus dead would expect the entire following to cease to exist. 

This would have been a good time to go in to retirement or go in to hiding for the fear of their lives.  After taking the gospel, the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth, this is what happened to the disciples of Jesus:

  • Peter:  crucified upside down in Rome
  • Andrew:  scourged and crucified
  • Thomas:  pierced the spears of soldiers
  • Philip:  hung to death
  • Matthew:  stabbed to death beheaded
  • Bartholomew:  severely whipped to death
  • James:  stabbed to death
  • Jude:  shot to death with arrows
  • James (the Lesser):  crucified
  • Matthais (who replaced Judas):  burned to death
  • John:   exiled to the island of Patmos after escaping being cast into boiling oil

Had the resurrection not occurred, do you think they would have faced such persecution to share the Gospel? 

But they witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  For 40 days following the resurrection Jesus appeared to His followers and proved He was risen.  They saw Him and walked with Him and spoke with Him.  They saw the nail pierced hands and feet. 

The resurrection of Jesus is the very cornerstone of our faith. 

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would have no hope in our future resurrection. We would have no salvation from sin.  The resurrection validates that Jesus was who He claimed to be.  It was proof that the testimony of Jesus and the prophets before Him were true. And for those who witnessed the resurrected Christ…

Their lives would never be the same. 

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave them a final charge.  If the gospel was going to be taken to the world it was going to take action on behalf of the followers of Jesus.  And He said:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

It’s our time.  It’s time to rise up and take the gospel to those around us and beyond.  It is time for us to tell the world. 

HE IS RISEN!

Nate Mills

January 26 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 27

Read Matthew 27:1-66

This chapter is heavy. It’s raw. It’s humbling. In these 66 verses, we have a front row seat to read exactly how much we are loved by Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. Before reading ahead, take the next couple of minutes to pause and read Matthew 27 to yourself. 

I rarely make it through this chapter without tears in my eyes. It is sobering to read the final accounts of what everyone thought was the end of Jesus’ life. In just 66 verses, He was betrayed by a follower, arrested unjustly, denied by a friend, put on trial by enemies, mocked by the masses, bruised and beaten, pierced by nails in His hands and feet, killed on the same cross He carried, and buried in a tomb that was closed off to His mourning friends and family.

The emotional and physical pain that Jesus felt in just a mere 24 hours is unimaginable. 

These pages in our Bibles, from start to finish, scream of suffering and heartbreak. The darkest day in history is recorded right here in this chapter. But, friends, don’t miss it. Intertwined through every hurt that Jesus felt in these moments…

He was thinking of you. 

Let that sink in. 

As He breathed His final breath, you were on His mind. 

Not only were you on His mind, but you were His motive to endure what He did so that you could experience eternity with the Father. Christ’s purpose – His life and death and resurrection – has always been to make a way for us to know our Creator. 

Isaiah 53:5 – ‘He was pierced for our transgressions.’

Romans 5:8 – ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

1 Peter 3:18 – ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous…’

There was never once a moment that Jesus didn’t know what He was doing or the why behind it. He was in this to save our broken world.

He was in it for you.

Take a moment to fix your mind on Jesus. Thank Him for the selfless, unconditional love that He has for you!

Becca Harbaugh