August 20 – Missions Spotlight – Tracey Price

Read Matthew 19:13-15, 9: 35-38, 1 Timothy 2:4-6

Ministry: Christian Education in the Northwestern and Norwayne Public Schools

Missionaries: Tracey Price, Beth Terwilliger, Chad Palmer, Josh Chaffin

We have a unique opportunity to share the gospel with public school students K-8th grade during their school day each week. There is, no doubt, a decline in church attendance, so our mission focus is to share the life changing message of Jesus with children and give them an opportunity to respond.

Released Time programs represent a powerful way to reach children whose parents are not believers or active in church. Parents find it a good way to give their children some “religious training.”

The book of Matthew, chapter 19, makes it clear that children are loved and valued by Jesus, and not to be overlooked. While children may not fully understand repentance and faith, the Holy Spirit does not limit His activity to adults. The seeds of faith can take root in children very young, even if it takes many years to actually see the fruit. We must be praying for the hearts of these children to be open to the gospel and to choose to follow Jesus. We also must build relationships with these little ones so we can let the light of Jesus shine through us. 

In Matthew 9 and 1Timothy 2, we are reminded of the ripe harvest and of God’s desire for everyone to be saved and know truth. Statistically, just over 30% of children ages 5-13 accept Christ. For those 14-18 years old, 14% respond and 6% of those 19 and up. There is simply no better time than right now to reach the children for Jesus.

Meeting the spiritual needs of children today by presenting the gospel and building relationships is critical. Released time programs are a wonderful and effective way to point children to Jesus. 

The Northwestern campus has an 87% participation rate in elementary school and the Norwayne campus 95%.  The middle schools at both campuses have much lower participation numbers due to scheduling and other opportunities offered during the school day. 

Our program relies heavily on the participation of our MANY volunteers (over 80) and the prayers and financial support of area churches and individuals.

Please be in prayer for the hearts of our teachers to be like the heart of Jesus toward the children, for boldness to share the gospel, and for our eyes to be open to the various spiritual and physical needs of the students, and that the children would respond to the gospel.

August 14 – 5 – Opportunities to Minister

Read Matthew 5:16

I’ve found myself in some pretty secular settings. I think all too often, we, as Christians, bubble ourselves and don’t put ourselves in positions to talk with people who need Jesus. On one hand, you have church where you are one of several hundred believers, and the other, you are the outcast because you are a person of faith.

Such a setting was when I worked at a local restaurant which, at least during my employment, was known for being a sketchy place to be, much less work. Because my mindset was just to put in hours to pay for my online schooling, I had tunnel vision when I first started.

However, our reading today talks about the value, and command even, for believers to let their light shine so that people may see Jesus through your actions. Here I was, going to Bible school and finding myself in the midst of homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, idolaters and the mix.

I had a choice to make.

I could remain tunnel visioned or I could open up and allow my actions to reveal the God to whom I have surrendered my life.

The more I was around my coworkers, the more I found that they were simply … people. Sure, they had (very) different priorities in life but they were still created in the image of God.

Just as light illuminates a dark room, you have great power, because of Jesus in you, to shine a great light into the lives of the lost.

What does “letting your light shine” look like? Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t look like. It absolutely doesn’t look like Bible-thumping people into submission. If I were to walk up to the gay guy and unleash a fury of Bible verses and condemn his lifestyle and demand he repent on the spot, how do you think that would go?

When I was at a co-worker’s house and someone pulled out marijuana and asked who wanted to smoke, what value would it be if I sprinted out of the house, screaming, “Lord, deliver me from evil!”

Let me be very clear: This isn’t saying that we need to participate in sin. However, if you want to reach the lost, go where they are. Live like a surrendered follower of Christ. Live by a different set of standards. Communicate love and care to those around you and take advantage of moments to share the reason for the hope that you have.

You’ll be surprised what doors open up as a result of your God-like example.

Knowing that I was going into ministry, a couple of co-workers said that they would go to a church that I was pastoring. By the way, one of the guys had a visible tattoo of a burning Bible. What about the guy that I was able to share the gospel with who was living with his girlfriend? What about the outspoken atheist I was able to get breakfast with and boldly talk about my beliefs?

Light is only effective if it is in the midst of darkness.

Are you staying in a bubble? While not giving in to sin, what can you do to surround yourself with people who need Jesus?

You may be the only light someone ever experiences.

Jake Lawson

August 11 – 5 – Sower

Read Matthew 13:1-23 and 2 Timothy 2:23-26

Sandwiched between a zealous-spiritual-retreat-attender named, Augusta, and a forced-to-retire-too-young Marine named, Michael, I was in for a memorable flight. As we dove deep into conversation, it seemed ‘Gussy’ was more devoted to her retreat leader and his ‘hole up and prepare for the end of the world’ message than she was to Jesus. Michael looked the picture of health on the outside but was all pins and screws on the inside. Under enemy fire, he had suffered traumatic injuries and the loss of several comrades. This led to more pain in the loss of his marriage, full-time fatherhood, the ability to sleep, and any hope for inner peace.

As we chatted I began to share my hope in Jesus and Michael and Gussy began to form an alliance of attack. My words were met with laughter and condescension. They called me a ‘parrot’ that didn’t really understand what I was saying…that I didn’t know the first thing about Got. That the Bible was flawed and couldn’t be trusted. As the pride of proving myself welled up in me the Spirit popped it with some sharp truth:

“Have nothing to do with foolish arguments. The Lord’s servant must be kind. Shelly, they’re not listening to you anyway.”

So, I listened to them…for four hours. I only spoke during the few gaps of silence uttering, “Jesus, can we just get back to Jesus?”

We never did.

In the respite of my silent car on the drive home I had the strength similar to someone who had just climbed a mountain. Or maybe scaled some really rocky soil.

But, by God’s grace, I have a different soil story about a different Michael. He grew up across the road from our home and was raised on religious rules. I started hauling this kid around with my kids around age 10. He was in my house daily becoming like family. There were many times I’d talk to Michael about a relationship with Jesus. His lack of response made me walk away wondering if I was too preachy or if I Bible thumped the poor kid. But one day when he was seventeen he showed up at my kitchen door and told me he was ready. This precious young man was ready to surrender his life to Jesus. My feet floated across the grass as we made our way to the garage so my husband, Keith, could be in on this momentous occasion.

Talk about some good soil. Spirit fertilized, plowed, and ready.

I still wonder about Gussy and Michael, the Marine. I wonder if some tiny nugget of truth took root in their hearts that day. It was a rough exchange. But I’m still glad I sowed. I don’t have to wonder about my other Michael as he is faithfully following Jesus today.

Who is the Spirit prompting you to listen to or talk to today? We just never know, so let’s continue to sow!

Shelly Eberly

August 10 – 5 – We are harvesters

Read Matthew 9:35-10:1

If you pause from your driven, task orientation long enough to do a little people watching, what do you see? What adjectives would you use to describe those scrambling around Walmart, seated at a restaurant, outside in your neighborhood, or gathered at a sporting event? Angry? Happy? Opinionated? Fed up? Comical? Lonely? Misguided? Hurting?

As Jesus went about His ministry, He was people focused. He recognized their need for the good news of the kingdom and shared it. He saw the pain they experienced in their bodies and healed it. Still, the adjectives and word pictures He used to summarize what He observed in people were “harassed, helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Is that an accurate description of those in your people watching experience? I will let you decide. Certainly, we must say that anyone without Jesus is helpless in that they do not recognize their source of real help and shepherdless in that they are not following the only Good Shepherd.

Christ’s observation of the condition of people led Him to two responses. First of all, it created in Him a longing in the deepest recesses of His life. This compassion was a yearning within that they might experience peace and help in Him as their shepherd.

But the second response was the sharing of a prayer request. He recognized that the spiritual harvest was larger than the harvesters at that time could possibly bring in. So, He invited His followers to pray. He asked them to invite God to release more workers so that the harvest could be brought in.

Let’s pose some pressing questions to help us to process the present-day implications of this account.

  1. Do you attempt to see people through the eyes of God, recognizing their desperate spiritual need?
  2. Does the reality of the lostness of those around you move you with a deep longing to see them come to faith in Christ?
  3. Are you praying that God would raise up people to join in the harvest?

There is one final interesting twist to the story here. Jesus ended up calling and sending the very ones He had asked to pray. The ones who pray for more people to share the Good News of Jesus must be sharing themselves. We all are harvesters. Who are you sharing with?

Steve Kern

August 5 – Foundation for Life Change – Fun

Read Matthew 19:14

I’ve been at Grace since I was five years old and grew up in Grace Kids. Every summer came with the anticipation of Mr. Steve and Mr. Randy’s VBS-the highlight of the summer for my friends and me!

Then, there were Sunday morning services. I vividly remember memorizing verses throughout the whole week so I could get cool prizes from Ms. Cathy; I had so much fun!

These memories are so vivid because I had so much FUN! Fun is such an important value at Grace Kids because fun, over time, builds trust.

The trust I had in my leaders throughout my years in Grace Kids carried over to my years in Grace Students, which changed my life for the better. Trusting them brought me closer to Jesus!

In Matthew 19:14, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What better way to point kids to Jesus than by making sure they have fun, and therefore building trust, on their way?

It might come as a surprise, but kids love having fun! If you have any kids in your life, you know that they don’t need fancy toys or giant games to have fun-they have fun wherever they are!

So, I have a question for you. Who can you invite to have a fun time in order to build the bridge for spiritual conversations? Think about the families around you, whether neighbors, colleagues, or friends. Now, think about how God could use you in their lives-simply by creating a FUN environment!

What are you waiting for? Go have some fun and build the bridge for spiritual conversations while doing so!

Grace Wasson

July 29 – $ – Planning for the Future

Read Luke 14:28 and Matthew 6:25-34

Planning for the future.

There’s probably a lot that comes to mind when you read that phrase. Some people relish in the dreaming and planning for their future while others just feel anxiety, guilt or frustration. Even further, some of us think about that and may be in middle of those extremes. Regardless of your gut reaction when you read that, we read in Luke 14:28 the importance that Jesus places on planning ahead when talking to a crowd about counting the cost of following Him. The candor and common sense that Jesus shares in this passage is refreshing and insightful:

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

Jesus shares this illustration to emphasize the personal responsibility that we as stewards of His resources need to place on planning for the future and evaluating how our priorities influence our decisions around our time, talents, and treasures. If we believe that everything we have is a gift from God, and that He owns it all, we have a responsibility to honor that with the way we live our lives in every aspect. Part of the way that we honor the gifts God has blessed us with this by stewarding them in a way that aligns with God’s commission on our lives to love Him and to love others.

The planning that we do today, is allowing us to honor God now and in the future.

That being said, you may also ask the question, “But doesn’t God say not to worry and that He will care for all our needs?” The short answer is yes; in Matthew 6:25-34:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

To better understand this, imagine a sailboat. A sailboat is dependent on two critical components:  it’s sail, and wind. Yet, in cooperation, it’s an impressive sight. I picture my responsibility to plan in life as “putting the sail up” and God is the wind that directs the sail. I can’t expect God to move the sailboat without first putting up the sail to catch the wind that he provides.

In terms of planning for the future, it’s our responsibility to present our best efforts by taking the next right step that God has for us (putting the sail up) and allow him to direct our path over time (the wind that moves the boat in the right direction).

In what way can you best plan for the future with a proper reliance on God’s plan for your life?

Ryan Spengler

July 26 – $ – Investment

Read Matthew 25:14-30

Before we can begin a discussion on investing we must first acknowledge that what we have is not ours but God’s.  Everything that we have, has been entrusted to us by God to manage for the advancement of His kingdom “On earth as it is in Heaven”.  1 Chronicles 29:12 says “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” 

Our reading today shows God’s perspective on investing.  What did he tell the servant who had “put his money to work”?  “Well done good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness”. God expects us to put the resources He has given us to work.  That doesn’t mean going out and “betting” on the next sure thing. It means putting together a well thought out plan that furthers the Kingdom, and then implementing it. 

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

Proverbs 21:5

The plan you establish should include an asset allocation target. Diversification helps to reduce and control risk. Ecclesiastes 11:2 says “Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” Risk comes with investing. But, you can manage that risk by spreading your investments across multiple asset classes.

As your investments grow over time it is very easy to become obsessed with what you’ve accumulated.  The more you focus on what you have, the less you see the One who is your provider. Proverbs 23:4-5 says “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

Finally, seek advice.  Proverbs 15:22 says “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”  A good Christian advisor can help you create a plan that honors God with what he has entrusted you.  There are thousands of investment options available, but not all of them honor God.

How can you begin investing for your future and the betterment of the Kingdom?

Jeff Swartzentruber

July 19 – Leadership – Model What Needs Practiced

Read Matthew 4:18-22

If you ever want to know what you’re like, have kids. If you want to live in denial, don’t.

Kids are like a living mirror.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a social situation with families, and someone’s son or daughter will act up, and one of the parents will say, “I wonder where (s)he gets that from!” And everyone else is marshalling all the willpower they can muster not to blurt out, “YOU! You are the one (s)he gets it from. It’s you!”

So much of life is caught as much as it’s taught.  And, frankly, there is more caught than we might think.  Thus, the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”

And that is so true of leadership. If we have the privilege and responsibility of leading others, what we do may speak louder than what we say. I heard it said this way: “If what you do is inconsistent with what you say, then what you do will speak so loudly no one will be able to hear what you say.” Whoa! That’s sobering… and convicting.

In our passage today, Jesus didn’t say, “Come, listen to me.” No, He said, “Come, follow me.”

I’ve learned that disciples were not merely expected to learn what their rabbi taught, but their goal was to be who their rabbi was.

In the same way, leadership is as much caught as taught.

So, when we’re leading, let’s make sure we are on the right path.  Let’s make sure our priorities are right. Let’s make sure we are sharpening our skills for leadership (Psalm 78:72b; Ecclesiastes 10:10) and refining the character of our lives (Psalm 78:72a).

Because those who are following us are watching us.

Oh, and one more thing.  This is important. Look at verse 19. As leaders, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. As a Christian leader, our priority is the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and fishing for men (v. 19). Our prime directive is to invite, equip, and release people to that cause. And, as leaders, we need to model it and champion it. The priority of the Kingdom and striving to reach our full redemptive potential must be obvious, both in our actions and our words.

Remember, the ones you are leading are watching.

David Lawson

July 11 – Leadership – Conflict

Read Matthew 18:15-17

If you’ve worked with people for any amount of time, then you know that humans are messy and imperfect. Including you and me. Working with others is hard.

Leading others is even harder. 

Unfortunately, there will be times in our leadership when we have to confront conflict. Whether you love it or you love to run from it, as believers, we have a responsibility to lead through it. 

This doesn’t mean bulldozing over feelings for the sake of moving forward, demanding a desired response to push our own agenda or making a fast and hard decision to avoid the opinions of others. 

Leading through conflict requires us to see the problem, confront those involved in truth and grace, and to seek out a solution together

Let’s be honest though, this is all easier said than done. But we’re in luck. Jesus had something to say about conflict among believers and not just how to resolve it, but what it takes to lead through it. 

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”

Matthew 18:15-17 MSG

As you read this truth, think about your circles of people… 

Have you been hurt or have you hurt someone? Is there a conflict that you’ve been putting off, hoping it would just go away? Do you tend to be oblivious to the conflict moments for people around you? Are you willing to walk through these steps of resolution to reconcile the relationship? Is there someone who is a non-believer that needs to experience God’s forgiving love through your example? 

Today, even if it might not be obvious to you, ask Jesus to reveal who those individuals might be and ask Him for the strength, patience, and grace to lead through the conflict.

Becca Harbaugh

July 8 – Leadership

Read Matthew 5:13-16

Leadership. 

Interesting word.  According to a survey done over 10 years ago, there were over 15,000 books in print about leadership.  15,000!  What images immediately come to your mind when you think of leadership.  Do you think of ORG charts, thrones and crowns, or plush offices?  Or perhaps you think of the person or persons who are in charge.  Over the years we have seen implosions in leadership in government, churches, businesses, and non-profits.  Those stories and experiences are sad and make us wonder: what is real leadership and why is it so easy to write about and so hard to do?

Over the next two weeks we are going to dive into what God says in the Word about leadership.  Now, before you delete the email and cross yourself off the list proclaiming, “I’m not a leader” let’s make sure we’re on the same page.  When most of us think of leadership, we think of the gift or skill of leading.  It’s someone who goes first, gathers people, casts vision, and leads teams and organizations in particular directions.  Chances are most people don’t see themselves as that kind of a leader.  However, leadership defined at its core essence is ‘influence’.  Organizational leaders might have the skill of leveraging their influence, but the truth is that everyone has influence.  Some have a lot of it and others have some of it.  But everyone has influence.  Since you’re included in ‘everyone’, my friend, you have influence!  As followers of Christ, we are called by God to leverage our influence for spiritual impact. 

In the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus said,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16

You have influence.  You are called to leverage your influence.  Whether you are a leader of a company, lead your shift at work, lead your Grace Group, lead a team of young athletes, or lead your children at home, you have influence.  You are called to leverage that influence in a way that both honors God and helps others discover a relationship with God.  In the passage above, Jesus doesn’t tell us to become salt or become light, He says we are salt and we are light because we have a relationship and connection with Him.  Now, take who you are in Jesus and leverage it for the sake of others so they will see your work and give glory to Your Father in Heaven!  When leaders leverage their authentic influence, Jesus is made famous. 

Are you ready to leverage your influence?  Take 5 minutes and write down the names of people God has placed in your life with whom you have influence.  Pray over their name and ask God to open doors of opportunity for you to lead for God’s sake!

Nick Cleveland