November 11 – Attributes of God – Goodness

Read 2 Chronicles 7:3 & Matthew 19:16-30

Solomon built a magnificent temple and God filled it with His glory. The Israelites, who witnessed it, were amazed and said, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

And then they forgot. And then remembered. And forgot. And remembered…

Do you soar on the clouds some days and marvel at God’s goodness, then stagger with clumsy steps on other days, wondering where He is and what He’s doing?

Same.

The Israelites are such a great example to us of our fickle hearts and the way we misunderstand God’s goodness. They wanted a secure kingdom. Even when Jesus came, they had earthly eyes and hopes of His rule and peace for their nation.

We have a saying, “all good things must come to an end”. This is often true in life, but with Jesus, all good things never end. With eternal eyes and hope, we realize we can never get to the end of His goodness.

I love Jesus’ interaction with the rich, young man in Matt. 19. He wanted to know how to be good. Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect…”

Do you want to be perfect? I do. Do you think you’re good? I hope you are, but are you good enough? Good enough to deserve eternal life? The ruler thought he was until Jesus put his life under a microscope. Turns out, he wasn’t as good as he thought.

And this is where our hope shines brightly.

Jesus is the only good one and He offers His goodness as our cover. He took our filth upon Himself so that we could be clothed by His goodness. (2 Cor. 5:21)

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Our good God lavishes His love upon us when we aren’t very lovable. (1 John 3:1)

He saves us by His grace because He knows we can never be perfect enough to earn it. (Eph. 2:8-9)

He seals us with the gift of His Spirit when we put our faith in Him. From that moment, we have everything we need to live a godly life and we’re never alone. (Eph. 1:13-14)

He reserves a place in heaven for us, and, not only do we have a home there, we will be rewarded for everything lost here on earth multiplied 100 times.

Our God is good. There is no evil in Him. Not one speck.

No matter what evil happens, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8)

You may be tempted to think otherwise when suffering lands in your lap. I’ve been tempted, too.

I’m also able to testify that no one comforts me like Jesus. No one leads me better. No one listens to and answers my prayers as He is able and faithful to do. He is my rock. My anchor. My hope. My friend and Savior. He is good.

If you are questioning His goodness, tell Him. He wants your honesty. If you have become hardened because of your suffering, invite Him into it. Ask Him to show you His goodness. He wants you to see it and believe.

Nothing is impossible with Him.

Shelly Eberly

October 28 – Personality of Jesus – Gethsemane

Read Matthew 26:36-46

Gethsemane. 

The word means “oil press”. It’s fitting, if you ask me. The last place Jesus went with His disciples before the nails and the cross and the tomb and the death and the life and the victory. Jesus led them to this Gethsemane garden, where He would experience the press of anguish and dread like none of us have ever or will ever know. This Gethsemane, where Jesus battled His will and let the Father have it all.

The fight for my soul and for yours began long before Calvary. Jesus’ three words declared the victory from the cross.

“It is finished.”

But hours before those three words, He spoke five others to the Father in a private moment on His face in that Gethsemane garden, begging God to take away what He knew had to be done. Five words of surrender in which He literally gave the Father His own desire so that He could accomplish what He’d come to earth to do.

“Yet not as I will…” Five words. And then four more. …”(B)ut as you will.” And that one sentence of surrender propelled the exchange of His life for ours.

Jesus’ whole life, He had leaned on the Father, followed His way. He always knew exactly where He was going – through Calvary and the tomb – before conquering death itself with His own life that lasts forever for you and for me. But first, He went through Gethsemane. Because surrender always precedes obedience to God.

That’s where Jesus laid it all out for His Father. Left it right there on the ground in that garden where His will was pressed to the place of surrender. And there He surrendered it all.

Are you pressed to the point where surrender is really your only choice? Jesus knows that kind of pressure. Follow Him through it and you will emerge with the freedom that lives real and true on this side of heaven and then forevermore.

Bria Wasson

October 23 – Say What Now? – “Go and Make Disciples and I’ll Be with You”

Read Matthew 28:16-20

Say what now?

The sheer scope of that responsibility seems nearly impossible today. It must have seemed even more overwhelming to the disciples as they first heard the words.

In terms of its breadth, they were to make disciples of all nations. These were not just geo-political entities around the Mediterranean rim. The nations included people marked by linguistic and ethnic differences around the globe…and that in a day when distances were long because of transportation limitations and because of xenophobic attitudes.

In terms of its depth, they were to make disciples not mere converts. People were to be baptized and taught all that Jesus commanded. That “all” was more than a single principle. And the teaching itself included more than sufficiently communicating content. It necessitated inspiring and equipping people to respond to that content in obedience.

The temptation might have been strong to ignore the commission because of its breadth or to consider it impossible because of its depth. Let’s face it…we are tempted to do that today. We can come up with good reasons to stay at home and not expose ourselves to racial/ethnic differences. And we find it difficult enough to wrap our own minds and lifestyles around the teachings of Jesus. Who are we to teach others? Yes, the “all nations” and “all He commanded” seem to be too much to ask.

Still, there are two more “all” statements that bookend this passage, moving it from the realm of the ignorable and impossible. First, Christ has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” On earth, planets and stars, plants and animals came into existence at His word (Gen. 1). In heaven, tens of thousands of angels are ready to respond at His bidding (Matt. 26:53). Shouldn’t we respond to that authority?

And Jesus closes the statement with the assurance that He will be with us “always.” We can rest assured that we will go nowhere without Him!

How will you engage the nations? The classic missionary plea is still valid today. We engage with the Great Commission as we…

  • Pray. Pray that God would raise up laborers and pray for those serving and for those in need of the gospel.
  • Give. By giving to the budget at Grace Church, you participate in local and global efforts to take the gospel to the unreached.
  • Go. Will we go to them in our community? He also calls others to go to them in their own cultures.

Steve Kern

September 25 – Hard Questions – Why does God seem so angry in the Old Testament and loving in the New Testament?

Read John 1:18, Jonah 4:2 and Matthew 5:29-30

Throughout the Old Testament you can find books that indeed show the love of God. Read the end of the book of Job.  Look at the book of Ruth, Proverbs, and Psalms. But, at the same time, realize that mankind has been in rebellion to God since Adam and Eve.  Mankind has to face the consequences of sin.  We read in Hebrews 12:6

“For whom the Lord loves He disciplines and scourges every son whom He receives.”

Read now in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel:

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked rather than he should turn from his ways and live?”

Read this question again through those passages and still one more:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.”Hebrews 13:8

In the Old Testament, people were admonished to follow the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and spirit.  We are taught in the New Testament to do the very same. 

As we grow to be like Jesus, we will see more of His attributes in what we read of the Lord in the Old Testament. Our prayer today ought to be for God to open our eyes to the truth of His Word and not of our perceptions and ideas we have concerning it.  The Bible is the only book in all of human history where, at any point in history, we can talk to the Author of it about it.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God being declared to be “a compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness”.  In the New Testament, we see a more fully shown view of this in the sacrifice of Jesus for mankind. Jesus spoke of the Spirit being the Helper. The one to teach us all things.  It would be through the Spirit in each of us that we have our perceptions of God and ourselves seen through different eyes, Spiritual eyes. 

Pray each day for renewed understanding. We are told that God gives wisdom to all who would freely ask.   Pray that our misconceptions of God would be either answered to or removed from our way of life, our way of thinking.

Lastly…note that our Father in Heaven is our Father. Kids don’t always do what they are told and, when that happens, discipline follows. That does not mean that we are loved any less because of it.

David Brenneman

August 15 – Perseverance – With finances

Read Matthew 6:21

“No one can serve two masters…”

The 2022 movie ELVIS is a true story of greed. It is about a young man about 20 years old who had a great deal of musical talent. Many Americans embraced his music. His 1956 national TV appearance made him a star and he started to make large amounts of money. His parents were unable to mentor him and he had no one to guide him. He had some Christian church background but no knowledge of managing money. A greedy agent appeared named Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks) and talked Elvis into managing his money. He took practically all of Elvis’ fortune without Elvis even knowing it. Presley died in 1977 broke and drug addicted. He did not have a trusted mentor, direction or a way to manage his fortune. Many people said his music was great. But his story is sad, tragic and could have been avoided if he was able to manage money better. His manager’s love of money and his greed superseded his love of Elvis.

Jesus Christ and the apostles taught about the proper attitude toward the use of money.

Many verses tell us to avoid greed, which is an excessive desire to acquire more than what one needs.

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” 

Matthew 6:21

How can we keep money in perspective without being a “lover of money.”? While work ethic is vital in our lives, how do we avoid greed? How do we balance these? It requires awareness and accountability.

The goal is to not have a shred of dishonesty in ANY part of your life, including the handling of our money.

Having a mentor to keep you accountable or being a mentor can really help!

In describing a church leader, 1 Timothy 3:3 puts greed (money-hungry) in the same category as drunkenness, violence, and being quarrelsome.

“…not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

1 Timothy 3:3

Billy Graham made this statement a few years ago: “Money and success can never satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, no matter who we are. God made us for Himself, and when we leave Him out of our lives, an emptiness is left in our hearts that cannot be filled—except by Christ.”    

“Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”

Luke 12:15

In the United States, we are constantly tempted to trust in money and ourselves rather than Christ. Proverbs assures us that trusting in wealth will cause us to fall but trusting in God, or being righteous, will make us “thrive like a green leaf.”

“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”

Proverbs 11:28

Let’s avoid greed in our lives.

What do you treasure?

Tom Weckesser

August 14 – Perseverance – With temptation

Read Matthew 4:1-11

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the multitude of ways that Satan tries to pull me down.  Sometimes I feel like it is his full-time job to tempt me.  He loves to bring up my past failures time and time again.  He knows the areas that I am weakest.  He knows the things that strengthen my relationship with God and loves to find ways to creatively pull me away from my Savior.  There are times when it appears that Satan is obviously attempting and attacking.  And he prowls around like a lion waiting for its prey.   Sometimes these schemes of the devil may seem harmless at first but all he wants is to trip us up, allowing him a foothold.

Temptation is no stranger to mankind.  The tempter was there in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and he is present in this day and age to tempt us into sin.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was no stranger to temptation.  As we read in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus faced temptation just like us.  He was in the wilderness for FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS where He was fasting.  Imagine for a moment going without food for even a week.  What would you be willing to give up for a bite to eat or something to drink? 

Satan tempts Jesus and tries to take the Lord’s focus on to His hunger:

“Turn these stones in to bread”

But look how Jesus responded in his hunger:

“It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”

Jesus could have given in and fed himself.  But he didn’t!

I think there is something very important here for us to understand about dealing with temptation.  We do not have the will power to fight temptation each time it comes.  But God gives us the weapon and armor we need to fight the battle when we face temptation.  Jesus had the Word of God to strengthen Him in His time of need.  He recited Scripture, the Word of Truth, back to the tempter. 

If that worked for the Lord, then it would do us well to do the same. 

Study the word and memorize it so that, when the enemy attacks you, then you have a sword and shield to go into battle.

Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted just like we are.  We need not give in to our temptation.  We are in a daily battle with our enemy the devil and he wants to kill and destroy.  It is important for us to realize the importance of fact that we are in a daily battle.  We need the constant reminder to daily PUT ON the full armor of God.  Our battle is not of this world but we are fighting against powerful dark and evil forces.  Be prepared to fight.  Take a moment and turn to Ephesians 6:10 – 18.  This should be a way to prepare daily for all believers. 

Armor up.

Jesus was in the wilderness alone and starving for 40 days and nights but He did not give in to the temptations He faced.  He was strengthened by the Word of God and sought to obey and serve the Father. 

Do not allow the evil one to take your focus away from following God. Put on the armor of God and stand strong!

Nate Mills 

July 14 – Fear of – Being Judged

Read Matthew 7:1-3

One definition found online of the phrase “to judge” says “to express a bad opinion of someone’s behavior, often because you think you are better than them.”

How true is that?

Unless you have been made fun of yourself, you don’t realize how harmful some off-handed comments you might make can be.

I have been overweight my entire life.  In our society, it is not OK to make fun of some things but a person’s weight is always open season!

I have been made fun of by all kinds of people. And yes, when I was younger I was frozen in fear of being judged! That fear used to stop me from doing a lot of things: singing solos, going to parties, and even participating in family member’s weddings.

All because of the fear I had of being judged.

When you are overweight, have a deformity or a handicap, you try to pretend that it doesn’t exist.  And in your mind, it doesn’t until some unthinking person thinks that they need to point it out.  Like you don’t have a mirror in your house?  So, you think, “Oh thanks! I didn’t notice!” or “You are so kind to point out what I was hoping no one else in the room would notice.”

Why do people do that? 

I have concluded that they feel that, if they point out YOUR faults, no one will notice THEIR OWN.  They might claim that they are just trying to “help” but, in reality, is isn’t “helping” at all- just hurting!

We all want to be accepted for who we are.  Not what we look like, how we talk, walk or even smell! 

As I got older, I realized four things.

  1. I am a child of God, not a child of man.
  2. He loves me just the way I am right now, not the way others think I should be!  
  3. God’s not finished with me yet! I am His “Work in Progress” so I shouldn’t judge MYSELF by what others say or think. 
  4. When people feel they need to judge me, that is THEIR problem, not mine.

God has used all the pain I felt for years to help others.  For many years, I worked with children who were beaten down emotionally every day, sometimes by their own parents.  Many acted out in class. However, they just wanted to be accepted!  They would do whatever it took to get that approval, not judgement from their peers.  Why do kids join gangs? Fear of judgement and the need for acceptance!  Gang members accept them. Too bad many regular people, even Christians, don’t.

Look around you! Seek out the people who are frozen in their fear, wanting to be accepted!  Is it someone you know or a stranger?  Is it you?  Sometimes it only takes a smile or a listening ear to melt those bars of fear that have them imprisoned.   

Pat Arnold

July 11 – Fear of – Uncertainty

Read Matthew 6:25-34

I praise God that anxiety and worry hasn’t plagued my life as it has others. For some reason, I have always been quick to not fret about what I can’t control and surrender it to the Lord.

However, this season of life has been much different.

Kelly and I are in a stage where there is a lot going on and we’re trying to piece everything together. I would say that this season with two young kids has had me experience anxiety and worry for really the first time ever. There have been times where I can feel my chest literally tighten. There have been times where I have had to excuse myself to cry out emotions that come welling up to the surface. I have felt physically ill as I consider all the plates we are juggling, the future that our kids are going to experience, and the fact that there will come a point where I can’t control that.

It makes me sick.

It’s easy, believe me, to get stuck in this season of worry. What is the future going to hold? How is this going to work out? Are we going to be okay? How are we going to pay for this? If you’re not careful, you can find yourself obsessed with worrying about things that you have no control over. There have been several times where Kelly and I have had to sit down and sift through all the junk and boil it down to the things that only we can control.

There’s so much in our reading today that helps us in times of uncertainty:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

This puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? If God cares for animals that provide nothing of eternal significance, doesn’t it make sense that He will provide for us all the more?

During a recent anxious season with Kelly and I, we told each other, “You know, God has provided for us so far. He’s not going to stop now.” This doesn’t mean that God is going to snap His fingers and solve our problems, but, all things considered, we are going to be okay.

“So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

As followers of Christ, our priorities should be different than those around us. People worry about things that, when considering eternity, don’t matter. Our focus shouldn’t be on earthly things but the eternity that is to come and those who, if they were to die today, would miss out on eternal life with Jesus.

Are you allowing your feelings about uncertainty to occupy a space in your mind and heart that they shouldn’t? Do they have more power than they should?

Friend, God knows your struggles. He’s right there with you.

If you find yourself in an anxious and worrisome season, look back over your life and identify all the areas where God has provided for you.

He’s done it before and promises to continue doing it.

He’s not going to stop now.

Look over the promises of our reading today and re-align your priorities and surrender your anxiety and worry to the Lord.

Place them at His feet and turn your focus to things of eternal significance.

Jake Lawson

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?