November 22 – 10 Commandments – The Lord’s name in vain

Read Exodus 20:7 and Philippians 2:9-11

There is an importance on names. When it comes to a family, the name carries a certain weight to it.

I don’t know where this trend started in our family, but my grandpa’s name is Ronald (I honestly don’t know his middle name). My Dad’s first and middle name is David Ronald with mine being Jacob David. I was under no pressure to continue doing this when I found out Kelly and I (mostly Kelly) were having a baby boy but I wanted to keep the train rolling so our son’s name is Matthew Jacob.

Now, I’m not sure our name holds much power. I would hope that, when you hear the names of anyone in our family, you are shocked and amazed and standing in awe.

On the other hand, Paul writes this in his letter to Philippi:

“Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place an gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The name of God is quite literally awe inspiring. Paul writes that, at the mention of it, every single knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus is God.

This means that every person who went to their grave doubting God, who spent their lives cursing the very existence of God and saying any number of heinous things about Him, will, at the mention of His name, drop to their knees and confess that He is who He said He was.

There is power in a name.

That is why God Himself told Moses that His name should be revered, not taken in vain because, as one commentary reads:

“…God’s name is powerful, when we take the name ‘Christian’ upon ourselves, we must do so with an understanding of all that it signifies.

If we profess to be Christians, but act, think and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. When we misrepresent Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Scripture, we take the Lord’s name in vain. When we say we love Him, but do not do what He commands, we take His name in vain and are possibly identifying ourselves to be among those to whom Christ will say, “I never knew you” in Matthew 7:21-23.

The name of the Lord is Holy, as He is Holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself.

To do any less is to take His name in vain.

Are you holding God’s name in high regard in your life? Are you representing God the best way that you can? Are you being who you claim to be?

All of this goes into the 3rd command in Leviticus 20 to “not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

Jake Lawson

November 18 – Prayer for my Kids – Peace

Read Philippians 4:8-9 and John 16:33

A King offered a prize to anyone who could paint the best picture of peace. Many participated. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a peaceful and calm lake. The lake was like a mirror and beautiful, towering mountains were all around it with blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

The other picture also had mountains but these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky with lightning and rain. On the side of the mountain was a foaming waterfall.

When the King looked closer, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest…perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The second picture.

Do you know why?

“Because,” explained the King, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

Jesus Christ is our peace – the presence of God. It is not the absence of conflict. It is a Christian virtue that is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). It is the opposite of disorder or confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Teach this to the next generation with words and how you live.

Can you practice peace, maintain your composure and continue to think straight when you are in the middle of conflict or unrest?

This is an ongoing challenge but our kids need to see the peace of God in their parents. Peace is only possible because of what Jesus has done in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Tony Evans is a pastor who wrote a book titled RAISING KINGDOM KIDS and it offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.

He says that one way for the truths of the Bible to be conveyed in the home is for parents to talk about them and live them out each day, so kids can learn from both their actions and their words.

Talk about Jesus when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (See Deuteronomy 6:7)

If you have the love of Jesus down in your heart, you have peace. Recognize it and live it out. It transcends all understanding and will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7). 

Tom Weckesser

November 16 – Prayer for my Kids – Thankful Hearts

Read Philippians 4:4-7

To become a parent is such an honor. It is daunting. It is miraculous. It is thrilling. It is nearly impossible to do correctly.

“You call me out upon the waters

The great unknown where feet may fail.

And there I find You in the mystery,

In oceans deep

My faith will stand.”

The first time I heard this comforting and relevant song, OCEANS, I found it to be a mesmerizing song with a very good message.

It is uplifting and the lyrics are about life. The lyrics could be about being a parent, including the mystery of it and the fact that we all fail as parents at times. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and try to get better. Parenting is the most difficult job I’ve ever had and the hardest thing I have ever done. You plan, you work hard as a parent, be a good example, talk to other parents and communicate with your spouse. Communication is the key. Communicate with God. He is the guide. He is the real key.

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand

Will be my guide

Where feet may fail

And fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed

And You won’t start now.”

As parents, we make decisions based on the information we have. Sometimes we lack information. So, we take a deep breath and we make the decision. We pray to God and ask for His guidance and His sovereign hand. Reciting Philippians 4:4-7 is helpful. Ask God for the peace of God which transcends all understanding. Sometimes that verse means a lot because some of the things that happen while parenting we do not understand.

When our daughter was a senior in college, she drove off the road and into dense woods and did not hit a single tree. Her car was not visible from the road – someone called 911 and, when we arrived on the scene, there was no explanation for how she was unharmed. Why did God protect her?

But looking back, I see God‘s sovereign hand. Rejoice. Be gentle. Do not be anxious. Present your requests to God. Let Him guide you. Can you meet this almost impossible challenge of parenting? Yes, you can – with prayer, petition and thanksgiving!

Tom Weckesser

September 25 – Living Courageously

Read 1 Samuel 17:1-58 and John 16:33 and Philippians 4:13

The movie, Hoosiers, is a story about overcoming adversity and a leader who battles through criticism. It is based on a true story of a high school basketball team playing in the Indiana state tournament. At Butler Fieldhouse, and before the largest crowd they have ever seen, the Hickory Huskers were big underdogs against the favored South Bend Central Bears in the state championship game. The Hickory team gathered in the locker room for a prayer before the game. The team chaplain read to the team from 1 Samuel 17: “And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on the head, and he fell to the ground. Amen.”

Then the team went out and played the game. The movie is about a coach and his team and living courageously through many obstacles, curve balls and uncertainties.

Just like our lives.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33

To live courageously involves effort. It is not easy. Take heart! Be prepared. God has a plan for you.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Let’s strive to face challenging situations with confidence and bravery. I have officiated over 1400 high school football games and have experienced fear and lack of confidence at times while officiating. What helped me is I would simply repeat Philippians 4:13 over and over in my mind. Sometimes I would say it out loud to myself before a play. It helped to give me confidence and to stay focused. We all face fear and lack of confidence at times. Reciting a scripture verse in difficult situations can help us live courageously.

Have you tried it?

While everyone stood around, too afraid to confront Goliath, David wasn’t scared. David had faith in God and believed He would deliver Goliath into his hands. David was correct and Israel enjoyed a period of peace.

Just as David wasn’t afraid to confront the giant, we shouldn’t be afraid to confront our giants either. Regardless of what giants face us – illness, job loss, relationship issues, financial problems, the challenge of being a Christian spouse and parent or other giants – we can step out in faith and know God can work everything together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Prepare your heart for this devotional series about living courageously. Consider how you can get closer to God every day and be a godly influence on others. Consider being prepared, bold, and confident while embracing change.

Live with courage for Jesus Christ in a world that is challenging.

Tom Weckesser

September 18 – Anxiety – Prayer

Read Philippians 4:6-7

The goal is peace.

The kind of peace that pervades every corner of the heart, every inch of the mind. When life gets dark and the road ahead is full of fog, that goal is easier said than pursued. 

Like when the phone blows up with family conflict. And discussions about who is to blame for the world’s violence dominate social media posts. Then there’s the violence right here in our own land. And don’t forget the just plain busyness that fall brings as the holidays approach, the kids’ sports seasons are in full force, and work is an endless pit of long to-do’s with not enough people to pull it off.

Still, the goal remains.

The peace of God to guard those corners of your entire being in every situation. The thought of it truly passes all understanding because anxiety is a very real part of this world. That’s why God used Paul to help us navigate the stress and anxiety. In these two verses, Paul tells us how to deal with it, how to present your requests to God. And He gives us three tangible instructions to help.

  • Pray about it. No matter what the situation, talk to God about it. Your son is struggling with his math homework? Pray about it. Your prognosis looms dark and unknown? Present it to God as you spend time with Him. Seek His heart. Find intimacy with Him as you talk with Him.
  • Petition God. Don’t just talk to Him about it. Ask Him for clarity. Ask Him for healing. Ask Him to act according to His will, to make His will yours. Just ask. 
  • Draw near with thanksgiving. Because His character is good and everything He does is perfect, approach Him with gratitude for what He is doing, even in this circumstance. Even if He chooses not to change it.

I’m not suggesting it’s as easy as 1-2-3. But when we take these steps and make the move toward God, truly letting Him be in charge, He works un-understandable peace somehow. And He will use that peace to protect us and keep us, even in the stormiest, darkest, foggiest circumstances.

Bria Wasson

August 4 – Foundation for Life Change – Safe

Read Philippians 1:6

Being a mom of two boys, I was excited when I was asked to lead our girl’s ministry at Grace. I was ready for girls in my life and it quickly became my favorite night of the week! 

SMM, which stands for Serving My Master, was a weekly group that provided an opportunity to connect 1st-6th graders with other girls, leaders and, ultimately, Jesus. Whether we were learning about our missionaries, making a craft, having a Bible lesson, or singing at a nursing home, the girls loved coming and they felt safe at church.

Grace Kids is a place where we can creatively lead and teach families towards life change in a simple, SAFE, and fun way. Every Sunday you will find our rooms clean and supplied with age appropriate toys and activities ready for kids.  SAFE includes a quick stop at a check-in kiosk for a nametag and secure pick-up tag for parents to use at the end of the service. SAFE also means wonderful leaders, who have had background checks, ready to greet and lead kids in a small group setting.  Time the leaders spend with the kids every week builds trust and kids feel SAFE when they can trust someone.

How incredible would it be if kids grew up knowing they are safe at church?

Would you take a few minutes right now to pray for the kids who come to Grace Kids that they would feel safe and cared for? Would you pray that the safe environment of Grace Kids would allow for kids to open their hearts to Jesus? Lastly, would you also pray that God would continue to provide leaders and that they can have spiritual discussions with the kids in their group?

Its 25 years later and some of those little girls I had in SMM are now moms with their own little girls and what a joy to see the love they have for their family and Jesus! There are other girls I am still praying for and praying they remember that God will always love them, and I will too!

Cathy Simms

July 9 – Leadership – Humility

Read Philippians 2:1-11

Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time studying and learning from great leaders. Thankfully, I have not had to look hard or far to find men and women that have inspired me to grow, pushed me to succeed, and helped me get back on my feet when I have fallen in my leadership journey. Grace Church is blessed with an amazing group of pastors and lay-leaders whom God has uniquely gifted to serve our congregation and our community. What a blessing it has been to learn from them!

As I have studied, observed, and stood next to some of these individuals, one thing has consistently stuck out to me: their humility and glorification to God in success. Then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Not only are some of these people the most inspirational leaders I know, they are also the most fiercely-devoted Jesus followers in my life.

Jesus is, after all, the leader of leaders. Hands down, the greatest leader of all time. Kings, queens, and even your favorite President of The United States would never stack up against the Lord of Lords, Emmanuel. Yet, when we examine the scriptures, study the life of Jesus, and understand the people He surrounded himself with, we see a very different picture of a leader than what our 21st century depiction of a successful political or cultural leader might look like today.

King Jesus is the King of Kings, but, unlike kings and queens of 2021, He did not have an elegant entourage. No, He chose to hang out with everyday people, tend to the sick, and sit next to sinners. Jesus did not dress in fancy robes or wear jewels. Rather, He made an effort to be the antithesis of the Pharisees and Sadducees of His day, making religion more about relationships than hierarchy. Perhaps, most importantly, Jesus was not a leader that was focused on Himself. He preached love, addressed the needs of others, and ultimately sacrificed Himself for the good of humanity and in obedience to His Father.

Examining the life of Jesus gives us insight into the heart of leadership. I think Jesus makes it quite clear to us how we can truly become great leaders and great disciples in this one simple, yet beautifully complex commandment:

 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31.

What does humility mean to you?

Might you consider making a two-bullet to-do list for yourself today?

Bullet one- how can I love God more deeply this week?

Bullet two- what is one thing I can do to love someone this week?

Taylor Bennington

May 17 – What Does the Bible Say About Anxiety?

Read Philippians 4:6-7 & 1 Peter 5:7

Just the other day, a friend asked me what causes me to have anxiety. After years of struggling with anxiety, it was a question I have answered a million times, but never actually answered with the issue behind it. 

For me, my anxiety creeps up when a situation arises and I have no outcomes at play. Scenarios and the “What if’s” circle around in my head without slowing down and cause me to panic. The answer to what causes my anxiety is that I am not in control of my life or what happens within it and I struggle with that. 

You know what is amazing though? God wants to hear all about the worry we are going through. He welcomes us to come before Him, to be raw and real and just give it all over so that He can carry the weight and we can just follow after Him in faith and surrender. The entire reason He wants to carry the weight of this world for you is because He is for you and cares for you. I can victoriously say that, as I have learned to surrender the fear of the “What ifs” and hand over the answers to the questions, I have been able to learn more of who Jesus is. 

Peter reminds us that Jesus is there and cares, ready to take on what our heart is hurting from, and Paul challenges us to change our perspective as we take it to Jesus. 

For the longest time in my life as a Jesus follower, I always thought that verses, like above, meant I was not supposed to have thoughts of fear and anxiety and that, if I had even one anxiety attack, I was not surrendering my life to Him. However, after many years of studying God’s word and getting to know the character of Christ, I can confidently say He doesn’t tell me to be perfect and stop having anxiety, He just tells me that, WHEN I experience anxiety, to bring it to Him time and time again. It’s in those times that He works miraculously in my mind and heart. We live in a broken world, operating in redemption and the Lord knows of our struggles and shows us a way out of our anxiety to give us joy. 

Joy can be described as “The resolute assurance that God not only knows about my problems, but He cares about them.”

So here we are: Peter reminding us of Christ’s care for us and that He wants us to come to Him raw and real and lay it all out, no matter the messiness it might be, but it doesn’t stop there. He then challenges us through Paul to the church of Philippi, that we are to “go before the Lord with thanksgiving”. That no matter what we go through, we approach our anxiety with “the holy but”’. 

We may worry BUT God has us. We may struggle BUT God is there! 

As you go before the Lord, surrendering the anxiety, the unanswered questions, the “What if” scenarios; remember WHO He is. Remember HIS Truth; this will make it easier to surrender all that is weighing you down. 

Kelly Lawson

May 13 – What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?

Read Philippians 4:6

Is there someone who comes to mind when you read the verse above? 

For me, it’s my mother-in-law.

Now, if you know Julie at all, you know that she is a prayer warrior. No matter what she is doing and where she is, she is consistently and constantly praying. Just today she sent Jake and I a text about praying for Emma, our unborn baby, and our family. On Sundays, you may see her walking around the church. This isn’t for nothing- she is walking and praying. Praying for the hearts that will walk through the doors, for the families and the kids that will come to Grace Kids, the volunteers who serve on stage and off, and she prays for our leaders as they teach us. 

I remember years ago as David was teaching on a Sunday morning, he mentioned how he loves when Julie is at home, alone, because he knows what she is doing; she is praying. I can attest to that as, time and time again, Jake and I would stop by in the evening, and we would always find her at her desk praying and studying. 

She is the greatest example of what Paul is telling the church of Philippi to do. She prays without ceasing; she brings everything before the Lord with a thankful heart.

I don’t know about you, but I want to grow to be that in my life, in my family. 

How does one begin, though? You may ask. 

I remember when I was discipling a close friend years ago, she was afraid to pray. She felt as though it had to sound profound or holy; but the more her walk with the Lord grew and the more she got to know God through His word, she became more confident in going before the Lord and praying. 

This is what I will encourage you to do. Get to know more about the Lord, about His Word and about who He says you are. Begin with just praying through what you are reading in His Word. This is something that Julie taught me. As she studies and reads, the Lord brings people into her heart and mind and she prays over those people what God’s word proclaims. 

The Lord and I connect a lot through music. The lyrics within the songs I listen to have always been important to me. As I listen to a song, I begin to worship and pray.

One privilege I have while serving on our contemporary worship team is the honor to pray what we sing over our church body, over this family the Lord has blessed me with and over my walk with the Lord.

Worshiping is praying. Praying is worship. 

Prayer starts with where your heart is. 

I challenge all of us to re-read the verse above and pray that over us. The Lord helps give us an understanding of prayer and that we do it with a thankful heart, continually bringing our lives before Him.

Kelly Lawson

April 29 – Say What Now? – “Surrender Anxiety in Prayer and I’ll Give You Peace”

DON’T READ Philippians 4:4-7. . . yet.

We will. Promise. But it’s likely you’ve read it before. So, before familiarity sets in and we read it in a predictable way, let’s reset with some context so we can read it with fresh eyes.

First, Paul wrote this while he was in prison. Consider that as you read.

Second, the Philippian church lived in a city whose culture was not particularly friendly to Christians. This was the city where Paul and Silas exorcised a demon out of a fortune teller girl, and as a result, city leaders ginned up the town by accusing them of threatening the Roman customs and it got them thrown in jail.

Two things were clear at the writing of this letter:

  1. The writer’s circumstances weren’t great.
  2. The readers’ culture wasn’t hospitable to their faith and worldview. At any moment, it might turn on them if their faith upset the status quo.

Ever felt like one of those (or both?). Okay, NOW let’s read what Paul said:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul says we can have peace! Peace when…

  • We face challenges at work
  • Our family is in the throes of crisis
  • We’re afraid of getting canceled or criticized
  • We receive a diagnosis that permanently changes our future.

Peace? Seriously?

Can Paul really expect us to have peace when life can get this out of control? Apparently he can. Paul had gone to the school of hard knocks. The Philippians understood what a hostile culture feels like. Oh, and side note: they were also dirt poor. These people didn’t naturally have peace and serenity.

So how did they get peace? Paul’s instruction was clear: “Present your requests to God.” The promise was that peace that transcended understanding would guard your heart and mind. This isn’t senseless peace, impossible to understand, but it IS peace that is beyond our ability to understand or explain.

Therefore, it must be experienced.

Are you experiencing anxiety today? I invite you to present your requests to God. Allow me to illustrate in 3 steps:

  1. Find a quiet place.
  2. Share with God what you’re feeling (as best as you can) and what’s causing the anxiety: “Father, here I am again, feeling overwhelmed because…”
  3. Ask God for His perspective: “But what is your truth for me?”  Wait and allow Him to bring to mind what the Bible says about His promises, love and faithful presence.

Our circumstances won’t likely be fixed in that moment (after all, Paul was still in prison after he finished the letter), but what you will experience is the presence of Jesus with you. With Him, you can be confident that He will not waste what you’re going through. So, take hold of His hand today.

He is absolutely trustworthy.

Ben Framstad