September 8 – A Changing Culture – Handling Success

Read Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 16:3 and Psalm 101:5b

“Just bought a book on narcissism. It’s great. It’s all about me.”

Have you ever watched the old video segments of The Beatles in 1963 from The Ed Sullivan show? You would see that these guys were hungry for success and had worked hard to produce pleasant music. They were young and ready to make some money. They were enthusiastic, excited and singing love songs such as THIS BOY (my favorite), SHE LOVES YOU and I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND.

Then, as I watched old video segments from 1965 through 1969, their attitudes changed. A lot of my friends say that their music got even better but what I saw were guys who weren’t as hungry and excited. They were burnt out. How could they not have been burnt out with the fame they experienced?

As they approached 1970 when the band broke up, they became drug addicts. Their music changed from love songs to drug songs such as LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS and DAY TRIPPER. Many people liked the music better. I didn’t. What changed?

Then on March 4, 1966 The Beatles’ John Lennon said, “We are more popular than Jesus.”

Reactions included radio stations banning Beatles music and rallies of boys and girls stomping on their records and bonfires of Beatles material.

Audio Adrenaline, a band of 5 Christian men aged twentysomething, sang a song titled NEVER GONNA BE AS BIG AS JESUS in 1996. This song was a response to The Beatles’ claim that they were bigger than Jesus.

“Never gonna be as big as Jesus

Never gonna hold the world in my hands

Never gonna be as big as Jesus

Never gonna build the promise land

But that, that’s all right, O.K. with me.

I could build a tower to heaven

Get on top and touch the sky

I could write a million songs

All designed to glorify

I could be about as good

Good as any human could

But that won’t get me by.”

How do you handle success? Do you work to avoid arrogance? When you become successful, it is natural to become arrogant and not realize it – too much pride, personal superiority and thinking you are more important than others.

But Jesus said to seek Him first:

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

That is how to avoid arrogance and handle success in a modest way.

In 2021, we have a culture that has changed. Arrogance and narcissism seem to be common. Jesus said to seek Him first.

Pray for humility!

As Christians, many parts of our life are UPSIDE DOWN from the rest of the world.

Avoid arrogance.

Do you seek Him first in all that you do?

Tom Weckesser

September 7 – A Changing Culture – Heartache

Read Psalm 34:18

Do you ever feel like life just hits you where it hurts?

Like you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, just enjoying your day and, all of a sudden, life comes up and punches you in the gut? The punch was so hard you lost your breath and completely fell to your knees. You’ve forgotten where you were going and what you were doing.

Hopefully you haven’t literally, randomly been punched in the gut that you dropped to your knees, but perhaps it sounds familiar because you’ve also had this feeling. Life is just hard. Sometimes it’s so painful and it was something you weren’t expecting. Those painful moments in life completely change everything.

Not just for that day, but forever.

Think about the most painful time in your life. For some of you, this thought comes quickly and maybe you think of many different excruciating times. For others, there might be one thing that stands out.

Personally, I can pin a few moments to be some of my most painful memories. Maybe you’re walking through this season right now, as we speak. So, do you have that most painful moment? Okay, now I want you to think about the people who willingly took the time to talk to you about that specific thing. Maybe they didn’t have the words, but they acknowledged it simply by giving you a hug and saying,, “I am here for you, and I love you.”

How much did that matter for your healing?

Perhaps you haven’t experienced that because maybe you haven’t talked about that painful thing. If that’s the case, imagine the pure freedom that would come with just simply talking to someone about it, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a traumatic event that happened to you, a friend who broke your trust, or some type of abuse inflicted on you by someone in your life. Are you afraid to talk about it because you think people are going to judge you for feeling something? Are you afraid that it will be awkward?

What’s holding you back?

Here’s what I know, God promises us to be near to the broken hearted. Just like the friend you let into that painful space in your life, God wants you to let Him into that place. When you trust God to hold you in those moments, there will be such healing. I know it can be scary to be vulnerable with others and sometimes even with God, but, even when it’s hard, He will still be there. We’re not promised that life as a follower of Christ would be easy, but we have been promised that His presence will be there when times are tough.

What better love is that, for someone to be in the heartache with you? Maybe today you need to write it out and share with God what’s going on internally. Maybe you need to yell it out to Him. Whatever way you process things, be intentional this week to do just that and lay your pain and broken heart in His hand so He can save you as your spirit is crushed.

Michelle Perrino

July 28 – $ – Stewardship

Read Psalm 24:1, Deuteronomy 8:18 and Colossians 3:23-24

I first began to understand the true concept of stewardship when I worked in the trust department of a local bank. A trustee is responsible for carrying out the wishes and direction of the owner of the assets and resources that have been placed in the trust. The trustee does not own those assets and resources; he is simply to manage them based on the wishes and direction of the owner.

Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

Everything that we have is the Lord’s and we are stewards (trustees) of his resources.  So what does that mean? First of all we have to acknowledge that what we have is not ours, including our time, money, abilities, wisdom and relationships.  We have been entrusted with the care and management of what we have been given but it is not ours.  We may think that by our own ability we have acquired what we have.  Deuteronomy 8:18 reminds us to:

“Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth”.

As a steward, we are responsible to manage those resources according to God’s desires and instruction.  Bill Peel at The High Calling writes “Although God gives us ‘all things to enjoy,’ nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.” 

We are responsible for managing what has been entrusted to us to bring glory and honor to God! How are you managing your time, money, abilities, wisdom and relationships to bring glory and honor to God?

As a steward, we are accountable for how we manage what has been given us. Many times in the financial world, trustees will have to give an accounting to a court of law to show that they honored the wishes and directions of the owner and that they managed those assets prudently. As stewards of God’s resources we will give an account of how we managed His assets.  So how do you manage the free time that you have? The money that you have? The abilities you have been given? The relationships you have been entrusted with?

If we are faithful in fulfilling our role of steward, we are promised a reward. In Colossians 3:23-24 we are told “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Manage what you have for the glory of the Lord!

Jeff Swartzentruber

July 18 – Leadership – Work/Life Balance

Read Psalms 127:2 and Psalm 1:1-6

One season while coaching basketball, we had our point guard lose his balance and somehow fall during practice, breaking his collarbone. He missed 7 weeks of the season. The young man who replaced him got better over the next 7 weeks as he was our point guard for 14 games. When the injured guard returned, he played several games and then it was time for the state basketball tournament (the most exciting event in all of sports). We had two excellent guards and our team was now unbeatable.

Have you ever lost your balance? You could break a bone or hit your head. If you lose your balance in life, it might hurt in other ways. You might lose sleep over it or become distracted from what matters to you.

Sometimes we let our schedule run our lives and rearrange our priorities, as opposed to us taking charge of our schedule and priorities. The result can be exhaustion, stress, and frustration. We risk a “fall.”

Is it worth it?

Be aware of warning signs that your life may be heading towards a fall. Take action today to bring balance to all areas of your life. This requires prayer, planning and continually working at it. This includes maintaining healthy relationships with those closest to you.

Many Americans constantly struggle to find balance between the needs of family and one’s own needs—for exercise, time to read or be alone, to visit with friends, getting adequate sleep, even to take a long hot shower or eat balanced meals. Are you single and working so hard that you have trouble developing a social life, or even finding some downtime for yourself? Are you so involved in social media that you fail to take care of either your physical needs or the demands of your job?

Balance is an issue for all of us.

The Bible says we should have a balanced view of work. It praises hard work and condemns laziness. (Proverbs 6:6-11; 13:4) The Bible encourages us to enjoy reasonable periods of relaxation. “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 4:6).

To get adequate sleep is extremely important.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalms 127:2

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Many suffer from daytime sleepiness. Do you?

The key to lasting – and ultimately eternal – fruitfulness and vitality lies in your relationship with God. Maintaining that balance between work and life helps you keep your focus on God. Avoid the setback or fall.

Do you work to maintain balance in your life?

Tom Weckesser

June 1 – Secret Sin – Confession

Read Psalm 32:5-7

Depending on the context, confession could mean something different to each person. If you are watching a movie and the antagonist is caught, the police might be persuading him to confess his actions. Possibly, you could have grown up in or had friends within the Catholic faith that went to confession to talk with their priest.

To the unbeliever, confession could be at the first time when that person accepts Christ into their life by confessing their sins and believing Jesus died on the cross to save them from their sinful lives…this is the best kind of confession!

As Christians, confession is an act of admitting sin in our lives and acknowledging it before God even though Christ already dwells within us. We are not perfect people, so when mistakes are made Jesus is waiting there with open arms and listening ears to hear our prayers asking for forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

I recall one time when I was quite young, around 10 years old, I was playing with some kids after church service. One of the kids had a disability that I was taking advantage of during our game of whiffle ball. Once my parents found out, needless to say this did not go unpunished.

That afternoon, I had to call up the boy’s parents and confess my mistake and ask for forgiveness. To this day I recall those events because as humbling and embarrassing as that instance was, it formed character traits within me that I carried on with my family. If any fights or disagreements happen with my kids and their friends, they are aware of what type of confession will be required of them.  

So why is confession so hard? One simple word, pride. Show of hands, who likes to be proven wrong that their way or actions weren’t right? No one that I know of, myself included.  

But God’s truths provide us hope today:

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Psalms 32:5

God wants us to go before him…and those we’ve offended (James 5:16) to admit our errors and seek forgiveness through confession. 

So, after you read this and head out for the day, what’s a good place to start becoming more like Jesus through confession?

1. Start with Him: Pray for forgiveness and even though God knows those mistakes in our lives, admit those sins to him that you desire to do better. 

2. Send that Text: Tell that friend, co-worker, or family member that the relationship could be improved? Confess that area where that offense occurred and seek forgiveness.

3. Simply Accept: Be ready if that person comes to you to confess and seek forgiveness…be gracious and willing to accept their apology. 

Jesus never gets tired of hearing from you whether it’s thankfulness, seeking guidance, or confession of a wrong doing…just seek him often!

Drew Hilty

May 30 – Secret Sin – The consequences of hidden sin

Read Psalm 32:1-4

My mother’s number one method in raising my siblings and I was that every one of our choices had consequences; whether good or bad, something was going to come from it. 

It’s something that Jake and I are striving to train Mattie in. Now, yes, he is three years old, but even now the discussions we often have with him are the consequences he has to face based on the choices he makes. Just today, after much conversation about him holding his balloon tightly so it wouldn’t fly away, he chose to let go. The consequence he had to face was that of losing his balloon and then sadness (parenting hack: stay away from helium filled balloons).

Now did he completely understand what was happening, I don’t know. However, it’s the consistent conversation we have with him because just as I learned from my mother, I want it to be ingrained in him, that every choice we make has some sort of consequence. 

The Lord also consistently has this conversation with us through His Word.

We read David’s heart in Psalm 32 that he is grateful for the Lord’s forgiveness but brings forth the fact that hiding his sin and not bringing it before the Lord was causing despair, was causing a slow kind of death. 

We read in James 1 that sin brings forth spiritual death.

I don’t know about you but there have been times in my life, knowing the truth that I still chose to hide my sin struggle from the Lord, even though He already knows. I am pretty open about my struggle of comparison, it’s my biggest sin struggle. I can pick myself apart and compare every part to someone else and in doing that I begin to believe that I am not good enough. That someone how God made a mistake when creating me.

There I sit, in sorrow and sadness because I don’t look like someone else or have the fashion sense of this person, or the quietness of that…there are days I could go on and on.

In doing that, I sin. Because I’m looking at the Lord telling Him “you made a mistake” …fully knowing with all my heart the truth and fact of His love and care for me and that He doesn’t make mistakes. 

But as I sit there and I let the lies sink more and more into my mind, and I don’t make the effort to surrender, seek truth and go before the Lord in repentance. I slowly but surely separate myself more and more from God and His best which results in spiritual decay. 

So, when we hide our sin, the consequence is that we sacrifice His best for what is our version of good. 

How many choices have you made that you needed to repent for? How many choices came with consequences that you wish you could change? 

You know what beauty is, however, because of Jesus fills the gap.

May we choose to surrender, may we choose to repent, so that the consequence of our hidden sin can be redemption and not despair!

Kelly Lawson

May 29 – Secret Sin – Shame: Why we hide our sin

Read 2 Samuel 12:1-23 and Psalm 51:1-17

Many of us have been there: the exhausted parent after a long, hot summer day’s work, looking forward to spending some time at home away from the stresses of the day. We walk around the corner, only to find marker drawings on the wall of the dining room as a priceless art display from our toddler. The toddler has been told many times NEVER to color the walls and today, of all days, is the day where the toddler decides to create this masterpiece. 

“Shame on you!”, the words of choice for a moment like this to grab the attention of the child and expose the action of wrongdoing. Or consider a different phase in life, when the child is a teenager and the issue is much more serious.  The parent comes home from a long day of work and the phone rings.  It happens to be the parent of the teenager’s boyfriend or girlfriend on the other line and there is a story that they wish to share that strikes pain in the heart of every parent who has sought to raise their family in God’s way. The story of discovering this sin in their lives. 

“Shame on you!” 

Will those words still be used?  

This is where we look at the actions of Nathan for guidance. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan (a prophet of the Lord in King David’s time) brings conviction to the King with the exposure of the King’s sin. On a scale of human understanding, this “secret sin” really wasn’t that much of a secret anymore; David’s actions created a ripple effect into other’s lives that were far past that.  The way in which his new life with Bathsheba had come about was one that he thought he had kept as a secret from those who he didn’t want to know. However, David couldn’t control that.

Instead he found himself in a reality that all people who try to hide sin do: trying to manage it and not be exposed. His words in Psalm 51 describe the conviction that Nathan’s confrontation brought about in him. They also show us that his repentance was not brought about because Nathan said “Shame on you!”.  In fact, Nathan never uses that phrase. David discovered shame by stepping outside of himself and looking into another’s life (2 Sam 12:4-9). David’s conviction was now discovered, not manufactured. 

God allows us to feel shame when we are convicted because it can spawn in us the need to have it healed by Him. When our sin is exposed, our personal feelings of shame serve as a painful reminder to us of the many reasons why God didn’t want us engaged in sin to begin with. 

Praying points for today:

  1. I pray that God will use all of us who seek to follow Him, raise our families for Him and love as He has loved to live in this way – suppressing the shaming of ourselves so that we may be confident in the work He is doing in us (Philippians 1:6).
  2. I pray that God will use this foundation to search me of any wrongdoing that needs to be brought to light, free from fear. This way of living can be a beautiful foundational piece to keep ourselves from sinning in secret.
  3.  I pray that I can treat others with compassion leading to conviction, regardless of their sin.  I recognize that it is not my job to shame, but God’s job to heal it in all people’s lives.

Joe Rubino

May 19 – What Does the Bible Say About Your Worth?

Read Psalm 139:1-24

“You are a treasure!

Worth more than anything under the sun or the moon,

God’s greatest treasure

Is the treasure of you.”

We wrote out these lyrics from a Steven Curtis Chapman song and gave it to our oldest daughter when she graduated from high school. She is a treasure – worth more than anything under the sun or the moon! She is a gift from God, like all children.

Psalm 139 is the most interesting and uplifting literature I have ever read. Some of the Psalm’s messages are that God knows me (“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me”, v.1) and He knows my ways and my words before I speak them (“You are familiar with all my ways, before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord” (v. 3b and 4).

He put me together in my mother’s womb and ordained the span of my life before I was born. (“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”, v. 13).

 Also – “You might have a mom, she might be the bomb. But ain’t nobody got a mom like mine.” (Kelly Trainor). Our five granddaughters are going to sing that song on Mothers’ Day to their mothers.

God saw my unborn body in my mother’s womb “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (15b, 16).

He knows my anxious thoughts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (v.23).

He helps me live a life that brings honor to Him and points out anything in me that offends Him. “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. (v.24)

God loves me. He has a plan for me. My life has worth! So does yours. Big time.

He has a plan for you. If you are not sure about what that plan is, then determine what your spiritual gifts are (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12). Use them daily.

Life has worth. Use it for good.

“Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”

John Wooden

You are a treasure! Have you asked God to show you how to use your spiritual gifts?

Tom Weckesser

April 16 – Church and State – Jesus as Leader

Read Psalm 146:1-10

For those who know me, you know that I love politics. Since the second grade, I have always been infatuated with politics, government, and leadership. I went on to study political science as an undergraduate and intend to use my law degree to enter the political space sometime after I graduate. With that said, governance has always interested me because of the ability exceptional leaders have to make great changes and influence the lives of others. However, the contrary can also be true: leaders with the wrong intentions and a bad heart can certainly do horrible things. This is why our elections and government matter.

When I was younger, I used to think people of only one party fit the latter description. I vilified folks who identified themselves with one letter next to their name on the ballot rather than the other which I preferred. When I became a believer, in some ways, this became even truer. In many ways, I completely denounced the party I disagreed with and even ruined some friendships along the way, thinking that I was a martyr for the faith by taking a strong stance for the candidates that I perceived as having the agenda of Jesus.

Sounds real Christ-like, right?

The passage we read today reminds me of the hard lesson I had to learn a few years ago: Jesus is not a politician. Jesus is not a Republican. Jesus is not a Democrat. Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the world and the greatest leader that ever stepped foot on this earth.

Too often, there is a tendency to try to make saviors out of our politicians on either side of the aisle. When the fact of the matter is our true Savior is already with us. The Savior that really can make our lives better. The Savior who gives shelter to the foreigner (v.9). The Savior who heals the sick and lets the blind see (v.8). The Savior who can feed the hungry and give comfort to the oppressed (v. 7). This Savior will not be found on the pages of a ballot, but in the depths of your heart, when you have a personal relationship with Him. Remember that Jesus came to earth to upset the politicians and religious leaders, not become one of them.

He can do what no man ever could.

I wonder if you’ll join me today in taking the challenge this text gives us in the first five verses? Would you pray this bold prayer with me this morning?

“Lord, show me what other gods I am putting before You. Jesus, help me see my blind spots where I am putting my trust in other people and leaders over You.”

Taylor Bennington

March 3 – A 7 Day Conversation with Ruth Friend LPCC – Anxiety vs Gratitude

Read Psalm 118:24

During this week, we are going to be listening to Ruth Friend, a licensed professional clinical counselor and dear friend of Grace Church, as she teaches us about the value of mental health and how we can go about honoring the Lord through it.

Today we talk about the relationship between anxiety and gratitude.