November 17 – Attributes of God – Wrath

Read Psalm 7:11 and Romans 9:14-24

Wrath.

Oxford defines it as “extreme anger”. Inside and outside the church, it can be a stumbling block to rightly understanding God’s perfect character.  When talking to people about God’s wrath, judgment, punishment, even Hell, it is imperative that we know how to discuss these difficult topics in a way that lovingly points people to Jesus.

Sharing the Gospel starts with God’s creation.  Implicit in His creation is an important distinction that often gets overlooked; God’s ownership.  God makes the rules, He judges, and He always judges rightly! Misunderstanding this concept sounds like this; “How could a loving God __?”  or “Why would a loving God do this/allow this to happen to me?”  Paul obviously heard these objections and others like it; just read Romans 9!  Here are some excerpts: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”, and “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy…”  These are HARD concepts that we need to pray on, and ask for help with our understanding!

I can remember vividly a recent circumstance where one of my children had done something extremely rude and disrespectful to my wife and I, and I reacted with emotional violence.  Towering over my child (physical intimidation), yelling at my child (verbal intimidation); I lashed out in ANGER.   The problem is, my anger was rooted in sin, it was not righteous, and it was not for my child’s good.  There was nothing LOVING about the way I acted.

We shouldn’t think of God’s wrath like this.  God has many attributes.  Here, we are discussing wrath.  He is also loving, merciful, just, holy, etc.  God is perfectly ALL of these things, ALL of the time.  So, while exercising His judgement on His creation, He is exercising Love and Mercy at the same time.  Our inability to understand this is an issue with us, not an indictment of Him.

Think about it like this… God hates evil, and speaks strongly against it throughout scripture.  Would you want to serve a God who turns a blind eye to sin; who tolerates evil?  Without God’s wrath, would you have any idea just how serious your sin really is?  We need to understand that it’s God’s wrath that cracks open the door for His Mercy and Grace; His judgment creates a NEED for a Savior.

The truth is, we are uncomfortable with God judging or punishing.  Our discomfort is an important human response, however.   It is this spiritual and emotional discord that drives us to repentance.   When confronted with God’s unchanging Holiness, we fall short, and we wrongly defend, posture or justify.  Know this…when God displays wrath he is showing His POWER, asserting His OWNERSHIP.  Brothers and sisters; it is done for OUR GOOD, and HIS GLORY.  The cross displays all of this PERFECTLY, Praise God!

Want to see God’s perfect wrath?  Look at the cross.  Want to see God’s perfect love, mercy and grace?  Look at the cross.

Craig French

November 6 – The Poor Millionaire – The Good Life

Read Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 10:24 and Galatians 6:9

What is “The Good Life?”  

I suppose if you asked 100 different people you would get 100 different answers. However, probably all of the answers would involve personal happiness, things, and wealth.  

What does your answer include? Luxury cars, a life of leisure, lots of money, a beautiful home, or well-behaved children?  

Maybe you look at famous people and think, “Wow, they sure have the good life!” 

But . . . do they?   

A closer look at their lives, behind the cameras or away from the microphones, often tells a story of drugs, alcohol and misery!

When I think of defining “The Good Life” my mind goes to one of my favorite movies . . .

It’s A Wonderful Life.   In it, George Baily thought that his good life would include traveling to foreign countries, far away from his hometown of Bedford Falls.  In his mind, he couldn’t possibly find happiness, stuck in this little town working in his father’s building and loan. But every time he thought he could finally escape his present life, something would come up and he would find himself giving up his dreams to help someone else. It wasn’t until an angel named Clarence showed George that, in spite of still remaining in Bedford Falls all his life, George had really had a wonderful life.  He had a life of service to his neighbors and even several times literally saving the other person’s life! 

Without knowing it, George was the prime example of today’s verses. Clarence helped George transform his mind from what he wished for to what really could give him happiness.  All his life he had given up his own good for the good of others. Clarence also encouraged George to not grow weary of doing good!

In contrast Mr. Potter, who to the world should have had a good life because of all the money and power he had, was actually living a miserable, unhappy, LONELY life!

George had invested in the lives of others, while Mr. Potter invested only in himself. 

If Jesus, not “Clarence”, came to visit you, what would you be able to show Him about your life?  Could He take you back to events where you sacrificed your own welfare for the welfare of others?  Times you visited shut-ins, helped a hurting child, went out of your way to make someone’s day?  Maybe you had to miss a party or a get-together because someone needed you? Or would He find you so wrapped up in accumulating wealth or power for yourself? Would He find that you might be rich in monetary wealth, but poor in friendships and true happiness?

Where are your life “investments?” Are they in things that can rust and be stolen or in the lives of others? The first leads to “The Miserable Life”. While the second leads to not only “The Good Life” but “The Wonderful Life”.  

Choose wisely!

Pat Arnold

September 10 – Life Verses – Romans 8:28

Read Romans 8:28

Little did I know when I was a young boy that memorizing scripture would end up saving my life. I mean, I memorized it to get stuff! But then the day came…I was 12 years old and in 7th grade. I found myself opening the cabinet where mom kept all of her medicine and in that moment considered taking the pill bottles and taking my own life. But something happened in that moment… a verse came to my mind… a verse I had learned a few years before:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

That day and in that moment, I remembered that God made me on purpose and for a purpose. Even though my circumstances at the time were very difficult, God would use them to help others. He would use them to shape my life. He would use them for His good! So, that day I choose to live and to live on purpose for Jesus.

I praise God for his Word and especially that verse, because I have been reminded of it many, many times throughout challenges in my life. God does not always remove us from difficult circumstances, but he promises to use those times for his good. Why? Because he created us on purpose and for a purpose!

So, what about you? What are you wrestling with right now that does not make sense? What are you or someone you care about going through that makes you wonder if life is worth living? May I give you the same encouragement that God gave me all of those years ago. My friend, God created you on purpose and for a purpose. There is hope in Jesus! There is hope for your life. Jesus, the Savior of the World, loves you and longs to use your story for His good.

Tim Boucher

September 9 – Life Verses – Romans 6:11

Read Romans 6:1-23

Do you ever look back on your life with gratitude that God didn’t give up on you? Over the last 15 years of my life, there were many different times where God maybe should have given up on me. There are many things that God has freed me from since that time and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Sin is something that 100% characterized most of my teenage years. Putting on the mask of “Pastor’s kid” on Sunday allowed me to hide a lot of darkness that was a part of my soul. I shamefully look back on the people I hurt through my raging anger and manipulation. I look back on the status of my heart and it was terrible. Sin was a dark plague in my life that had its ugly hands suffocating me. I was going nowhere quick.

And then God intervened.

After I graduated high school, I finally opened my heart up to God. I was immediately drawn to the 6th chapter of Romans with all of the talk about sin and being a slave to it and no longer needing to live under it. There are so many verses that I wish to highlight in this chapter but don’t have the space to do so.

I feel like verse 11 sums up the entire chapter when it says:

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

This verse sums up the last 15 years of my life and I would consider it to be my life verse. Without Jesus, we are dead to sin, we are slaves to it. I love how Paul questions why people would voluntarily live under the reign on sin in their lives when they have already been freed from it. With Jesus in our hearts, when we sin, we are choosing to live under sin’s control in our lives.

Doesn’t make sense does it?

The healing process for me is 8 years in the making and, while I still fall back into the old way of living on occasion, I pray that I would never allow it to reign in my life again. Sin is something that will never be wiped away from our lives until Jesus comes back. However, it remains a battle and it is one that I will continue to fight!

As you look inside your own heart, are you a slave to sin? What area of our life can you just not seem to give up completely to the Lord? I challenge you to read over Romans 6 and allow the many truths to jump off the page to you. Give the Holy Spirit complete access to your heart and mind. What do you need to be healed from? How are you going to choose to live outside of the reign on sin in your life?

Jake Lawson

September 6 – Life Verses – Romans 15:14-33

Read Romans 15:14-33

“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.”

Romans 15:21

Although I suppose I believed in the idea of God growing up, I was uninformed about who He is and what He had done and is doing. You see, I did not attend church or read the Bible. Still, I thought I had this whole spiritual life figured out. In my mind, God was pleased with people who did good things, and He received them into heaven.

But the Holy Spirit corrected my perspective as a teenager. At age 14, I heard the gospel for the first time. I learned of the implications of my sin and of God’s provision for it through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. I am so glad that God used someone who was willing to share with me as one who had never heard and had never been told.

That was the calling that Paul sensed on his life. He was passionate to take the life-changing message of Jesus to the unreached. In today’s reading, after having been on multiple mission journeys that included present day Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece, he had his sights set on proclaiming Christ in Rome and beyond. His ambition was to take the gospel to the other end of the Mediterranean – to Spain. He knew that those people were beyond the influence and the gospel witness of established churches. He knew that there were people like me who had never heard and who had never been told about the resurrected Christ. And so he aspired to go.

Romans 15 is a favorite passage to me because it reminds me that there are many others in the world like me. There are people out there that are, on the one hand, ignorant. On the other hand, however, many of them have their own spiritual system all figured out. But their version is all wrong. People like me live in my neighborhood and among the nations. They must hear of the grace of God in Jesus.

Steve Kern

August 4 – Perseverance – With pain

Read Romans 5:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Probably the worst physical pain I have ever experienced was on a cold January night in 2014 during the opening session of the yearly Kalahari retreat. I was part of the opening act and, during it, I planned on, essentially, high jumping on a stage that was several feet off the ground. Now, I played sports in high school so I thought I was, at least, slightly athletic.

In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t practice at all to see if it was even possible.

Safe to say, I slipped on my jump and skinned my shin. After the opening, I walked out to the hallway and saw blood running down my shin. Upon getting a paper towel from the bathroom and looking closer to dab it up, I saw that my shin was literally flayed open.

I could see muscle and everything.

After the shock wore off (it was a solid 30 seconds of me staring at the gaping hole in my shin), my adrenaline wore off and the pain came in a huge and brutal wave.

When we talk about pain, I feel like everyone can relate. Either we can talk about a time where we were hurt physically, but I feel like it hurts us so much more when the pain is emotional.

How do you deal with emotional pain? How do you process through it? What role does God play in this healing process? Are you even healing from your pain?

One of the greatest things I have learned in my faith was that pain has a purpose. In our reading today in Romans, Paul is writing about a tough situation he is currently in. He is writing a letter to the church in Rome from prison. He knew his time was coming to a close and he was soon to be executed for his role in advancing the gospel.

If Paul can pen his encouraging words in Romans 5:3-4, how do any of our pains (physical or emotional) even compare?

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Do you go so far as to glory in your sufferings? Are you able to zoom out of our scenario and see the long game of pain? Can you see the upcoming perseverance, character and, ultimately, hope that will come as a result of properly working through your pain?

What pain are you currently experiencing? What pain is a part of your past that you haven’t healed from?

What steps are you going to take in order to see your pain from a new perspective?

What potential benefits do you see from viewing your pain from a different lens?

What promises of hope does Jesus give us for the pain we experience throughout our life?

Jake Lawson

July 12 – Fear of – Pain

Read Romans 8:18

I once heard a story of a reclusive woodsman who lived in the mountains of West Virginia.  When you choose to live in wilderness like that, you have to learn to coexist and protect yourself from the wildlife.  In the New River area, black bears are commonplace. The story that I heard was of a man who had to deal with a bear who had become quite comfortable in and around his house.  The man set a trap for the bear… the trap works by metal jaws seizing on the bear’s leg. When the bear was caught, he became enraged.  Before approaching the bear, the man tranquilized it.  A department of wildlife crew came out to move the bear several counties away.  It was a coordinated effort to protect the man’s home, but also to respect the bear’s autonomy, and to provide a safe place for the bear to thrive.  In an obvious way, the bear trap was used to HELP the bear.  Is there any chance the bear saw it that way?  The pain the bear felt in the trap was very real, but temporary, and the bear had no idea why it was happening.  Ultimately, some good came out of that for the bear.

Are we so different when dealing with present day pain? 

Paul tells us in Romans that we are to keep eternity in mind when dealing with present-day pain.  Paul uses the word ‘sufferings’ to describe this thought. Similarly, in 2 Cor. 4:17 Paul describes our trials as ‘light momentary affliction’. It’s almost as if he is incredulous that we could be so worried about our present-day struggles when God’s eternal promises of coming glory are so profound. This is such a difficult concept to wrap our heads around; do you understand and believe this?   

Pain is all around us.  Physical pain through cancer, accidents, or negligence. Emotional pain through hurt, loss, or grief.  Psychological pain through manipulation, mental illness, or human rights abuses.  Murder, adultery, human trafficking, childless parents. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic abuse.  Sometimes it’s just as simple as a mean person we have to deal with daily.  None of it is trivial, and all of it hurts.  

Consider God’s promises, though! Eternal glory is promised to us. Our forever is secure. He promises us a new heaven and earth.  A new, better and resurrected body with no pain, no tears, no weeping! He promises a future living peacefully with King Jesus.  And God’s promises aren’t just for eternity either; He promises that EVEN NOW, all things work together for the good of those who call Jesus their Savior. Even in our pain, God is promising to make something new out of it – for our good and His glory.  We just have to look.

Remember God’s promises, and keep the end goal of eternity in mind. It’s the HOPE that comes from Jesus!  

Craig French

June 30 – Names of Jesus – Lord Jesus Christ

Read Romans 13:14

As I read these words from Paul, I can’t help but think about our culture today. I reflect on how much stock people place on someone, based on the material appearance of the clothes they may be wearing, what jewelry may be shimmering from their wrists, what latest and greatest makeup and hair products they have. Our choices externally say a lot about us internally. Have you ever noticed that Paul uses the reference to “clothe” or “put on” in more than one section of his letters? There’s importance in who or what we portray. But, like everything, it starts with our heart.

Paul is instructing us of the timeless truth to clothe ourselves with the Lord, Jesus Christ; what do you think he is trying to tell us about this name of Jesus? And how does this affect us?

The Greek writing “to clothe” means to sink into; “Lord” means master or authority, “Jesus Christ” is meaning the Chosen One, the Messiah. Break each of these names apart and you have an entire manifestation of who Christ was, is and is to come!

His name of authority and master brings on a sense of ownership over us. We belong to Him, we are His. He is our master, He is our authority, He is our first, our last, He is our beginning and our eternity, and He is the head. He is our Lord. He is our Savoir.

Colossians 1:16-18 says it perfectly:

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”

When we put on the name “Lord, Jesus Christ”, we are not only representing our salvation story, we are representing the story that He wrote long ago. The story of His grace, the story of His power and the perfect love He portrayed on the cross rings out every time you proclaim His name.

So, my challenge to you is, when you proclaim the name of Christ, do it with a reverence that He deserves. You do it in humility. Clothe yourself with the character of Christ. A character that He would see and say “well done.” No matter where you stand in your faith journey, He is Lord, He is Jesus, He is our Christ.

Our Father, our Savior, our Authority. Above all else.

Kelly Lawson

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • If you are honest with yourself, how much emphasis do you put into your outward appearance?
  • What would happen if we were to put as much emphasis on reflecting Christ to others around you?

June 13 – Enough – Patient Enough?

Read Romans 8:25

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.”

Richard Kipling

The first part of the poem IF by Richard Kipling can help you deal with something that is difficult:

waiting.

Good things take time! If you are learning to play the piano, participating in a play or a musical or trying to get good at a new sport, it takes time. If you are trying to be patient enough with the people that you work with, it takes time. Patience is one of the greatest lessons we can learn. When you have a setback, do you have the grit and the patience of the king of the comebacks – Jesus Christ?

Patience has to be a mindset and a priority in both prayer and life.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”Galatians 6:9

There is a proper time to reap, but often we lack the patience necessary to get there. Maybe we don’t wait long enough. The greatest reward may be the strength and determination that you can develop by waiting. If you plant a seed but keep uprooting it to check if it’s growing, you’ll never get the reward of a tree.

Consider Paul, while patiently enduring all types of persecution for the name of Christ, at the end of his ministry said:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.”2 Timothy 4: 7

Being patient can help you to develop grit, perseverance, a love for others, avoiding excuses, learning from your mistakes, letting go (the hardest part of love), confidence and dignity (accept losing). Patience is a fruit of the spirit of Christ.

Are you patient enough with others? Being patient with people is an expression of love.

When one is suffering, the questions arises, “What can I do?” The Psalmist tells us there is something we can do—wait (Ps. 130:5–6). To wait is to trust in God. God is in control.

Being patient is an expression of hope in God. We wait while recognizing that God is in control.

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” Proverbs 16:33

While you are waiting – whatever your situation – remember that God is on the throne. Have confidence;

“for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption”Psalm 130:7

Good things take time!

Tom Weckesser

April 20 – Grace – Abusing Grace

Read Romans 6:1-15

Have you ever had the opportunity to fly in first class? I had always peeked up there as I turned and went towards the very back of the plane (got to get those cheap seats, am I right?). Recently, a friend and I were upgraded to first class for an 18 hour international flight because of delays and a small plane crash (it’s a crazy story that I would love to tell you in person). So here we are, a couple of Joe Schmo’s, sitting among the elite class. I’m sitting next to a wealthy family who are all dressed to the nines and I’m sitting there with a t-shirt, athletic shorts and flip flops…not to mention I’m still sweating from running through the airport in Ethiopia to our missed flight’s gate. As my friend and I are soaking in the moment, I notice a menu that describes all these 5 course meals throughout the whole flight. “Yo, is this free?” I ask. “Jake,” my friend responds, “what you are about to experience for the next 18 hours is 100% free.”

It might as well have been Heaven.

We both ate so much on that flight. I mean, if all of this is available, I may as well take advantage of it, right? I even wore the little first class socks they gave you for the whole flight because why not? The blanket they offered you to sleep with was one of the most comfortable blankets I have ever felt. “Sir, would you like a hot towel?” “Um, I didn’t know that was a thing, but sure!” Refills, next courses, snacks and desserts…I had them all. I mean, it’s there, so why not take advantage of it? After all, it’s free!

Grace doesn’t work like first class flying.

Grace is such an incredible gift that is nothing even remotely close to what we deserve. Forgiveness and grace was given to us through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It isn’t something to be taken lightly.

We all know those people who are living the “first class life” when it comes to their faith. Sin is almost excused because they know that their sins have already been paid for. I think about this now and think, “How on earth could someone abuse grace like that?” and then I remember that I was once a grace abuser. There was a period of my life where, sure I didn’t deliberately sin, but I asked for forgiveness and moved on. It almost wasn’t a big deal for me. Romans 6 is my favorite chapter of the entire Bible. It contains so much incredible material that I don’t have the space to write.  

Grace doesn’t work like first class flying.

Remember, we have been given an incredible gift. Don’t abuse it. It breaks God’s heart every time we choose our own way over His. We owe more than we could ever repay for the sacrifice that He made for us.

Jake Lawson