August 19 – 5 – Developing Relationships

Read Romans 10:14

“Avoid the bubble.”

I learned this lesson the hard way shortly after giving my life to Christ. Many of us know the feeling. Giving your life to Jesus is the best decision you ever make. The feeling of freedom, grace, and love is beautifully overwhelming. Faith in Jesus also gives you a new family – a family of fellow believers who become your brothers and sisters in Christ. The community you gain in the Church is simply amazing. Truly- you gain a group of friends, mentors, and role models that are second to none. However, the temptation to only want to “hang out” with those like you is very real. Our passage today clarifies that it is not only right but our calling as Christians to be outside the Church, interacting with and befriending those who are not saved.

Jesus’s final words to us before He ascended into heaven were “therefore, go and make disciples…” (Matthew 29:11). Our work is not done until every person hears the life-changing message of the Gospel. It means we have to have friends that are different than who we are. In all transparency, I struggle with this quite a bit myself. I have many friends who are believers and I have many friends who are non-believers. My issue is that I put my friends into boxes; I talk church things with my church friends and non-church things with non-church friends. The Lord has burdened my heart today to be more intentional about being more whole. I can try my best to live the light of Jesus in front of my friends, but, without sharing my testimony and His gospel with them, how will they ever know how my life truly changed forever?

I say this because life change really is just one invitation away. This is a cornerstone of our ministry at Grace Church. I love Grace because of our heart for missions at home and around the world. But, by nature, this value we hold demands interaction. It warrants relationships. The passage we read today underlines the importance of this value. Paul essentially asks us to consider the following: 1) if you are not the light of Jesus, who will be? 2)  If you won’t invite this person to experience the life God has for them, who will? 3) If we closed the doors of Grace today and said “OK, we have enough now,” then what’s the point?

We have been afforded this gift of grace, not to just enjoy ourselves, but to share with others.

I wonder if you’d join me today in praying that God would bring people into our lives who need to experience the hope of the Gospel? Pray that we would live, love, and share boldly as Jesus did so the friends in our lives could be pointed to the joy we have in eternity.

Taylor Bennington

August 16 – 5 – Burden for the Lost

Read Romans 10:1

Do you ever feel this kind of burden to share Jesus with others? Do you also have times where, along with the burden to share Jesus, there is a coexisting feeling of fear? We say that life change is an invitation away, but we don’t often talk about how some days the invitation part is the most challenging part about sharing Christ with others.

Here’s the problem: when I’m afraid and don’t share Jesus with others, I am being disobedient in my relationship with God, and letting fear win is just not worth it. Unfortunately, that goes for you too. It’s brutal, but the Bible doesn’t simply suggest we share the gospel with others, it CALLS us to. I could list endless verses that so “gently” tell us to GO and SHARE.

On my very first mission trip in 2013, I got the experience of leading someone to Christ and, since that day, my heart has had a huge burden for the lost and broken people in our world. When I meet new people, one of my first thoughts is wondering if they know Jesus or not. I begin to pray about what my relationship with this person will look like and how God is going to use me to bring others to him.

Trust me, I know it’s scary and challenging to share Jesus, and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I just don’t feel like it.  Often times I wake up in a “I don’t want to talk to people” mood. I know that it’s important to connect with people on a deeper level and be willing to share the gospel with them. However, it’s not always something that is my first response.

I am sometimes terrified of sharing God with others. I fear rejection, fear of changing our friendship, and, most of all, fear they won’t like me anymore. Here’s the thing: when they say “no” to me, they’re not saying they don’t like me; they’re simply not ready. In those moments, it can be discouraging, and I feel afraid to ever bring it up again. However, like I said before, letting fear win is letting Satan win.

So, I pray.

I pray for opportunities to share about my faith in the most natural and loving way possible. I pray and ask God to give me the words and strength I need to be brave and to boldly share Him.

Friends, it’s up to us to choose to move past the fears and speak up about who Christ is in our lives and who He could be in the lives of others, even when we don’t feel like it. I’m confident that Jesus didn’t wake up the day of His crucifixion, feeling like being beaten, yet He did it because He knew that doing so gave us a chance to be saved. Similarly, God uses our willingness to share the gospel as a chance for others to be saved.

Are you willing to fight against the fears and pray for opportunities to share the gospel with others?

Yes?

Let’s go!

Michelle Perrino

August 13 – 5 – Slaves to Sin

Read Romans 6:17

Slavery, a word that conjures up images of the horrors of the past.  Chains, helplessness and hopelessness all come to mind at the mention of the word.  Thanks be to God, that blot on our country’s history has been eradicated, but the self-imposed slavery to sin that people put on themselves every day is alive and well.

Slavery to drugs, alcohol, adultery, stealing, lying and even food have many in its grip, leaving feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness and despair.

Paul in Romans 17:19 states it this way:

“…for I do not do the good I want to do, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.”

Sometimes our sins are kept private but other times they are spread across headlines in the local newspaper, leading only to more shame and despair.

Before we start feeling smug, the Bible tells us, “We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Next time you shake a finger or look the other way at a brother or sister who has slipped into the grips of sin, think about how you would feel if everything you did or thought that was wrong in the eyes of God was spread across the headlines in big bold letters for everyone to see.

God demonstrated His own love for us in this: “While we were STILL sinners Christ died for US!”  and broke our bondage to sin.  It is up to us to introduce others to Christ so they know He did the same for them. Then, the transformation involves change and change is hard.  How we as Christians react can help or hinder.

Once a man went to church for the first time.  He forgot to turn off his cell phone. Right in the middle of the sermon, it went off.   His wife and all the people around him, even the pastor, were angry and wouldn’t talk to him.

He never went back. 

Then he went to a local bar and spilled a drink all over the table and floor.  The waitress gave him a cloth to wipe it up, bartender poured him another drink.  A man sitting beside him struck up a conversation with him and told him that the same thing had happened to him.  The man went back to the bar every day. 

So, what is your reaction to people who are trapped by sin?  Do you point a finger, or do you give them a towel to wipe their tears, offer a hand to clean up their mess, listen to their story and let them know that they are not alone?  Sometimes all people want is for someone to talk to and to know they are not alone.

We are the light of the world. God wants us to be the FLASHLIGHTS leading others out of the darkness of sin and into the light of His love.

Shine on!

Pat Arnold

August 8 – 5 – Relationships

Read Colossians 1:16, Romans 3:23, 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 10:9

It was inspirational being on the staff of a Christian summer camp for high school kids. The camp would start on a Sunday. It would end on Saturday morning, where everyone would get in a big circle and hold hands and sing a song called “Friends”, written by Michael W Smith. Most came on Sunday as strangers and some relationships would continue after the camp ended while others probably would not. The high school kids were from all over Ohio. The song is about relationships and friendships and it is a reminder of the hope of Christ and that we can pray for each other when we are apart:

“And friends are friends forever

If the Lord’s the Lord of them.colo

And a friend will not say never

‘Cause the welcome will not end.

Though it’s hard to let you go

In the Father’s hands we know.

That a lifetime’s not too long

To live as friends.”

Two Christian friends will be friends in this present life and the life to come. To be an influential Christian, the relationship must have trust and honesty. Do you have 5 relationships in your sphere of influence who you can encourage, intentionally try to bring closer to Jesus and ultimately share the gospel with them?

Having people in our lives who we have developed a relationship with makes it easier to talk about spiritual things. If they know that you are trying to live with integrity and to live in a way that honors God, then they may be more likely to listen to what you say.

In his bestselling book “The 5 Love Languages”, Gary Chapman explains that there are 5 key ways that we all feel loved, and most of us feel loved in 1 or 2 of them. The 5 ways are spending quality time, hearing loving or affirming words, receiving thoughtful gifts, gentle loving touch or having things done for us. As we develop new relationships, learning the other person’s language and showing love in meaningful ways is an action that can bring meaningful results.

Romans 10:9 a verse that can be easily shared with other people. It is a good one to memorize.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you are living as an excellent Christian example, then you are already making a difference for His kingdom.  To have a relationship with 5 people is a way to influence others and evangelize. Who are your “5”? If you don’t know, who are those that can make up your “5”?

Being a good role model is also extremely important. Keep working at it. It is truly “the good life.”

Tom Weckesser

July 5 – Back to the Basics – Sin & Salvation

Read Romans 3:23, 10:9

Are you a sinner?

Am I a sinner?

What is sin?

Recently, we were on a long trip and I got a speeding ticket in another state. I have all sorts of excuses – I normally set the cruise just about the speed limit, the car ahead of me sped up every time I tried to pass, etc.

However, the fact is that I did something wrong and the officer simply called me on it.

This makes me think of an example I heard many years ago regarding sin. Let’s say you only had 3 thoughts a day, out of thousands, that would be displeasing to God (sin). That doesn’t sound so bad. However, if we look at that over the course of a year, that would be more than a thousand. And, if we add it up over the course of the average lifetime it would be over 75,000! Now, what if those were parking tickets? Can you imagine coming before a judge, with 75,000 parking tickets and expecting him to just ignore them? What do you think would happen?

The Bible sums this up very clearly: we are ALL sinners. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Bible also tells us that God is perfect (holy) and just and He requires that same from us.

So, God’s standard is perfection and none of us meet that standard – what do we do now!?

There’s nothing we can do, on our own, to ever meet God’s standard.

BUT, God knew we wouldn’t be able to go through life being perfect, so He made a way.

That “Way” is Jesus Christ.

He came to earth, lived a perfect life, willingly died on the cross in our place and rose from the dead. He paid the price for us, so we could be reconciled to God the Father and spend eternity with Him in heaven! So, the only thing we can do is to accept the free gift of forgiveness from Jesus Christ. We do this by humbly admitting to God that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and accepting Jesus as our Forgiver and striving to follow Him for the rest of our lives.

I don’t know about you but, when I think of who is better equipped to lead my life:

                An all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present God whose very nature is love

                                                                OR

                Me – a flawed, self-focused person who can only see a tiny part of the overall picture

I choose God!!

When we accept Jesus as Forgiver and Leader, an incredible thing happens: our sins, everything we have done or will ever do wrong, gets transferred to Jesus AND we, in turn, get this righteousness of Jesus. This means that now, when God the Father sees us, He no longer sees our wrongdoing but, instead, sees the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ!

So, what is holding you back from being forgiven and entering into a relationship with the God of the universe?

Don’t let anything stand in your way – accept God’s forgiveness today.

It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make!

Mike Molter

June 27 – God of Second Chances – Not a License to Sin

Read Romans 6:1-2

We receive salvation by grace through faith. It is at that moment in every person’s life when they decide to follow Jesus that their past, present, and future are forgiven. 

Now, our walk with Jesus doesn’t stop there. We don’t just make that decision and then go on living our life for ourselves. When we give our life over to Jesus, it is just that: we are giving our life to Christ, though we must understand that total perfection and victory is not attainable while living in this fallen world. Therefore, Christ loves us so much that He offers us grace for our shortcomings. He fills the gap between who we are and who we are intended to be. 

I was like most baby believers. I took grace for granted and continued living life for how I wanted and didn’t care about God’s best. I wanted to be in right standing, but I didn’t want to surrender ALL I wanted for what He was calling me to. So, I continued to sin, I continued to live my life for me, all the while putting the face of a “good Christian” on. 

As I grew in my knowledge of who God was and the best He had for me, I began to understand Romans 6 so much better. Him loving me enough to sacrifice His own life for me does not give me a license to just live for myself. The response we should have is to run away from sin because, as Paul reminds the Romans, “we are those who have died to sin.” 

Life on earth is nothing short of hard. What we must remember, what I pray over my family and over you, is that, as you wake in the morning, you look at your day and walk in the moments that follow with the knowledge and strength that you can only receive from Christ! 

Is there any area in your life where you are excusing sin? Are you struggling to give God control of EVERYTHING in your life? Don’t go another moment without surrendering all that you are to God and commit to FULLY follow Him with your life!

He died for us, let’s love for Him! 

Kelly Lawson

June 20 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Unified through worship

Read Romans 12:3-8

When I think of worship, the words to this old hymn come to mind:

When we all get to Heaven

What a day of rejoicing that will be

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

These words depict what unified worship will look like when we stand before our Savior. I imagine it will be energetic, full of light, and a celebration like nothing we’ve experienced before on Earth. We anticipate that day when our worship will include people from all nations, races and languages. At last, the created will worship the Creator in Heaven.

Worship takes the focus off of our differences and focuses our attention on the One whom we have in common. When Christ gathers all of the believers together in Heaven one day, there will not be sections reserved for different groups of people. There won’t be divisions based on nationality, style of worship, or amount of worship. We will all be accepted based on WHO we worship.

Believers from all over the world, and from all walks of life, worship the same God, but in many different ways. What one person is capable of, another may not be. So each individual must worship God as he or she can. God uniquely designed us each to use our gifts and talents to bring Him glory. Some have the gift to sing or teach. Others have the gift to encourage, while others handle finances in a way that honors God and makes His name famous. In this way, we all worship through different means, but exalt the same God.

Worship takes many different forms throughout our lifetime. A child might worship by singing songs of praise to Jesus or memorizing Bible verses. A teen may worship by serving in a community center or talking about his or her faith with a friend. Adults can worship by tithing their income, preparing a meal for a family or friend in need, or helping a community rebuild after a natural disaster. Worship, according to Romans 12, can look different for each person.

How has God wired you to bring Him glory? Don’t feel bad if your gift looks different than someone else’s. Don’t judge someone else’s worship style if it isn’t like yours.  Our focus should be on proclaiming the name of Jesus and pointing others towards Him. We can look forward to that one day when we will gather in Heaven for the biggest worship celebration ever; but until then, our worship should draw others to Him.

Tammy Finney

June 19 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Transformational

Read Romans 12:2

Being a worship leader, the act of worship is one of my favorite subjects to discuss when it comes to the Bible and what it has to say. My love for music and the art of musical worship has been in my heart for a while but worship is more than the songs we sing and more than the chords or keys we hear. The act of worship should transform us. 

I recently heard Taya Gaukrodger, worship leader and writer for Hillsong United, say,

“The first time worship is ever mentioned in the Bible is when Abraham turns to his servant and says ‘you wait here, Isaac and I are going up to worship’…it had nothing to do with song or music, it had to do with obedience to the voice of God and sacrifice regardless…that is what worship should be regardless of the 20 minutes we have on a Sunday”.

This is one of my favorite statements because it points to not only the obedience of Abraham’s life but points out that, because of Abraham’s love for the Lord, he was transformed and praised His name. Then as He followed the voice of God in obedience, He was transformed even more.

Just like Abraham’s life was transformed through worship, Paul tells us that the true act of worship is to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds” … renewing our minds.

How does one do that?!

Simply by spending time with the Lord, whether it be in song or the Word, in company or solitary, while talking or being still. When we spend time with Jesus, our perspectives change, we begin to see things as Jesus sees them, we begin to notice the light in it all and it begins to transform our lives. 

The songs we sing on a Sunday morning, whether contemporary or traditional hymns, are born from God’s Word and, because He breathed the words that we read in the Bible (2 Tim 3:16) , we can breathe in and out the words of the songs we sing in the hope that it transforms our hearts and enlightens our thinking.

The act of worship is simply being yourself, striving to live like Jesus, engrossed in His words and allowing the growth from who we once were to the people He intended us to be to take place. 

Personally, musical worship has always been a place where the Lord and I connect most. Through a verse I lead or sing, I get to go before Him, I get to praise His name, I get to pray over you, our church family, I get to surrender it all to Him. After that time of worship through song, I always walk away with a new perspective, a new challenge and am transformed because what is breathing in and out are His words and His heart.

The question is, do you live your life continually being renewed because of God’s Word? Are you constantly being transformed by knowing His Truth? 

If you can’t answer yes to either of those, I challenge you to sit with this notion of transformation worship. What do you do day in and day out that causes your life to be changed because of who Jesus is? 

Kelly Lawson

June 18 – Worship: The Golden Thread – Misconceptions

Read Romans 12:1

God wants worship to make up our lives. He wants our lives to be the worship.

Worship. It’s “reverent honor and homage paid to God”, according to dictionary.com.

The original Greek word can be translated as “sacred service” or “priestly ministry,” and it’s only found five times in the entire New Testament. It’s the word associated with what the high priest did in the tabernacle when presenting a guilt offering for God’s people, which God called the most holy of sacrifices. 

It’s the word God uses to describe yours and my proper response to His life-giving, death-conquering, all-forgiving love that secured the more-than-survival kind of living we get when we trust Him with who we are.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)

It’s easy to mistake the word “worship” for what we do on Sunday mornings when we all stand up and sing a song or to think it only applies to praise music. But Paul says worship is actually a life completely surrendered. In fact, according to Romans 12:1, the kind of worship that makes God smile is when we offer Him the reins and let His Holy Spirit direct all that we do, everything we say. True and proper worship is the sacrifice of our very bodies as instruments of our souls, which are surrendered to God.

God wants us all-in for the moments and the hours and the days between Sundays. A life of worship hands Him the control. It points to Him, knows Him so well it can’t help but adore Him. Worship is living that flows from the depths of amazed and straight into doing the stuff God leads us to do.

Like loving a neighbor even when it’s awkward. Or refusing to jump in on the office gossip even when it’s really funny. Worship is our very lives presented to God in a way that follows His plan. Like changing a diaper for a mom whose day has gone sideways and she just. needs. a. moment. It’s sensing the Holy Spirit’s nudge and obeying when He gives you a no-brainer opportunity to talk about Jesus and the hope He offers. 

Worship is not just a song. It’s a life surrendered to God Himself.

In what way are you going to live more surrendered to God today?

Bria Wasson

May 15 – What Does the Bible Say About Peer Pressure?

Read Proverbs 13:20 and Romans 12:2

I’m in with the In Crowd

I go where the In Crowd goes!

I’m in with the In Crowd

I know what the In Crowd knows!

Peer Pressure! At the hearing of that term, if you are like me, you immediately think of teens getting into trouble.  An otherwise good teen being forced into doing something that they usually wouldn’t do, just because of pressure from the kids around him/her. But peer pressure is not confined to childhood.  Adults face peer pressure every day too. None of us want to be left behind when everyone else at work is getting together.  To be part of the “in crowd”, we might find ourselves doing things, going places, participating in activities we normally wouldn’t think of doing.

I love this quote from Jim Caviezel the actor who portrayed Jesus in the movie “The Passion of the Christ”: 

Set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation.

Be Saints. You were NOT made to fit in.

You were born to STAND OUT!

Why do we strive to be outstanding and away from the crowd in sports, academics, or our jobs, but then settle to be one of the crowd when it comes to social or ethical situations?

Be bold! Let people know you are God’s child not by preaching to or condemning them (that is God’s job) but by your speech and your actions. It is up to you to try to live a Christlike life, to be a leader not a sheep being guided back and forth by immoral people.  You need to stick up for what you believe and, if you are not sure what it is you do believe, maybe you need to take a step back and figure that out.

“Walk in the ways of the wise for the companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

You might need to seek to find others at work with whom you have similar values and morals.

How about taking an inventory of your “friends?” How many are bad influences to you?  How many of them should you distance yourself from, at least until you can start being a leader not a follower of them? Now, go over the list again and see how many of them you feel you need to be an example to.

Think about the forgotten people in your universe, ones who are on the outside looking in.  Why not make an effort to talk to them this week and get to know them better?  Who knows – they just might be the person God has sent to lead you away from being a victim of peer pressure and into being a stand out leader for God’s kingdom!

Pat Arnold