May 1 – Say What Now? – “Embrace your Weakness and I’ll Give You Strength”

Read 2 Corinthians 13:1-10

“He was sheer weakness and humiliation when he was killed on the cross, but oh, he’s alive now—in the mighty power of God! – (2 Corinthians 13:3 MSG)

From the age of five, James was raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm in Jackson, Michigan – they had moved from Mississippi. James found the transition to living with his grandparents in Michigan traumatic and developed a stutter so severe that he refused to speak. “I was a stutterer. I couldn’t talk. So, my first year of school was my first mute year, and then those mute years continued until I got to high school.”

James said that his stuttering created humiliation: “In Sunday school, I’d try to read my lessons and the children behind me were falling on the floor with laughter…my stuttering was so bad that I gave up trying to speak properly.”

James credits his high school English teacher, Donald Crouch, who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry, with helping him embrace this weakness. “‘Jim, this is a good poem. In fact, it is so good I don’t think you wrote it. I think you plagiarized it. If you want to prove you wrote it, you must stand in front of the class and recite it by memory.’ Which I did. As they were my own words, I got through it.”

James said his teacher got him talking and reading poetry, which sparked an interest in acting. By embracing the weakness, it eventually became a strength.

Known today as James Earl Jones, this man worked hard and eventually became a Broadway, television and movie star, and is well-known for his voice as Darth Vader in Star Wars. Jones has spoken some of the most memorable lines in the history of American film. He is known for his voice. But he was once afflicted with a severe stutter.

Examples of weakness are impatience, restlessness, a temper, greed, looking at pornography, selfishness and others. Jesus was weak when He died on the cross on Good Friday. He had been beaten, broken down, had his face spit on, whipped – pieces of skin hung from his back, verbally abused, naked and humiliated. And He was able to overcome all of this through the resurrection!

And Jesus provides a way through Him to overcome our weaknesses by recognizing, admitting and then embracing them.

It involves work (see Colossians 3:23), focus (see Hebrews 12:2) and opportunity (see Eph. 5:16).

Have you asked Jesus to help you embrace a weakness and work to overcome it? Is there anything specific that you need to bring to the Lord?

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

If Christ sets you free – you can now try to forget your past mistakes and not focus on them. They are on the ocean floor (see Micah 7:19).

You can live free through Jesus Christ. You can embrace weaknesses and ask God for strength!

Tom Weckesser

April 30 – Say What Now? – “Leave your Country, Family and Land and I’ll Give You a Nation, Name and Blessing”

Read Genesis 12:1-5

Abraham’s story is one of my favorites, maybe because of the trust exchange between Abraham and God. 

I’m so glad I’ve been re-reading Abraham’s story recently. 

As most know, Jake and I are expecting a baby girl, Emma, due in October. Trusting the Lord to try again after losing our baby last August was harder than I thought it would be. A good friend would ask me, “Are you scared? Are you ready?” I would always answer “Yes!” and “Yes!” I think it was because of the trust I have in Jesus. 

Knowing and believing the Kingdom perspective and knowing that Jesus changes everything helps my journey to sustain my trust in the Lord. Jake and I believe in a loving God who only has the best in mind for us, our family and our children. He is a God who loves us more than we will ever know. 

However, it is not always easy to trust. 

If you read Abraham’s story and think “he must be a super spiritual guy to be able to trust the Lord with all He asked Abraham to do”, the answer is no. Abraham was a normal guy just like you and me. He knew the Lord, He knew the power that God processed and He trusted Him because of his personal relationship with God. 

I think the difference between those who trust the Lord and those who do not is the question, “How well do you know God?”. 

Knowledge doesn’t equal intimacy and lack of intimacy equals lack of trust. 

I compare this to our closest relationship. For me, this is Jake. I don’t trust him just because I know about him, I trust him because I know him. I know him better than most. I see things most do not and vice versa. There is a trust exchange much like between Abraham and the Lord. 

When you look at your life, can you say that you fully and intimately know the Lord? In that intimacy with Jesus comes the trust exchange.

Do you have that? 

Charles Swindoll’s book “So You Want to Be Like Christ” dives into the notion that knowledge does not equal intimacy. He says in chapter three while focusing on slowing our pace through silence and solitude that “If you refuse to be still, if you do not seek times for silence and solitude, you may gain some knowledge about God without knowing Him at all”.

Abraham knew the Lord intimately and, therefore, the depth of trust was built. Asking Abraham to leave his home may have been scary and filled with uncertainty, but it was nothing compared to knowing and trusting his Lord and following after Him. 

Where are you? Are you filled with a depth of intimacy that allows for a trust exchange to grow or are you focused on knowledge and pride of pedigree?

As you read through Abraham’s story, put yourself in his shoes and see what your choice would be.

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

April 28 – Say What Now? – “March, Sound the Trumpet and Shout, and I’ll Bring Down the Wall”

Read Joshua 6:1-21

“Joshua fought the battle of Jericho

Jericho, Jericho!

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho

And the walls came a tumbling down!”

If you have grown up going to church, you have probably sung that song a time or two and have learned about the miraculous way the city of Jericho was destroyed with just a shout. But have you thought about how much faith it took to complete that task? Joshua was a warrior. The people of the surrounding land had heard of him. They were curious and, according to Rahab, they were even afraid.  As Joshua got closer and closer to Jericho, the emotions must have been rising to an all time high. 

“How will Joshua attack us? How should we prepare for battle against him?”

When God revealed His plan to Joshua of how to take Jericho, it must have been one of those “Say what now?” moments in time for Joshua.   But he had seen how God had led Moses and was now leading him.  So, the only thing for him to do was to trust God’s leading. God told Joshua to “Be strong and very courageous”.

If this battle had been won in the conventional way, it probably would have just been added to the list of Joshua’s other victories. We would not be singing about it thousands of years later. This victory wasn’t a “Joshua thing”, but a “God thing.”

Can you imagine the gossip spreading throughout the town as the Israelites came and marched around the walled city in total silence except for the trumpets of the priest, only to return to their own camp? They did that for 6 days!  By the time the 7th day rolled around, the entire population of the city would have been curiously standing on the top of the wall. Then, when the wall was completely surrounded that 7th day, Joshua gave the signal for his army to shout and the wall came tumbling down. They had thought they were safe in their walled city that no one would be able to break through the wall and destroy them.

What seemed impossible became possible right before their eyes!

Joshua didn’t have engineers to figure out the weaknesses in the wall or if it was even possible for this to happen. But God knew. Even though it might have sounded silly and wasn’t how Joshua usually would have taken a city, he trusted God for his directions

Are you willing to put your complete trust in God’s plan for your life, even if it seems impossible? Are you willing to follow the plan for success that God gave to Joshua? 

1) Read the word of God and apply it to everything you do. Don’t turn to the left or right of it.  Then you will be successful. Have the words on your lips so you can readily speak them. You might not bring down walls to cities, but you will be able to bring down walls of fear, discouragement, hatred, and doubt. 

2) God repeatedly told Joshua to be bold and courageous, standing up for what is right even if it meant going against the popular thing to do at the time.  We are children of the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!

We need to ACT LIKE IT! BE BOLD!

Pat Arnold

April 27 – Say What Now? – “Go and Make Disciples and I’ll Be with You”

Read Matthew 28:16-20

Say what now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Kern

April 26 – Say What Now? – “Build an Ark and I’ll Bring the Flood”

Read Genesis 9:6-22

We often see Noah’s ark depicted as a cartoon type of boat with a giraffe’s head sticking out of the top and an elephant squeezed onto the deck with a lion standing beside. It was really hard to imagine how large the ark would have been, let alone how 8 people could have possibly taken care of that many animals, feeding them and keeping them from killing each other. 

The details leave us with more questions than answers. How could such a vehicle be designed and constructed without modern equipment or computers? How could all of the animals fit in there?

Two summers ago, we took our grandkids to see the replica of the Ark that is on display in Kentucky and it all started to make sense. It is a sight to behold and, once you are inside, all your questions will disappear. 

We don’t know how much knowledge Noah had about ship building, but looking at this replica, one knows that, no matter how smart Noah was, there had to be divine intervention. However, building the ship isn’t the most important lesson learned from the story.  Noah’s willingness to say, “Yes!” to God, even when it seemed like an impossible task, should be the model for all of us.

Although the story of Noah centers around the Ark as it was a true masterpiece of man’s making, what was inside – eight righteous people – was God’s masterpiece that He wanted to preserve.

I can’t help thinking what it must have been like for the people who were not in the ark. I can’t even imagine how horrible it was for them to be drowning literally because of their sin.  They had no hope of being rescued. No chance of a passing life boat to take them aboard. Not even any chance of grabbing ahold of a tree or higher ground to climb up on!

No hope of survival.

That is the way some people feel today.  They are drowning in their whirlpool of one sin after another.  Maybe they have hardened their hearts and closed their ears to anything that people have said to try to help them.  It might be someone in a far-off land or your next-door neighbor.  Maybe it is someone in your own family. Just because a person has a smile on their face doesn’t mean that they aren’t dying inside.  They may have lost hope and can’t see a bright future for themselves.  There have been so many people dying lately of an overdose of drugs or committing suicide.

How very sad that is!

We, who are believers in Christ, are in His life boat and should be on a search and rescue mission.  Instead of turning our backs on people who are drowning in sin we need to be seeking and reaching out to them. Like Noah, when God shows us who He wants us to talk to or befriend, we should without hesitation say, “Yes!” It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, but just like Noah, God will be there to guide you and give you the strength and knowledge you need. Are you willing to reach out your hand, introduce the lost to the real first responder, Jesus, and pull them into the boat of eternal life?

Their life depends on it because, when the rain comes, it’s too late.

Pat Arnold