July 25 – United: Church – 1 Corinthians 1

Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Should the church be united or divided?  Do our choices outside of Sunday morning church hold up to scrutiny?

Clearly, Christians are to be united.  Imagine Paul challenging our church with these words; (Eph 4:4-6) “There is one body and one spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

The truth is, there are many things that can divide the Church; politics, social issues, bitterness due to changes brought in by newly appointed church leaders, just to name a few.

Have you ever thought about your interactions, conversations and demeanor from the perspective of a new Christian watching from afar?  Imagine this…for the first time, you hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.  You are on FIRE for Him.  Imagine your confusion and dismay when you look around at your new Christian friends, and only hear them endorsing their favorite politician, athlete, preacher or entertainer.  You might think, ‘Why don’t my Christian friends talk more about Jesus?’

And you might be right.

Here in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, we are offered a solution.  Paul implores the believers there to “have no divisions among them”, and to be “united in the same mind and the same judgment.” The problem was that in their church, the believers were claiming to follow their favorite teacher… Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or Paul, and yet they are all rebuked by Paul.  Try to hear Paul’s incredulous tone in his words: “Was Paul crucified for you?”, or “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”  Paul amazingly even confronts those saying “I follow Christ”, (“Was Christ divided?”) because he knew they were NOT united, they only wanted to appear more righteous than the others.  It seems we are a helpless case, but praise God!!

In order for our church to stay united in purpose and mission, we need to align our hearts and minds FIRST with Jesus’ mission.  He needs to be the Lord of our hearts.   When Jesus is at the center, our ethics and morality will be grounded in God’s word.  Condemnation lessens for those blinded to the truth of the Gospel, and for those saved by grace.  We rightly see injustice and speak out and act against it.  We joyfully serve the ‘least of these.’  It is Jesus and His gospel that unite the Church, and “not with words of eloquent wisdom, (i.e. by the great oratory or literary skills of a person) lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  Jesus’ mission, to “testify to the Truth” (John 18:37), and to redeem and rescue a fallen, sinful, depraved and lost world, is often different than our earthly missions.  Want social justice?  Want a more unified marriage?  Want civic peace? Want familial harmony?

Trust and follow Jesus.

Craig French

July 24 – United: Church – John 17

Read John 17:20-26

Here in John 17, we have opportunity to eavesdrop on what may be the most intimate recorded words that Jesus ever prayed. Jesus and the disciples had just left a meal, the backdrop for the very celebration of the first Communion with the disciples. Somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane where He would both pray and be betrayed, Jesus lifted His gaze to heaven and voiced these heartfelt words.

Even though it wasn’t part of the reading, it is moving to see what Jesus prayed for in this chapter/prayer.

  • In verses 1-5, He longed for reunion with the Father, praying for Himself asking the Father to glorify Him.
  • In verses 6-19, He prayed for His disciples that they might be protected by God and set apart in truth as they lived as His representatives in the world.
  • But verses 20-26 are our focus today. Here, Jesus prayed for us. We are among those who have believed the apostolic message that has reached all the way to us (v. 20). What is it, then, that Jesus prayed for as He paused at that critical point in His life and thought about you and me? He prayed for the very thing that we have been learning about in our current sermon series. He prayed that we would be “united.” Repeatedly, He uses the word “one.” He wants us to experience the same kind of loving unity that He experiences with the Father.

As we have seen this week, this unity He prayed for comes from being part of the same body with Christ as the head (Eph. 4:15, 16). It is a unity that is experienced as each person exercises her/his spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:12-31). It is a unity involving a common set of beliefs (Eph. 4:14-16). It is a unity grounded in love (1 Cor. 13:1-13) and expressed in gospel purpose (Phil. 1:5).

Why was our unity so important to Jesus that He would pray for us 2000 years ago? Unity is important for more than just the fact that life is easier when people are united. He prayed for unity in the church for the sake of the unbelieving world. Unity in the church serves as a convincing evidence of Christ’s identity as One sent from God (vv. 21, 23).

Are you contributing to the unity of Grace Church? Are you “all in” with others and with our mission? There is much at stake!

Steve Kern

July 23 – United: Church – Philippians 1

Read Philippians 1:1-11

What is it that unites military personnel serving in the armed forces? They come from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. As early as basic training, the use of “I” is discouraged, it is all about “we, us, our, team,” etc. This makes it easier for them as they eventually join hands for a greater purpose in their common mission.

That common commitment to mission is also one of the most unifying factors in the life of any church. The apostle Paul reminds us of that. He joyfully thanked God for the church’s “partnership in the gospel.” The church had joined hands with him in their shared mission of seeing the gospel spread as disciples were made of the nations.

  • They did this through financial gifts. Repeatedly and sacrificially they united by giving to see people come to faith and grow in Him (Phil. 4:10-20).
  • They did this through personal visits and encouragement. One of their own by the name of Epaphroditus had represented the church and risked his own life in order to bless the apostle in his ministry and personal needs (Phil. 2:25-30).
  • They did this through direct participation. Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement are just a few of the names of those in Philippi who had served alongside of Paul as coworkers (Phil. 4:2, 3).

Without a focus on a uniting mission, any church can experience division. When church members divert their attention from the mission they share, they can easily begin to focus on their differences and their preferences. These differences, then, seem to provide good reason for distancing themselves from each other. And the distancing can ultimately give rise to division. Just ask the Corinthian church of the first century. Rather than uniting around the mission, they had divided over their varied allegiance to different spiritual leaders (1 Cor. 1). As they focused on the different spiritual gifts in their midst, pride and jealousy divided them (1 Cor. 12-14).

Unite around the mission! Give sacrificially so that temporal and eternal needs of people in our community are met. Donate generously so that our ministry efforts around the world can bear fruit.

Come alongside of those serving. Write them a note. Send them a text. Drop them a card.

Join in our effort to be #ForWayneCounty. Seek to share the message of Christ with those in your network of relationships. Invite family, friends, and acquaintances to weekend services. Participate in a short-term mission opportunity (when they are once again possible).

Unite with Grace Church by partnering in our gospel effort!

Steve Kern

July 22 – United: Church – Ephesians 4

Read Ephesians 4:11-16

I have been blessed to be able to serve on the worship team at Grace Church for several years now as bass guitar player.  We have a wonderful team that comes together on a weekly basis to lead the congregation in worship.  We have amazing leaders who prepare our hearts on a weekly basis.  Our tech team is remarkable; individuals on camera, lighting, sound; people behind the scenes putting it all together.  We have some of the most talented singers and musicians around.  And none of it would be possible without the other. All of us have our role to play to make it fit together like a puzzle.  I often wish I had the vocal abilities of my daughter, Taylor.  However, God did not bless me with a beautiful voice.  But I still have a role on the team and part of the body.

Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelist, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.

Just as our worship team has many parts, so does the body of Christ.  If the band is not playing in unison, then we will sound awful.  If the lights flicker randomly or the sound is not just right, the entire worship experience would be distracting.  If the words to the songs are wrong or out of place, how would the congregation follow?  Every role is important.  As it is with the body of Christ.

Do you know how many volunteers it takes to pull off a service every week?  Some people are using their God given abilities to serve the church.  To build up and grow the kingdom.  Did someone greet you when you came in to church?  Were you directed where to go?  Did you drop your children off in the children’s ministry where your kids will hear the gospel every week?  Did someone pour you coffee?

What is your gift?  How are you contributing to the body of Christ?  Not all of us are called to preach, teach, sing or greet.  But you do have a gift that God can use.  I used to be scared to death to serve.  But I am beyond thankful and blessed to be doing so!

Nate Mills 

July 21 – United: Church – Romans 14

Read Romans 14:1-23

“There is no effort without error or shortcoming.”

Theodore Roosevelt, THE MAN IN THE ARENA.

Almost 10 years ago, on June 2, 2010, I watched a baseball game on TV in Comerica Park in Detroit between the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. Maybe you remember the call by American League umpire Jim Joyce: “safe.” It was incorrect.

I will never forget it.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was pitching a “perfect game” with one out to go in the ninth inning. It could be the twenty-first perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

Jason Donald of the Indians was out by half a step for what should have been the final out of a perfect game.

But the call was “safe.”

Galarraga’s reaction was so classy. He showed no visible reaction to the obvious mistake by the umpire that cost him a place in baseball history.

After the game Jim Joyce admitted he blew the call. “I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought Donald beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

The way these two men reacted and handled this situation is more significant than the game. Joyce, a respected 22 year veteran umpire, tearfully apologized to everyone, but, more importantly, to Galatraga for making a mistake. Galatraga was forgiving and completely respectful.

These men demonstrated how to behave in circumstances when things don’t go our way!

You didn’t see complaining or arguing with the other person, even though one clearly made a mistake.

They reminded me that we need to forgive, apologize, admit our mistake and move on. Can we learn from our mistakes that we make? They showed that a person can handle moments of conflict and disagreement with grace, gentleness and self control.

Avoid judging others, even if you are right. Why escalate a situation when you can bring peace?

Anytime you work with people, it is important to have thick skin because you are in a position to be criticized. It is a great opportunity to show your Christian attitude. How do you respond to personal criticism?

I am inspired by Colossians 3:23, Philippians 4:13, THE MAN IN THE ARENA and IF by Rudyard Kipling. The verses above in Romans 14 are also inspirational and helpful for living in this world as a Christian!

The Message Bible says to “. . . tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God. ” (Romans 14:12)

So treat others gently.

Tom Weckesser

July 20 – United: Church – Acts 6

Read Acts 6:1-7

In today’s terms, the Jerusalem church was a “mega-church” from the day of its birth (Acts 2:41). But growth continued as more and more people came to faith in Jesus (Acts 2:47; 6:1). In fact, the most recent estimate of the size of the church had the number of men alone at about 5,000 (Acts 4:4). With growth came challenges to their unity. Having begun as a diverse group from many different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds (Acts 2:5-11), those differences had caused division.

Early on, the church had given attention to serving the marginalized in their midst. Widows were among them. These women without husbands had real needs. The church had assumed the responsibility of providing food for them every day. God was using His people to give to these widows their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).

Unfortunately, some of the widows were being overlooked. It didn’t seem to be the result of random oversight. Instead, it was specifically the Jews with a Greek background. They were not receiving food.

Thankfully, the apostles wisely chose not to set aside their own calling. They did, however, develop a plan for addressing the problem…a plan that incorporated other people. The plan did not erase the differences, but it did address the disunity. In just a short time, unity was restored and the Jerusalem church became a multiplying movement once again (Acts 6:7).

Did you know that God seems to glory in the dimensions of diversity of His church? Whether male or female, regardless of income, independent of employment status, irrespective of ethnic background, and unrelated to mother tongue (Gal. 3:28; Rev. 5:9), we are all one in Jesus. But with differences comes the potential for disunity. We must guard against that, lest our Christian witness be diminished!

Perhaps one of the greatest differences represented in the 21st century church is age related. Those differences have become so defined that sociologists have even developed names and stereotypes for different generations (builders, boomers, generation X, millennials, and generation Z). Which generation are you? How do you relate to the others?

But the unity of the church is preserved when we intentionally seek to cross the invisible lines of demarcation. Unity is preserved when we intentionally engage with, love, and serve those different from us. Unity is preserved when we intentionally take the first step in the direction of others different from us. By keeping disunity at bay, the gospel can move forward without hindrance.

Steve Kern

July 19 – United: Church – 1 Corinthians 12

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Who doesn’t like a parade complete with a marching band?  The beat of the drums, cymbal crashes and the “oom pa-pas” of the tubas can get your heart a-pumping and your feet a-tapping!

Every instrument has a part to play.  Some carry the melody and others the harmony.  Together each part works to make one harmonious song.

Can you imagine a march played by just one instrument?  How about a whole band made up entirely of cymbal players?    What if the band members switched music and each one played the part meant for an entirely different instrument?   How about the tuba player trying to play the part written for the piccolo?  The tuba is not made to hit that high of notes. Likewise, the piccolo is not made to play the low notes meant for the tuba.

The same is true of people in God’s Church.  We each have our own God-given talents that we are to use to spread the love of Christ.  Pastors can take a single Bible verse and come up with an hour-long sermon on its meaning and applications to many people each week.  Ushers have a way of making people feel welcome.  Is the Pastor’s job any more important than that of the usher or the Sunday school teacher?  No!  Can you imagine a church where the pastor had to hand out the bulletins, seat everyone, run the sound and music, then right before preaching teach the little ones?  Of course not.  Each job in the church is just as important as the other.

We need each other!

Just like it takes all kinds of instruments to complete the score of a rousing march it takes all kinds of people with their individual God-given talents for the body of Christ to play in harmony as we march onward to spread the Gospel.

We all have God-given talents! Do you know what yours are? If not, why not ask Him what part He has waiting for you to play?  Once you find it, you should do it wholeheartedly with all the crescendos and decrescendos you can muster.   And don’t forget to throw in a few “oom pa pas” and cymbal crashes for emphasis in just the right spots!

 Patricia Arnold

July 18 – United: Country – 1 Peter 2

Read 1 Peter 2:13-17

I am about 4 years too late, but I have hopped on the “Hamilton” band wagon. Being a product of musical theater, you would think I would be all over this amazingly written and created show. However, I was so into other show’s scores and stories that I never gave it much attention. Until recently, when I not only was able to listen to the whole album, but also watch the show. The story of not only Alexander Hamilton came alive but a character and person that intrigued me was that of George Washington. He is known for being the father of our nation and learning more of his story and leadership by way of a musical made me think of Peter’s advice and instruction to honor and respect the authority placed before us.

George Washington held the respect of so many. What made him a great leader, as you will read from almost all historians, is his character. He was a man of great faith, discipline and follow through. He held integrity as his greatest characteristic but also respected those who served under him. Now, for most, respecting and honoring this type of authority would be easy. What about those it is hard to serve? Those that are hard to respect or honor because we see certain characteristics as flawed?

In the professional setting, some would say I hold a “Go-getter” attitude and try to bring clarity and decisiveness as well as follow through to my position. However, when those that are above me don’t meet the same standards that I hold myself to, it can be difficult to honor or respect their authority or leadership. Sometimes I remember the Lord’s eternal truth and find myself in repentance.

Those above us are human; they are broken and flawed, just as we are, and they need grace, just as we do. If the Lord allowed their leadership to come to pass, we are called to respect their position and their authority. This does not mean we have to be best friends or agree with everything that they say or act on, but we must look at their position as one of respect.

I remember many pastors saying, “The relationship that you have with your earthly father often affects your relationship with our Heavenly Father” and I believe that same principle applies to those in leadership as well. As we show respect for Jesus as our authority, we must also allow that same heart of respect to affect the way we see, pray, vote, and support those in leadership.

How we respect and respond to those in leadership will shed a light to those who need to see Jesus.

 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake”

Kelly Lawson

July 17 – United: Country – Revelation 5

Read Revelation 5:1-10

More than 30 years ago, I traveled for the first time to Brazil to visit churches Grace Church in Wooster helped establish through the work of our missions’ staff.

I will never forget that trip.

It wasn’t the boat ride on the Amazon that most impressed me. Nor was it the sweltering heat in Belem where the record low temperature is 68°.  And it wasn’t even the great time of fellowship I enjoyed with our missionaries at a retreat center.

What impressed me most was the first church service I attended. I stood with other believers in Jesus to sing praise to our God.  I didn’t recognize a single word they sang.  But those Brazilian Christians didn’t just sing. They SANG!! Even though I did not understand a word of Portuguese, it was clear we were worshiping the same God.

At that moment, I thought, “This is a glimpse of heaven.” I thought of these words in Revelation 5 where “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” will sing a new song to the Lord (Revelation 5:9 – NLT).

There’s coming a day when all believers will fulfill the commands of Scripture to “sing a new song to the Lord” (Isaiah 42:9-10; Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1; Revelation 14:3).  Even if we can’t sing now, we will sing together then!

We will sing because Jesus, the Lamb of God, has paid the ultimate price for us (“For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” Revelation 5:9b – NLT).

We will sing because he has established a unique position we enjoy with each other (“…from every tribe and language and people and nation” Revelation 5:9c – NLT). The completed work of Jesus will unite believers in Him for all eternity, regardless of our ethnic, racial or economic backgrounds.

And He has provided us with an eternal privilege that we experience forever with Him (“And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth” Revelation 5:10 – NLT).

If this is what God has designed us to experience when we are with Him, why not determine you will remember these things when you worship Him with others here on earth?  Why not reflect on the price Jesus has paid for you, the position you have in God’s family, and the privilege you will enjoy for all eternity?

 Bob Fetterhoff

July 16 – United: Country – Philippians 3

Read Philippians 3:15-21

God has given me the opportunity to travel to many countries of the world. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve carried a passport that identifies me as a citizen of the United States. That passport provides many privileges I don’t fully understand or appreciate.

On more than one occasion when heading through passport control, I have been directed to a sign that reads “US citizens”. Usually people in that line are processed more quickly than those in other lines.

Even though I carry a passport often envied by the rest of the world, I also carry the marks of a tourist: Don’t speak the language. Don’t understand traffic patterns. Oblivious to local customs. Need a guide just to get around. Take lots of photos.

You get the idea!

No matter how many privileges I have been granted as an American citizen overseas, one thing is always the same… I get a lump in my throat whenever I see the skyline of New York City from our inbound flight. When the plane lands in the United States, I find myself thinking, “It’s good to be home.”

But the truth is… New York City is not home for me either. Neither is Cleveland which feels closer & even more familiar – but still isn’t home.

It’s not until I pull in the driveway of our house, walk in the front door, and give my wife a big hug that I feel like I’m “home.”

In Philippians 3 Paul reminds all believers that this world is not home for us. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20a).  When we believe what Jesus has accomplished for us on the cross and receive his forgiveness, our citizenship changes. We are no longer citizens of this world.

We are here on special assignment as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), but this is not home.  As citizens of heaven, we have one primary task: to invite as many people as possible to join us in our eternal home with Jesus. But this earth is definitely not home.

If you find yourself thinking, “Where is this world headed? What’s going to happen to our country if it continues down this road? Where is all this headed”? Remember – you aren’t home yet.

You’re not a citizen of this world.

The old song says: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through; my treasures are laid up, somewhere behind the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

But someday, as a follower of Jesus, you will see him face to face. He will transform your diseased, pain-ridden, or crippled body so that it “will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21b). You will wake up in heaven … and then, and only then, you will be home!

 Bob Fetterhoff