September 11 – A Changing Culture – Work

Read Colossians 3:22-25

On my way to work the other day, I noticed multiple signs in front of businesses, factories, and restaurants advertising the fact that they are “Now Hiring.” If you go to a restaurant today, you may not only see the sign inviting applicants but you may also experience the reality of the need for more workers. There are often longer wait times or “drive thru only” options. For some employers, the problem is larger than just finding willing applicants. They struggle to find workers who can pass a drug test or who will show up for work for more than a few days.

The unchanging Word of God gives work instructions for God’s people in our changing culture. Here are some clear principles:

  1. God created us to be workers. Adam and Eve were given instruction to subdue the earth and rule over other living things (Gen. 1:28, 29). Even the Ten Commandments remind us that God created us for a rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest (Ex. 20:8-11). Of course, this work is not limited to gainful employment indicated above. It is demonstrated in countless ways.
  2. God designed us to work to provide for our families. Through both financial provision and compassionate care, we are to see that the needs of those closest to us are met (Ex. 20:12; 2 Thess. 3:6-10; 1 Tim. 5:3-8).
  3. God intended that we give our all when we work. Our boss is ultimately not a man or woman above us on a hierarchical org chart. We work for Christ! We should do so with gusto and in recognition of our accountability to Him (Col. 3:22-25).
  4. God planned that we give ourselves to His work. This is more than just the work we do to earn a living or to maintain a household. His work includes the ways we contribute to making disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). His work includes loving our neighbor as ourselves (Lk. 10:25-37). Paul tells us that we are to “always give ourselves fully to” His work (1 Cor. 15:58).

In the midst of a changing culture, Christ followers should be among those who work the hardest but maintain balance. They have an appropriate temporal and eternal perspective.

Does that describe you?

Steve Kern

September 10 – A Changing Culture – Hypocrisy

Read Matthew 23:23-32

There is a big difference between solid wood and veneer furniture. Certainly, there is a difference in price as a piece made of oak through and through is more expensive than a thin oak sheet glued on to something cheap underneath. There is a difference in quality as, under the veneer, you often find some kind of particle board that is subject to swelling if it gets wet and to crumbling if it is hit.

In today’s reading, Jesus speaks pointedly to those in His day, who were merely veneered followers. Externally, one could see their attention to the smallest detail of giving, but internally they lacked a genuine heart of care and concern for others. Outside, they seemed clean and appealing, but inside they were all about selfish pursuits and pleasures. They were like beautiful tombs filled with the remains of the dead. Seven times in this chapter, Jesus expressed “Woe” to these veneered hypocrites.

You have probably noticed, but Jesus reserved some of His most critical words for those characterized by hypocrisy…this inconsistency between appearances and reality. But hypocrisy is not a problem unique to the first century. In fact, it is something that captures the attention of God and of our culture today when it is uncovered. Unfortunately, news reports go viral when prominent Christian leaders are exposed as money-hungry managers, substance abusing shepherds, power-hungry pastors, or adulterous elders.

Leaders aren’t the only ones who run those risks and face these pitfalls. The Father desires integrity and authenticity from every one of His children. And even though many unbelievers in our changing culture don’t embrace the person of Jesus, they often have an internal expectation that, as a Jesus-follower, you will demonstrate those two ingredients: integrity and authenticity.

So, if others were to cut below the superficial, the external, the visible aspects of your life, what would they find? Would it be solid oak through and through? Or would they discover something far different than what the surface seems to indicate? For God’s glory and for the sake of His gospel, be the same sincere Christ-follower in the recesses of your heart and life that is portrayed to others.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

(Ps. 139:23, 24)

Steve Kern

September 9 – A Changing Culture – Managing Money

Read Ecclesiastes 5:10 and Matthew 6:24

The subject of “money” is a tough one, especially for the Church. The Bible mentions several warnings of its temptations. Yet, we also know that money is a significant resource to help those in need and a natural effect of hard work and biblical perseverance.

So… to want money or to not want money?

My personal thought is that money in itself is not the problem; it is our desire toward it that gets us into trouble. Most people whose primary drive is financial gain lead themselves to their own suffering: arrogance, selfishness, elitism, loneliness, regrets of corrupted character, broken relationships from the sake of the pursuit. With a list like that, you’d think we would learn to stop our foolish desires toward money.

Ask a wealthy person and they will agree that “Money creates more problems than it solves.” Ask a financially strapped person and they will reply, “I will freely take those problems off your hands and not complain about it.”

I try to manage my outlook on money within two guidelines:

Never trade your calling or integrity for monetary gain. God will never ask this of you. Ever. In fact, you may be tested in very grey, minimal moments before given greater opportunity. I believe every success story of a Christian in business includes a moment where they had to say “no” when worldly logic would say “yes”. They must rise up and deny themselves an easy pass when even colleagues around them say “Don’t worry, no one will ever know” Make no mistake, there is no greater worship for those called into business than this moment. We are nothing different without our integrity. Stay strong.

Always remember that money does not buy happiness. No matter what I feel I want, God is all I will ever need. Happiness comes from being content. And, luckily, contentment costs us nothing. Rather, it is a hard-fought mindset that shouts to the world, “I do not need to need more!” There is something so freeing in that statement. Fight to find holy contentment.

If you are truly in need – be it food, shelter, clothing or medication – please reach out to us. That is what our church is here for.

If you do not need any of the above, take a moment to be thankful to God for all you do have, it’s more than most. If you live in plenty, pray about where you may be willing to deny yourself the next time you find yourself spending. There is nothing you can buy that feels better than giving!

Nate Torrence

September 8 – A Changing Culture – Handling Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never gonna be as big as Jesus

Never gonna hold the world in my hands

Never gonna be as big as Jesus

Never gonna build the promise land

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

I could build a tower to heaven

Get on top and touch the sky

I could write a million songs

All designed to glorify

I could be about as good

Good as any human could

But that won’t get me by.”

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

But Jesus said to seek Him first:

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

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

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

Pray for humility!

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

Avoid arrogance.

Do you seek Him first in all that you do?

Tom Weckesser

September 7 – A Changing Culture – Heartache

Read Psalm 34:18

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

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

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

Not just for that day, but forever.

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

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

How much did that matter for your healing?

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

What’s holding you back?

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

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

Michelle Perrino

September 6 – A Changing Culture – Adversity

Read John 16:16-33

Deafening silence, fine mess, seriously funny, genuine imitation- all oxymorons that clearly confuse us! 

Today’s reading seems like it falls under the same category. Jesus speaks of both sorrow and joy in the same sentence. Paul also reiterates this in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Sorrow and joy are contradictory words in our world, but Jesus brings unity to them. They are not rivals, but rather companions. Learning to live with these as companions is a key to the peace that Jesus mentioned in John 16:33. His purpose: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

His promise: “In this world you will have trouble.” His power: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Since I was a little girl, I have sung the chorus, “Standing on the promises of Christ my King… Glory in the highest I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God.” We tend to gravitate toward and pick out the promises that make us feel good, but in today’s passage, Jesus promises that we will have adversity. We all have experienced that. Just last evening I received a phone call with discouraging news regarding an extended family member. The promise of “you will have trouble” is not foreign to any of us, but do we live in Jesus’ overcoming power?

This summer, during our continued long wait for full-time employment for my husband, I became bogged down in discouragement. Reading in Psalm 40, I found that I could relate to the pit of destruction and miry clay in which David was stuck. Living in adversity, sorrow and joy were at odds with each other, but the power of Him lifting me out of the pit and setting my feet upon the rock- the rock of Christ- making my footsteps firm restored my joy and peace. Psalm 40:3 says, “And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” How do we sing in the midst of adversity? By allowing sorrow and joy to walk side by side.

I love the bookends in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk begins with the cry, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help?” The prophet concludes his book with his heart’s resolution, “even if, I will.” Even if the circumstances do not change, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (see Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Yes, sorrow and joy can coexist. We will have adversity, but Jesus’ power offers us His peace. Our situations that cause us sorrow may not alter, but He gives us the power to live in His joy.  In my Bible’s margin of Habakkuk, I wrote, “Do we judge God by our circumstances or judge our circumstances in light of the character of God?” God has not changed and His power is available to us so that we can be sorrowful, but always rejoicing.

It’s really not an oxymoron!

Charline Engle

September 5 – A Changing Culture

Read Romans 12:1-21

At a wedding, I watched a dad walk his daughter down the aisle. Most people were looking at the beautiful bride but I noticed the dad. He looked nervous and about to faint. I thought he might need a wheelchair because he was so shook up. But then a few years later, I was the one walking my daughter down the aisle. It was a serious, wonderful and beautiful opportunity. It is all about a change in life, especially for the bride and groom. But also for the parents. And change can be difficult. It is an adjustment but an inevitable part of life.

How do you handle change?

In the same wedding service, the pastor leading the service started talking about Romans 12 and dealing with changes in your life and culture.

He read verse 9: “Love must be sincere.” He suggested to “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.”

Is love the center of who you are?

In a rapidly changing culture, sincere love can make a difference. Love other people with patience, quiet listening and kindness.

He then read verse 10b: “Honor one another above yourselves.” The Message says “practice playing second fiddle”. Can you play second fiddle or does your ego want you to always be first, always be right and constantly interrupt others?

The MSG says, “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”

Romans 12 is full of ideas about how we can live in a changing culture because of what is true. How do we respond to the amazing mercy God has shown us?

This new series is about culture change and what the Bible says about dealing with it. Prepare your heart to read about something everyone experiences: adversity. Can you make adversity your asset? The challenge is to be content in any and every situation. Christ is the secret (see Phil 4:13).

In the next few days we will be looking at culture, change and heartache, handling success, managing money, loving and serving others and more. How can I maintain a Christian attitude in all things? How do we make the most of every opportunity?

Let’s get rid of the me-first attitude of this world and renew our minds with the view of the culture through God’s eyes.

We must break free from, rather than conforming to, the me-first way the human world prefers. We must have our minds renewed, to look at the world through God’s eyes.

Are you adjusting to the culture changes?

Tom Weckesser

September 4 – Missions Spotlight – Ely and Nikki Ducatel

Read Mark 1:10-11

Ministry: We serve multiple campuses within the East Ohio area. We provide spiritual support, missional training, and developmental programs to students, staff, and faculty that are advancing the kingdom of God on their campuses.

Missionaries: Ely & Nikki Ducatel

“Jesus was seen before sent out.”

In today’s reading, John the Baptist fulfilled prophecy by preparing the way for Jesus to go on mission with God to create disciples and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Before all of this takes place, God affirms Jesus through the Spirit, Sonship, and Love. In this devotion, we’ll explore what it is like to be seen before sent on a mission with God.

“Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with You, I am well pleased.’” Mark 1:10-11

Here are 4 God affirmations in this text:

1.“The Spirit descending like a dove.” The Spirit descended on Jesus as a sign that He was the chosen one and that ministry would only be done through the Spirit of God.

2.“You are my Son.” God established His relationship with Jesus before He was sent out. Jesus knew who He was beforehand.

3.“Whom I love.” God told Jesus, ” I love you!” Jesus knew that He was loved.

4.“I am well pleased.” Jesus had not yet started His ministry but the Father was already pleased with Him.

Although college students are sent to college, they may not feel seen. We want college students who come across InterVarsity on campuses in East Ohio to know that God sees them! When students hear that, they are surprised because they don’t think God has time for them. We follow that up by saying that, not only does God see them, but, more importantly, He loves them! God loved them before they were even born (Psalms 139). Lastly, God can only be pleased with them through Jesus. It is true of you too. God is pleased with you when you accept Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. I believe these God affirmations are game-changers for college students. This creates a safe space and a soft heart for college students to hear the Gospel message.

We have the privilege of creating spaces for many college students to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Please pray that God would prepare the hearts of thousands of college students, staff, and faculty to return to college campuses all over East Ohio. May they know this year that God sees, loves and desires deeper intimacy with them.

Ely & Nikki Ducatel

September 3 – Missions Spotlight – Abby Radcliffe

Read Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Ministry: Training and evangelizing young adults in Taiwan

Missionary: Abby Radcliffe

The fragrant aroma fills my nostrils each time I walk out of my home. It’s a combination of spices that, over time, has become familiar. This is the smell of incense burning slowly as the Taiwanese people worship their gods and ancestors. Ancestor worship is deeply woven within the Taiwanese culture.

My name is Abby, and I have had the privilege of being in Taiwan since March of 2020. I work as an intern at an English and Bible training center. Our aim is to raise up young adults to be leaders and disciple makers in their churches and communities. Specifically, I have been teaching English and Bible classes to Taiwanese adults, college age and up.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. One of my former English students, Stanley, is an active worshipper of Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Many times, worship of these gods is motivated by the desire to be blessed. Who can blame them? Everybody wants a good life.  

As a Christ follower, I am grateful that I don’t have the pressure of this ritualistic worship. Still, in Christianity, the motivation to worship for blessing may still be there; it just looks different when played out. In my own life, I can feel as though God will bless me if I do what He wants. If I spend time with Him in the morning, He will reward me with a good day. Often, I need to take a step back and evaluate my motivation.

In Deuteronomy 10, God shows the people of Israel who He is and the type of worship He requires from them. It’s interesting that God specifically mentions that He does not take bribes. He cannot be bought with our worship. I cannot offer to Him 30 minutes of my morning in exchange for a day that is problem free. His exchange rate isn’t based on my performance, rather it is based solely on His grace.

We see in Deuteronomy what God requires of the Israelites, “to fear the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” (vs. 12, ESV). They were to do that, not because of what God will give them, but simply because they know who He is (vs. 14), and they have seen how He has worked (vs. 21). So, we can still offer Him 30 minutes of our morning, but for a different reason.

Abby Radcliffe

September 2 – Missions Spotlight – Jason and Christy Carmean

Read 1 Peter 5:1-5

Ministry: Training a next generation of spiritual leaders in Africa

Missionaries: Jason and Christy Carmean

There may not have ever been a time when it has been more difficult to pastor a church in the United States than our current time. On any given current subject, a variety of thoughts, opinions and positions exist. Pastors seek to navigate all of them to give effective spiritual care to the flock.

As we read Peter’s words to the dispersed church of his day, we are reminded of the priorities of the pastor as he ultimately gives an account to the Lord for his work.

The command that is given is to shepherd the flock of God that is among you (verse 2). Just like a real shepherd, they were responsible to the owner of the flock (God) for the care of the sheep. In Cameroon, we have shepherds who move flocks of animals from one place to another. The animals do not belong to the shepherd, they care for them for a season. The shepherds are rewarded if the animals are healthy. They are punished if the animals are unhealthy or have died.

Here are some observations from the text:

  1. Being a spiritual shepherd is hard, but good shepherds are motivated by a deep sense of God’s calling in their lives. 
  • Spiritual shepherds are responsible to the Lord only for the way they shepherd. At the same time, the life of the spiritual shepherd is to be lived as an example to the flock that is under their care. Pastors are not perfect examples, but they are good examples. 
  • The sheep are called to be subject to the shepherd. They are to willingly place themselves under their spiritual leadership. 

Here in Cameroon the church has gone a generation without pastors and qualified spiritual shepherds. The impact of that is often seen in the church. Most Grace Brethren Churches in the U.S. do not have the issue of not having pastors and so the tendency can be to underestimate the importance of good spiritual leadership in the life of a local church.

We have the privilege of investing in a new generation of pastors here in Cameroon and hope that we are helping them understand the importance of being good spiritual shepherds who will give an account to the Lord first for the way they lead.

Pray:  Please pray for a second promotion of students who will graduate in January 2022 and be called into spiritual leadership of the local churches in Cameroon, Africa.