December 1 – GIVE JOY – Jesus left Heaven for us

Read John 1:1-18 and Philippians 2:5-8

“And the Word became flesh…”

So there He was; living in Heaven with God. There is literally nothing that could have been better for Jesus! Take the time to imagine what Heaven will be like. The Bible gives us small glances into what Heaven will be like. Imagine being in the very presence of God! Imagine being in your heavenly body, healed of all sickness and experiencing such joy! Imagine for a moment what it would mean to be in Heaven. Now imagine what it would be like to give it up to help other people.

Jesus knew that we had a sin problem with no real way out. If this problem isn’t solved, we are going to spend forever separated from God in a very real place called Hell. However, Jesus stepped out of Heaven and into human flesh to live a perfect life so that He could ultimately die on the cross for your sin and mine. How incredible! Jesus gave up all of that so that you and I can live in Heaven with Him one day!

Take a moment and thank God for giving us His Son and the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us. Without that, there is no hope!

Throughout the month on December, we as a church are committed to meeting needs in our community. We are calling this emphasis Give Joy. We are challenging ourselves to give joy to 10,000 people throughout December! Every day leading up to Christmas, you will read an aspect of the Christmas story as well a challenge of how you can give joy to someone through what you learned!

Give Joy Idea: 

Write an encouraging letter to someone in the armed forces who won’t be home for Christmas this year, serve/donate hot meal for soldier’s family Christmas party.

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November 30 – Life Verses – Romans 8:28

Read Romans 8:28

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Boucher

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November 29 – Life Verses – Romans 6:11

Read Romans 6:1-23

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

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

And then God intervened.

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t make sense does it?

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

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

Jake Lawson

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November 28 – Life Verses – Joshua 1:8

Read Joshua 1:8

Remember the first time you ever jumped into the deep end of the pool? Maybe it took a whole summer of coaxing before you tried it.

You might not remember the exact day, but you might remember the feeling that combined mind-numbing fear with exhilaration.

I wonder if that’s what the Israelites felt as they stood on the brink of the Promised Land 3500 years ago. God had promised them a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:27). But the Israelites initially succumbed to fear because of a bad report given by scouts who had checked out the land.  Their focus was only on the opposition that might be encountered.

Now after 40 years of wandering in the desert because of their disobedience and lack of faith, the Israelites were back to that critical moment again. Would they “jump in the pool” and experience the blessings of the Promised Land or not?

At this crucial juncture, God spoke to Joshua the new leader of His people who had recently replaced Moses. The Lord urged His servant to be strong and courageous. Then God gave Joshua this challenge: “Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 – NIV).

God was saying: “Joshua, this is your key to success in your new responsibility. Don’t succumb to fear. Don’t recoil when the opposition seems overwhelming. Lean all of your weight on the revealed Word of God. Focus on its truths. And I promise you will be successful.”

I love this verse! It has been my life verse. I have found no greater security in times of uncertainty, fear and confusion than the promises God has revealed in His Word.

Now there’s a three-step process to follow if we are going to benefit from the practice outlined in this verse:

  1. Memorize – We have to commit to memory the actual words in the text of Scripture.  This takes effort.
  2. Meditate – This word means to think about something over and over like a cow chews its cud.  This takes time.
  3. Master – Then we look for ways to apply the principles and promises of God‘s Word to the experiences we face in life.  This takes practice.

Only when I follow these guidelines, does God promise His blessing in my life. It’s a sure-fire formula for “success,” whatever you may encounter in life.   It’s worked in my life!

Bob Fetterhoff

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November 27 – Life Verses – Galatians 6:10

Read Galatians 6: 1-10

My mom makes the most awesome cookies. Warm and soft with melted chocolate chips straight out of the oven, or cold and crunchy from a stash in the freezer, they are just one of the many ways she has shared love over the years. When Sharon and I travel to San Diego to see our son and his family, there is always a bag of “Grandma’s cookies” for them.  Missing the opportunity to take a gallon sized bag of her love to them would be unthinkable. While transporting them requires care to deliver intact cookies and not a bag full of crumbs, in one sense it’s easy because we have anticipated each trip months in advance.

Opportunity : Doing good things for others can be like that. We anticipate. We buy gifts for birthdays, weddings and special occasions. Unless we are mindful, though, it can be easy to miss the opportunities that God provides when those situations appear to pop up out of the blue.  He will provide each of us opportunities. Do you try to keep your spiritual eyes and ears open for them?

Doing good:  Mom’s cookies are delicious. But I wouldn’t be doing good if I gave a whole bag of them to someone who is diabetic or who is trying to lose weight.  With each opportunity, God also expects us to prayerfully consider what is actually most beneficial for that person.  As you pray, do you pray for wisdom in how to best respond?

All people:  Not just the people we like.  The opportunities God provides are not filtered down to just those people we are close to. They are not reserved for folks just like us. They are the “all” from every tribe, tongue and nation. “All” even includes those who want nothing to do with religion.  Who would God place in your path that you might otherwise be unlikely to encourage?

This became my life verse when God opened my eyes to the last part of today’s verse: “especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.  While doing good to “all people” is important, we, as a family, should be even more aware of and sensitive to our brothers and sisters in Christ. When our hearts beat with love, our lives will be marked with generosity and encouragement for them.

What can you do? Doing good can be meeting physical needs, but it more frequently means encouraging them spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. Each one of us can find joy in doing good because these opportunities will always be within reach of what God has already provided. Remember that only a part of those resources are financial. Encouraging others takes place in so many ways through acts of kindness, praying with and for them, being a listening ear, or things as simple as a smile and a hug. Pray today that God would use you to bring joy and encouragement into the lives of those around you – especially to your family!

Wade Karhan

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November 26 – Life Verses – Romans 15:20

Read Romans 15:14-33

“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.” (Rom. 15:21)

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

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

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

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

Steve Kern

 

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November 25 – Life Verses – Colossians 3:23

Read Colossians 3:23

“Let my lifesong sing to you…”   – Casting Crowns

My first job was at Giffins’ Prescription Center working for $1.65/hour. Back then I enjoyed having a little bit of money but I probably cut corners sometimes and maybe didn’t do as good a job as I could have.

I then became a student at Ohio State where my main focus was not academic. I had many jobs including working at McDonald’s just for the pay, an oil company where employees would sleep on the job and I saw them drinking beer on the job, and a construction job where I’d try to do as little as possible just to survive the long, hot days. I became a landscaper for a boss who was deaf who fired me because I asked him for a raise.

My focus was money.

Then I finally became a teacher and a high school basketball coach. My aim was to win basketball games.

It was about that time that I became a Christian and recognized the importance of doing a good job even if nobody knew it but me. I then realized that God was my boss and no matter what I’m doing, I need to be working for Him. That realization changed my attitude toward work, family, church and everything that I did. My focus became to do the best that I could possibly do – and to go the extra mile in absolutely everything.

I coached six different high school sports and I focused on encouraging high school kids and not just winning games. I officiated high school basketball and football for many seasons and focused on sportsmanship, safety and helping to make sports a great learning experience. I became a huddle leader for The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and tried to teach young people to work for God, not men. We gave away over 1500 FCA coins with Colossians 3:23 on them to team captains. Let me know if you want one.

For me this verse is about attitude and way of life. It helps me emulate Jesus Christ. It has helped me deal with difficult people and difficult jobs. Every job can be a Christian ministry! And it’s not just about working – it’s about everything that we do! No matter what I’m doing, I’m working for God, not men.

Tom Weckesser

 

 

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