July 19 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 8:3-4

Read Psalm 8:3-4

I’m not much of an astronomer. I can pick out a few constellations on a cloudless night, like the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion, and the North Star, but that’s about it.

Yet, like the Psalmist, I am fascinated by God’s creative handiwork in the heavens. I feel like King David when I consider what He has created. I am both amazed and mystified. And I’m not alone.

Just ponder these observations about the sky above us:

“If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup… Yet this vast neighborhood of our sun- in truth the size of a coffee cup – fits along with several hundred billion such galaxies in the universe. To send a light – speed message to the edge of the universe would take 15 billion years!” (Philip Yancey).

“One of the objects relatively near to us, a star named Epsilon, is actually larger than the orbit of the planet Pluto in our solar system! If it were hollow, it could contain more than 2.3 billion of our suns!“ (James Dobson).

“Why is the sun 12,000° hot? Why not 1200°… Or 120,000°… Or 24,000°? Why was the earth fixed at exactly the right distance away so that we could have a pleasant temperature this morning? Why not twice as far, twice as close, or 1000 times as far? Answer: because all life would perish…. This planet was designed by God so that it would support one thing:  life. Without life, earth would be another planetary wasteland… Why life? Because only through life can matter understand God and glorify its maker! Only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can the designed know and glorify the Designer” (Chuck Swindoll).

This is what David understood!  The glory of the universe not only points to the ability of the Creator, but also reminds us that He created it all for us to enjoy!  It is His masterpiece which reminds us of His ability and calls us to worship Him.

Author and Pastor, Max Lucado, wrote, “We live in an art gallery of divine creativity.”  19th Century British historian and mathematician, Thomas Carlyle, said, “The universe is but one vast symbol of God.” The great American inventor and scientist, George Washington Carver, said: “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

So are you tuned in to God’s channel?  Tonight … or tomorrow night … or whenever it’s clear again… take a walk outside and say to your Creator, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, who am I that you would love me enough to make it possible for me to have a relationship with you?” And worship Him!

Bob Fetterhoff

July 18 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 8:1-2

Read Psalm 8:1-2

No doubt about it! Psalm 8 is one of my favorites – especially verse 2:  “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Talk about a great reminder of both the simplicity and grandeur of worshiping our Creator!

I love the words to an anthem that our choir used to sing: “O Lord, our God, the majesty and glory of your name; transcends the earth and fills the heavens. O Lord, our God; little children praise You perfectly, And so would we.”

It’s such a delight when my grandchildren sing worship songs which they’ve been taught by their parents or that they’ve learned at church. My wife has taught them (and hundreds of other kids) to worship God by singing, “Lord, You are more precious than silver. Lord, You are more costly than gold. Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds. And nothing I desire compares with You.”  That brings tears to my eyes!

So what can you and I learn from children about worship? Let me suggest the following things…

  1. Children worship with a great sense of wonder. Have you walked outside on a starry night with a five-year-old recently? As you looked into the sky together, you both probably exclaimed, “Wow!” One of the tragedies of life is that we lose that sense of wonder as we get older. This psalm prods us back to the wonder of God’s creative power all around us.
  2. Children also worship God with a great sense of energy. Children at Grace Church have learned much about worshipping God from energetic leaders like Pastor Randy Moomaw and his sons, Kyle and Tyler. It’s common to hear children singing loudly when I walk past a classroom on Sunday morning. I love that!! The Apostle Paul wrote: “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you. God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13 MSG). Too often I’ve watched adults who are supposed to be worshiping God look like they ate pickles for breakfast.  What a tragedy!
  3. Children also worship God with a great sense of trust. That’s why a toddler will jump into your arms in a swimming pool! They trust easily. Jesus said we need that same kind of trust in God: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven“ (Matthew 18: 3b NIV).

So, as you go through this day, ask yourself: “Is my worship of my Creator characterized by that same sense of wonder, energy, and trust?”  If not, why not?

Bob Fetterhoff

July 17 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 1

Read Psalm 1:1-6

Prayer, that intimate conversation between us and our Heavenly Father. Some days it is full of requests, some days questions, other days praise… as we pray through Psalm 1 let it guide our conversation with God today.  Let’s read through Psalm 1; after that I have written my prayer… feel free to pray through that or use the Psalm to launch into your own conversation with our Abba Father.

Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,

and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Father I want to live my life in blessing and contentment… I know that this comes only from following you.  Show me the areas of my life where my actions need to resemble your actions, my choices to be led by your desires and my closest friends to be those who follow you.  Forgive me for those times when this is not the case.

Thank you for your Word, I need to spend more time reading, memorizing and soaking it in to be more like you.  Show me what my next step is to do this. What is one passage that I should memorize so that I may meditate on it throughout the day and when lying awake at night…maybe it is Psalm 1?

I want to be like that tree planted by a stream, its roots reaching down to the cool life-giving water,  bearing fruit for Your kingdom, and prospering when I minister to people.

God, I pray for my friends and neighbors who don’t know you.  Unless they turn to You, their life on this earth will be unfulfilled and their eternity will be spent away from You, Jesus, in a terrible place built for the devil and his angels.  Remind me of that in my next conversation with them.  Grant me boldness in my words and help me make the most of every opportunity.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that you watch over the ways of the righteous, with the intensity, passion and tenderness that You and only You are able to do.  I want to do the hard work and discipline myself to live in a manner worthy of the calling I have received. Use me today to encourage those around me and use my life in whatever way will bring you glory.

Amen

Randy Moomaw

July 16 – Fear of – Inadequacy

Read 2 Corinthians 3:5

Our competence comes from the Lord, not our own doing.  If you believe God can do all things, why wouldn’t you believe He is capable of equipping you with what you need to complete what He wants you to do?

Throughout the Bible, God used flawed people to guide and share hope to the flawed world. 

One of my favorite quotes is “Jesus didn’t call the equipped, He equipped those He called.”

If you don’t believe that, just look at His twelve disciples.  This rag-tag bunch of fishermen were chosen to tell the world God’s plan of salvation! Not a king or emperor, the learned men of the temple, or even the high priest!  I’m sure they felt inadequate as well, BUT God equipped them for the mission He needed them to do!

Throughout the Bible we read about how other ordinary people were made to be extraordinary people of faith.

Moses stuttered, BUT GOD made him the spokesman for a great nation.   

David was a murderer, BUT GOD made him into a great leader and called him a Man after God’s Own Heart!

Joseph had been abused, BUT GOD used him to save his people from starvation.

Mary was just an ordinary young woman, BUT GOD chose her to become the mother of Jesus!

Peter denied knowing Jesus 3 times, BUT GOD built His church on him.

Paul once persecuted Christians, BUT GOD used him to spread Christianity to the known world!

When you think about it, the Bible is like a giant makeover show.  You know the kind where they take someone and give them a makeover and the transformation is unbelievable! The person does not look at all in the end like they did in the “before” picture.  But, for the transformation to take place, there needs to be a willing person – someone who wants to be changed.  In God’s case, it needs to be someone who is willing to be used for His kingdom.

What will your spiritual “before” and “after” pictures look like?  What are your skills and, better yet, what do you feel are your inadequacies? In God’s hands they can become your strengths! I never in my life thought I would become a writer!  That was the very last thing on my list of what I thought God would want me to do, but here I am writing this to you!

Are you willing to step out and let God use you to bring others to Him? Are you ready for YOUR makeover?  Ask God to tell you what HE wants you to do.   Don’t be surprised if it is the one thing that is furthest from what you imagine.  Then watch the hand of God work its power in you! 

You will be amazed!

Pat Arnold

July 15 – Fear of – Death

Read John 11:25-26

A friend’s 20-year-old son died in a car wreck when someone ran a stop sign and t-boned him at an intersection. Today there is a memorial to this young man on the campus of Malone College where he attended, with Romans 8:38-39 on a plaque. Later they had the required court case in the Wooster, Ohio courtroom, and my friend asked everyone in the courtroom to hold hands in a circle as he led a prayer of forgiveness for this person who accidentally hit his son.

The fear of death can be a strong and powerful force. But maybe we can encourage someone who lives under a constant fear of their own mortality. If you have ever gone into Hospice, you may have observed that only God knows when someone will die. The doctors and nurses can give an estimate of time, but only God knows.

When we will die is not a matter of accident or chance. The Bible makes it clear that our lives are in God’s hands. He knows the time of our death. The Bible says,

“Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months…”Job 14:5

God knows when our time will come. James says:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there.’ . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’”James 4:13, 15

God decides if we live and do this or that.

“So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:31

You are not at the mercy of man’s chance, carelessness or evil. You are completely secure in God’s all-knowing hands, and you will not die except at His decision. 

“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.”Proverbs 16:33

Everything we need in life and death was bought by the blood of Jesus.

“To live is Christ, and to die is gain”Philippians 1:21

Every time the fear of death comes into your head, consider this prayer to God: “If you let me live, Christ will be honored on earth in my life.”

Then get on with your life, your family, your work and everything else that you do. Take a meal, clean the kitchen, hold the door for someone and be open to love others. Go about your daily life with a joyful uncertainty about when you will die because only God knows. So enjoy the day and do your best today. 

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

Be a blessing to someone today!

Tom Weckesser

July 14 – Fear of – Being Judged

Read Matthew 7:1-3

One definition found online of the phrase “to judge” says “to express a bad opinion of someone’s behavior, often because you think you are better than them.”

How true is that?

Unless you have been made fun of yourself, you don’t realize how harmful some off-handed comments you might make can be.

I have been overweight my entire life.  In our society, it is not OK to make fun of some things but a person’s weight is always open season!

I have been made fun of by all kinds of people. And yes, when I was younger I was frozen in fear of being judged! That fear used to stop me from doing a lot of things: singing solos, going to parties, and even participating in family member’s weddings.

All because of the fear I had of being judged.

When you are overweight, have a deformity or a handicap, you try to pretend that it doesn’t exist.  And in your mind, it doesn’t until some unthinking person thinks that they need to point it out.  Like you don’t have a mirror in your house?  So, you think, “Oh thanks! I didn’t notice!” or “You are so kind to point out what I was hoping no one else in the room would notice.”

Why do people do that? 

I have concluded that they feel that, if they point out YOUR faults, no one will notice THEIR OWN.  They might claim that they are just trying to “help” but, in reality, is isn’t “helping” at all- just hurting!

We all want to be accepted for who we are.  Not what we look like, how we talk, walk or even smell! 

As I got older, I realized four things.

  1. I am a child of God, not a child of man.
  2. He loves me just the way I am right now, not the way others think I should be!  
  3. God’s not finished with me yet! I am His “Work in Progress” so I shouldn’t judge MYSELF by what others say or think. 
  4. When people feel they need to judge me, that is THEIR problem, not mine.

God has used all the pain I felt for years to help others.  For many years, I worked with children who were beaten down emotionally every day, sometimes by their own parents.  Many acted out in class. However, they just wanted to be accepted!  They would do whatever it took to get that approval, not judgement from their peers.  Why do kids join gangs? Fear of judgement and the need for acceptance!  Gang members accept them. Too bad many regular people, even Christians, don’t.

Look around you! Seek out the people who are frozen in their fear, wanting to be accepted!  Is it someone you know or a stranger?  Is it you?  Sometimes it only takes a smile or a listening ear to melt those bars of fear that have them imprisoned.   

Pat Arnold

July 13 – Fear of – Rejection

Read Psalm 34:17-20

Rejection.

We feel rejected when someone refuses to accept us or something we believe in, or they refuse to hear us or consider our idea or point of view. A “reject” is something that is not wanted, unsatisfactory, or not fulfilling a requirement. Have you ever experienced feeling disapproved, refused, or had someone withhold understanding or affection?

We all, to some degree, have a fear of rejection. The reaction to this fear can look different depending on the person. Some of us are more wired to “fight” when we face a conflict (or a rejection)- we become hurt, disappointed, even indignant. We argue passionately for our case. Others of us move toward the “flight” response – shut down, lose confidence, and run away.

I recently heard an interesting talk at a work conference called “Rejection Proof”. The speaker had discovered that his fear of rejection was holding him back in significant ways in his personal and professional life, so he decided to embark on a journey of “rejection therapy”. The idea was to spend 100 days asking for things that were so outrageous that you would be rejected, thus helping you to become desensitized to hearing “no” as the answer. At the end of this journey, he shares some things he learned: rejection is really just someone else’s opinion, it’s also a numbers game (sometimes you just need to ask enough times to get a “yes”), and it can definitely be a source of knowledge. He also shares that instead of limiting ourselves to either “fight” or “flight”, we can instead ask “why” when we are rejected and stay engaged in the conversation instead of running away.

I was challenged to think about how I interact with others. Do I fight and argue? Shut down and run away? Or do I stay engaged, ask why, and adjust my ask? These observations can be helpful when sharing the truth of the gospel.

Fighting and arguing doesn’t change someone’s mind.

Shutting down and running away are counter productive responses.

What if we humbly ask “why” when someone is resistant to hearing about their need for grace and forgiveness? Stay engaged, humble, and respectful as we consider the response? Maybe ask for something else (like simply a consideration and open mind and heart instead of an immediate decision)?

Rejection hurts. What a comfort to know that the Lord is nigh to those who are broken hearted, and will deliver them from affliction. He sees His followers as righteous, and delivers us from our troubles when we cry out to Him. In Psalm 34:17-20, we read that our afflictions will be many, but He delivers us from them all!

Be encouraged as you face rejection. Remember that because of the grace of Jesus, you are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Approaching potential rejection from a place of eternal acceptance makes all the difference!

Rachel Franks

July 12 – Fear of – Pain

Read Romans 8:18

I once heard a story of a reclusive woodsman who lived in the mountains of West Virginia.  When you choose to live in wilderness like that, you have to learn to coexist and protect yourself from the wildlife.  In the New River area, black bears are commonplace. The story that I heard was of a man who had to deal with a bear who had become quite comfortable in and around his house.  The man set a trap for the bear… the trap works by metal jaws seizing on the bear’s leg. When the bear was caught, he became enraged.  Before approaching the bear, the man tranquilized it.  A department of wildlife crew came out to move the bear several counties away.  It was a coordinated effort to protect the man’s home, but also to respect the bear’s autonomy, and to provide a safe place for the bear to thrive.  In an obvious way, the bear trap was used to HELP the bear.  Is there any chance the bear saw it that way?  The pain the bear felt in the trap was very real, but temporary, and the bear had no idea why it was happening.  Ultimately, some good came out of that for the bear.

Are we so different when dealing with present day pain? 

Paul tells us in Romans that we are to keep eternity in mind when dealing with present-day pain.  Paul uses the word ‘sufferings’ to describe this thought. Similarly, in 2 Cor. 4:17 Paul describes our trials as ‘light momentary affliction’. It’s almost as if he is incredulous that we could be so worried about our present-day struggles when God’s eternal promises of coming glory are so profound. This is such a difficult concept to wrap our heads around; do you understand and believe this?   

Pain is all around us.  Physical pain through cancer, accidents, or negligence. Emotional pain through hurt, loss, or grief.  Psychological pain through manipulation, mental illness, or human rights abuses.  Murder, adultery, human trafficking, childless parents. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic abuse.  Sometimes it’s just as simple as a mean person we have to deal with daily.  None of it is trivial, and all of it hurts.  

Consider God’s promises, though! Eternal glory is promised to us. Our forever is secure. He promises us a new heaven and earth.  A new, better and resurrected body with no pain, no tears, no weeping! He promises a future living peacefully with King Jesus.  And God’s promises aren’t just for eternity either; He promises that EVEN NOW, all things work together for the good of those who call Jesus their Savior. Even in our pain, God is promising to make something new out of it – for our good and His glory.  We just have to look.

Remember God’s promises, and keep the end goal of eternity in mind. It’s the HOPE that comes from Jesus!  

Craig French

July 11 – Fear of – Uncertainty

Read Matthew 6:25-34

I praise God that anxiety and worry hasn’t plagued my life as it has others. For some reason, I have always been quick to not fret about what I can’t control and surrender it to the Lord.

However, this season of life has been much different.

Kelly and I are in a stage where there is a lot going on and we’re trying to piece everything together. I would say that this season with two young kids has had me experience anxiety and worry for really the first time ever. There have been times where I can feel my chest literally tighten. There have been times where I have had to excuse myself to cry out emotions that come welling up to the surface. I have felt physically ill as I consider all the plates we are juggling, the future that our kids are going to experience, and the fact that there will come a point where I can’t control that.

It makes me sick.

It’s easy, believe me, to get stuck in this season of worry. What is the future going to hold? How is this going to work out? Are we going to be okay? How are we going to pay for this? If you’re not careful, you can find yourself obsessed with worrying about things that you have no control over. There have been several times where Kelly and I have had to sit down and sift through all the junk and boil it down to the things that only we can control.

There’s so much in our reading today that helps us in times of uncertainty:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

This puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? If God cares for animals that provide nothing of eternal significance, doesn’t it make sense that He will provide for us all the more?

During a recent anxious season with Kelly and I, we told each other, “You know, God has provided for us so far. He’s not going to stop now.” This doesn’t mean that God is going to snap His fingers and solve our problems, but, all things considered, we are going to be okay.

“So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

As followers of Christ, our priorities should be different than those around us. People worry about things that, when considering eternity, don’t matter. Our focus shouldn’t be on earthly things but the eternity that is to come and those who, if they were to die today, would miss out on eternal life with Jesus.

Are you allowing your feelings about uncertainty to occupy a space in your mind and heart that they shouldn’t? Do they have more power than they should?

Friend, God knows your struggles. He’s right there with you.

If you find yourself in an anxious and worrisome season, look back over your life and identify all the areas where God has provided for you.

He’s done it before and promises to continue doing it.

He’s not going to stop now.

Look over the promises of our reading today and re-align your priorities and surrender your anxiety and worry to the Lord.

Place them at His feet and turn your focus to things of eternal significance.

Jake Lawson

July 10 – Fear of – Failure

Read Psalm 73:26

“My flesh and my heart faileth:

but God is the strength of my heart,

and my portion forever.”

Failure.

For some, including myself, just the word invokes feelings of fear! 

Failure can be defined as a lack of success, inability to meet an expectation, giving way or fracturing under stress, falling short. Have you ever fallen short? Really wanted to do a good job at something, but found yourself unable to “pull it off”? How about expectations – your own or those others have of you? Ever been unable to meet the expectation? Like actually unable – no matter how hard you worked, or tried to explain yourself, your decision or performance just didn’t meet the expectation.

And then there’s stress… life ever been stressful? Like these past few years maybe? Have you felt like you are “giving way, fracturing under stress?” – that definition really resonated with me. I often call it “falling apart”, because to me, that’s how it feels. I can recall, in the spring of 2020, with my whole world seemingly crashing down around me, my flesh and my heart feeling like they were literally failing me. I had just been through the initial phases of pandemic planning in my new role in healthcare, and was battling opposing viewpoints from family, friends, and coworkers. Even my own viewpoints seemed at war with each other, as I could see “both sides” of every issue we were trying to navigate.

I was discussing a few particularly stressful encounters with my husband – part venting, part trying to make sense of it all – when the symptoms set in. Dizziness, nausea, heart pounding, shortness of breath… and eventually, feeling disconnected from my body and losing control – literally like I was falling apart. I later learned this was a panic attack – caused in part by unmanaged (aka high functioning) anxiety, and the lack of personal control over my emotional and spiritual well-being. And, guess what?

I started to heal from all of this when I began to learn how to make GOD the strength of my heart. This verse tells us that our flesh and our hearts WILL fail us…. it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN. We all are fallen creatures, made in God’s image, but broken by sin. On our own, we will consistently fail to meet expectations, and fall short. But if we align ourselves with God through faith in His son Jesus, we can trust Him to be the strength of our heart, and to be our portion – our inheritance, source of security, and our hope.

Friend, when you feel like you are failing, don’t fear. Fall into the arms of Jesus, and let Him carry you. He will be your strength.

What is your relationship with failure? In what way do you need to align yourself with God? How can you direct others to the arms of Jesus as well?

Rachel Franks