January 16 – Best Year Yet – Personal Evaluation

Read Psalm 139:23-24

In the Magician’s Nephew, C.S Lewis writes, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” I love this quote and I love C.S Lewis’ writings because everything he said was with such deliberate thought that causes me to self-reflect and attempt growth in some area of my life.

For so many years I have wanted to be a mental health counselor. I’ve wanted to help people understand themselves, their thoughts, feelings and the roots behind their behavior that causes them to be the people they are so that they can invoke change and growth within themselves and their relationships. I am a hardcore champion for self-reflection and personal growth.

I think it was the 12 years of therapy that taught me how to see things and change them. However, as every new year begins, there seems to be a laundry list of personal growth goals that form. From growing as a wife and a mother to health and even finances. There seem to be this daunting list staring me in the face that I sometimes forget who I am and whose I am.

When I read Psalm 139:23-24, I am reminded that I was fashioned and formed for very specific reasons. I pull and rip apart each word, each sentence that David writes to the Lord, and I pray the same prayer, “Lord search me. Grow me. Challenge me. Change me.”

If you have ever been to the Global Leadership Summit or any other leadership conference, the next step to all of the speaker’s time with us is to reflect on what they have said, find what works for you, and grow within. But how do we do that?

The first step is realizing that personal growth starts spiritually. Maybe you need to grow out of an addiction, maybe you need to get out of debt, maybe your family needs to communicate more openly, maybe, just maybe you need to find a reason to wake up. Each goal that you set out for yourself, each time you grow or don’t grow is a direct correlation, in my opinion, to your personal relationship with Christ and His truth.

You can’t run away from personal growth; it is always behind you, ready to be taken in full force. You just have to choose to step into the identity that YOU are a child of God and CAN become the person you were meant to be. On the day we stand before the Lord, we will not be compared to any other. We will be compared to the person God intended for us to be.

How will you grow more into that intention this year?

Kelly Lawson

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January 15 – Best Year Yet – How Do You Define Success?

Read Proverbs 3:1-35

I enjoy collecting ball caps. Most of them carry a special significance because I’ve gotten them in places we’ve traveled. This past Christmas, one of my favorite gifts was a hat from Mitch’s Seafood in San Diego. Over the years I’ve also worn many different “hats”. There is my husband hat, the dentist hat, and the dad hat. For a long time it was my contemporary worship team hat. Starting with the birth of Noah almost 10 years ago, I love to wear my Grandpa hat.

With each phase of life and with each hat I wear, at times I’ve felt very successful, and, at other times, not so much. How do we define success? Reading through today’s chapter, we see the results of walking with the Lord – a prolonged life, peace and prosperity, favor and a good name, health, overflowing barns and vats, riches and honor, safety, sleep that is sweet, protection from fear and ruin, and blessings  from the Lord. Sounds like the recipe for an awesome life, doesn’t it? Just like a great chef takes great ingredients to prepare an amazingly successful dish, our scriptures today give us a number of the ingredients God can use to create an amazingly successful life with and for us. Let’s look back through Proverbs 3 and note those tasty morsels: remembering His teachings, keeping His commands, consistent love and faithfulness, trusting, submitting to and leaning on Him, fearing and honoring the Lord, embracing His discipline, earnestly searching for godly wisdom and understanding, and acting with goodness. Each of these is an important part of a recipe that will not be the same if we neglect to add it in with the others.

Much of this list of ingredients reminds me of the three “good” ingredients that we find in Micah 6:8: acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. In 2019 we can be mindful of each and everything we fold into our lives in the coming year. Side by side with our Savior, we can create something truly awe inspiring that the world will know was successful for His glory. What will they know? And how will they know where it came from? They will know we are successful when the sweet aroma of Proverbs 3 fills the air “in sight of God and man”. The world will know where it came from because the “hat” we wear will proudly proclaim “Jesus is my Lord”. It’s the hat that came from the very special place at the foot of the cross where we gave our lives to Jesus. A hat we can choose to proudly wear every single day. Let’s make 2019 a delicious success together!

Wade Karhan

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January 14 – Best Year Yet – Learning from Failures

Read 1 John 5-10 and Colossians 3:23

As a high school basketball and football official for many seasons, I had the attitude to want to officiate the perfect game! You know , with no mistakes. The players and coaches work hard and they deserve it. Well, I soon figured out it is not possible. Mistakes always happen.  But I can still do a good job, strive to get into the proper position to call fouls, and help make it a worthwhile experience.

So, I changed my attitude and I tried to just “walk in the light, as he is in the light.” (1 John 1:7) I could shine like the stars in the heavens with an excellent Christian attitude, regardless of the circumstances. What a challenge!

I began to use the philosophy of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for God, not men.” It helped me to keep my composure and stay focused.

Sometimes I would make a mistake before the game even started! Once during the coin toss in the Captains meeting at midfield before a football game, I forgot the coin. Fortunately, one of my fellow officials had a coin!

One time an official forgot his football shoes and, once he realized it, it was too late to go home and get them. So we found some old black softball shoes which were 2 sizes too big and he wore those. It never happened again.

There are many examples of mistakes we made. But these are mistakes made in a sporting event. Mistakes in our lives can be more serious.

God wants us to own up to our mistakes. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  (1 John 1:8)

Sports are a microcosm of our society and our lives. Games, situations and people may not be fair and can be irritating. Mistakes are made by coaches, players and officials. Sometimes those mistakes are huge and sometimes those mistakes are not even noticed. Let’s be Christian role-models with mistakes we make and walk in the light with our language and behavior. Always, in every area of our lives. For we are working with all our hearts, for God, not men.

Tom Weckesser

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January 13 – Best Year Yet!

Read Psalm 16:11

When I think about the best year of my life, I think back to 2017. There was nothing super special about the year up until September 5th when Kelly and I (mostly Kelly) welcomed baby Matthew (Mattie) into this world. That, in itself, made 2017 the best year of my life.

However, when I think about the best year of my life in terms of 365 days, I have to go back to 2011. This was the year that I graduated high school and set off for college. The plans that I made for my future were blown up when the Lord spoke through some harsh words from a basketball coach. Looking back, I was just too immature to let what was said go out the opposite ear in which it entered my head. With a new found direction, I packed my bags and went to Sebring, Florida and enrolled in the Great Commission Bible Institute (GCBI). At this point in my life, there was a bunch going wrong: I was extremely immature and over emotional. I had unchecked sin in my life and I had a bad anger problem. I was such a hypocritical Christian.

It was at this point in my life that God wrecked my world.

I had enough common sense to open my heart to God and what He had for me for the 10 months I lived in Sebring. I met some of the most incredible people in that Grace Church and the surrounding community. I also met Kelly Pelham (I would eventually change her last name to “Lawson” : )) However, with my open heart, God taught me, through His Word and the love of people, that there was more to my life than what I was experiencing. There was some healing and growth that needed to take place in my life and it was during this year that I truly turned from living life my own way and put my life, EVERYTHING about my life, into the hands of Jesus.

What was the best year of your life?

Some of you are eager to leave 2018 in the rear view mirror. Others of you may be curious as to how 2019 could be even better than 2018.

2019 can be the best year yet because we are headed for the best eternity possible! In our reading in Psalms, David is thanking God for the life that we have in Him. Our future is secure in Christ. We have hope! Let’s use this hope and allow the Lord to move us more towards who He made us to be!

In the two weeks that are ahead, you will hear from the rest of our team how you can make 2019 the best year yet!

Open your heart to the Lord and see if 2019 is the year you will never forget!

Jake Lawson

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January 12 – Satan Blinds

Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

Ironically, I am writing this from a waiting room at the Wooster Eye Clinic.  I am waiting on a patient who is receiving a new lens.  Vision in that particular eye is foggy at best.  The new lens is designed to restore good eyesight.

Meanwhile, there is a spiritual parallel to that foggy vision in the lives of many.  The “god of this age,” Satan, blinds the eyes of unbelievers so that they do not recognize the hope of the gospel and the glory of Jesus.  If you have placed faith in Christ, you likely find it difficult to understand why others can’t grasp the simplicity of the message and why they don’t embrace the Savior of the world.  Here is, at least, part of the answer.  They are incapable because Satan clouds their minds and blinds their eyes to the hope that God has made available.

Even though Satan clouds the vision and confuses the thinking of unbelievers, vision and clear-mindedness can be restored.  God’s power is greater than Satan’s.  He shines into the hearts of people so that the light of the knowledge of Christ illuminates their hearts (v. 6).  His Spirit can break through the blindness so that a person is convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8).

If God is stronger and He does illuminate understanding and open blind eyes, one might conclude that God always wins and that every person would become a believer.  Of course, you know that not to be the case.  Reality is that people still reject Christ, in spite of the conviction and illumination that God gives.  In addition to Satan’s blinding power, there are still the twin (and seemingly contradictory) realities of human free will and God’s sovereign choice.

Who do you know that is currently blinded by the god of this age?  Pray that their blinders fall away like scales from their eyes.  Engage them in conversation.  Plead with them on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to the Father (2 Cor. 5:20).


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January 11 – Satan on the Prowl

Read 1 Peter 5:1-14

Although I have been to Africa, I did not have the opportunity of going on an adventurous African safari.  I did not go out into the nothingness between villages where lions, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos live.  Just imagine, however, if you were traveling on foot without a tour guide, jeep-like vehicle, and pith helmet through the very terrain, where these animals were known to live.  There is no doubt that you would heed Peter’s advice at the beginning of verse 8:  “Be alert and of sober mind.”  Indeed, you would “be alert.”  Your head would turn with every noise that you heard.  You would constantly scan the horizon for signs of one of these animals.  But you would also be “of sober mind.”  After all, a sighting of one of these animals represented, not only a photo op, but also great danger.

Of course, that is the imagery and the caution that Peter is attempting to communicate.  Satan, you see, is like a roaring lion.  He is on the prowl.  He is looking for easy prey.  He wants to devour people.  His objective is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (Jn. 10:10).  We must, therefore, have our eyes open.  We dare not be naïve in thinking either that he does not exist or that somehow we are exempt from his potential attack.

It is interesting to note that he apparently does some of his best work in the context of suffering.  I am not suggesting that he is always the source of suffering.  That may at times be the case, as with Job.  At other times, however, his attack may be an attempt to convince you to jettison or compromise your faith in the midst of suffering.  It is then that we must “resist him” and “stand firm in the faith.”  Don’t cave in the midst of trials!

After all, suffering is not unique to you.  In fact, just think of those who have endured much more than you and yet they have remained faithful.  Stand firm!

In addition, remember that suffering is only for a little while.  Resist the attacks of the devil,knowing that the Savior will one day rescue you from them.  On that day, you will have no regrets for having stood firm in the faith!


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January 10 – Satan Attacks

Read Job 1:1-22

Sometimes conversations about you take place when you are not there.  We call it “talking behind your back,” and we typically don’t appreciate it when we know that it happens.  But that is the problem.  We don’t always know when it happens.

Job sure didn’t!  While he was enjoying a life richly blessed with livestock, possessions, and family, others were talking about him.  The “others” in this instance were not the neighbors in the house next door who were jealous of all he had.  No, these talkers were none other than the God of heaven and His adversary, Satan.  And their location was heaven itself.  (Sidebar #1:  Even though Satan currently has access to heaven as the “accuser of the brothers,” no worries, God is stronger!)

So, before the calamity broke loose in Job’s life, Satan dialogued with God.  God’s premise was that Job was a godly man.  Satan countered that Job was just a spoiled son of an overprotective Father.  But God responded, saying that Job was no wimp.  He could withstand the best that Satan could deliver.  While God gave Satan permission to attack Job, He also defined the limitations.  (Sidebar #2:  God has your back!  He boasts about, strengthens, and protects His children, even when they go through hard times!)

Suddenly, without knowledge of that conversation, Job’s blessed life was turned upside down!  On that day, people approached, each telling an “I’m the only one left” tale of tragedy.  Each messenger brought devastating news that was the result of this unheard conversation in heaven.  Each message was enough to cause a lesser man to crumble.

Not Job!

While others might have cursed God, he chose to bless Jehovah.  Though Job knew nothing about the heavenly conversation, he did understand something about stewardship.  In spite of the circumstances he experienced, he was still able to worship the One who had every right to give and to take away.  (Sidebar #3:  If your greatest prize is the Giver of the gifts rather than His gifts themselves, you can praise Him in the face of catastrophe.)

Yes, Satan sometimes has permission to attack you, but you don’t have to jettison your confidence in God!


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