December 2 – By Faith or By Sight – Look Ahead with Anticipation

Years ago, we traveled by van to Florida. The anticipation was electric for the boys. We were on Burbank Road pulling onto the Dix Expressway (1 mile from home), when our youngest at the time genuinely asked, “How long until we get there?” We laughed…“22 hours, buddy!” For Abraham and Sarah, while the anticipation was real, the journey was long. Hebrews says, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)

Abraham, his kids and grandkids were all waiting to possess what God promised. We hate to wait, don’t we? Waiting in line for our food or even for the end of the pandemic. Abraham and Sarah lived in tents as foreigners who didn’t belong. They couldn’t wait to get there, wherever “there” was. For Christ followers, this is a picture of our life today. You were designed for a different destination. And this life is a journey.

But you know what gets you through a season of waiting? Hope. The confident anticipation of what is on the other side. For our kids, it was Florida. For Abraham, it was a destination that will not disappoint. Abraham was longing for a location that would last forever – a real place called Heaven. One second after you breathe your last breath, you will spend forever somewhere. There aren’t countless destination options. One is separated from God in a real place called Hell and the other is connected with God in a real place called Heaven. Abraham had confidence looking ahead. Do you? Real faith is confident that, no matter what problems you experience, the destination you expect is for sure. Hope in heaven drives peace on earth. Hope sets our minds on things above and things that last forever. What you set your mind on is what you live for.

What do you live for? Too often, our focus is on what doesn’t last, so we become disappointed when it disappears. Abraham was looking ahead with anticipation to what would last forever. To follow God fully in a season of uncertainty, we have to focus on what lasts. Will you look ahead with anticipation and decide to live for what lasts?

Nick Cleveland

December 1 – By Faith or By Sight – Leave Your Past Behind

When Vicki and I moved here 18 years ago, we felt the uncertainty of not knowing anyone. Maybe you know that feeling of moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It’s precisely what Abraham and Sarah did, leaving friends, family, and ways of life when they responded to God’s call and moved. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Faith is more than just belief; it’s accompanied with action. To fully follow God, you must leave your past behind. We don’t always get a detailed description of what’s next. Faith is taking the first step when you don’t know exactly where the path leads. In Abraham’s case, that was Ur – his homeland. Ur was filled with idolatry- worship of created things and not the Creator. It was a place of selfishness. It represented security and comfort, but Abraham had to leave the past behind to fully follow God. And so do we.

We must leave behind our old way of thinking and living and journey toward a new way of thinking and living. Paul told the Corinthians that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation the old is gone and the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God is inviting us to a new life and the journey begins by giving up our unbelief, selfishness, pride, sin and worship of anyone or anything other than God. Giving up our way of life for God’s way is the biggest obstacle to living by faith.

What do you need to leave behind? God’s way is the best way and He is calling you to leave behind your way and fully follow Him to a new destination.

Nick Cleveland

November 30 – By Faith or By Sight


We all face some level of uncertainty, don’t we? Life is filled with uncertain moments like…when you get that text from a boss or significant other that simply says, “We need to talk,” or the moment a test or exam is handed out in class and the only thing you’re certain of is your name. No doubt the phrase “uncertain times” has become a bit of a catch phrase to describe our current reality. No matter if times are certain or uncertain, there are only 2 ways to live life…one is by faith and the other is by sight.

Last year, I took my sons to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We enjoyed our visit, but one experience stood out to us. It’s an exhibit called “A Game for Life” that features you sitting in a locker room, listening to virtual holograms of famous coaches like Vince Lombardi and players like Joe Namath. It’s a picture of what it’s like to live by faith in a world consumed by sight. When you live by faith, you can fully follow God even when life is uncertain.

In Hebrews 11, the author writes more about today’s central character than anyone else. While he lived thousands of years ago, I think you’ll be able to relate to some of his defining moments. His name is Abraham and he is considered the Father of Faith, because faith defined his defining moments. He faced many tests and they were turning points where he discovered that great opportunity is often hidden in the middle of great uncertainty. God makes a promise to him that is recorded in the opening of the Bible, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” (Genesis 12:1-4a)

Abraham’s response to God’s promise shows us 3 ways to fully follow God when times are uncertain:

Leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and live today trusting God.

Which one do you struggle with the most? We’ll take a look into each one of these in this week’s posts.

Nick Cleveland

November 29 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – How to Find True Freedom

Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

“‘We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.”

We don’t hear much about food sacrificed to idols these days. But it was certainly a thing for the church in Corinth. Heathens would offer meat as a sacrifice to the gods they worshiped. The fat of the meat was burned off on the altar, but the rest of it was either eaten by the idol worshiper or it was sold by the priest performing the sacrifice. So, it wasn’t uncommon for this meat to show up at a neighbor’s dinner party or even on the table of someone in the church. And, while some of them knew it was fine for eating, as idols are literally nothing in this world, others of them were scolded to abstain from such meat. 

Some of them knew that what they ate had zero effect on their relationship with God, and they lived in the freedom of that knowledge. Others, though, felt differently.

Their consciences wouldn’t allow them to eat so freely. 

So, when a grace-filled, knowledge-wielding Corinthian came across an opportunity to participate in something they knew might cause one of their spiritually weaker brothers or sisters to waver, Paul made it clear what they were to do.

Let love be the deciding factor.

Value their spiritual brothers and sisters more than themselves (Philippians 2:3).  Those living in lawful liberty were to base their decision on love, rather than on their knowledge. Because love builds up, but knowledge only puffs up. They were to build up their brothers and sisters instead of puffing up themselves.

Maybe you’re invited to hang out with a group of friends at the brewery after work and you know it’s just a place to spend time with your friends and that it will have no impact on your relationship with Jesus. But you’re also aware that one of those friends has recently given up drinking alcohol after deciding to trust Jesus alone with his whole life. He’s been convicted to live like this, and he is watching you as you follow Jesus. Let love be your guide. Value your friend’s growing faith over your own knowledge. Trust that God will use your loving consideration to build up and strengthen your friend’s new faith.

Let love be the guide as you follow Jesus through hard-to-discern choices. Don’t let what you know trump the love God is working in and through you.

Let Him use you to build others up!

Bria Wasson

November 28 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – Living for the Glory of God

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?”

I recently attended the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Ohio golf state championship in Columbus, Ohio. There were 12 boys teams and 12 girls teams participating. At the end of the weekend – after playing 36 holes – there was one young man from Cleveland, who was the state boys individual golf champion, and a young lady from Centerville, who was the girls state champion.

In both categories – boys and girls golf in Ohio – there was one state champion. One person was on the podium to be recognized as the best in Ohio. Sometimes their coach would give a short speech and talk about humility, hard work, focus, patience and playing by the rules. It was inspiring to watch. They “ran” in such a way as to get the prize. They got the prize (a trophy, aka a perishable wreath).

We can do the same thing with how we live our lives. If we focus on Jesus and try to be humble, work hard, and be patient, then we can win the prize that is discussed in these verses: eternal life.

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we can truly live our lives with love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. We then focus on Jesus in everything that we do.

Does this sound like you?

“They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

I have a friend who was an excellent high school basketball coach. He worked hard, was self-controlled and never used profanity. He was recently inducted into The OHSAA Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. He has a room in his basement that is filled with plaques and trophies that are fun to look at but, ultimately, are perishing wreaths.

They don’t last.

What lasts is what he modeled and told his players over the years about prayer, accepting defeat, dealing with adversity and knowing Jesus. He led the team in the Lord’s prayer after every game, win or lose.

That is what lasts forever!

What is your purpose in life? Are you like a boxer swinging and missing? What is a spiritual gift that God has given you? Find your purpose and live for the glory of God.

Honor God. Every day.

Tom Weckesser

November 27 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – Following Jesus When Marriage is Hard

Read 1 Corinthians 7:6-9, 32-35

My all-time favorite quote when it comes to the marriage relationship is the basis of the book “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas which says:

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

Now, you are probably wondering why, I, a woman who has been married for only a short time, wanted to write about following after Jesus even when marriage is hard. I mean, what could I have to offer with only 6.5 short years of marriage under my belt?

Just that.

In the 9 years that Jake and I have been together and 6 and a half that we have been married, the Lord has taught us plenty about our relationship and how to follow after Him even when marriage gets hard. 

When other couples seek our counsel, it usually is surrounding the topic of communication. Now, we are definitely not perfect, but we have worked very hard to learn how to communicate effectively with each other. The one thing we remind all couples is that no matter what you may disagree on, remember that you chose to live life with this person and, therefore, you are for them. 

See, if marriage isn’t about our happiness but another avenue that the Lord uses to carve holiness out of our lives, then remembering truth in even the hard-relational times is key. Yes, you may be married, but guess what?

Your identity is not your spouse’s wife or husband.

Your identity is still a Child of God first and foremost. 

The greatest example of a holy marriage is one that combines two individuals, broken in this world but whole in Jesus, coming together and living in such a way that represents Christ to one another. I was 21 years old, not thinking I would live to see my 22nd birthday, when my life turned 180 and the Lord began to show me so much. Within 2 years, I was surrounded by 3 marriages that were striving for holiness and not happiness. 

I think that is the key in following Jesus, even when marriage is hard. We must remember, it isn’t about our happiness but about being Jesus to even our spouse in the good and bad times so that we become more righteous for the name of Jesus. 

Something I say to other wives and a motto I strive to live out in my marriage is, “If I’m not Jesus to my husband, who will be?”. Is this easy? Absolutely not. Yet, the Lord instills in us His spirit to live out His truth. 

I challenge you, as you look at the marriages around you or even your own; observe the goal of that marriage. Observe the fruits of that marriage’s labor. Does that marriage, even your own, point your spouse and/or others back to Jesus and His truth?

Kelly Lawson

November 26 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – The Sex Gospel

Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 13-14, 19-20

If you have discovered anything so far in this series, it is that the church in Corinth was, truly, jacked-up. There was so much going on that it’s hard to even fit into a devotional series. Can you imagine Paul getting word of all that’s going on and the furiosity in which he must have been penning these words?

One area that seems to come to the forefront is the Corinthian’s issue with sex. Sex is such a broad topic, and just about every aspect of it was covered in Paul’s letter.

It’s safe to say that we all can agree on the fact that today’s world looks a lot like what we read about Corinth. How do you grow in your faith in the midst of a sex crazed society? Are you struggling with truly standing out?

While we could cover so much in this devo, I want to, instead, point to Jesus and His intention for sex.

We know from reading Genesis 1:27 that males and females are equal in value. Genesis 2:24 talks about the first marriage and how:

“…a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

The Bible says that any expression of sex outside of marriage is a mistake – a sin. (see 1 Corinthians 6 and 7). But we can love and encourage those friends and point them to Jesus. God only knows what is in a person’s heart.

I am not going to change the person. I will invite them to consider the teachings of Jesus.

If we submit our sexuality and our life to God, then God can use us.

Do you agree?

On the flip side, we need to recognize that the Church hasn’t been kind to those who aren’t on the same page when it comes to sex. Either they are having sex outside the confines of marriage, they identify with the LGBT community or they have been abused in the past, instead of pointing them lovingly to Christ, the Church has judged them (when it’s God’s job to do that) and kept them at arm’s length.

God loves them and we should too.

What side of the coin are you on?

Are you struggling with sexual sin? What steps are you going to take in order to clean up that part of your life and live the life God intended for you?

Or do you need to repent of the harshness in which you have treated people before? Have you cast judgment, or even blame, onto the person? Take it upon yourself to apologize, first of all, to God and then seek out the person that you hurt and apologize to them as well. Take advantage of that moment and direct them to Christ and His plan for them.

“Speak the truth in love.”

Tom Weckesser

November 25 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – You Don’t Have to Pretend You’re Fine

Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 7-8, 10-12

This chapter is a lot, I know. But the principal I pull out of the chapter is that “You don’t have to pretend that you are fine”.

Paul points out to the Church of Corinth the things that needed to be said. They were acting like everything was fine. Their faith and trust were present but their actions were displeasing to the Lord. 

You know what one of my favorite things about our leadership at Grace Church is? They never claim to have it altogether. One thing that Nick has said many times from the stage and my husband often reminds me in my times of anxiety is “It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way”. 

So many times in my life I have felt the pressure to “act fine” for the name of Christ. People will come up and ask, “How are you”? And I simply say “I’m good”, when really all I want to do is cry and spew all that is going on in my heart and mind in that moment. However, I put the pressure on myself to act okay and move on.

Just last weekend at church, I was walking the halls talking with the Lord and a friend stopped me and asked how I was. I answered with my normal reply of “I’m alright! With a smile, I kept walking, hoping he would ignore it. When I came back around, he stopped me again and remarked “I find it hard to believe”. I kept walking and said from behind, “I will be alright!”. 

The truth is, I’m not afraid to show that I am not fine, but what is more important is that people see I won’t stay there. I want to do something about it. I want my trust in Jesus to ignite my ability to act on knowing that the Lord is good and I will be too. 

The beauty of following Jesus in a jacked-up church is that we are all broken. We are all NOT “fine” BUT He is holy. Because of Him, we are called holy, justified, sanctified, righteous and a child of God. The cross brings an identity to our lives.

We are broken vessels that the Lord makes whole. 

It is okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.

When you don’t feel “fine ”, remember whose you are and what you are called to. Remember that you are more than your situation or circumstance! Continually allow your trust in Jesus to ignite your faith to be lived out!

Kelly Lawson

November 24 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – Develop a God-given Gift

Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-15

Knowing your true gifting is powerful.

I have spent my entire life here at Wooster Grace Church. The very nursery here was the same space where faithful volunteers held and rocked me when I was a baby. The hallways were the same hallways that I ran down. I distinctly remember standing in the space that would become the gym, when it had no roof, a huge pile of rocks in the middle of it, and being a sophomore in high school when the Student Center opened.

Grace Church is all I’ve ever known.

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I wasn’t turned off to ministry, I wanted more of it. I distinctly remember getting the call that I got my foot in the door as a high school intern. As weird as it may sound, when I transitioned to full-time, I remember being proud to have a email. To me, this was a boyhood dream come true. I wanted to help people become fully devoted followers of Christ.

I now serve in a role that is exactly a fit for my gifting. Knowing your true gifting, and living in it, is powerful.

In our reading today, Paul pens the famous words:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”

What would have happened if Apollos tried to do Paul’s job? What if Paul, after planting the seed of the gospel, took it upon himself to nurture the people of Corinth on top of his many other responsibilities? It seems like Paul and Apollos knew their job and were doing it well and, more importantly, knew what role God had in their work.

So, I ask you…are you developing a God-given gift? Are you using that gift to minister to people? Now, you may not have a job at a church, but the same gifts that are penned to me are the same that are there for you. Are you using your gift(s) to bring people to the feet of Jesus and encouraging them in their walk?

Have an honest look at yourself and your gifting and have an even more honest conversation with God and be willing to be used by Him for the betterment of the Kingdom!

Knowing your true gifting is powerful.

Jake Lawson

November 23 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – How to Grow in Spiritual Maturity

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:2-3

She’s as cute as a “button” flashing her beautiful blue eyes and gummy smiles, but my 3-month-old granddaughter spends most of her day eating. Round the clock, her main need is her mother’s milk. There is nothing she craves or longs for more, and her wails let everyone know, she is hungry.

Both Paul and Peter refer to the milk of the Word. Paul’s words are almost a reprimand. The Corinthian believers were not ready for solid food and were content being hand fed the milk of God’s Word because they were focused on themselves. They were wrapped up in jealousy and quarreling. They were not ready to go deeper into God’s truths because sin was blocking their appetite for God’s Word.

Peter also compares new believers as babies:

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”1 Peter 2:2-3

As there are stages in physical growth, the same is true in our spiritual growth. This first stage, as a new believer in Christ, can be summarized by the word LONGING. When the Spirit indwells us at the moment of salvation, He whets our appetite for His Word. We long to feed on God’s truths. We have tasted that the Lord is good and we long for more of Him. A “baby” in Christ is sustained by the simplicity and basic truths of the gospel.

Let me be clear.

The power of the gospel is enough. But we all know believers who claim a belief in Jesus, but have never grown spiritually. Why is that? Because longing must result in the next stage of growth, LEARNING.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3

That’s a big, long word that merely means that we are set apart for a special purpose for God. How can we know what that purpose is? Timothy tells us to study God’s Word- be a continual learner. Go deeper and sink your teeth into solid food. Yes, just like a baby experiencing a spoon for the first time, there will be much we don’t understand and it can be a little messy, but don’t give up.

Never stop longing for and learning God’s Word.

There is one more stage in spiritual maturity that all of us rather skip, but, according to James, it is the pinnacle of completeness. LETTING God mature us through trials. James says in James 1:2-4:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Trials will either break us or strengthen us. James encourages us to allow trials to push us to persevere in our faith. My husband and I are just coming out of a long two-year trial. During that trial, I recalled the words of a dear friend who said that when you go through trials it is a time to draw from your reservoir- your reservoir of all the years of learning God’s Word.

Now is the time to let God apply those truths.

This is why Paul could write these words to the Romans:

“…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”Romans 5:3-4

Do you crave to learn God’s Word? Do you have a reservoir of God’s truths from which you can draw when trials come? Is there a sin that is blocking you from going deeper? Growing physically is a life-long process. So is spiritual growth. We should never lose our longing to learn how God lets His Word sustain us and move us closer to Him.

The next time you hear a baby crying, think about that food for thought.

Charline Engle