January 5 – Habits – Physical health

Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”1 Corinthians 6:19a

How do you maintain your car, home and bank account?

What about your body?

How can you follow God’s purposes for you when you do not take care of yourself?

This has to be a priority in our lives. Have you ever been tempted to do something with your body that wasn’t right? Maybe you have been tempted with illegal drugs, sexually, tobacco, fad diets or overeating.

How do you handle it?

The Bible tells us to not view our bodies as our own. We are not just living for ourselves, but we can live with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit of God lives in us. Our bodies are something special. Verse 19 shows us that the body is unique and a temple of the Holy Spirit.

So, when we’re tempted to do things that aren’t right, we need to step back and remember this verse and to maintain the body. Use our bodies in ways that bring glory to God. How do you do that? And how do you say no to temptation?

Honor God with our body – by taking care of it. Honor God with our heart by loving others. Honor God with our tongue by taming it.

Take care of what He has given you.

The Cleveland Clinic website suggests: “Lifestyle has a profound impact on your health.”

You are what you eat. Your body is exposed to more harmful stress due to lifestyle and environmental factors, resulting in a process called oxidation, which damages body cells. Eat a healthy diet including antioxidants to counteract oxidation. The Mediterranean Diet has been linked to decreasing your risk for breast cancer, diabetes and dementia, among others.

Those who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Are those diseases on your bucket list?

Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system. It restores your cells and helps your memory.

A support circle of people who care can positively help your health. How you manage stress is critically important for your health.

Get engaged in a healthy lifestyle!

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”1 Corinthians 6:19-20

So, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is remarkable that God – the maker of heaven and earth – dwells in us. It is the Holy Spirit who put the beauty of God in us. We are made in God’s image.  And when we walk in the Spirit, that beauty is noticeable for all. Honor Him in everything that you do. Honor Him daily with awareness and maintenance of your amazing body. 

Tom Weckesser

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 jlawson@woostergrace.org 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

November 22 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – What the Cross Means for You

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18

Most people are no strangers to the cross. In the United States, it is especially common to see crosses on top of church buildings, inside of church buildings, around people’s necks, inside of stores around Easter time, on bumper stickers, and in people’s flower gardens. The cross is a symbol that has been very ordinary in our culture for many years.

But that hasn’t always been the case, especially back when Rome ruled the known world. The cross wasn’t something that people revered or wanted to see. It was something that struck fear into the hearts of those who wanted to avoid it. Crosses were used as punishment for those that Rome deemed to be guilty of crimes.

And although the cross may be a common symbol to see today, do people actually know what the cross means for them? Do you know what the cross means for you?

How did an ancient death instrument become a symbol of hope to the world?

First Corinthians 1:18 says:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.

For those who do not know Christ, the cross is foolish or even stupid. The rest of 1 Corinthians 1 talks about how God uses what seemingly is foolish to the world to accomplish His purpose. His wisdom is above the wisdom of this world. God uses what is lowly, what is weak, and what is despised to show His power. Why does He use these things? First Corinthians 1:29-31 tells us that He uses these things so that no one can boast in anything but Him.

God used something so despised, so lowly, and so dark as a death on the cross to save sinners. Sin requires the payment of death and Jesus was the only perfect sacrifice that would please God’s requirement for that payment.

This does not make sense to those who do not know Christ but to those who do, it is a wonderful truth.

So, what does the cross mean for you? I know what it means for me, and I want to share one of my favorite Bible verses about the cross, one that I try to live by. Galatians 6:14 says:

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

The cross has set me free! I’m free from the bondage of sin! I’m free from the guilt of my past! And I’m free to live for Christ! I guess I could say, the cross means everything to me. There is nothing else that I can boast in.

That’s also what the cross should mean for you. We should only boast in the cross of Christ since it’s only because of His death on that cross and His resurrection from the dead that we have life. I challenge all of us this week to make it a point to boast only in the cross of Christ and not in ourselves, in other people, or in other things.

Ethan Cline

November 21 – Following Jesus in a Jacked-Up Church – Church, Why Bother?

Read 1 Corinthians 1: 1-12

While I was sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, thinking about what God wanted me to write in this devotional, I started to look around me and what I saw was all kinds of people from all walks of life with a variety of life experiences – rich, poor, old and young – all different yet we did have one thing in common.

We were all hurting in some way or another and were all together seeking help. We all had hope that, by coming there, we would get it.  

Then I started to think of how much it was just like the “Church”. People from different walks and stages of life all hurting in some way or another, coming together to seek help!  

Then why wouldn’t more people automatically flood the churches?

Some people think that the church is a place where only perfect people can go.  They think they need to have all of their hurts healed and sins removed before they are welcome to enter the building.   Or they feel churches are full of hypocrites.  

“Perfect people” seen doing not so “perfect things”.

In reality, churches are hospitals for broken people, not museums for saints.  Churches are made up of imperfect people who sometimes do imperfect things.  Not all doctors are perfect people either, yet we still go to them for help.

As long as churches are run by people, egos and temptations are going to get in the way of their mission. Even the temple leaders in Jesus’ time were guilty of self-seeking behaviors rather than serving the people.    

Until Christ comes back and takes charge of the church, there are going to be imperfect churches.

We need to remember that there is a real enemy of the church.  When we stay away, our focus turns to other things and activities instead of worshiping God.   When we convince our friends and family to do the same, we are doing Satan’s, not Jesus’ work.  Satan is sneaking around like a roaring lion ready to devour whomever he can.  Just like a lion, he wants to separate the herd and then go after, not the weakest animal, but the one that is on its own. The one who is out of the protection of the others in the herd. Soon we get further and further away from the fold and we are easy pickings for his lies and temptations.   

There is strength in numbers!

Whether we realize it or not, we are ALL like broken pieces of glass. When we look at one piece of broken glass, we notice the breaks, the sharp edges that can hurt anyone who touches it! Basically, on its own it is useless!  But when broken pieces are put all together in a kaleidoscope, no matter how much it is shaken or is tumbled, all of those pieces come together to make something beautiful over and over again!

There is not only strength, but healing and beauty in numbers!

Pat Arnold