February 21 – ReGen – Regenerate

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Something that amazes me is when people take old things and restore them back to their original or even better condition. It’s amazing to admire the work of someone who puts so much time into making something that was falling apart and turning it back into something beautiful. It’s a stunning and satisfying feeling to see something that once was old, beat-up, and beyond repair become something so beautiful, but even more awesome is that is exactly what God does with those who trust in Jesus as their Savior.

Second Corinthians 5:17-18 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Jesus is in the regeneration business. He takes broken, tattered, and imperfect creatures and regenerates us into something new. We no longer are the same person as before. He has given us a new nature and a new name. Our sin account was settled by Jesus on the cross and we are reconciled to the Father.

God no longer sees us by our sin but only sees His Son Jesus, who became sin for us so that we can be righteous.

So, when you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a broken person? Do you see a person who is irredeemable? Do you see a person who can never change or be healed? Do you see a person who is too far gone? If that person is the one staring back at you in the mirror, you are not alone. Every person who has put their faith in Jesus and has decided to follow Him as leader of their life has seen that person in the mirror but is no longer that person.

They are a new creature, a new person because of Christ.

First, let me invite the person reading this who doesn’t know Christ as their Savior and leader of their life to confess their sins before God and to trust in Christ. He can and will make you a new person. You are not too far gone. You are redeemable. Jesus can turn your messed up life and make it into something purposeful.

Second, let me remind the Christ-follower reading this that perhaps you have forgotten what Christ has done for you in making you a new person. Maybe you still define yourself by your past. You are not that person any longer. Christ has forgiven you of your sins and has regenerated you into a new person. I challenge you to remind yourself of this truth and to embrace who you are in Christ!

Ethan Cline

ReGeneration is a ministry for people battling the storms of life. From emotional struggles to substance abuse, ReGen is a ministry for those who want to experience healing, recovery, community and accountability in the midst of their storms. Currently, ReGen meets on Tuesday nights (7p) at Grace Church in Wooster. We would LOVE to host you! Text “regen” to 3302649459 if you want more information or want to attend!

December 16 – Honoring God – While emotionally exhausted

Read Psalm 73:25-26 and 2 Corinthians 12:10

The scriptures above are two that I have clung to, time and time again. Over the last 13 years, as a surrendered follower of Jesus, I have come across many seasons when I am emotionally exhausted. This could be from just life running its course, health, being a parent or starting a new job. 

I am no stranger to feeling deeply and, sometimes when I feel deeply, I begin to feel emotionally exhausted from all the changes, situations, newness, and the unknown that could be surrounding me. 

Something I love about the Psalms is that there is every emotion under the sun felt within the pages of its writings. At the end of all of the lamenting, most of the time, the authors will point back to the Lord and point back to His strength and His power pulling them through. 

My question to you is, “When you are emotionally exhausted, what do you do?” 

Do you sit back and read a novel? Watch a movie? Have dinner with a friend to vent about the frustrations that have pulled you into this season?

The biggest question is, “When you are emotionally exhausted, do you still honor the Lord with your time, talents, treasures, words, and actions?” 

It is so easy for us to feel our feelings because we live in a fallen world where everyone tells you “your truth is THE Truth!”, when that just isn’t a holy perspective. 

Something that I fall into when I find myself emotionally exhausted: I do one of two things:

1) The first is, I go to my closest friends to vent and whine before ever going before the Lord. In this, I have been convicted in the past that I am not leaning on Him but leaning on the validation of others. 

2) The other thing is that I tend to lose my sense of reality by spending my free time watching movies or television shows so that I do not have to think about all that I am going through or feeling. 

Would you say that either one of these is honoring the Lord first?

I wouldn’t. 

I have had to practice and re-train my brain and life to do something that is honoring before something that I feel like, so that I do not fall into the brokenness of this world that leads me down a slippery slope of sin. I have had to examine when I feel emotionally exhausted and, instead of going to a friend or losing myself in a false reality, I have learned to take actions of obedience by opening up the Bible and reading God’s Truth or journaling in a prayerful way in order to lay it down in surrender and gain a holy perspective. 

No matter what I do, I have to recognize that just like the author of this Psalm and Paul writes to the Corinthians; “My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever”… and that, through the weaknesses I may go through, if I go before the Lord, I will learn that He is strong in my weaknesses and will always use them to make me stronger in character and faith. 

Now, ask yourself, do you honor the Lord when you are feeling emotionally exhausted? Do you give into your emotions and try to escape reality or do you go before the Lord and allow Him to reshape your perspective? 

Which one is most honoring? Do you honor Him?

Kelly Lawson

November 4 – The Poor Millionaire – Giving

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-11

It’s always awkward to talk about giving in the context of a local church. It seems that once you bring up the idea of asking people to donate their hard-earned money to a church, walls get put up and you can feel the tension growing. When you ask people to excel, as Paul states in our reading, in the giving of their money and not just be generous in spirit, it’s a tough ask.

I have been blessed to have a behind-the-scenes view at Grace Church for many years now. For the last several years being on staff, I have the privilege of seeing the life change happen constantly as a result of the faithful giving here. I see the blessing that we are in our community and the needs that we meet as a result of faithful giving. I see families healed and people walk through painful seasons of their lives, surrounded by faith friends, as a result of faithful giving. I see generational curses broken and kids, weekly giving their lives to Christ as a result of faithful giving.

When you give to a local church, you fund life change.

In our reading today, Paul brags to the Corinthian church about Macedonian and how, in the midst of severe trial:

“…their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

Generosity is a lifestyle. Giving is an action.

Paul continues:

“But since you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you-see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

What does it look like to excel in giving?

The first way to excel at giving is to do so faithfully. I know there are many things that you would rather do with 10% of your income, trust me, the thought crosses my mind often. However, God commands us to give 10% back to the church as a tithe. This goes above generosity and into giving.

There have certainly been times where finances have been tight with Kelly and I. I remember looking over our budget and thinking of ways that we can save money but, no matter what, I knew that our tithe wasn’t going to be touched. It simply cannot.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Kelly and I give faithfully because we see the fruit of our giving.

Secondly, excel at giving by doing so above and beyond when you are able. Just the other day, I had a conversation with Kelly about our financial dreams. Being in the middle of Financial Peace University, we are dreaming of what it would look like to be outrageously generous. We are setting ourselves up for financial freedom so that we can give above and beyond when we are able. Kelly and I both cannot wait for that!

Are you faithfully giving to your local church? If not, simply put, you need to. Your giving funds life change.

Are you in a position where you can give above and beyond? Outside of your tithe, what are some opportunities that you have to be generous in your giving?

Jake Lawson

October 26 – Say What Now? – “Embrace your Weakness and I’ll Give You Strength”

Read 2 Corinthians 13:1-10

“He was sheer weakness and humiliation when he was killed on the cross, but oh, he’s alive now—in the mighty power of God! – (2 Corinthians 13:3 MSG)

From the age of five, James was raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm in Jackson, Michigan – they had moved from Mississippi. James found the transition to living with his grandparents in Michigan traumatic and developed a stutter so severe that he refused to speak. “I was a stutterer. I couldn’t talk. So, my first year of school was my first mute year, and then those mute years continued until I got to high school.”

James said that his stuttering created humiliation: “In Sunday school, I’d try to read my lessons and the children behind me were falling on the floor with laughter…my stuttering was so bad that I gave up trying to speak properly.”

James credits his high school English teacher, Donald Crouch, who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry, with helping him embrace this weakness. “‘Jim, this is a good poem. In fact, it is so good I don’t think you wrote it. I think you plagiarized it. If you want to prove you wrote it, you must stand in front of the class and recite it by memory.’ Which I did. As they were my own words, I got through it.”

James said his teacher got him talking and reading poetry, which sparked an interest in acting. By embracing the weakness, it eventually became a strength.

Known today as James Earl Jones, this man worked hard and eventually became a Broadway, television and movie star, and is well-known for his voice as Darth Vader in Star Wars. Jones has spoken some of the most memorable lines in the history of American film. He is known for his voice. But he was once afflicted with a severe stutter.

Examples of weakness are impatience, restlessness, a temper, greed, looking at pornography, selfishness and others. Jesus was weak when He died on the cross on Good Friday. He had been beaten, broken down, had his face spit on, whipped – pieces of skin hung from his back, verbally abused, naked and humiliated. And He was able to overcome all of this through the resurrection!

And Jesus provides a way through Him to overcome our weaknesses by recognizing, admitting and then embracing them.

It involves work (see Colossians 3:23), focus (see Hebrews 12:2) and opportunity (see Eph. 5:16).

Have you asked Jesus to help you embrace a weakness and work to overcome it? Is there anything specific that you need to bring to the Lord?

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

If Christ sets you free – you can now try to forget your past mistakes and not focus on them. They are on the ocean floor (see Micah 7:19).

You can live free through Jesus Christ. You can embrace weaknesses and ask God for strength!

Tom Weckesser

September 16 – Life Verses – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we

might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

When I think about a “life verse,” what instantly comes to mind for me is 2 Corinthians 5:21. In fact, I would describe 2 Corinthians 5 as my favorite chapter of Scripture, specifically verses 11-21.

I love verse 21 because it succinctly sums up the story of the Gospel: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). When Jesus went to the cross, He took on our sin, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness. What a trade! Our sin was charged against Jesus while His perfection and righteousness was applied to us. This is the beauty of the Gospel: that Jesus took our punishment and offers us not only forgiveness, but a way to be in a relationship with God.

That is why Paul, throughout the rest of chapter 5, encourages and challenges us to be Christ’s ambassadors! If we have been made into a “new creation” and have received this great mercy, how can we keep it to ourselves? Instead, we must realize that we who have been reconciled with God have been assigned what Paul calls the “ministry of reconciliation.” This means, simply, that we all have a job to do: to tell others about the incredible gift that Jesus has given to us, and to invite them to receive that same gift themselves.

I would consider this my life verse because it is my reminder of my duty. I am not here to serve myself. I am who I am because of Christ and Christ alone and because of that truth I have a God-given responsibility to reach others with the same message that reached me. I hope that you would consider the responsibility God has entrusted to you as well. We have been called by God to implore others to come back to Him. I love that truth because it reminds me every day of the reason I am on this earth.

Billy Starkey

August 30 – Heaven FAQ’s – Is Heaven really that great?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and Philippians 1:23

“From the beginning, God had a shining dream in his heart. He would make people to share his forever happiness. They would be his children and the world would be their perfect home.” (Jesus Story Book Bible).

On Mattie’s, our 3-year-old’s, birthday, he was given the Jesus Story Book Bible. I read this to a few children when I babysat and I remember their parents always telling me that it was the best children’s Bible they have ever come across. So, I was extremely excited when Mattie was gifted one. He and I have been reading a chapter each night since he received it, and I remember, when reading the words above, I thought to myself, “This, all around us, was not the intent when God created it”.

When I was in Bible school, my pastor would tell us, “There is world 1.0 and world 2.0.” Now, let me explain, “world 1.0” was the world that God intended when He began creation. Then “world 2.0” came about when the fall took place. These two worlds co-exist, but we can only feel and see 2.0. However, our “perfect home” is still in existence and we are just separated for a time.

When studying Heaven and even the end times, it can become quite mind numbing trying to make sense of it all, but Paul states it perfectly when he says, “it is paradise.”

When thinking of living in this fallen world, it is easy to forget that this is not our true home. This is our temporary home and our true home is in Heaven with Jesus.

If you have never picked up “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, I definitely recommend it. It answers any questions you may have regarding Heaven and what it may or may not be like. One of my favorite things He discusses is how there is a “Present Heaven” and an “Eternal Heaven”. He explains the biblical knowledge of how the unification of Heaven and Earth come together but he brings scripture to life and explains in depth how this world, 2.0, is not where we are meant to be.

Where we were intended to be is “a bright, vibrant, and physical New Earth, free from sin, suffering, and death, and brimming with Christ’s presence, wonderous natural beauty and the richness of human culture as God intended it”.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

Kelly Lawson

August 21 – Heaven FAQ’s – When does a person go to Heaven?

Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

On a Friday afternoon, in Granny’s kitchen in St. Charles, Missouri, Kelly and I were trying to get some lunch into Mattie before we put him down for a nap. Despite the semi hectic back and forth to and from the hospital, as any parent will tell you, naps for a toddler are vitally important. Our whole family made the trek to my parents’ hometown because Grandma’s health had been deteriorating over the past several months. We were praying this wasn’t the end but, as our visit continued, we knew that it wasn’t an “if” question but a “when”.

Our family had talked many a time of the hope that we have in Jesus. Earthly pain is temporary where eternity with Christ is forever for those who place their faith in Him. All of us knew that Grandma would soon be promoted to Heaven and we found ourselves trying to come to grips with saying goodbye to a staple in the Lawson family tree.

On that Friday afternoon, Kelly was trying to convince Mattie to clean up his plate when I got a call from Mom. Thinking nothing of it, I answered normally:

“Hey, Mama.”

“You know I love you, right?”

My whole demeanor changed.

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

“Your grandma is with Jesus.”

I hopped in the car and drove over to the hospital where I met the rest of our family. Tears were flowing as we came to grips with reality:  Grandma was with Jesus.

Our reading in 2 Corinthians today answers the question of, “When do I actually go to Heaven?” Dad made a point of telling those who were in the room when Grandma passed that they were on holy ground. The moment she breathed her last, angels came and ushered Grandma into eternity. Part of the pain was eased because we all knew she was hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” right about then.

What a holy moment.

Paul describes two realities in this reading for those who have a relationship with Christ: at home with the body or away from it with the Lord. According to Scripture, when we are absent from the body, we are at home in Heaven with Jesus. I love how Paul talks about the earthly vs eternal. There are other passages like 1 Corinthians 15 that describe the relationship there is between the physical and the eternal.

Allow this to be a challenge to you all: where do you stand with Christ? Have you believed in Him for the forgiveness of your sins? Do you have that personal and intimate relationship with Him? Just knowing about Him won’t save you;  have you repented of your sin and chosen to follow God’s plan for your life? This isn’t something you can take care of right before you die. When you breath your last, you are immediately confronted with eternity.

Where will you spend it?

Jake Lawson

August 5 – Perseverance – In human weakness

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9

Perseverance is persistence in doing something, despite difficulty or a delay in achieving success. 

What keeps you from persevering?  What causes you to lose long term perspective? 

There have been times in my life where I have felt completely helpless, void of strength, even to do the simplest of tasks. 

A few years ago, I had major surgery.  In recovery I was on a respirator.  I couldn’t even breathe on my own, I was helpless.  We want to be strong, decisive, capable, and able to meet daily challenges.  But there are times when we feel inadequate.  Illness occurs, our bodies become physically weak, our minds aren’t as sharp as they used to be.  We feel like we don’t even have the ability to confront the day.  We are born with limitations, or, as some would call it, weakness.  We are created in His image, and yet we are lacking.  Do you think He might have created our bodies to give up under pressure, so that we could realize that we can do nothing apart from Him?  (John 15:5).

God created us to rely on Him.  

We can’t do it all, and that’s OK. 

If we could, then we would never have the opportunity to allow God’s power to be seen in us.

“My grace is sufficient, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul prayed 3 times to have a weakness – “a thorn in his flesh” – removed.  Instead, God allowed it to remain so that His power would be seen. It was only through experiencing this weakness that Paul was able to receive the power of God.  Our weakness allows us to grow stronger in His strength, just as Paul persevered through the “thorn”.

“And my God will meet all your needs,

according to the riches of His glory in Jesus Christ.”Philippians 4:19

Paul is encouraging believers in Philippi to be content.  A few verses earlier Paul talks about how God gives us strength to be content, regardless of circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).  Even when you feel weak, He will supply the strength needed to persevere. 

God promises us His strength. As you go about your daily life, facing your own limitations, weaknesses, and fears, meditate on these promises.  In His Word we learn that He never intended to remove weaknesses from our life.  If this was God’s intention, then we’d never have the pleasure of witnessing His power perfected in our weakness.  We’d never have the privilege of witnessing His ability to supply all our needs.

So, why do we try to struggle through our weakness on our own?

Why do we let weaknesses stop us from experiencing His power?

Today, trust Him, the One who promises to supply all you need!

Trust the One who promises to perfect His strength in you!

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”Romans 8:26

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”Ephesians 3:20

“He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might He increases strength.”Isaiah 40:29

Janene Nagel

August 4 – Perseverance – With pain

Read Romans 5:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Probably the worst physical pain I have ever experienced was on a cold January night in 2014 during the opening session of the yearly Kalahari retreat. I was part of the opening act and, during it, I planned on, essentially, high jumping on a stage that was several feet off the ground. Now, I played sports in high school so I thought I was, at least, slightly athletic.

In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t practice at all to see if it was even possible.

Safe to say, I slipped on my jump and skinned my shin. After the opening, I walked out to the hallway and saw blood running down my shin. Upon getting a paper towel from the bathroom and looking closer to dab it up, I saw that my shin was literally flayed open.

I could see muscle and everything.

After the shock wore off (it was a solid 30 seconds of me staring at the gaping hole in my shin), my adrenaline wore off and the pain came in a huge and brutal wave.

When we talk about pain, I feel like everyone can relate. Either we can talk about a time where we were hurt physically, but I feel like it hurts us so much more when the pain is emotional.

How do you deal with emotional pain? How do you process through it? What role does God play in this healing process? Are you even healing from your pain?

One of the greatest things I have learned in my faith was that pain has a purpose. In our reading today in Romans, Paul is writing about a tough situation he is currently in. He is writing a letter to the church in Rome from prison. He knew his time was coming to a close and he was soon to be executed for his role in advancing the gospel.

If Paul can pen his encouraging words in Romans 5:3-4, how do any of our pains (physical or emotional) even compare?

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Do you go so far as to glory in your sufferings? Are you able to zoom out of our scenario and see the long game of pain? Can you see the upcoming perseverance, character and, ultimately, hope that will come as a result of properly working through your pain?

What pain are you currently experiencing? What pain is a part of your past that you haven’t healed from?

What steps are you going to take in order to see your pain from a new perspective?

What potential benefits do you see from viewing your pain from a different lens?

What promises of hope does Jesus give us for the pain we experience throughout our life?

Jake Lawson

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