September 15 – A Changing Culture – Opportunities

Read Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5; 1 Peter 3:15

We are followers of Jesus Christ. We are the light that once was darkness. The ones who used to live asleep until Jesus showed up and made us His light. We are light in the dark where evil prevails and pointless moments abound.  

So “make the most of every opportunity.”

Paul wrote these words, not just to Christians in Ephesus, but to those in Colosse as well. When Christ-followers walk with eyes wide open, looking for ways to redeem a moment, the fruitless becomes fruitful; the light of Jesus Christ and His truth become visible to those who don’t yet know the hope of eternity and real life. Culture changes one moment at a time when you and I intentionally look for opportunities to let the truth of Jesus Christ be seen.

It might start with a smile, a nod, a mere acknowledgement of a person who might not otherwise feel seen. Make the most of an opportunity like that, because our God is the God who sees.

Or maybe you’ll be driving to work and someone will cut you off in traffic. Make the most of the opportunity to bless and not curse them. Pray for them instead of showing your irritation. Maybe pray for your own heart, too.

There are so many opportunities to redeem the moments.

Maybe you’ll be walking your dog and you’ll pass by a neighbor you’ve never met. Pause and think of a way to make the most of that walk. 

It starts with following Jesus into every next step.

If you’re not walking with Him, then the less-than-fruitful moments remain as they are and the culture you and I live in stays fruitless. “(L)ive not as unwise (foolish, rejecting God’s leading) but as wise.” The way to walk fully into each moment is to humbly let God be the Lord of your whole life, asking God how to redeem each moment and claim it for Him.

Are you standing by, ready to redeem the moments in your day? Start by looking for just one. Then look for ways to let Jesus shine through you and go for it! Let God change the culture, one redeemed moment at a time.

Bria Wasson

September 11 – A Changing Culture – Work

Read Colossians 3:22-25

On my way to work the other day, I noticed multiple signs in front of businesses, factories, and restaurants advertising the fact that they are “Now Hiring.” If you go to a restaurant today, you may not only see the sign inviting applicants but you may also experience the reality of the need for more workers. There are often longer wait times or “drive thru only” options. For some employers, the problem is larger than just finding willing applicants. They struggle to find workers who can pass a drug test or who will show up for work for more than a few days.

The unchanging Word of God gives work instructions for God’s people in our changing culture. Here are some clear principles:

  1. God created us to be workers. Adam and Eve were given instruction to subdue the earth and rule over other living things (Gen. 1:28, 29). Even the Ten Commandments remind us that God created us for a rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest (Ex. 20:8-11). Of course, this work is not limited to gainful employment indicated above. It is demonstrated in countless ways.
  2. God designed us to work to provide for our families. Through both financial provision and compassionate care, we are to see that the needs of those closest to us are met (Ex. 20:12; 2 Thess. 3:6-10; 1 Tim. 5:3-8).
  3. God intended that we give our all when we work. Our boss is ultimately not a man or woman above us on a hierarchical org chart. We work for Christ! We should do so with gusto and in recognition of our accountability to Him (Col. 3:22-25).
  4. God planned that we give ourselves to His work. This is more than just the work we do to earn a living or to maintain a household. His work includes the ways we contribute to making disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). His work includes loving our neighbor as ourselves (Lk. 10:25-37). Paul tells us that we are to “always give ourselves fully to” His work (1 Cor. 15:58).

In the midst of a changing culture, Christ followers should be among those who work the hardest but maintain balance. They have an appropriate temporal and eternal perspective.

Does that describe you?

Steve Kern

September 1 – Missions Spotlight – Nate and Luisa Harley

Read Colossians 4:3-6

Missionaries: Nate & Luisa Harley

Ministry: Making & Developing Disciples in Uruguay

We serve in a context where we need constant prayers for open doors! In light of the overall resistance to the Gospel, Uruguay has been called the “Graveyard of Missions,” with nearly half of the population identified as “non-religious” (highest in the Western Hemisphere).

The New Testament lets us in on a secret. Paul often speaks of this “mystery,” but the part he thought was of first importance was the resurrected Jesus being the first person to cross from lowly body – to death – to life in a new glorious body…and that those who love Him would be changed like that too, as a result. Throughout his letters, Paul gives some tips for sharing this incredible open door with others – here are two things to not be afraid of and two things to not get weary of. We’ll use Colossians 4:3-6 as a base.

Let’s not be afraid of our own limitations. Many would consider Paul the greatest theologian and/or the greatest missionary, but he often admitted his shortcomings and weaknesses. Here, he needed prayer to be able to articulate the message clearly (Col 4:4). He even expressed the need for God to give him the words so he could communicate without fear (Eph 6:19). Pray that God would give us the words and the reminder to rely on Him for the results!

However, in that reliance, let’s not get weary of learning. Paul encourages us to “know how to answer” (Col 4:6). So not being afraid of our limitations and relying on God doesn’t negate the need and responsibility to learn what we can. Pray that we’d continue to learn and grow in experience to know how to answer each individual effectively!

Next – let’s not be afraid of opposition. Paul says it is because of this message that he is “in chains” (Col 4:3). That was a very common situation for him. In most of our contexts, this extreme physical opposition isn’t our reality, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t experience opposition. Pray that we’d have the courage andpray for those who might oppose us!

However, in that courage, let’s not get weary of doing good. Paul reminds us of the importance of being “full of grace” when we interact with people (Col 4:6). In another letter, he says not to become weary in doing good, but to do good to all people whenever we have the opportunity(Gal 6:9-10). Actions of love authenticate a message of love!

Nate and Luisa Harley

August 8 – 5 – Relationships

Read Colossians 1:16, Romans 3:23, 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 10:9

It was inspirational being on the staff of a Christian summer camp for high school kids. The camp would start on a Sunday. It would end on Saturday morning, where everyone would get in a big circle and hold hands and sing a song called “Friends”, written by Michael W Smith. Most came on Sunday as strangers and some relationships would continue after the camp ended while others probably would not. The high school kids were from all over Ohio. The song is about relationships and friendships and it is a reminder of the hope of Christ and that we can pray for each other when we are apart:

“And friends are friends forever

If the Lord’s the Lord of them.colo

And a friend will not say never

‘Cause the welcome will not end.

Though it’s hard to let you go

In the Father’s hands we know.

That a lifetime’s not too long

To live as friends.”

Two Christian friends will be friends in this present life and the life to come. To be an influential Christian, the relationship must have trust and honesty. Do you have 5 relationships in your sphere of influence who you can encourage, intentionally try to bring closer to Jesus and ultimately share the gospel with them?

Having people in our lives who we have developed a relationship with makes it easier to talk about spiritual things. If they know that you are trying to live with integrity and to live in a way that honors God, then they may be more likely to listen to what you say.

In his bestselling book “The 5 Love Languages”, Gary Chapman explains that there are 5 key ways that we all feel loved, and most of us feel loved in 1 or 2 of them. The 5 ways are spending quality time, hearing loving or affirming words, receiving thoughtful gifts, gentle loving touch or having things done for us. As we develop new relationships, learning the other person’s language and showing love in meaningful ways is an action that can bring meaningful results.

Romans 10:9 a verse that can be easily shared with other people. It is a good one to memorize.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you are living as an excellent Christian example, then you are already making a difference for His kingdom.  To have a relationship with 5 people is a way to influence others and evangelize. Who are your “5”? If you don’t know, who are those that can make up your “5”?

Being a good role model is also extremely important. Keep working at it. It is truly “the good life.”

Tom Weckesser

July 28 – $ – Stewardship

Read Psalm 24:1, Deuteronomy 8:18 and Colossians 3:23-24

I first began to understand the true concept of stewardship when I worked in the trust department of a local bank. A trustee is responsible for carrying out the wishes and direction of the owner of the assets and resources that have been placed in the trust. The trustee does not own those assets and resources; he is simply to manage them based on the wishes and direction of the owner.

Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

Everything that we have is the Lord’s and we are stewards (trustees) of his resources.  So what does that mean? First of all we have to acknowledge that what we have is not ours, including our time, money, abilities, wisdom and relationships.  We have been entrusted with the care and management of what we have been given but it is not ours.  We may think that by our own ability we have acquired what we have.  Deuteronomy 8:18 reminds us to:

“Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth”.

As a steward, we are responsible to manage those resources according to God’s desires and instruction.  Bill Peel at The High Calling writes “Although God gives us ‘all things to enjoy,’ nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.” 

We are responsible for managing what has been entrusted to us to bring glory and honor to God! How are you managing your time, money, abilities, wisdom and relationships to bring glory and honor to God?

As a steward, we are accountable for how we manage what has been given us. Many times in the financial world, trustees will have to give an accounting to a court of law to show that they honored the wishes and directions of the owner and that they managed those assets prudently. As stewards of God’s resources we will give an account of how we managed His assets.  So how do you manage the free time that you have? The money that you have? The abilities you have been given? The relationships you have been entrusted with?

If we are faithful in fulfilling our role of steward, we are promised a reward. In Colossians 3:23-24 we are told “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Manage what you have for the glory of the Lord!

Jeff Swartzentruber

July 20 – Leadership – Excellence

Read Colossians 3:23, 24b

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

I’d like to think Paul wrote this in the middle of a perfect day at his dream job. But history says Paul wrote it from jail. What might Paul possibly have been doing as a prisoner in a jail cell that he could work at with such excellence? It’s the excellence required for leaders, influencers, followers of Christ who actually work for God Himself, not for men and women. 

Maybe you’re like me and you find yourself in the day-in, day-out sometimes mundane work of all that life demands. Whether it’s directing a company or flipping burgers, gathering grocery carts or watching PAW Patrol for the 347th time before changing a diaper, the instruction remains – whatever you do, work at it. With all your heart.

There’s no delineation between what seems important and what feels mundane. No matter what you’re doing, Paul wrote, do it heartily. It’s the Greek word “psyche”, which means the soul, the very energy that is life. In other words, in everything you do as a follower of Christ, an influencer (whether to one person or to a million), do it with all of who you are and with every ounce of your heart and soul. Give it your all.

Do it with excellence.

Leadership and influence often begin right there inside the mundane where it would be easy enough to forget the One who called us to this very moment. It would be so easy to just slide by, forgetting that the Lord of our lives wants to work even here. But when we keep our focus on things above, like Paul wrote at the beginning of this same chapter in Colossians, we work in ways that show Him off. And that’s where He shines brightly through the whole-hearted excellence in our influence.

Think about what lay ahead of you today. Now choose just one task at which you can work whole-heartedly today. How might working with such excellence show off who God is and bring more of a godly influence to the lives of those you lead? Ask God to show you and to give you the enthusiasm to tackle each task with excellence today.

Bria Wasson

July 4 – Back to the Basics – Creation

Read Genesis 1:1 and Colossians 1:16

“In the beginning, God created…”

When sharing the Gospel message to the unbeliever, this is the beginning!  We so often overlook this important truth when discussing the Gospel, but did you know that this is often the truth claim that presents the biggest hurdle for believers and non-believers alike?  It’s important to focus on this truth, because without establishing God as Creator, the rest of the Gospel message just sounds like a nice idea, or a good story.             

The claim that God created everything explicitly states that He created it.  All of it. By Himself. More quietly, though, it implicitly states several other things.  I pray that by considering these out-workings of Creation, you are drawn to conviction and praise of God the Creator!  

First, if He created it, He owns it! God owns his Creation.  And after reading Colossians 1:16, there should be no doubt about how much of our physical world He is responsible for! God is the rightful owner of it all, which grants Him dominion over it!  Dominion means “ruling or controlling power”, which means He makes the rules, and all perfect understanding can be found in Him!  His dominion is the reason for the moral certainty of Christianity.  The scientific laws that govern our physical universe and the moral laws that are universally accepted in our society can be known and trusted because God is Creator!

Secondly, if He created it, it is good!  We know this because God is good (goodness), and God doesn’t change (immutable).  This means that God doesn’t stop being good for a moment in order to do something dastardly. If God is good, then there must be some other reason for things that we perceive in God’s Creation as not good. 

Lastly, if He created it, it ultimately answers to Him! This is perhaps the most difficult thing for sinners to accept.  The Bible says that ‘even the rocks cry out to Him’… how much more then should we?  If God created it, He owns it, we know that it is good, and we are compelled to accept His Lordship over all that makes up our lives.  For sinful hearts that yearn for self-control and self-determination, this can be difficult. 

As you ponder God’s creation, let us pray and consider the aspects of Creation that affect the Gospel; the bigger story about God loving us so much that He pursues us even to the death and crucifixion of His Son.  Science, culture, and even well-intentioned Christians debate methods, time frames, and specifics of Creation that are awesome things to ponder, and make for super interesting reading.  When boiled down, however, the ultimate implication of God as Creator is that He owns it, He is Lord over it all, and it is Good! 

When we see this truth properly, we can submit to Him with full confidence in our salvation.  Spend some time marveling at God’s Creation, and thanking Him for the complex beauty that makes up our world. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Craig French

June 29 – God of Second Chances – Giving Others a Second Chance

Read Colossians 3:13

It is inspiring to recognize how Jesus reacted to those who wronged Him. Jesus gave people a second chance and still does. When you begin to do things the way He did, you will encounter troubles (John 16:33). The world will resist you and pressure you to do things the wrong way but the wrong way does not work: “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.” (Matt 7:14).

To do what pleases God takes grit, effort and keeping your eyes on God.

Paul writes in Colossians 3 to put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature. This can be difficult because the earthly nature comes easy and includes anger, evil desires, greed and revenge.

Prepare for every day by asking God to help you be ready to fight for what is good and clothe yourself with God’s weapons of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and patience. These are the weapons that Jesus used. These weapons can be used in difficult times in dealing with others and I can be an example of Christ to them. It can help in giving others a second chance.

Have you asked God to give you these weapons? Use these weapons in the way you live, act, text, email and in everything.

Are you prepared?

In order to give somebody a second chance, I need to show gentleness and patience rather than anger and self-serving shouting. Do I knee-jerk react to others or do I respond with love? Prepare your day with prayer and be ready.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”

Colossians 3:13a

“To forgive means to write it off. Let it go. Tear up the account. It is to render the account canceled.

Warning: forgiveness and opening up to more abuse are not the same thing. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Reconciliation and boundaries have to do with the future. Limits guard my property until someone has repented and can be trusted to visit again. If they sin, I will forgive again, 70×7.” BOUNDARIES, the book by Dr. Henry Cloud.

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Colossians 3:13b

God has given me a second chance and a third chance and more and He has done the same for you. We have the opportunity to give a second chance to people that we know and do it in the same way that God forgave you for your mistakes!

“You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean”.

Micah 7:19 MSG

Can you sink the painful mistakes of others to the bottom of the ocean floor and give them a second chance?

Tom Weckesser

May 16 – What Does the Bible Say About Our Words?

Read Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:29 and James 3:1-12

Tugging on the reins as hard as six-year old muscles could, I was no match for our new horse, Ginger. Moments before, I couldn’t wait to be lifted onto the back of this mahogany, black mane and tailed, beauty. I was in awe. Now, as we rocketed through the pasture, back to the barn, I hated her. I thought I was going to die. She was in control and I had none.

Our tongues tend to run away with us, don’t they? Words can come out of our mouths that surprise us. Words come out that hurt, yet we say them anyway. We put people in their places. We make sure everyone knows we’re upset and offended. We ‘toot our own horns.’ We ‘set the record straight.’ We withhold words when we should speak and we mow people down with them when we’d all be better off if we’d keep our mouths shut.

God has a lot to say about our words…

“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”(Luke 6:45)

“The tongue has the power of life and death.”(Proverbs 18:21)

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.”(James 3:10)

We’re a mess, aren’t we?

We’re not going to get this perfectly.

And we can do better.

I love how The Message interprets James 1:19, telling us to lead with our ears. It pairs well with our verse from Ephesians…” [speak] only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

We’d do well to take a deep breath before speaking. If we would listen, better yet, love people enough to hear them out…If we would pause to pray before we open our mouths, we might just get this better.

Jesus left us with His Spirit to guide us into all truth. We have the power of God to overcome the power of our tongues. We have His guidance to steer us to better words. We have His Spirit to convict us when we’ve barreled ahead without Him.

Have your words been serving your needs or the needs of others?

Do you need to check in on a relationship and make sure all is well between you? Have you mowed someone down? Used some pretty filthy language that sounds more like the world than a follower of Jesus? Are you building people up or tearing them down?

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”(Ps. 19:14)

This beautiful confession from David’s lips reminds us of a God who is passionate about the way we communicate with Him and each other. He has been so generous with us to give us His words. Let’s make every effort to honor Him with ours and let’s not expect the world to apply the same standard to theirs.

Shelly Eberly

February 17 – Meet the Team – Tom Weckesser

Read Colossians 3:23

My name is Tom Weckesser. I am from Wooster. My dad was a Captain in the US Marines and my mother was a teacher. They raised me correctly. and I am very grateful. Their married life began in poverty but they changed that through hard work.

I am a graduate of The Ohio State University (B.S.) and Arizona State University (M.S.).

I met my wife, Birdie, when I sold her a Christmas tree while working for Dush Christmas Trees. We dated for five years before we got married in 1975. That was the best year of my life. We have 3 adult, married children – Jake, Katie and Mary. We now have 8 grandchildren. We spend a lot of time with all of them. That is part of our ministry.

I have been a high school teacher for 35 years and taught Health, Science and Physical Education. I was a varsity coach in boys basketball, cross country, tennis, girls basketball and golf. I was an assistant coach in football.

I now teach at the University of Akron where I have taught Fitness and Wellness, First Aid & CPR and Personal Health. I also supervise student teachers in high schools.

I was the Assistant Dean for a Christian church camp for high school kids for 20 summers with the Church of God in Ohio near Butler, Ohio.

I have been a high school football official for 26 years and basketball official for 15 years. I have coached over 400 high school basketball games and I officiated over 400 football games. It has been thrilling.

I try to live the philosophy of Colossians 3:23,

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for God, not man.”

It is my favorite verse. It helps me keep things in perspective, let Christ lead me and realize that what I do is for God and it’s not for men. Anything that we do can be a Christian ministry!

This simple verse is about attitude. Read the verse, study and memorize it. Apply it. So, whatever I am doing, whatever I am working at or participating in, I am not doing it just for the sake of doing it or just to get it done. Instead, my attitude is that I want to give it my best effort. I need to put my heart into it. “…as doing it for the Lord, not for man.”

Do things because God wants you to, not because people want you to. Treat every situation with great care and do it to your best ability as if you were doing it for the Lord. I am not really working for my boss. I am working for God.  When you start to do this, people will notice the way you act and treat others. What a great way to witness to others! Your actions speak what is in your heart.

Tom Weckesser