September 13 – Life Verses – John 15:1-8

Read John 15:1-8, Galatians 5:16-26, Colossians 1:9-14 and James 3:13-18

I’m lacking as a gardener but my green-thumbed friend, Kristen, doesn’t seem to care. Visiting her this spring, she insisted on entrusting me with a portion of her Dahlia plants.

Nervous, yet eager to be a sensible steward of these precious, plant babies, I asked Kristen a lot of questions (I also did my fair share of Googling). I learned that Dahlia’s are high maintenance plants. Their voluminous blooms are too hefty for their spindly stalks so they have to be tied to stakes as they grow 5-6’ high.

Without connection to a stake Dahlia’s won’t produce fruit.

Without connection to Jesus; neither will I.

I remember when God seared John 15:5 into my soul as I was participating in a Bible study called Experiencing God. The Spirit began to gently unravel my stubborn independence and move me to a deeper dependence on Him.

Apart from me you can do nothing.

These words still arrest me making me humbly aware of my need to surrender and cling to the One who produces fruit in me. Often, I pray them back to Jesus as I step into the roles He has given me as I follow Him…Join me, Jesus, speak to me and though me, lead me, have your way, apart from you I can do nothing. On my not-so-great days, I barge forward forgetting my source and find myself uttering a prayer of confession…Jesus, forgive me for taking this all on myself, I didn’t pray, I didn’t wait on you.

I want to bear fruit, don’t you? I want to live a life that points to the One I cling to. As a flower expert can immediately recognize a Dahlia bloom, I want people to recognize I follow Jesus because I bear fruit that is rooted in Him…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I also want to bear abundant fruit. Did you know the more you cut Dahlia flowers the more blooms they produce? I didn’t, until I Googled it. We are the same. We can lean in to the pruning. God is a gentle gardener we can trust with the snips and setbacks. He is making us into a glorious garden.

Cling to Jesus, friends.

Dwell in Him.

Depend on Him.

Stay connected to the Vine and fruit will come.

Shelly Eberly

September 5 – Life Verses – Colossians 3:23

Read Colossians 3:23

“Let my life song sing to you…”

Casting Crowns

My first job was at Griffin’s’ Prescription Center working for $1.65/hour. Back then I enjoyed having a little bit of money but I probably cut corners sometimes and maybe didn’t do as good a job as I could have.

I then became a student at Ohio State where my main focus was not academic. I had many jobs including working at McDonald’s just for the pay, an oil company where employees would sleep on the job and I saw them drinking beer on the job, and a construction job where I’d try to do as little as possible just to survive the long, hot days. I became a landscaper for a boss who was deaf who fired me because I asked him for a raise.

My focus was money.

Then I finally became a teacher and a high school basketball coach. My aim was to win basketball games.

It was about that time that I became a Christian and recognized the importance of doing a good job even if nobody knew it but me. I then realized that God was my boss and, no matter what I’m doing, I need to be working for Him. That realization changed my attitude toward work, family, church and everything that I did. My focus became to do the best that I could possibly do – and to go the extra mile in absolutely everything.

I coached six different high school sports and I focused on encouraging high school kids and not just winning games. I officiated high school basketball and football for many seasons and focused on sportsmanship, safety and helping to make sports a great learning experience. I became a huddle leader for The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and tried to teach young people to work for God, not men. We gave away over 1500 FCA coins with Colossians 3:23 on them to team captains. Let me know if you want one.

For me this verse is about attitude and way of life. It helps me emulate Jesus Christ. It has helped me deal with difficult people and difficult jobs. Every job can be a Christian ministry! And it’s not just about working – it’s about everything that we do! No matter what I’m doing, I’m working for God, not men.

Tom Weckesser

September 4 – Life Verses – Colossians 1:16-18

Read Colossians 1:16-18

As most, before we chose to live for Christ, we chose to live for ourselves.

From about 6 years old, singing was a love of mine and at age 10, musical theater became a passion. With my mother also being a singer, she took us to an audition for The Sound of Music. Although I didn’t audition for any role, I got the bug. It was all I wanted to do. To be on that stage, my name in lights, everyone applauding my name. Then it happened, and kept happening. I got cast for role after role, I sang more and more. I was applauded more and more. I went to school in New York City for a semester after my senior year of high school and, like every young girl from a small town with big dreams, as I moved back home, I swore I would be back. But…God had other plans.

For so long I loved the stage because for two and a half hours I could become someone else. For two and half hours I had another name, another past, another story to tell and that fed into my identity.

At the age of 21, when my life changed and turned a complete 180 for Him, this verse was one that spoke volumes to me.  This verse changed my entire perspective of whose name should be in lights and I gave up musical theater.

The letter of Colossians was written by Paul to a small church who forgot their purpose. They needed reassurance of their identity. This verse speaks several truths about finding your purpose. It gives your purpose meaning. Until you know and accept that you were created by God and for God, nothing will make sense. You can’t have a fresh start until Jesus comes first. Knowing your purpose also gives your life and mission motivation. We are consistently motivated to live His mission when we live out our purpose.

This verse is my life verse because it reminds me daily that, whatever I produce with my hands, whenever I serve with the gifts He has given, whatever I say or do, however I act, it is FIRST and foremost for His glory and not my own.

Our purpose starts with Him, ends with Him and He is in between.

I pray that as you read Colossians 1:16-18, you begin to offer up the identity that you cling to and replace it with the purpose that you were made by God and for God.

Kelly Lawson

August 13 – Perseverance – When offended

Read Colossians 3:12-17

I don’t look at our reading today from the lens of being offended, I look at it from the lens of doing the offending.

It prompts me to go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness for all of the times, whether recent or not, that I have not shown the characteristics in these verses. When we are fully surrendered followers of Jesus, there is a different priority that is placed in front of us… people.

If that is our priority, how often do we fall short?

Having been offended with remarks from others with comments ranging from how I look to how I worship, I take it before the Lord. I remember that who I am is WHOSE I am. What someone thinks of my features or the opinions they may have of my expressions in song should hold no weight in comparison to who Jesus says I am:

“Chosen…holy and beloved…”.

How we respond to others who should hold the same standard and priority of life as us is an exact representation of our maturity and walk of faith.

I say this because of what Paul writes to the church of Colossae. 

Here is a church of about 50 who have been struggling with their identity and the world around them screaming false teaching and culture into their lives.

Paul is reminding them of WHOSE they are, what they are capable of because of Christ, that they are to hold their foundation in the word. 

Paul gives us characteristics to actively put on in response to one another, and I will be the first one to admit that I fail at this. The Lord teaches us that His spirit is our helper and is available. It is through His strength, His power, that we can put these on and wear them for, not only the lost, but for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Something I love about my hometown in Florida is that about 10-20 pastors from many different churches in the county get together each month for fellowship and prayer. These men get together, not out of obligation, but because they know that they are one body, called to bring Jesus to the lost, called to make disciples who make disciples. They are all working toward the same goal. 

Paul is reminding the church of Collosiea and us that we need to dwell within God’s Word. We need to dwell within His truth. If we are surrounded by the noise, lies, opinions, comments of others, words and actions, how will we ever grow into the person He has intended for us to be? 

I challenge you, as the one who has been offended, walk through these verses again: how can you respond back to the person who offended you? How can you respond back to the Lord?

I challenge you, as the one who has offended, walk through these verses again, go before the Lord, surrender your ways and open your life to starting anew with the character you are called to in Christ.

Kelly Lawson

June 29 – Names of Jesus – Mediator

Read 1 Timothy 6:15-16, Colossians 1:21-22, Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 7:25, 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Five adult bodies, plus a Shih-tzu puppy, were crammed into my daughter, Kelsey’s, 2001 Jetta. We were headed to Flagstaff, AZ, which is a hair over two hours from Phoenix, where Kels lives. Spending the day shopping and taking in the town we had run out of adventure and kicked around the idea of going to the Grand Canyon. Some were interested; some were not. While conversing with a chatty, young girl at one of the shops, she assured us it was worth the trip. “You can be there in an hour and a half, tops!” Convinced, I pushed in that direction, so, off we went.

Google agreed with the chatty girl but for some reason it took us more like two and a half hours to get there. Trying to pass the time, we played games, but it was a l-o-o-n-g ride while we tried to stay out of each other’s personal space. There was ample time for my mind to wander to comments I had heard in the past, it’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not a big deal.

Arriving (mostly ecstatic about exiting the tiny Jetta) we trekked to the rim. As we walked, doubts were still circling around us like an annoying swarm of mosquito’s, until we finally got close enough to peer over the edge. Gasping, we took in the enormous view. God’s imagination and creative power on display left me tingly. I was awe-struck by the depth, expanse, and beauty. There was not an ounce of disappointment in me. Not one.

I don’t know if you’ve had the joy of seeing the Grand Canyon in person? I hope you have, but if not, could you imagine yourself standing on one rim and God standing on the other? Now, imagine trying to get to Him. If you’re anything like me, you immediately start thinking of ways: calling for a helicopter (my personal favorite), rounding up climbing gear, filling a backpack with water and food, finding a companion to go on the journey with you.

It’s our human nature to think we can get to God, isn’t it. We think we can somehow make it happen if we plan well enough, work hard enough, think smart enough. But as we read today God is ‘unapproachable light.’ The only way into His presence is pure perfection and we fall short.

Thank God He made a way to bridge the chasm. No gear required. None of my effort required, just a humble, life saving, admission of faith that I need Him.

Jesus is the one and only mediator. He is the pure, perfect, peacemaker that takes me from enemy to friend. From alienated to reconciled. The cost was great as He laid down His holy life for my necessary ransom and I’m forever grateful that He mediates for me.

Shelly Eberly

Questions to consider

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • How would you describe the giant chasm between God and you in your own life? In what way did it cause you to lean into a relationship with Him?
  • What feeling does it bring you to know that God is incredible and divine yet personable? How can this truth, and the illustration of the Grand Canyon, influence someone to trust in Him for the first time?

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