February 12 – Meet the Team – Kelly Lawson

Read Isaiah 26:3 and Colossians 1:16-18

To give a snapshot of who I am, I guess I should start with my upbringing.

I am the youngest of 5 children; I was raised in a Christian home. My father and mother were both followers of Jesus and were a part of many ministries. However, my father was unfaithful which prompted my parents’ choice to divorce. I was six years old when it became final. This played a part in my outlook on life and love.

I began at a very young age to see my worth in my appearance as someone close to me compared me to someone else. I began to fall into a pattern of self-mutilation at the age of 11. I began drinking at the age of 13 and I tried drugs for the first time at 15. Just after my 21st birthday, I remember reaching a point of hopelessness, a point in my life where I thought the only way I would find peace is if I ended it. So, I attempted to take my own life.

The morning of November 19th, 2009 is a miracle in and of itself. The Lord met me in a powerful way and I heard clearly, “Your life is worthy because of what my Son did. I’m not finished with you.”

I finished my semester, moved back home, and became a surrendered follower of Jesus. I began to lean on Colossians 1:16-18. It was and still is a verse I lean into, in order to stay the course and follow after Him.

You see, when our focus and perspective in our life is on ourselves, we begin to live a life that is self-centered. Yet, when we begin to focus on who Jesus is, what our purpose is in this life, we see the bigger picture. We begin to see life through our God-glasses. I challenge you to put on your God-glasses in today’s world, in what may be going on outside of your world, but also within it. I challenge you, instead of thinking in perspective of life now, have a kingdom perspective.

In August of 2014, I was going through a time of uncertainty of my future and a friend reminded me of Isaiah 26:3. It hit my heart and I began to live in it. I began to find comfort in the chaos because, in it, I had the peace that surpasses all understanding. I trusted the One who provides it. If you have ever been on the other side of hardship and wonder, “How did I get through that”, I guarantee it is because the Lord was able to give you a peace that surpasses this world’s understanding. With what is going on in our country and the decisions leaders are making, it can be very easy to fall into a pattern of worry, but I urge you to look to the Lord, trust in His authorship and soak yourself in the peace He provides.

Eleven years later, I have moved to Ohio, gotten married to the man who is literally God’s best for me, and had a son, Mattie. Life has not been boring. Quite different, at every turn, it keeps us on our toes.

I’ve had to lean on both verses time and time again. Through every ministry I get to be a part of at Grace, through every job I have had, for every day that I have been a wife and mother, through it all, the Lord is constantly teaching me that it is BY Him and FOR Him and He will keep those in peace, who trust in Him.

May we remember, it all belongs to God and He is our peace that changes everything!

Kelly Lawson

February 10 – Faithfulness – He Meets All of Our Needs

Read Philippians 4:19

I love being a grandma.  It is the best job, other than raising my own kids, that I ever had.   I admit I spoil them, as much as I can, especially when it comes to birthdays.  But isn’t that what grandmas are for? Now that 4 out of the 5 are teenagers, it is getting harder to pick out the perfect gift.  I often find myself asking, “What do you want for your birthday?”  More and more, I get the reply of “I don’t need anything!”

Then my reply is always, “I didn’t ask what you NEED, I asked what do you WANT?”

Needs and wants. That is a hard concept for kids to grasp and even some adults. Not knowing the difference can trick one into treating God, not as the Loving Father, but more like a heavenly ATM.

“The Bible says God will supply all my needs, then why can’t I have a big house or a fancy car?” How many people have driven down the road to ruin, thinking, “If I just pray to God, He will let me get the big promotion with a big raise!” Or they think that, if they just pray hard enough, God will give them an A+ on an exam.  Then they take it out on God if it doesn’t happen.

In our verse today, it says God will supply all of our NEEDS.  It doesn’t say He will supply all of our wants.  Like any good Father, He knows what we need often way before we know it ourselves. But, also like a Loving Father, He knows what things will harm us, and eventually become our “God” in place of Him!

When my husband Jon and I first got married, we started out on the low end economically.  It was a scary thing to be newly married and out on our own.  I only had a part time job and Jon had just gotten at job at a factory.  Unbeknownst to me, Jon prayed to God that he would protect us and that he would give us the wisdom to manage our money so we had enough of it to pay our bills each month.  Fifty years later I can testify that Jon’s prayers were answered in the affirmative.  I am not saying we didn’t have set backs like when Jon finally went back to his job after being laid off, only to learn that they were going out on strike! God didn’t pull us miraculously out of the trouble but lead us in the direction of where we could find help, where Jon could pick up a few dollars shoveling manure and driving a little blind lady around town.  Just enough to get us through the crisis at the time.

Are you facing insecurity? Are you at the point where you don’t know which way to turn for help?  Why not have a little talk with your Heavenly Father?  Maybe your priorities need a little bit of adjusting. He knows what you NEED!  He won’t let you down!

Pat Arnold

February 9 – Faithfulness – He fights for us

Read Deuteronomy 3:22, 20:4 and Joshua 23:10

“God, I’m really sorry for…”

Have you ever prayed something like that? It’s a simple call for forgiveness. When we know we have done something wrong and are asking to be forgiven. However, have you ever thought about what takes place in the spiritual realm when a simple prayer like that is uttered?

Let me assure you, it’s not as simple as you may think.

We are in this series talking about God’s faithfulness. He is constant and consistent in many different ways but specifically in the way that He fights for us. You will see in our reading today the promise that was made to the Israelites that God would never forsake them and would always fight for them. If you read just a little of the Israelites’ journey, you will know that they didn’t necessarily deserve to have such divine backup.

The truth is, neither do we. When we pray to God for the forgiveness of our sins. Immediately a battle takes place. Satan, the Accuser, immediately interjects and points out just why we shouldn’t be forgiven.

“Seriously?! Jake wants you to forgive him because of this thing that he said? We can all agree that this is the same guy who has done these things and thought these thoughts, right? If there’s anyone that doesn’t deserve forgiveness, it’s this dude.”

As soon as Satan utters his last word, Jesus agrees.

“Yeah, I know that Jake has said these things, thought these thoughts and done these things. I know that no matter how much I forgive him, he’s still going to sin. However, when I died on the cross I died to cover such sin. An injustice took place, I agree. However, I died for that, it’s paid for.”

Imagine the scene.

Talk about not deserving something.

Now, Romans 6 is very clear in talking about how we shouldn’t abuse grace or continuing to sin thinking that it’s okay because we will always be forgiven. However, we always have someone who will fight for us even when we don’t deserve it.

Jesus fights for you. How are you going to fight for others?

Who in your life needs to be fought for? Who do you need to forgive? Who is discouraged that needs to know someone’s in their corner?

I challenge you to take a moment to think of someone (or multiple people) who you are going to commit to fight for.

Who are we if we know Christ fights for us and don’t return to favor to other people?

Jake Lawson

February 8 – Faithfulness – He is Always with Us

Read Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 119:6-7 and Matthew 28:16-20

What a beautiful truth to remember and yet, how often do we forget that Jesus is always with us? Over the last 6 months, the Lord has taught me a great deal about His presence. He has taught me that He did not promise that we would not struggle or deal with heartache and scary times but that, through all of it, He is with me.

I am a follower of Jesus. The powerful effect of that is I have His Spirit within me, guiding, teaching, molding, ministering and prompting me into the direction that best reflects Him and His intent for my life.

Walking through life not knowing how to handle certain situations or how to navigate them can be extremely scary and by no means is it easy. However, we are promised peace through it all.  We are promised that, no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation, His presence is accessible.

As a worship leader, one of my favorite songs that I have the honor of leading is “Nothing Else” by Cory Asbury. In this song, he reflects on the conversations many of us have had. Apologizing for forgetting that He is first and foremost. Apologizing for going through the motions of maybe saying and doing the right things but not really doing it with the motive of honoring Him but doing it because it is what we should do.

He constantly asks to take him back to where He and the Lord started. Mostly to remind him of the powerful truths the Lord shared with him in the beginning of their relationship.

The majority of the song that Cory wrote was expressing his desire not to be away from the Lord’s presence, that he just wants to be still at His feet.

What I love, the visual that I often receive while leading, is that, in and of itself. But instead of setting aside a “time” for this to be active. I find myself realizing that this can be at any point in time.

As Moses, David and Matthew state, He is always with us. Once the veil was torn, His spirit was accessible and we are able to talk with, pray to, and worship the Lord whenever. He is there. All around us, surrounding us, keeping us in the palm of His hand.

Don’t forget – He is there, ready, willing and wanting you to come to Him.
But also, He is present for the hard times too.
We must remember, whatever the times, whatever the situation, He knows about them. He is not surprised by them and He will use them for His Glory. That we must cling to Him as we come into the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years.

He is ALWAYS with us.

Kelly Lawson

February 7 – Faithfulness – He is Forgiving

Read 1 John 1: 5-10; Colossians 2:13

I love talking about God’s forgiveness, don’t you?  Everything I’ve ever done (or will do) wrong is covered by God’s forgiveness, thus giving me a free pass to heaven.  It’s Christianity 101!  We often overlook, however, that God’s forgiveness necessarily implies that we have sinned, and that our repentance is a blessing which allows us to easily see God’s faithfulness.

Let’s think about our sin differently.  Imagine that a terrible crime has been committed, and the victim immediately forgives the perpetrator.  The criminal is ecstatic about being forgiven and boasts about their newfound freedom.  Isn’t there something wrong with the criminal celebrating deliverance from a crime for which they refuse to take responsibility?  Yet, we do that continually to God, and it’s no less offensive to Him.

When we speak of God’s forgiveness without acknowledging our sin, it’s like using a calculator before learning how to do arithmetic.  You have no idea how great the remedy is when you don’t know what it’s saving you from!   Here’s what John and Paul are telling us today: “..You, who were DEAD in your trespasses [sin]…”; “… If you say you have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness [sin], we lie…”; “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…”; “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar…”  The common thread here is that forgiveness is necessary because of our sin…  since “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all…” (God is Holy), our sin requires God to act.  And boy, did He act!

God’s word is SCREAMING at us that forgiveness and repentance are two sides of the same coin.  Our repentance actually increases our joy by making God’s free gift MORE of a blessing once we realize where we’d be without it!  Here is where God’s faithfulness REALLY shines… when we humbly come before God’s throne to repent of our sin, we are ALWAYS forgiven by a loving, merciful God.  In case you’re wondering; always means EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  To make His gift more complete, we are also promised that God “… will remember their [our] sins no more” (Heb. 8:12).  This is an amazing demonstration of God’s faithfulness for His church; the acknowledgement that God is faithful to forgive our sins FOR ALL TIME; He is faithful unto eternity.

Here’s how you can use these promises: make repentance part of your daily prayer routine; ask God to make you aware of your sins, and actively speak those to God, asking Him to forgive you.  Thank God for His amazing grace, and remember that you don’t need to be ashamed when you come before God, because He knows what you need before you even ask it (Matt 6:8).  There can be no shame when God promises that your sin is NOT held against you!  Praise God that He is faithful to forgive!

Craig French

February 6 – Faithfulness – He Doesn’t Want Anyone to Perish

Read 2 Peter 3: 3-9

John Schlitt sang about being a Christian in the group PETRA. When he sings, “he brings home the bacon”. He sang THE LAST DAZE, based on 2 Peter 3:3: “First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday.”

Mockers. You know, critics. They put me into a daze sometimes. How do you deal with critics?

For 20 years, this writer was a high school varsity basketball coach. While coaching a losing team one season, this coach felt like he was in a daze. Everything we tried that year went wrong. I was “roast coach.” We were outmanned and outcoached. We needed time and a lot of practice. Could a simple basketball season seem like a thousand years? No, but I considered it.

I was in a daze much of the time. I couldn’t sleep. I learned a lot. I dealt with it by talking to my wife and my family – that helped me keep things in perspective. One thing I learned is that a team that has a losing record can be very desperate.

I have observed that people who are struggling in life can also be desperate. Have you ever felt that way? How do you deal with it? How do you deal with criticism? Critics may be helpful if I have the right attitude.

Ignoring them may not be effective.

Peter was talking about the return of Christ, and that he does not want anyone to perish without knowing Him. In verse 5, Peter talks about how scoffers ignored talk of the flood (Gen 6 and 7). How do you think that went?

“The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” (7:24)

Have you noticed that Jesus constantly encounters critics? The leaders of our churches, schools and states have certainly felt bewildered and in a daze during the pandemic. It is a true test of Christian leadership! The critics are everywhere and these leaders are trying to do the right thing. Someone always disagrees. It is my hope and prayer that they can deal with critics in a positive way.

Peter said in verse 8 that “With the Lord a day is like 1000 years, and 1000 years are like a day.” He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to know and accept Jesus Christ as THE Son of God.

If I am a Christian, then I deal with critics with a Christian response so “everyone” can see Christ living in me:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.”

1 Cor 13:4

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Gal 6:9

Jesus listened to critics with gentless, kindness and patience.

How about you?

Tom Weckesser

February 5 – Faithfulness – He Died for Sinners

Read Romans 5:6-11, Isaiah 53:4-5 & 1 John 1:9

I can’t keep promises. I don’t think I’m known as an irresponsible person but I do let people down. I let myself down. I don’t follow through. I get lazy. Forgetful. Defiant.

I can’t be 100 percent anything. God, on the other hand, is 100 percent faithful, 100 percent pure, 100 percent good, 100 percent forgiving.

Do you trust that? It took me a long time.

I spent years confessing the same sin over and over. I was wearing it. Remembering it. Under it. Until God opened my eyes to my unbelief. If you would have asked me if I thought I was forgiven, I would have said, ‘yes’. If you would have asked me if there’s any sin Jesus couldn’t forgive, I would have said, ‘There isn’t.’

But saying and living are two different things. In my head, I was guilty. There was weight in my steps. I wasn’t free.

I was a slave.

Until, I let go of it and believed that what God said was true.

As I loosened my grip on any power I thought I had in deserving His love and admitted my pride, I was unhooked from the how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid train of thought for the last time. I clung to my Savior of compassion that has always known all of the missteps I would and still will take. He died for them. He’s not surprised by them.

And He is faithful and just to forgive them as I confess them.

Once you were alienated from Christ and enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now, He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death and resurrection to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Col. 1:21-22) I knelt down that day blinded by accusations. But belief raised me to see the invitation to take Jesus at His word. I was free to rest in His righteousness and surrender my memories. As I did, He reminded me they were also leaving His memory, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103).

Earlier, I mentioned that I’m not 100 percent anything. However, through faith in the Faithful One, I’m 100 percent forgiven. Will you confess the sin you’re carrying and step into the freedom Jesus has secured for you?

Shelly Eberly

February 4 – Faithfulness – He Is for Us

Read Romans 8:31-32

Romans 6-8 is probably some of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. Not only is Paul speaking of our life in sin, but he ends with speaking of the power over death and resurrection that Christ has over our lives. It is because of THAT that we cannot be separated from God’s love. It is because of THAT that we have the accessible Spirit of Christ dwelling within us. He fights for us, He covers us, He protects us, He guides us.

The truth of verse 31 goes so much deeper than what we might initially read.

When I was a child, teen, young adult (before I was a surrendered follower of Jesus) and I read this verse, I only thought of the physical harm that I could face. Such as an enemy, mean gossip, unkindness…etc.

However, after I became a follower of Jesus and I read the book of Romans, I found that it is filled with verses upon verses on the spiritual battle we face daily as believers. Paul is reminding us that, because we have the Spirit of Christ dwelling within, we are loved beyond measure. No evil can stand against the power of Christ.

I think back just a few months ago, having a miscarriage could definitely and has definitely challenged my faith. However, the beauty of being a follower of Jesus is that, even in those hard moments, hours, and days, Christ dwelled within Jake and I. He held us and continues to hold us. He understood/understands my heartache. He allowed me the space to be still and just reflect on what had happened. And then… something wonderful continues to happen.

I am reminded of His love and that not even my sadness and heartache will separate me from Him. That even though it is hard in this life, our baby’s life is where it was truly intended to be –  with Him. That in and of itself is Christ being for me and for our child.

I remember about 10 years ago, I loved the idea of being on the potter’s wheel. I craved conviction and revelation because I knew that, in the brokenness of my life, God was making something beautiful out of it. He doesn’t promise sunshine, rainbows and happy times…He promises Himself through it all.

He is faithful in showing up. No matter what happens, no matter what you are going through or whatever situation you are walking through, be reminded that He is for you. He is taking the brokenness you may be facing and helping you experience the beauty of His glory.

Kelly Lawson

February 3 – Faithfulness – He Heals Us : One Person’s Story

Read Psalm 34:17-19, Isaiah 41:10 and 1 Peter 5:10

In February of 2016 I was diagnosed with MDS, sometimes referred to as pre-leukemia. Let’s just call it cancer. In 2003 my sister, my only sibling, died of cancer and, after a few months of watching cell levels go lower and lower, I have to say I was afraid. I was confident that, when I died, I would be in Heaven with Jesus but I was afraid of the process of dying. I just plain didn’t want to die.

A good friend heard about my situation and came over to encourage me. He took my Bible and marked Psalm 34:17 – 19. This meant so much to me because I was “crushed in spirit”. This caused me to start writing and reading encouraging verses every day, memorizing many of them. This, in conjunction with so many people praying for me, started making a positive difference.

I needed a bone marrow transplant but the doctors couldn’t find an appropriate donor. They finally decided to use my youngest daughter and set a transplant date.

I had been battling depression through this process and knew I needed to hand it all over to Jesus, trusting Him completely. November of 2017, 3 months before the transplant, I was listening to a message on fully trusting Jesus. He said the first step was to have a pure heart. This caused me to literally get on my knees and start taking responsibility for things in my past, confessing and asking for forgiveness in a way I had never done before. It was literally as though a tremendous weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer so down and I had much more hope. I since have prayed hundreds of times that He would lift me up and He always does (Isaiah 41:10).

This is really just the beginning of the story. I would love to spend hours giving much more detail of God’s faithfulness during my healing but here is the abbreviated version.

February 2018, I had the transplant, which requires a lengthy recovery period and a lot of faith as they wipe out your immune system and your body’s ability to produce blood cells. God brought me through the transplant and recovery amazingly well with few side effects. I was able to start working some about the middle of May.

All was well until early July when I contracted pneumonia and spent several weeks in the hospital. I found out later that all of the doctors but one had given up on me when I was in the ICU. But God healed me so quickly that they were amazed and couldn’t explain it. We knew it was God.

Another bout of pneumonia came in Jan of 2020 that had me back on quite a bit of oxygen. I left the hospital and came home, still needing oxygen. God did it again and I’ve experienced a complete 180 over the past year in spite of COVID. Praise God!

So, my advice, when you’re in trouble, is to turn to our Heavenly Father and trust Him completely. You may have to turn to Him every hour of every day but that’s OK. He will never leave you or forsake you (1 Peter 5:10).

I don’t know God’s timing on this for you, maybe not even in this life. But, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I know He will fulfill this promise for you!

Mike Molter

February 2 – Faithfulness – He Heals Us

Read Psalm 41:3

“The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.”

Psalm 41:1

“Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases…”

Psalm 103:2 – 3

Does God still heal people?

Let’s start by looking at just a couple of His promises.

First, we need to look at who this was written to – It was written to Israel (God’s children). So, does this apply to followers of Jesus Christ? I believe it does. The Bible tells us that Christians have been “in-grafted” into the family of God and become adopted children of God (Romans 11:11-24).

So how does God do the healing?

There are many ways, one of which would be direct healing.

Another way, which I’m familiar with, is by using doctors and other medical professionals and what we think of as modern medicine.

I’ve also seen how God uses other people to help in the healing process. This can be as simple as just taking a meal, visiting someone and certainly praying for people. I’ve experienced God’s love through the caring and service of just “ordinary” people.

So why doesn’t God heal all of His children?

Well, I don’t know.

But what I do know is we can trust in His love and His plan. I completely believe He can take anything and use it for His glory and the good of those who love Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who i have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

I’ve seen how God can use the trouble in my life to help others. When people know you have been through or are going through something similar to what they are going through, you can often be a much more effective helper, encourager and prayer. I also find that I’m lifted up when I’m helping someone else.

Another “benefit” of not being healed right away is growing much closer to God. My trust in God has really increased as a result of a recent and serious illness. This has been especially true when I didn’t know if I was going to be healed.

Something else is how I view the focus and purpose of my life. I’ve wrestled with Paul’s view of his life. “To live is Christ and to die is gain”. I’m closer to understanding that statement on a personal level.

So, if you’re in need of healing, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, please turn to Jesus. He went through much rejection and suffering so He can relate to your situation.

I believe He will lift you up.

If you’re doing well, please pray about who you can help and how.

You could be an instrument of God’s love!

Mike Molter