March 11 – Hard Questions 2.0 – “Why trust the Bible, a book based on myths and full of contradictions and mistakes?”

Read Galatians 3:16 and John 17:17

I admit that I still struggle with this very question. No, not because I believe the Bible is based on myths and full of contradictions and mistakes, but rather because it is difficult to explain this question to someone who doesn’t know Christ as their personal Savior.

Let me explain what I mean by this. I remember professors in college saying that you can get the notes from someone in class, but you truly won’t understand the material without being in the lecture. You can read the notes but, unless the teacher is there to help you interpret them, you won’t fully understand them.

To understand the Bible, we need a teacher, and that teacher is the Holy Spirit. You can read the Bible without the Spirit, but the Bible may seem foolish or seemingly contain mistakes or contradictions. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

God’s word was inspired or “breathed out” by the Holy Spirit. Over 40 people over thousands of years under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. The Holy Spirit is ultimately the author as He moved each human author to write what they did.

If the Holy Spirit wrote Scripture, we need His help to discern Scripture.

Galatians 3:16 says:

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’, meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person, who is Christ.”

This passage gives us a glimpse into how deliberate the words of the Bible are. Here, Paul makes a small distinction so that even the smallest detail is accurate to the inspiration that he was writing under.

But I understand that there are legitimate concerns or questions and I do not diminish that. The Bible can be difficult to understand and maybe you are struggling with doubts and questions. I encourage you to ask God for help. Ask Him to give you understanding. Ask Him to open your eyes to His truth. Jesus prays for His disciples in John 17:17:

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

The word sanctify means to set apart for sacred use or to make holy. God wants you to understand the truth so that you can grow and be more like His Son, Jesus.

I challenge each of you this week, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey, to ask a good Christian friend, family member, or church leader for help with your doubts or questions about the Bible, faith, Jesus, or any other question you may have.

How can you engage with the Bible to grow your faith and understanding in Jesus? What next steps do you need to take in your faith?

Ethan Cline

February 16 – ReGen – Follow

Read Galatians 5:22-25

Step 7 – “We humbly ask God’s Spirit to change our hearts and minds in order to follow Christ fully. “

Our reading today says we need to keep in step with the Spirit. What does that look like to you?

When our son, Matt, spent a summer in the Philippines on a cross cultural experience for college, he would send us pictures of his activities.  One of my favorite pictures was of him walking along a dusty path with five little Filipino kids following behind him. The kids didn’t know where they were going, how long the journey, or how rocky the path, but they trusted in their leader and kept following him in his steps. 

The definition of follow is “to go or come after; to move behind in the same direction; to imitate or copy.”

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”

Romans 8:29

If God plans to conform you to the image of Jesus and Jesus is the visible image of God, it means that God’s plan is for you to become His image bearer – to be like Him. But He didn’t leave us alone in this process of following Him.

Keep reading.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will bein you.”

John 14:16-17

When we’ve placed our faith in Christ, the Spirit lives in us.  Relying on the Holy Spirit is critical for our recovery from whatever sin struggle we are dealing with.

Maybe you’re struggling with your relationship with Jesus. Maybe you want to grow in your knowledge of Him. In Step 7, Re:generation provides these four ways to help you.

  1. Praying. God is personal. He wants you to communicate with Him.  Jesus made time for talking and listening to the Father.
  2. Reading and memorizing God’s word.  The Bible is God’s love letter. He wrote it through faithful men who preserved it for you to know God and His will.  It aligns your heart and mind with God.
  3. Spending time with God’s people. At Re:generation, you see people changed by a relationship with Jesus.  They try to live by the Spirit, walk by faith, serve sacrificially, love radically, and live in truth and grace. 
  4. Walking in step with God by His word and the Spirit. Each step of Re:generation is a step of faith to walk with God in His will, as revealed by His word through the power of the Spirit.  Thus, your understanding of God’s love and power has grown.

So today, how are you doing following Christ fully? Are you keeping in step with the Spirit or have you gotten off the path?

The choice is yours.

Cathy Simms – ReGen Leader

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!

November 6 – The Poor Millionaire – The Good Life

Read Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 10:24 and Galatians 6:9

What is “The Good Life?”  

I suppose if you asked 100 different people you would get 100 different answers. However, probably all of the answers would involve personal happiness, things, and wealth.  

What does your answer include? Luxury cars, a life of leisure, lots of money, a beautiful home, or well-behaved children?  

Maybe you look at famous people and think, “Wow, they sure have the good life!” 

But . . . do they?   

A closer look at their lives, behind the cameras or away from the microphones, often tells a story of drugs, alcohol and misery!

When I think of defining “The Good Life” my mind goes to one of my favorite movies . . .

It’s A Wonderful Life.   In it, George Baily thought that his good life would include traveling to foreign countries, far away from his hometown of Bedford Falls.  In his mind, he couldn’t possibly find happiness, stuck in this little town working in his father’s building and loan. But every time he thought he could finally escape his present life, something would come up and he would find himself giving up his dreams to help someone else. It wasn’t until an angel named Clarence showed George that, in spite of still remaining in Bedford Falls all his life, George had really had a wonderful life.  He had a life of service to his neighbors and even several times literally saving the other person’s life! 

Without knowing it, George was the prime example of today’s verses. Clarence helped George transform his mind from what he wished for to what really could give him happiness.  All his life he had given up his own good for the good of others. Clarence also encouraged George to not grow weary of doing good!

In contrast Mr. Potter, who to the world should have had a good life because of all the money and power he had, was actually living a miserable, unhappy, LONELY life!

George had invested in the lives of others, while Mr. Potter invested only in himself. 

If Jesus, not “Clarence”, came to visit you, what would you be able to show Him about your life?  Could He take you back to events where you sacrificed your own welfare for the welfare of others?  Times you visited shut-ins, helped a hurting child, went out of your way to make someone’s day?  Maybe you had to miss a party or a get-together because someone needed you? Or would He find you so wrapped up in accumulating wealth or power for yourself? Would He find that you might be rich in monetary wealth, but poor in friendships and true happiness?

Where are your life “investments?” Are they in things that can rust and be stolen or in the lives of others? The first leads to “The Miserable Life”. While the second leads to not only “The Good Life” but “The Wonderful Life”.  

Choose wisely!

Pat Arnold

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 7 – Life Verses – Galatians 6:10

Read Galatians 6: 1-10

My mom makes the most awesome cookies. Warm and soft with melted chocolate chips straight out of the oven, or cold and crunchy from a stash in the freezer, they are just one of the many ways she has shared love over the years. When Sharon and I travel to San Diego to see our son and his family, there is always a bag of “Grandma’s cookies” for them.  Missing the opportunity to take a gallon sized bag of her love to them would be unthinkable. While transporting them requires care to deliver intact cookies and not a bag full of crumbs, in one sense it’s easy because we have anticipated each trip months in advance.

Opportunity : Doing good things for others can be like that. We anticipate. We buy gifts for birthdays, weddings and special occasions. Unless we are mindful, though, it can be easy to miss the opportunities that God provides when those situations appear to pop up out of the blue.  He will provide each of us opportunities. Do you try to keep your spiritual eyes and ears open for them?

Doing good:  Mom’s cookies are delicious. But I wouldn’t be doing good if I gave a whole bag of them to someone who is diabetic or who is trying to lose weight.  With each opportunity, God also expects us to prayerfully consider what is actually most beneficial for that person.  As you pray, do you pray for wisdom in how to best respond?

All people:  Not just the people we like.  The opportunities God provides are not filtered down to just those people we are close to. They are not reserved for folks just like us. They are the “all” from every tribe, tongue and nation. “All” even includes those who want nothing to do with religion.  Who would God place in your path that you might otherwise be unlikely to encourage?

This became my life verse when God opened my eyes to the last part of today’s verse: “especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.  While doing good to “all people” is important, we, as a family, should be even more aware of and sensitive to our brothers and sisters in Christ. When our hearts beat with love, our lives will be marked with generosity and encouragement for them.

What can you do? Doing good can be meeting physical needs, but it more frequently means encouraging them spiritually, intellectually and emotionally. Each one of us can find joy in doing good because these opportunities will always be within reach of what God has already provided. Remember that only a part of those resources are financial. Encouraging others takes place in so many ways through acts of kindness, praying with and for them, being a listening ear, or things as simple as a smile and a hug. Pray today that God would use you to bring joy and encouragement into the lives of those around you – especially to your family!

Wade Karhan

December 13 – Family Christmas – A Blessing to All Families

The following is a YouVersion plan. To participate with this plan on YouVersion, download the app, create an account and click on the link here to participate:

Family Christmas

Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

Read Galatians 3:7

A Blessing to All Families

By Danny Saavedra

“Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” – Galatians 3:7 (NIV)

Abraham is called the father of faith, the patriarch of Israel. James 2:23 (NLT) says, “’Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.” 

It all started in Genesis 12. Here, God instructs Abraham to pack up and leave his home and all his comforts behind, to uproot his family and travel to a foreign land. In fact, Abraham wasn’t even told which land. God told him to “go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NLT). But along with this colossal call came a promise: “I will make you into a great nation . . . All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2–3 NLT).

At 75 years old, Abram answers this call and heads out with his family. The interesting thing about God’s promise was that Abraham and his wife Sarah had no children. How would God make a great nation out of a childless old man and his wife? Well, Abraham wondered the same thing! So, God revealed His plan and told Abraham that he would have a child, and that eventually his descendants would outnumber the stars! And guess what? Despite the odds, despite the logic and circumstances, Abraham believed God! And it was at that moment that God counted Abraham as righteous.

Later in Genesis 15, God seals His promise to Abraham by making a covenant. God was originally going to make this pact with Abraham through a sacrifice. But before this could happen, God caused Abraham to fall asleep, and as he awoke, he “saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day . . .” (Genesis 15:17-18 NLT). The covenant was made without Abraham because it wasn’t dependent on him or on his descendants, but on God alone.

You see, the story of Abraham teaches us our role in God’s plan of salvation. It’s not work, but worship. In Genesis 12, Abraham received the promise by faith. And immediately after that he built an altar, a place of worship. Why? Because he understood very clearly that neither his right standing with God nor the promises God made to him were dependent on who he was or what he did, but on his faith and God’s faithfulness. 

As you go through your day today, remember there is power in worshiping God for all He is and the strength He gives you. As we see with Abraham, it’s not about what we can do, but what He’s done. So worship Him, because “you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26–27, 29 NKJV).

As believers, saved by amazing grace, we belong to Jesus—the Seed of Abraham, the One who came to fulfill the promise made by God. That means that, by faith, just like Abraham, we have become heirs, sons and daughters, members of God’s family, part of the promise. That’s the beauty of the Christmas story. It was all done so that we could be grafted into the line of Abraham and become part of Jesus’ family tree! God did all the work. All we have to do is receive His gift.

October 7 – Living Sacrifice – Be Transformed

Read Romans 12:2 and Galatians 1:4

August 2011 began the biggest year of my life.

I found myself in the central Florida town of Sebring at a major crossroads in my life. While I was a follower of Christ, I was, in no way, honoring the Lord through how I was living my life. There was unrepented sin in my life and my maturity level was that of, well, a 19-year-old.

Even today (29, married with a son, Mattie, and a daughter, Emma, to be born any day), I look back on that time in my life and remember how important that was for my life. It was that year when I finally released control of my life to Jesus and began cleaning up my life, moving in the direction of becoming a more fully devoted follower of Christ.

In what way has God transformed your life?

A huge part of being a living sacrifice, as this series has been teaching us, is being transformed. Romans 12:2 talks about how we need to not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

The first step in living transformed is to identify areas in our life where we are conforming to the world. Where are our priorities out of line? In what way are we blending in rather than standing out? While it’s different for everyone, understanding our weak points helps propel us into the transformation that needs to take place.

Secondly, Paul tells us that we need to renew our mind. Personally, I would love to know what Paul was thinking when he penned these words. What does renewing your mind look like? For me, this involved looking at my life in a whole different perspective. Instead of living in the here and now, how can I live with my future in mind? How can I begin thinking long term? What decisions do I need to make in order to put myself in the best position to be a beacon of light to people?

Next, this involved me taking action. Good thoughts don’t hold much weight if they aren’t acted upon. I needed to cleanse my life of the sin that I had allowed to creep in and I needed to begin building the foundation of my life upon Christ. Tough decisions needed to be made and battles needed to be fought. Surrounding myself with people who would help in the process, not just agree with everything I said, was huge. Honestly, I needed to start listening to loved ones who had been trying to help for so long but I never let in.

How can you live a transformed life? I would encourage you to identify areas where you are conforming; generate next steps and take action!

Paul tells us within his letter to the church in Galatia that Jesus gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age so why would we live in bondage to sin? If we have been freed, why not live transformed?

Begin the transformational process today!

Jake Lawson

July 13 – Leadership – Guarding Against Negative Influence

Read Galatians 5:7-9

Have you ever heard the saying “You are who you hang out with”?

When I’ve heard that in the past, I used to believe it was absolutely ridiculous and would say, “I don’t care what people think, I am my own person and none of my friends effect that”. I was confident that the people I was closest to didn’t change who I was. In high school, I thought I could have it all – go to church, go to parties, and be the same girl at both. After I started coming to church and started surrounding myself with a different crowd of people, I quickly learned that the people I had in my close circle did, in fact, effect me.

I had to change a few people within my inner circle so I could become the person who I knew God had created me to be.

What I have learned over the years is that, in order for me to love others and share the love of Christ with them, I need to first surround myself with people who are going to be pouring truth into my life. I can’t lead others well if I don’t first lead myself. Being a leader means that I need to be equipped to share the gospel to help others do the same. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to share the name of Jesus and to be a light in the lives of others. We’re not called to only hang out with other Christians or only church people, but rather we’re called to make disciples.

So, the question is . . . how do we do both, hang out with people who challenge us to be more like Christ and those who don’t know who Jesus is?

The best thing I’ve found is creating boundaries. For example, for my friends who don’t know who Jesus is, I am extremely cautious with how much time I spend with them so that I have a chance to influence them but limiting my time, in case I feel them beginning to influence me. Being a light in someone’s life is incredibly important but, if you’re the only light shining in a dark room, your light will begin to dim, and no one will be there to help it shine again if you’re relying on your own strength to power through.

Maybe you’re like I was in thinking that you’re strong enough to not let it effect you, but as Galatians 5:9 says, “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough”, which means that, if you’re only around those who don’t challenge you to be like Christ, it will impact who you are overtime. We could lead others to do that same, we just need to be intentional with whom we surround ourselves.

I challenge you to look at your list of friends.

Who are the people that can pour truth into your life? And what do you need to do to make sure these are the relationships that are influencing you? Who are the people that you’re able to influence, and what boundaries do you need to set in place to be a shining (not dim) light in their life? What does it look like for you to lead these people into also sharing the gospel with others in their lives?

Michelle Perrino

June 2 – Secret Sin – Encouraging others

Read Galatians 6:1-5

“If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

Bruce was in charge of a rescue mission in Barberton to help people who suffered from alcoholism. He also would spend some of his time going into local bars and trying to encourage people to get sober. He would not drink alcohol. He would hand out tracts that explain the immense importance of Christianity. He would go into a bar and tell people that Jesus loves them. Sometimes he would stand out in front of the bar and talk to people before they started drinking. It could be dangerous because some of the people in a bar are not thinking straight because they have alcohol in their systems. It was also dangerous because he had to watch himself so he would not be tempted to drink. It is a great Christian ministry. A lot of the people that Bruce talked to in bars had never talked to a Christian before about Jesus Christ. He did not try to “fix” people. He would listen, encourage and tell them about Jesus.

To gently restore a person in sin is a most loving action.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

If you can carry somebody’s moral burdens then you are fulfilling the law of Christ. Do you know someone who needs this? There are people who need a friend, a listening ear or maybe are experiencing grief. You can carry their burden by listening and looking for ways to assist them by taking a meal or offering to shovel their driveway or mow their yard or buy them groceries or actually demonstrating kindness!

“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”

Am I too important to help someone who is weak? Living by the spirit results in doing good (1-5) and reaping rewards from one’s work (6-10). In this way we are loving one another (2).

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else for each one should carry their own load.”

Learn people’s “love languages,” the special ways they communicate and understand love. Especially your spouse! In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that not everyone’s emotional needs are met in the same way, and that it’s important to learn to adapt ourselves to their needs. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

Do you know your love language?

Is there a way that you can love and care for people in the way that would help them the most?

Choose to encourage someone in your life today.

Tom Weckesser

February 28 – People of the Earth – Faith as Righteousness

Read Galatians 3:1-29

I have never been good at mathematics. In school, I would find myself doing an elaborate math problem and as it progressed, I would feel like things were going well; the numbers didn’t seem too high or low and my temper was in check. I would get an answer that I could live with and submit it, only to find out that it was wrong. “What?! I wasted all that time and I got the problem wrong?!” When I would go back and look over the problem, I would find that I forgot a single negative sign, ONE! One sign determined whether the solution was right or wrong. The whole entire math problem was made or broken by a single negative sign.  Christianity is a lot like that.

To some, it appears to be a very complicated and broad topic. Many thesis papers, books and journal articles have been written about Christianity and yet there is still more to be learned. Some people look at Christianity and are turned off because they feel there are too many rules and regulations to being a proper Christian.

While there may be a lot of debate on the topic of Christianity, it all boils down to faith.  Faith is what makes or breaks it.  Without faith,  there is no Christianity. The idea of faith is one that the church of Galatia struggled with. They were overly concerned with their actions or living under the Deuteronomic law. They were getting so bogged down by all the details that they were losing sight of the main goal.

Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 3 that anyone can come to faith in Jesus, only if they have faith. It is nothing that they can do by themselves; it is only through the faith that they possess. It is NEVER Jesus + something = salvation! It is just Jesus, faith in Who He is.

In reaching the people of the earth, while there may be some difficulties, the one thing the lost need is faith. Faith in Jesus: His life, His death, and His resurrection. That alone is what saves someone.  It is not a result of anything they can do. Knowing that anyone can be saved, we need to be good stewards of the opportunities God has given us.

Jake Lawson