September 20 – Anxiety – Peace from God

Read John 14:27

I love this verse! Every time I read it I am flooded with peace. Let’s read it one more time, one sentence at a time.

Peace I leave with you”: His peace is already here. A gift already given.

My peace I give to you”: His promise to continue to supply us with peace.

I do not give to you as the world gives”: Who robs us of peace? The world does. Which is exactly why true peace cannot come from this world, not from anyone (or anything) in it. It must come from God.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And if we can be strong enough to not just believe this verse but receive it, God is going to give us a peace to combat any circumstance or fear we face.

Do you feel peace right now? I do. It pours over me every time I dig into each line. It doesn’t change my circumstances but it does give me the strength to not allow my circumstances to change me.

There is so much fear, doubt, concern, anger and anxiety in our world right now and our Father’s choice of attack against this onslaught by the enemy is always the same: PEACE. But how do we test the voice we are listening to as we seek peace? Here’s a helpful comparison I once read:

God’s Voice: stills you, leads you, reassures you, enlightens you, encourages you, comforts you, calms you and convicts you.

The enemy’s voice: rushes you, pushes you, frightens you, confuses you, discourages you, worries you, obsesses you and condemns you.

“As for me and my house, we serve (listen to) the Lord”

Joshua 24:15.

What an easy way to serve the Lord!

The simple act of accepting His peace can change not just your life but it will become a calming beacon of hope to several lives around you. Take a moment and receive it. No matter how frustrated or fearful your circumstances are, the Holy Spirit is with you wherever you find yourself reading this.

Lord, let the reader feel you literally take the weight off of their shoulders. I speak healing and deliverance to their heart and mind. Calm their spirit. Deep breath. Receive His Peace.

Nate Torrence

September 14 – Loving others

Read John 13:34-35 and 1 Peter 3:10-12

I must admit that it certainly is hard to be a Christian in today’s culture. Yes, we have the promise of eternity with God Almighty, but it doesn’t always make walking through today’s challenges easy. Just a couple of scrolls on your social media of choice and you find just how divided and dark our world is. I find my spirit getting bogged down and discouraged.

My heart breaks.

It breaks because, not only is our world so divided, but my mind shifts to our children, Mattie and Emma. What kind of world are they going to grow up in? How soon until they are confronted with sinful people with evil intentions? How will this take a toll on their spirits and faith? Will they be able to handle it?

I can feel tears well up in my eyes when I am reminded of the hope that we have as believers. As a tear breaks loose from my eye, I grin as I am reminded just how small our world is in the grand scheme of eternity.

One of the things that is increasingly difficult for people today is loving one another. In such a dark and darkening world, the Bible is clear that we are to love one another.

Simple as that.

Believe it or not, I used to question my dad when it came to school stuff. He would help me with homework and I would still disagree with his answer. For those of you who don’t know, my dad holds a PhD from THE Ohio State University. Why would I ever disagree with someone like that? I can still see the look he would give me when I would question his work. His look seemed to say, “I don’t know what to tell you…this is how it is done.”

The same is true with our reading today. When Jesus told His disciples to love one another, He meant just that. There is no room for “but what about…”. I would guess Jesus would give a similar expression to His disciples as the one dad gave me, “I don’t now what else to tell you…love one another means love one another.”

It is hard to do but, as followers of Christ, we are called to love one another. This means the people who are hard to love. This means the people who disagree with you. This means people who talk ill of you.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Love one another.

How do you show people Jesus inside of you?

By loving one another.

Taking it a step further, 1 Peter 3 tells us to pursue peace.

Do you pursue peace? Are you going out of your way to pursue peace with those around you?

What steps are you going to take to love the hard to love? Who do you need to make amends with? How can you go out of your way to take peace to those around you?

As dark as this world is, our command is simple…love one another and pursue peace with those around us. This is how we shine out in a changing culture.

Simple as that.

Jake Lawson

September 6 – A Changing Culture – Adversity

Read John 16:16-33

Deafening silence, fine mess, seriously funny, genuine imitation- all oxymorons that clearly confuse us! 

Today’s reading seems like it falls under the same category. Jesus speaks of both sorrow and joy in the same sentence. Paul also reiterates this in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Sorrow and joy are contradictory words in our world, but Jesus brings unity to them. They are not rivals, but rather companions. Learning to live with these as companions is a key to the peace that Jesus mentioned in John 16:33. His purpose: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

His promise: “In this world you will have trouble.” His power: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Since I was a little girl, I have sung the chorus, “Standing on the promises of Christ my King… Glory in the highest I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God.” We tend to gravitate toward and pick out the promises that make us feel good, but in today’s passage, Jesus promises that we will have adversity. We all have experienced that. Just last evening I received a phone call with discouraging news regarding an extended family member. The promise of “you will have trouble” is not foreign to any of us, but do we live in Jesus’ overcoming power?

This summer, during our continued long wait for full-time employment for my husband, I became bogged down in discouragement. Reading in Psalm 40, I found that I could relate to the pit of destruction and miry clay in which David was stuck. Living in adversity, sorrow and joy were at odds with each other, but the power of Him lifting me out of the pit and setting my feet upon the rock- the rock of Christ- making my footsteps firm restored my joy and peace. Psalm 40:3 says, “And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” How do we sing in the midst of adversity? By allowing sorrow and joy to walk side by side.

I love the bookends in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk begins with the cry, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help?” The prophet concludes his book with his heart’s resolution, “even if, I will.” Even if the circumstances do not change, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (see Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Yes, sorrow and joy can coexist. We will have adversity, but Jesus’ power offers us His peace. Our situations that cause us sorrow may not alter, but He gives us the power to live in His joy.  In my Bible’s margin of Habakkuk, I wrote, “Do we judge God by our circumstances or judge our circumstances in light of the character of God?” God has not changed and His power is available to us so that we can be sorrowful, but always rejoicing.

It’s really not an oxymoron!

Charline Engle

August 29 – Missions Spotlight – Rob and Nichole Plaster

Read John 13:34-35

Ministry: Loving people to Jesus in the City of Light (Paris, France)

Missionaries: The Plasters of Paris, Rob and Nichole Plaster

In our home, the Gospel is about sharing God’s love with people who have often never met anyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus.

Discipleship is often about growing alongside those who have never touched a Bible before and having the privilege of offering them their first Bible and accompanying them to learn to read it for themselves.

Here, church planting means cultivating a community of discipleship with people who have never seen a loving relationship modeled but who are willing to commit themselves to grow together.

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.
All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)

Here are some observations from the text:

  1. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16). You are God’s first choice in modeling His love to the nations.
  2. God loves when you let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). God is asking you to live your loving relationships in the public eye.
  3. God’s grace is enough for you. When you are weak, then His power is made perfect in you (2 Corinthians 12:9). God loves using our imperfections and messy relationships. If we pretend to have it all together, how will our neighbors know WHO really holds us together? 

How do you love someone to Jesus? By walking with them through the good times and the bad times, by weaving eternal truth into everyday conversations, by sowing large quantities of the word of God into their lives, and by teaching them to be students of the Holy Spirit every day.

Thank you for sending us to shine the Light in the City of Light, Paris, France.

Pray: Pray with us that the Lord of the harvest would send workers into the harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Our hearts are burdened to start a new church plant near our home. May God raise up kindred spirits who love discipleship, urban centers and the organic growth of Life Transformation Groups®.

Rob & Nichole Plaster

August 28 – Missions Spotlight – Bekah Hilty

Read John 10: 7-10

Ministry: Engaging, Equipping, and Empowering women to make healthy pregnancy decisions and provide alternatives to abortion

Mission: The Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County

On March 19th at 3:27 PM we received a call from “Ashley” in which she said that she was 4 weeks pregnant and needed the abortion pill and needed it as soon as possible. The urgency in her voice was nothing like we had heard before. After 20 minutes of counseling Ashley, she hung up the phone abruptly because her friends worked next door to the Pregnancy Care Center, and she could not take the risk of them seeing her come in and know she was pregnant. Less than 24 hours before that call came in, the PCC had launched a new marketing strategy to reach more abortion vulnerable women. Since that call we have counseled over 15 women who wanted a surgical or chemical abortion.

John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came that we would have life and have It to the full. We like to replace the word full in that verse with abundant because we aren’t just Pro-Life, we are Pro-Abundant Life. We are committed to transforming lives physically and spiritually. The true Shepherd, Jesus, is the protector and promoter of life. The false shepherds take it away. The false shepherds pressure these women into thinking that abortion is their only option. They tell them that their quality of life will be compromised if they have a baby. These false shepherds seek to carry away the sheep.

Saving lives for this world is critically important. But saving lives for eternity is the most important thing we can do. Additionally, true and lasting transformation of those involved in making pregnancy decisions (moms, dads, family, friends) comes only through a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Pray: Please pray for the women who are desperately seeking to have an abortion. Pray for our staff and volunteers that we can speak the truth in love to these women. Pray that we can Engage with them, Equip them with accurate information, and Empower them to make a healthy choice for themselves and their baby.

Bekah Hilty

July 31 – Foundation for Life Change – Full Life

Read John 10:10

When you think about living a full life, what comes to mind? For me it used to be thinking about all the things I wanted. The experiences, the stuff, the relationships, etc. All of those equal a full life, right?! What an incredible realization when I began to learn that a full life is not tied to any of those things. Does God care about those things? Absolutely! Can we still live a full life without them? Yes! A full life lived with Jesus is so much more satisfying than any life we can imagine for ourselves without Him. 

In John 10, Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd. In verse 10, he says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they make have life, and have it to the full.” The full life begins when we surrender ourselves to the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us. We all have an idea of what we think the full life holds, but when we surrender our lives to Jesus and allow Him to guide and direct us we know that His plan for us holds far more than we could ever ask or imagine. 

Every week at Grace Students our hosts open by telling the students that “Grace Students exists to invite you to the full life God has for you!” and it’s in the message, and it’s in our leader training, and it’s woven throughout everything we do on Sunday night and beyond. Because we believe that the full life is found through Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him! Everything we do flows from this. We want every student (and adult) who walks through our doors to receive an invitation to a relationship with Jesus, and the full life that is found through Him alone. Would you pray with us that this continues to happen?

What does it look like to live a full life? Are you living a life that you believe to be full when it really isn’t? My prayer is that you would begin to unlock the full life God has for you by surrendering yourself to Him, each and every day!

A full life only comes from Jesus!

Brooke Spengler

July 7 – Back to the Basics – The Holy Spirit

Read John 14:26

We’ve walked through many aspects of the basics of our faith in this series, from the Bible to the Trinity. The Trinity is God, the Father, Christ is the Son and then we have the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is God existing eternally in 3 persons. We may think 3 people, but they all are one. As a new believer, this may get a little confusing and you may wonder why, but I would encourage you to keep on reading.

Let’s look back at the gospels for just a moment.

Jesus walked the earth, the one Son of God, our Savior. He walked the earth, healing and restoring people, teaching and prophesying and, when He knew what was to come of His life and His resurrection, He knew we would still need Him. So, He sent His Spirit.

The Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been in a moment where your life seems to unravel? Where one thing after another happens and you aren’t sure how you’re going to get through it all?

I bet you have, we all have. Living in a fallen world, striving to follow Jesus, is not an easy task. However, as John points out, we are not alone.

The Holy Spirit is known as the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Counselor and many others. God sent His Spirit alongside us to guide and direct, to comfort and counsel, to point back to truth and To encourage us to live in such a way that glorifies the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is not someone to fear or reject. The Holy Spirit is a gift from our Savior and given to us to guide and direct. The choice though, to listen, is our own.

One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 4:14-16:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I love this passage so much, not just because we have Jesus who can relate and sympathize with our weakness, but, because of Jesus and the access through the Holy Spirit, we get to go before the throne room of God Himself.

This series is “Back to Basics” but there is nothing basic about the Holy Spirit.

I pray and encourage you, wherever you are, that you take a moment and just enter into the throne room and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, praise the Lord for who He is, what He has done and what He continues to do.

Kelly Lawson

July 6 – Back to the Basics – Jesus Christ

Read John 1:14

MercyMe recently played at The Alive Music Festival in Stark County in front of 10,000 people. They started to sing one of their songs titled WORD OF GOD SPEAK:

“Word of God speak, would you pour down like rain, washing my eyes to see, your majesty.”

And guess what? It actually started to rain at that moment. It was very memorable.

“Word of God” is another name for Jesus Christ. It is interesting to read about history and all the events that have happened on this earth before we got here. The Bible is about Jesus Christ and it’s the greatest history book ever written. Jesus Christ is called many names in the Bible, such as The Word (John 1:14), The Truth (John 1:14), Light of The World (John 8:12), Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16), The Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:6), Chief Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), Bread of Life (John 6:35), and Good Shepherd: (John 10:11).

It is written in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh.” This shows that Jesus existed before He took on the flesh of humanity. In the New Testament, “The Word of God” (1 Thess 1:8) is mostly good news from God. The word spoken by Jesus is truly the word from heaven.

Consider this: “Christianity is the only religion in the world that is based upon historical evidence. The evidence of Jesus Christ is absolutely overwhelming. No one can disbelieve in Christ because of a lack of evidence.” (James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion)

Jesus said that He would return from the grave. Then He did and it was witnessed by over 500 people. In all of the writings of Buddha (founder of Buddhism), Confucius (Chinese philosopher) and Lao-tse (Taoism) you will not find a single example of predicted prophecy. The glory of Jesus is revealed in His death, resurrection and the miracles that He performed. “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”. (John 2:11)

The Word of God is the message of the Bible and He said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – (Luke 10:27)

Isn’t this love something that we all can strive for? How are you going to do this?

Tom Weckesser

June 28 – God of Second Chances – Salvation

Read John 3:16-17

“Jesus, since the day I realized that you were the one, I never wanted to take my eyes off you. Sometimes life gets hard, and I get so distracted away from your perfection! I do not deserve your heart one bit, yet you love me unconditionally. No matter how many times I fail, you are always right there. Nothing I could ever do would deter your love for me. I’m forever grateful for the way you love me and never leave my side. You know me better than I will ever know myself. You know the best and worst about me and still call me by my name. When I lean into you, my best can be brought out. I have this passion burning in my heart for you. I never thought that a love like yours was possible. Without you I would be absolutely nothing; you give me a sense of hope, and you fulfill my heart with a permanent joy! Although you love me so deeply, my love for you fails at times. I have and will hurt you in so many ways, yet you still never leave. Thank you, O Lord, for without you I’d be worthless; I’d be alone, broken, sad, and lost without hope.”

In 2013 I committed my life to Jesus; this was a one-time commitment, yet, it’s a daily surrender. Before giving my life to Christ, I felt unloved, hopeless, and like I had no purpose. God created us to have a relationship with Him, but we cannot have this relationship because of the sin in our life. We’d never be able to do enough good to be in His presence. Thankfully, God loved us so much He provided a way to be with Him. He sent His Son down to live a perfect life and die a brutal death in our place to pay for our sins. It is because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that I can have a relationship with God.

God’s gift of grace is the second chance I didn’t know I needed.

God is offering this amazing gift to you! There is nothing that you can do to be good enough to deserve it, but He wants to have this relationship with you because HE LOVES YOU! When you admit that you have sinned and went your way instead of God’s way, believe that Jesus died in your place and was resurrected from the dead, commit to living your whole life for Him and accept the gift of grace He freely gives you through Jesus, you’re able to spend an eternity with God and there’s a spot saved for you in heaven.   

Being a follower of Jesus did NOT make my life perfect, but being a follower of Jesus DID give me hope, showed me that I am loved beyond what I can fathom, and revealed that I was made on purpose for a purpose. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us that it’ll be easy, but on almost every page, He promises it’ll ALL be worth it, living for Him. We get a love deeper than any other, a clean slate, and a second chance to be the person we were created to be.

If you’ve already made this decision, who is someone you can share this good news with?

Michelle Perrino

June 26 – God of Second Chances – Peter

Read John 21:15-19

Peter, Peter, Peter!  

Just who is this guy that Jesus asked 3 times if he loved Him?  We know he was a fisherman.  He was strong and bold and sometimes a hot head, often acting before thinking.  We also know that Jesus was depending on him to build His church.   Although Peter denied even knowing Jesus the night of His trial three times, Jesus still loved him and forgave him.   Jesus knew he was the perfect person to build His church upon.  Peter’s boldness was what was needed at that time if the church was going to survive the persecution that was in its future.

Peter went on to do exactly what Jesus had told him 3 times to do: feed His lambs, take care of and feed His sheep, the church.

He has missions for all of us to do too.  We are to use our God-given talents to feed and take care of the “sheep” around us and lead them not astray, but into a relationship with Him.  If we can teach, we need to teach.  If we can write, we need to write.  If we can sing, we need to sing. Everyone has a God-given talent they can and should dedicate to Christ and not be afraid of failing.  Jesus knows that we, just like Peter, are only human.  Try as we might, we are going to fail.  We are going to make mistakes.  He understands and He forgives. 

A few years back, I got to see a musical production called “God with Us.”  It is the story of Peter comforting a group of persecuted Christians by reminding them of all the things Jesus had done as they face their inevitable fate of hungry lions in an arena.   The final scene was of them being greeted by Jesus in heaven with a big hug! But when Peter came down the aisle, he was not walking but running full force up the ramp and into Jesus’ arms.  

For those of us who knew Peter’s full story, it had an extra special meaning of forgiveness from not only sin but denial!

Is that the way you want to be greeted in Heaven, running full force into the arms of Jesus?

The One who has been your Savior and friend through all the good and bad times of your life? The One who has listened to you as you called out to Him in the middle of the night for guidance. The One who knows the pain of having friends desert you when you thought you would be able to count on them.  The One who knows what you are going through because He has experienced it Himself.  The One who knows your faults and loves you anyways!

Do you know Him like that?  What steps do you need to take to grow in your knowledge of Him? In what ways are you scared of failing?

He is waiting for you to get to know Him, to give you, like He did Peter, a second chance. Get busy taking care of His sheep!

Pat Arnold