March 17 – Hard Questions 2.0 – “Why should I think that Heaven really exists and that God sends people to Hell?”

Read Ecclesiastes 3:11, John 14:2-3 and Matthew 13:41-43

As I write this, I reflect that yesterday was the ninth anniversary of my dad’s passing from this world into his glorious new life with his Savior, Jesus. I opened my Bible to read today’s reading and, in the margin of John 14, I had written the name “Dad” as this was one of his favorite passages.

The Bible speaks countless times on the subject of both Heaven and Hell. There is no disputing that life on earth is temporary. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 5 and the writer of Hebrews (9:27) says that it is appointed unto men once to die.

But what lies beyond the grave?

How can we know for certain that Heaven and Hell exist? How do we know where we will spend eternity?

On the eve of His death, Jesus explained to His disciples that He would not be with them much longer. Peter, in his eagerness, questioned where Jesus was going and why he couldn’t come with Him. In this context, Jesus comforts His disciples with the promise of Heaven, assuring them that where He was going, they would be also. Thomas, the evidence seeker of the group, wanted to make sure he knew the way. Jesus said to him:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

There is no other way to Heaven than through His son, Jesus. Jesus is not a way. He is the way. Paul says that although our earthly house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens… to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1,8). 

However, because of sin, we all deserve the wrath of God. For all have sinned (disobeyed God) and have fallen short of God’s glory. And the wages (consequences) of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23 and 6:23).

Perhaps the question we should ask is why wouldn’t God send people to Hell? What incredible grace (getting what we don’t deserve) and mercy (not getting what we do deserve) has been given to us through Jesus!

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:8

His death satisfied God’s wrath and His resurrection from the dead conquered death and gives us new life – not only here on earth, but life eternal with Him after the grave.

For the past nine years my dad has been living in a very real place- Heaven. The day of his memorial service we sang one of his favorite hymns and, for the rest of my days here on earth, I, too, am living in “Blessed Assurance”.

How does what you read influence your view of God? Grace? In what way can you be joyous about our future in Heaven, as believers, and still be evangelistic towards the lost?

Charlene Engle

March 12 – Hard Questions 2.0 – “Everyone knows Jesus was a good man and wise teacher…but Son of God?”

Read John 10:25, 33 and Mark 14:61

I’ve heard it said, more than once, that Jesus was a great man, teacher and prophet.

However, Jesus clearly claimed to be God in many places in the Bible!

In John 10, there is a group of Jews around Jesus and they say to Him: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” In verse 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” Then in verse 33, in answer to Jesus asking for what miracles were they stoning Him, their answer was “We are not stoning you for any of these” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Another time Jesus claims to be God is in Mark 14 when standing trial before the religious leaders. In verse 61, the high priest asks Jesus “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed One?”

“I am” said Jesus. The people listening all knew Jesus was claiming to be God so they condemned Him to death.

These are just two examples of Jesus claiming to be God, there are others.

So, what do we do with this?

Jesus didn’t say He was a teacher or a prophet, He says “I am God!”

If I were to tell you “I am God”, what would you think of me? You’d probably think I was crazy and you would be right. With Jesus, there is no middle ground, He either was and is God OR He was a lunatic!

Enough with this stuff that He was just a good man and a good teacher. Jesus claimed to be God and He proved it by dying on the cross and then raising from the dead after three days, just as He said He would!

Jesus also said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

So, the ball is now in our court. We can choose to believe that Jesus is God or that He was just a man. Not deciding is the same as not believing.

Our eternity hangs in the balance and if Jesus is God, which I totally believe He is, then He is the only way to peace with God the Father and therefore the only way to heaven.

What are YOU going to do with Jesus? What place is He going to have in your life? What impact does Jesus being God have on your outlook on faith?

Mike Molter

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 20 – ReGen – Intimacy

Read John 17:3

I love to read. Some of my favorite genres of books are historical fiction and non-fiction. I am especially fascinated with WW2. To better understand the history, I often google photographs from the 1940’s and map locations. But I only possess minimal knowledge of that era. My dad, on the other hand, when he was alive, could honestly say that he knew WW2 on a different level because he experienced it as a Marine.

Knowing about something and truly knowing something are two different realities. 

What did Jesus mean when He prayed for us to know God and know Him (Jesus)? Is it possible to have an intimate relationship with the God of the universe? Let’s take a look at what intimacy is and what it isn’t.

  1. Knowledge does not equal intimacy

I would not describe my husband as 5’10”, sandy blonde hair and brown eyes. All that is true, but after 33 years of marriage, he is more than just accumulated facts. The same with our connection with God. It’s based on a relationship.

J.I. Packer in his book Knowing God states, “To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself to approach Bible study…is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception.”

Knowledge is important and valuable, but it is not equivalent to intimacy.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me.’”Jeremiah 9:23-24

2. Intimacy is a relationship initiated by God

So how do we move from facts to intimacy?

“But now that you know God- or rather are known by God.”Galatians 4:9

God makes friends with us! True intimacy with God is to reveal that God knows me- He chose to make me His friend. He is the initiator of this intimate relationship. My part of the relationship flows as a response to His incredible love and grace.

How do we respond? Which step do you need to focus on most?

  • Meditation- Soak up the Word of God

“Blessed is the one who meditates on his law day and night.”Psalm 1:2

  • Prayer- Talk to God and know His voice

“Pray continually”1 Thessalonians 5:17

“…the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”John 10:4

  • Praise- Give God glory due His name

“My mouth is filled with your praise and with your glory all day long.”Psalm 71:8

Those words do not reflect a check off list, the way we sometimes view our Christian life. Not a life of doing devotions, but a life of devotion. Not a life of having a quiet time, but a spirit that is sensitive to His still and quiet voice. Not a life that sings praises just on Sunday mornings, but a heart that praises Him continually.

That kind of life cultivates intimacy with the One who knows us best. Let’s be people who don’t just know about God, but know God!

Charline Engle

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!

January 22 – Prayers of Jesus – For the Faith of Others

Read John 11:1-46

Do you ever take the time to think of your family dynamic? Sure, there are some obvious common trends throughout all of you, but aren’t there some differences as well? It’s funny how people who spend so much time around each other can be so different in some ways.

The same is true with the Lawson household. My dad (Pastor Dave) is an intellectual. To this day, he’s the smartest guy I know. My older sister inherited Dad’s smarts. She always did well in school and enjoyed learning so much so that she is now a teacher to 6th grade students in Indiana. My younger brother and I, however, could take or leave school. We got good grades but weren’t over the moon about learning.

It showed when we solicited educational help from Dad. There were many times where he was explaining something to me but I just wasn’t getting it. Sure, it was black and white for Dr. Dave but for me, I wasn’t able to connect the dots. No matter how hard I tried, there were some things that just didn’t make sense.

As I read John 11, I can’t help but see that the village of Bethany was struggling to connect the dots that Jesus was laying out for them.

A friend of Jesus’ brother was sick and close to death. When this was brought to Jesus’ attention, He simply responds with:

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Seems simple and straightforward, doesn’t it?

Jesus responds to the news by staying in the town He was in for two more days.

Doesn’t seem like He’s in too much of a rush does it?

As they’re about to head out for Bethany, Jesus says:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

After these last two quotes from Jesus, you would think that Jesus is up to something and that Lazarus, even if he is, in fact, dead, won’t be for long, right?

For us, the dots are connected, but for Jesus’ disciples and the people of Bethany, they are confused.

When Jesus finally arrives to Lazarus’ tomb, the shortest verse in the Bible states that:

“Jesus wept.”

Now, there is some speculation as to the reasoning behind Jesus’ display of emotion. Obviously, there is the very real possibility that Jesus is weeping over the loss of His friend. However, others think the reason is the lack of faith of those around Him.

Jesus is trying to proclaim who He is (Son of God, promised Messiah, etc.) and people just aren’t getting it. Eventually, you read that people end up believing in Jesus as a result of Him coming back to life.

We need to care about the faith of others just as Jesus did. Do you see people struggling to connect the dots of faith in their life? Do you see the connections while they are missing the picture? In what way can you help them?

People need to see Jesus for who He is and make Him the leader of their life. May we pray for others with the same heart of Jesus!

Jake Lawson

January 20 – Prayers of Jesus – Trusting for Provision

Read John 6:11

When I was 22 years old, I was in my last semester of undergrad and had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. I toyed with the idea of moving to Tennessee to go to graduate school or staying in my hometown and working hard to build my business management profession while attending the church I was plugged into and continuing to learn more. However, my heart’s desire was to go to the Great Commission Bible Institute (A 10-month rigorous Bible study program that my hometown church had). I knew many who attended and I was surrounding myself with people that were like-minded and wanted the same for me.

My only problem was, I couldn’t afford it.

The tuition of the school was free; however, with my mom relocating for work and not having anyone to live with, the only logical answer, if I were to attend, was to live in the dorms, which cost money. I couldn’t swing it and had no idea what I was going to do.

One day, I met with my mentor at the time and discussed all of the possibilities and worries that were ahead of me. She looked at me and quite plainly said, “Those who are faithful with little will also be faithful with much,” (Luke 16:10) and began to show me that I just needed to surrender the control of making a decision and allow the Lord to work in and through me. To be faithful with the path He already had me on and the rest will come with His peace.

About a year later, I was graduating college and was looking for a place to live. My mentor approached me while we were serving at church, handed me $50.00, and told me to apply for GCBI and see what God does.

I went through the application process and got in. Once I told her, she said, “Your room and board is covered.”

I can relate to every side of our reading today:

Doubtful Perspective: The disciples were not sure how to feed so many people with the little they had. They couldn’t see a way.

Faithful in Waiting:  The crowd waited for Jesus to show up. They knew of His wonder and power and wanted to hear and see more. Their faith in Him, led them there and He provided their needs, even when they didn’t ask. They came not expecting anything and the Lord fed them with truth and food.

Surrender it all: The boy surrendered all that he had. He surrendered his good for God’s best.

Just like the crowd, the disciple and the boy, I’ve walked through all of it, time and time again, in striving to trust God’s provision will come.

Where would you say you are in your life? Are you doubtful, faithful, surrendered? How can you take steps toward full surrender today?

Kelly Lawson

December 29 – God of 2nd 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

December 27 – God of 2nd 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

December 6 – 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

November 8 – Attributes of God – Truthfulness

Read John 3:33

“Always tell the truth.” Those four little words are ingrained into little ones’ heads almost as soon as they utter their first words. Most parents value teaching honesty. So why does it seem that adults stray from truth so easily? Perhaps it’s because honesty, rather than truthfulness, is taught.

Honesty and Truthfulness; Knowledge and Wisdom; Lie and Deception; Help and Compassion. Each pair of words we tend to use synonymously. However, examining each pair there is one common difference. The first word in each pair primarily deals with the head, while the second penetrates deeper to the heart. Truthfulness is deeper than honesty. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. A lie is a falsity, while deception is a motive. Help can be given even in the absence of compassion. The heart is what moves us to take action. Jesus was always more concerned about the heart.

From the beginning God knew that we would always wrestle with truth. When Satan entered the Garden of Eden, he didn’t just lie, his intent was to deceive. He is the father of all lies and there is no truth in him. In John 8:44, Adam and Eve were deceived because they acted on the lie- the lie that made them question what God said and why God said it. It was a lie that centered around facts and ignored the heart and the consequences. And that is the same lie that Satan still whispers in our ear.

One piece in our essential armor to defend against Satan’s attacks is the belt of truth. Paul didn’t call it the belt of honesty. We don’t just gird ourselves with lack of lies and sincerity, but with truth which calls us to action. Truthfulness puts feet to honesty. It’s what causes us to take the extra effort and return the overdue amount the cashier accidentally gave us, rather than just acknowledging that there was a mistake.

Before Jesus faced the cross, He prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)  Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Sanctify means to set apart or to make holy. Holiness is only accomplished by His word through Jesus Christ. But remember that truthfulness is shown. What greater demonstration of this than Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God is truthful and Jesus Christ, the Truth, died for us to make us holy by what He did!

We should be so thankful that we not only have an honest God, but a God who is full of grace and truth. A God who calls us to embrace the truth and always act with our heart, not just our head. So today, let’s not only always tell the truth, let’s always act on the truth! That kind of truthfulness will set us apart.

Charline Engle