August 7 – Perseverance – Being honest with others

Read Proverbs 21:28

I was about 25 years old when I realized exaggerating had turned into an actual weakness of mine. An innocent extra detail, a little too much give and take with the facts. I tended to sell a story but that’s exactly what it was, good storytelling! I came from a family of great storytellers! But soon, I felt a spiritual nudge that I might need some self-discipline in the area.

I remember when the two words found in this verse leaped out at me: False Witness. I imagined someone in a courtroom telling their story, exaggerating and being overdramatic and suddenly the prosecutor reveals he has video footage of the event. The witness shrinks as his testimony doesn’t match up. This is a false witness. When it came to my own life, specifically my failures and successes, did my story match my reality, or was I a false witness?

This subject can be an undetected snare for many, especially now that social media plays such a major role in our businesses and personal lives. We convince ourselves that we’re not actually lying, we’re just “buttering the bread” as everyone does. Trying to grow our businesses or keep up a good face for our extended families.

We withhold our mistakes and exaggerate our accomplishments.

We intensely want our lives to be better, or at least look better than others. It’s an unending cycle of living in want. And as today’s verse confirms, this mindset will only perish. When we spend all of our energy keeping up the illusion of success (be it as a parent, spouse, son, daughter, business owner, Christian, etc), we rarely have the energy to actually be a success.

So, how do we turn this ship around?

It’s not as hard as you think.

Ask the Holy Spirit to begin convicting you in this area. Ask Him to give you the strength to correct yourself in dishonest moments. And now, just follow through with it. Make yourself apologize anytime you bend the truth too much in a conversation, post, tweet, email or phone call. It’s so awkward, you’ll definitely want to not have to do it often!

I guarantee you will begin to feel lighter. Your authenticity will soon give you more confidence than your false confidence ever could! I don’t think our culture realizes how dishonest we are with one another and how bad it subconsciously makes us feel. Honesty with others feels amazing!  Once we stop trying to present ourselves as “who we wish we were”, we can start becoming “who God created us to be.” Christ is the one and only witness who can proclaim exactly who you are:

“and He says: ‘You are enough’”

Nate Torrence

August 6 – Perseverance – With faith

Read 2 Peter 1:5-11 and Revelation 2:19

What sentence stuck out to you as you read the above scriptures? I know what it was for me: 

“…For if you do these things, you will never stumble.”

Wow. How amazing would that be, to figure out how to never stumble again! It almost sounds too good to be true. Peter lists the steps like a recipe:

… add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love

The elusive ability to “never stumble” begins with one thing: faith. None of the above virtues can be added without it. How is your faith right now? I’m not asking about your acts toward faith (going to church, reading these devotionals) I’m talking about your sincere belief that God is real, He loves you unconditionally and has everything under control.

Faith is the great leap. The cornerstone of a process that leads to absolute peace. It is the resolve of all circumstances. I have had many conversations with people (Christian and non-Christian) who feel that the response, “Don’t worry, God is in control” is a bit too naive or over-simplifying for the major problems they are facing.

It’s an understandable reaction.

But God’s genius is often found within His simplicity. Faith is never flippant. We don’t say these words when we have no answer. We say them when it is the only answer. I don’t think we have touched true faith until it beckons us to step into our pain. When these are the only words we have the strength to utter. The enemy has us backed into a corner and hope is lost. Yet, we supernaturally choose to step forward with a trembling prayer that for thousands of years has moved mountains and silenced raging seas: “I will not fear; my God is in control.”

If you are facing a faith-draining circumstance today, I encourage you to persevere. Step toward your pain. Make a promise to yourself that, for the next 24 hours, you will choose to believe that “God is in control”. Let go. See what changes this choice brings to your mind, soul and body. This life is not an easy journey, but in faith, we can invite His Spirit to walk beside us on that journey. He is your partner in this. When we finally let go, our hands are free to grab onto Him.

He will never stumble!

Nate Torrence

August 5 – Perseverance – In human weakness

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9

Perseverance is persistence in doing something, despite difficulty or a delay in achieving success. 

What keeps you from persevering?  What causes you to lose long term perspective? 

There have been times in my life where I have felt completely helpless, void of strength, even to do the simplest of tasks. 

A few years ago, I had major surgery.  In recovery I was on a respirator.  I couldn’t even breathe on my own, I was helpless.  We want to be strong, decisive, capable, and able to meet daily challenges.  But there are times when we feel inadequate.  Illness occurs, our bodies become physically weak, our minds aren’t as sharp as they used to be.  We feel like we don’t even have the ability to confront the day.  We are born with limitations, or, as some would call it, weakness.  We are created in His image, and yet we are lacking.  Do you think He might have created our bodies to give up under pressure, so that we could realize that we can do nothing apart from Him?  (John 15:5).

God created us to rely on Him.  

We can’t do it all, and that’s OK. 

If we could, then we would never have the opportunity to allow God’s power to be seen in us.

“My grace is sufficient, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul prayed 3 times to have a weakness – “a thorn in his flesh” – removed.  Instead, God allowed it to remain so that His power would be seen. It was only through experiencing this weakness that Paul was able to receive the power of God.  Our weakness allows us to grow stronger in His strength, just as Paul persevered through the “thorn”.

“And my God will meet all your needs,

according to the riches of His glory in Jesus Christ.”Philippians 4:19

Paul is encouraging believers in Philippi to be content.  A few verses earlier Paul talks about how God gives us strength to be content, regardless of circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).  Even when you feel weak, He will supply the strength needed to persevere. 

God promises us His strength. As you go about your daily life, facing your own limitations, weaknesses, and fears, meditate on these promises.  In His Word we learn that He never intended to remove weaknesses from our life.  If this was God’s intention, then we’d never have the pleasure of witnessing His power perfected in our weakness.  We’d never have the privilege of witnessing His ability to supply all our needs.

So, why do we try to struggle through our weakness on our own?

Why do we let weaknesses stop us from experiencing His power?

Today, trust Him, the One who promises to supply all you need!

Trust the One who promises to perfect His strength in you!

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”Romans 8:26

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”Ephesians 3:20

“He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might He increases strength.”Isaiah 40:29

Janene Nagel

August 4 – Perseverance – With pain

Read Romans 5:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Probably the worst physical pain I have ever experienced was on a cold January night in 2014 during the opening session of the yearly Kalahari retreat. I was part of the opening act and, during it, I planned on, essentially, high jumping on a stage that was several feet off the ground. Now, I played sports in high school so I thought I was, at least, slightly athletic.

In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t practice at all to see if it was even possible.

Safe to say, I slipped on my jump and skinned my shin. After the opening, I walked out to the hallway and saw blood running down my shin. Upon getting a paper towel from the bathroom and looking closer to dab it up, I saw that my shin was literally flayed open.

I could see muscle and everything.

After the shock wore off (it was a solid 30 seconds of me staring at the gaping hole in my shin), my adrenaline wore off and the pain came in a huge and brutal wave.

When we talk about pain, I feel like everyone can relate. Either we can talk about a time where we were hurt physically, but I feel like it hurts us so much more when the pain is emotional.

How do you deal with emotional pain? How do you process through it? What role does God play in this healing process? Are you even healing from your pain?

One of the greatest things I have learned in my faith was that pain has a purpose. In our reading today in Romans, Paul is writing about a tough situation he is currently in. He is writing a letter to the church in Rome from prison. He knew his time was coming to a close and he was soon to be executed for his role in advancing the gospel.

If Paul can pen his encouraging words in Romans 5:3-4, how do any of our pains (physical or emotional) even compare?

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Do you go so far as to glory in your sufferings? Are you able to zoom out of our scenario and see the long game of pain? Can you see the upcoming perseverance, character and, ultimately, hope that will come as a result of properly working through your pain?

What pain are you currently experiencing? What pain is a part of your past that you haven’t healed from?

What steps are you going to take in order to see your pain from a new perspective?

What potential benefits do you see from viewing your pain from a different lens?

What promises of hope does Jesus give us for the pain we experience throughout our life?

Jake Lawson

August 3 – Perseverance – While parenting

Read Proverbs 17:6

You could say that the season Kelly and I are in could best be described as…

Chaos.

As of this writing, we have an almost 5-year-old (going on 15) boy, Matthew (Mattie) and a 9-month-old girl, Emma.

The majority of the days involve attitude, whining and timeouts. Before Emma was born, Kelly and I outnumbered Mattie so we felt like we had a better handle on things. Now that it’s man-to-man defense, it gets a little more interesting.

Through all the chaos, I firmly believe that having kids was the best decision Kelly and I ever made in our married lives. While, most of the time, it’s stressful, you feel unconditional and sacrificial love for your kids.

Emma’s too young to sass us (yet) but Mattie has uninvited Kelly and I from his upcoming birthday party several times, even though we’re paying for it, but he has also, without any prompting, hugged us saying that he loves us so much.

If you’re a parent, you understand this season. If you’re in the same season or you want to have kids one day, our reading in Proverbs today is a challenge to us all:

“Old people are distinguished by grandchildren; children take pride in their parents.”

During the storms of parenting, it is hard to persevere. However, I encourage you to zoom out and see the greater perspective. Are the battles you are picking with your kids so that they will become the man or woman God created them to be? If the answer is yes, stick to your guns!

At the end of the day, I want to be a dad that Mattie and Emma are both proud of. I want them to be proud to be a Lawson. Now, I can tell you that this won’t happen because I give in to their every wish and desire. Instead, I want them to understand who God created them to be and how much Kelly and I want them to succeed in life.

Are your kids proud to have you as parents? Are you making eternal investments in them every day? In what way is your godly legacy going to pass on through the generations?

Friends, it’s hard to see the greater picture. However, as a parent, you are uniquely positioned to raise up the next generation! I encourage you to be the spouse and parent that others can take pride in…not because you make life easy for them, but because you are guiding them towards Christ and the life that He has for them!

Stay the course! Your children are a gift : )

Jake Lawson

August 2 – Perseverance – In the race of life

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9:24b

“…I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”  verse 9:27b

In high school golf matches, players and fans get disqualified. Basketball players get disqualified from games for their actions or words. In high school basketball, you are disqualified if you have five fouls.

Sports are like life – things go wrong. Just like in our lives.

How you react makes all the difference.

What an amazing challenge it is when things go wrong. I try to run in a way to get the prize of eternal life but then I fail. So, I pull up my socks and keep going and I try to run in a way to get the prize and I get knocked down again. I fail because of my own decisions and my own lack of perfection.

It is an ongoing challenge.

The Christian life is like a race and like a fight. You are running to honor the name of God and fight against evil.

The way we run and the way we fight make a difference. Do we use God’s weapons of love, patience and kindness, like Jesus Christ? Or do we use the weapons of evil and violence in this world? Either way, it can be contagious.

If we run in such a way as to get the prize, it means we are striving to do and be like Jesus. We can encourage others in our language, actions and, perhaps, motives. If we live a life of immorality, we are living to honor and please ourselves, not God.

The way we run and the way we fight make a difference in whether we have a share in the gospel (verse 23), whether we seize the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (verse 24) and whether we gain the crown of righteousness and life (verse 25). We have to work and plan with our actions to not be disqualified from the race (verse 27).

“FIX MY EYES” is a song by For King and Country taken from Hebrews 12:2 that gives some ideas on how to run the race:

“I’d love like I’m not scared,

Give when it’s not fair,

Live life for another,

Take time for a brother,

Fight for the weak ones,

Speak out for freedom,

Find faith in the battle…

Fix my eyes, on You.”

So, persevere by never quitting through prayer and patience.

Never give up.    

Tom Weckesser

August 1 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 145

Read Psalm 145:1-21

Have you ever experienced something so great that you had to share all about it to everyone you see? It could be a favorite restaurant with the best burger you’ve ever eaten, a movie theater with the most comfortable chairs you’ve ever sat in, or the best hotel that had the most wonderful service you’ve ever experienced! When we know something is great, we talk about it!

In Psalm 145, David can’t stop talking about his incredible and amazing God! There are 21 verses where the psalmist declares he will exalt and praise God. That He is a mighty King, worthy of all glory! He says that no one can measure His greatness and that it’s a name so good every generation to come will know it. David had experienced something SO GOOD that he couldn’t stop talking about it!

If you were to flip through the pages of my Bible, you’d see every pen color in the rainbow and more- circles and boxes around specific words, underlines, scribbles, notes, and doodles galore! The book of Psalms has crinkled pages because of the marks I’ve made throughout each chapter. God has used these chapters to transform my heart and I don’t ever want to forget those moments, so I jot them down! The biggest reason I love this book of the Bible is because of chapters like Psalm 145. There are one-hundred and forty-four chapters before it that contain poems of hurt, pain, confession, praise, wisdom and so much more that always lead right back to the reason we have hope. Every chapter points our eyes directly to the goodness of God and the thousands of reasons that He deserves all the glory and all our praise on this side of Heaven and for all eternity.

Even when things don’t seem good, God gives us so many reasons to worship and praise Him for how He has loved us and continues to care for us every single day. As you pray through Psalm 145, I want to challenge you to thank God for the moments in your life when you’ve seen Him move. It could be big moments that changed the course of where life was headed or a small moment that reminded you just how big God’s love is for you. Then, take a moment to read through these 21 verses and THANK God for each thing!

Becca Harbaugh

July 31 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 139

Read Psalm 139:1-24

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

Psalm 139:8

Have you ever had an experience where you could have been killed? A close call that you survived and are not sure why?

Since I was involved in a serious car accident, I have had reminders of that day. And then I am thankful to God. And I believe He is with me all the time, including those 10 seconds that ended in a broken knee, surgery and a totaled car. The fact that I am still here is proof to me that God was with me and He still has a plan for me on this earth. And within 5 seconds after crashing into a cement wall, a woman opened the passenger side door and prayed to Jesus that I would be OK.

Psalm 139 tells me that God is always with me –  no matter where I go, before birth, after birth and after death on earth. He is with me while I’m sleeping and when I’m awake.

On the day of the car accident, I was working at Valet parking at Wooster Community Hospital. A man with one leg asked me to park his car, and he told me the brakes and the accelerator were switched. I did not think that would be a problem. So I got in his car and, the next thing I know, the car is lunging forward and I am moving. And I didn’t know where the brakes were. The brakes were in a different place on the floor of his car. I could not stop the car!

But this accident has brought many blessings my way. And one of them is that I have had more time to read the Bible while recovering.

Have you ever noticed that many times the writers of the Bible talk about God’s right hand?

“Your right hand, Oh Lord, shattered the enemy.” (Exodus 14:6b)

“Your right hand upholds me.“.  (Psalm 63:8)

“Then he placed his right hand on me” (Revelation 1:17)

“…even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”. (Psalm 139:10)

One message I have learned from reading Psalm 139 is that God is always with me. In life and in death.

Tom Weckesser

July 30 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 127

Read Psalm 127:1-5

Reading this Psalm made me think of how many things that I have done or tried to do on my own without God’s help.  Webster defines vain as “having no real value, marked by futility or ineffectiveness.” That’s my life without Christ at the center. However, when I put Christ first, reading His word, praying, worshiping with my whole heart, things happen that I could have never imagined.

I remember early in our marriage, we were building a house. About two weeks after the foundation had been laid,  my husband had an accident at work, suffering a broken ankle.  I remember sitting with him in the emergency room as he was questioning what we were going to do. How were we going to continue to build with him unable to work at his job? As we were our own general contractor for the house, how was the work going to be done? Were we going to be able to get the house completed before winter? Many questions loomed larger than life. Yet, in the midst of all this chaos, I remember a calm that was only possible through Christ. I knew that, no matter what happened, it was not a surprise to God.

Many unusual things happened as a result of that situation. Friends and family rallied around to help with the building process. Subcontractors came ahead of schedule because my husband was at home. Because of the time of year, worker’s compensation checks were equal to what his regular salary would have been. We were blessed with an anonymous gift given through the church that paid for floor coverings.  We always knew that it was God’s love and provision for us.

Continuing on in the Psalm, verse 3 states “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” In the middle of the situation with the broken ankle, we found out that I was pregnant with our second child. Not exactly what our time table was, but it was all in God’s timing. Early on, I had some difficulty, resulting in my needing to rest more, rather than working on the house. But that, too, was all in God’s hands as I learned to trust Him instead of working it out for myself.

As I look to the future, I ask myself the question, “Am I letting the LORD build my house? Or am I doing my own thing with no real value or effectiveness?”

How about you? Do you trust God to “build the house” that He has planned for you?

I pray that it is so.

Linda Joy Geiser

July 29 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 121

Read Psalm 121:1-8

I am sorry to admit that my eyes and my thoughts don’t always turn immediately to the Lord when I am faced with adversity. Psalm 121 serves as a great reminder that they should.

You may have noticed the intro to these eight verses. These words represent a “Song of Ascents.” This is one of fifteen psalms (Ps. 120-134) that were used by Jewish pilgrims making the journey to Jerusalem and the temple. As pilgrims neared the holy city, they were faced with an “ascent.” It was quite an uphill climb to reach the city. And the House of God itself was located on the “Temple Mount.”

But more importantly, pilgrims must raise their perspective. Real help does not come from a sacred city on a hill. Help does not come from a building, even if its construction was commissioned by the Lord Himself. Help comes from the Creator Lord. In your search for help and solutions to your problems, lift your eyes beyond creation to the Creator. Raise your perspective beyond the all that is man-made to the maker of all things.

Beyond being the Creator, this One who listens to your prayers watches over you. Five times in these few verses, the author reminds us of His watchful care. We never escape his notice. There is never an inattentive moment when we are outside of His purview. Whether it is day or night, He is like a watchman with his eyes trained on you. He is guarding your life day and night. No matter your destination, whether you are coming or going, He is more than aware of your life situation. He is the preserver and protector of your entire lifespan…not only now, but forever.

But, as you pray to the Guardian of your life, what do you do with the statements that promise “He will not let your foot slip” (3b) and “The Lord will keep you from all harm” (7a)? Clearly many of us have twisted an ankle, most of us have suffered an accident or injury, and all of us have experienced unwanted adversity. Is He only One who observes but is unable to act? Are those promises empty?

The New Testament reminds us that the “Lord disciplines the one He loves” (Heb. 12:6), and He does so “that we may share in his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Perhaps we are to understand the guarding, protecting, preserving God of creation as One who stands watch at the door of our lives. Nothing is permitted to enter without His divine approval and without purpose attached to it. (Check out Job 1 and 2.)

As you pray through this Psalm, will you honor the One who watches over your life?

Steve Kern