January 29 – Wait, who? – Mordecai

Read Esther 4:1-17

If you haven’t stopped to read the story of Mordecai in the book of Esther, stop right now and read. It is an intriguing story with plot twists you just can’t make up. 

Mordecai was humble, and let others raise him up. He didn’t try to rub shoulders with those who would make him look good. He was honest despite the risk involved when he revealed a plot to kill the king. And when he was not publicly thanked, he did not seek the spotlight. Years later, when God brought about Xerxes’ sleepless night and his desire to honor Mordecai for his part in saving the king’s life, some may have been scratching their heads thinking, wait, who?

Mordecai became a leader behind the scenes. He led queen Esther as a father-figure. When he instructed Esther to take a risk and approach the king, he didn’t just leave her to face the fight on her own. He joined with her in fasting and praying and bringing others into the battle to encourage her. He trusted her to do her part and then followed through by doing his part.

God used Mordecai’s selfless leadership style to gain many followers. Mordecai was promoted in the king’s palace and found favor among the Jews throughout the kingdom. He didn’t earn those positions through self-promotion, but instead through humility and unwavering faith in God. In contrast, everyone knew Haman’s name. He was feared, not revered. He demanded respect instead of earning it. What is the difference between these two characters and how did their stories end?

What kind of leader are you? Do you want or “need” to be noticed and praised for the good choices you make in the course of your day? Do you seek the approval of co-workers and demand their respect? Or are you learning to be more like Mordecai who lets others elevate you and works to earn the respect of others by your actions rather than words?

Ask God to show you one way you can improve as a leader today and how you can continually fight the battle against pride in your life.

Tammy Finney

January 28 – Wait, who? – Josiah

Read 2 Kings 22:1-23:30

If you are able to name more than three or four of the roughly forty kings of Israel and Judah, you are probably better than the average Jesus follower. Meanwhile, to know many of the specific details about Josiah, king of Judah from 640 to 609 B.C., is even more impressive. Of course, we must keep in mind that Jesus does not call us to just expand our knowledge so as to win at games of Bible trivia. Instead, He calls us to love God and love people (Matt. 22:34-40). So, what are the facts we learn about Josiah and what does he model that we can mimic?

Josiah was faithful in his youth – He became king at the age of 8 (2 Kings 22:1). By the time he was 16, he was seeking the Lord. By the age of 20, he was leading the nation to address the rampant idol worship present at the time (2 Chronicles 34:3).

If you are young, don’t allow your age to limit your faithfulness. Instead, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Tim. 4:12).”

Josiah valued the Word of God – Up to the age of 26, Josiah had been following the Lord as likely defined by oral tradition. He knew of the ways of his forefather David and didn’t deter from the right path (2 Kings 22:1, 2). He didn’t have his own copy of the Old Testament Law on a shelf in the palace. But, at 26, a copy of the Law was found. Josiah was immediately humble and responsive to what he discovered in the Scriptures.

You and I enjoy the privilege of having unlimited access to multiple copies and diverse translations of the completed canon of biblical truth. Do we value that? Do we orient our lives accordingly? After all, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).”

Josiah, then, serves as a great example of faithfulness to God and His word. Will you follow in his footsteps?

Steve Kern

January 27 – Wait, who? – Jabez

Read 1 Chronicles 4:10

“The Blessing” is a song that is sung in many churches in the USA and throughout the world. It is an uplifting song and prayer, asking God for peace to bless your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren and their children and their children. The song is full of scripture verses and is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. It is inspirational and encourages me to live a life that loves other people and to be a good example. It makes me want to honor God with all my heart in everything that I do!

Recently, I watched on You-Tube 100 churches sing it together in New York City to bring a blessing to their city after it became the epicenter of the Covid-19 virus killing over 25,000 people and then their streets were filled with rage, fear and frustration in 2020. In my view, this song brings the house down. It stops me in my tracks.

You can read in 1 Chronicles about a person in the Old Testament named Jabez and how he wanted to go the extra mile with his faith. He wanted to make the most of every opportunity with his faith. He prayed to God and asked that that would happen.

Jabez’s name, according to the footnotes in the NKJV version, literally meant “he will cause pain.” Every time Jabez was called, it was as if he was being labeled as a man who would bring nothing but pain upon the people around him.

He didn’t live that way, however. Jabez became honorable. He rose above the label that was given him since childbirth. This teaches us that no matter what the labels are that are given to us, we can rise above them.

Jabez rose above the label by calling on God for help.

In his prayer, Jabez asked God to undo and nullify the label that was given to him. And God, being merciful and gracious, “granted him what he requested.”

This should bring us hope. Regardless of what the people around us say or how the world labels us, God is able to use us for His purpose and bless us. If we pray like the prayer of Jabez, God can lift us up and cause us to be a blessing to all who come in contact with us.

What labels in your life would you like to rise above? In what way can God help in that? Have you asked God to show you how you can be a blessing to others?

Jabez’s short appearance in the Bible gives us hope, that no matter how much the world, even the people we love, try to bring us down, we can ask God for direction and protection from evil.

Tom Weckesser

January 26 – Wait, who? – Naaman

Read 2 Kings 5:1-27

Well, that was intense.

In this chapter, there are two different sections highlighted by two separate characters on two different journeys.

First of all, we read about Naaman who is a commander of the king of Aram who has leprosy. Through one of their raids, they captured an Israeli girl who eventually asked why Naaman hadn’t gone to a prophet of God to cure his leprosy.

Initially, Naaman went to Israel with the intent of personally meeting Elisha and having him pray immediately over his disease. Instead, he is caught off guard when Elisa sends word through a messenger to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times to be cured of his leprosy.

You can almost feel Naaman’s frustration, “I traveled all this way to do something that I could have done back home? How does this make sense? Our rivers are in way better condition than these Israeli rivers!” In the midst of his frustration, he turns and walks away from the promise of healing.

How often do you allow something like a small annoyance or set back to turn you away from what’s best? “Ah! This isn’t how I wanted things to go! I deserve better! This is humiliating!” and with that, we turn away from God’s promise for us. All throughout the Bible, God promises to care for us and never forsake us. What are you allowing to hold you back from experiencing that promise?

Naaman is eventually healed by following the command of Elisha and, after Elisha refuses to accept payment for his help, Naaman is back on his way home.

This is where we meet the second character of the story. Naaman just experienced life change through God and commits his life and worship to Him. However, the servant of Elisha saw this as an opportunity to extort monetary compensation from Naaman. He, Gehazi, tracks Naaman down and makes up a story of why he needs to take money back, of which Naaman is quick to provide.

However, Gehazi’s sin is quickly found out and, after lying about his whereabouts, Elisha says that the leprosy that Naaman was just cured from would cling to Gehazi and his family forever.

There is such power in greed. If your perspective is not heavenly and you are shortsighted in your faith, there is the possibility to make huge mistakes.

My encouragement to you all is simple and comes from lessons that we learned from Naaman and Gehazi: have complete trust in God’s plan for your life and be ultra-sensitive to greed in your life.

As you finish this reading, I urge you to pray and open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to reveal any distrust or greed in your life and take it upon yourself to live in a way that honors God.

Jake Lawson

January 25 – Prayers of Jesus – Forgiveness

Read Luke 23:34

Forgiveness is a tough topic.

Sure, it’s easy to forgive your 5-year-old when they apologize for accidentally hitting you when roughhousing or don’t listen the first time they are told to do something. However, it can feel next to impossible the more serious the “injustice” becomes.

It’s very much a process.

We all have those “tough to forgive” moments in our lives. Believe me, I know just how hard it can be.

Our reading today takes forgiveness to a whole new level.

Sure, it’s easy to forgive your 5-year-old or maybe a family member but how about the people who are in the process of killing you?

Jesus was beaten and was nailed to a tree. His wounds were open and, because of his position, was suffocating due to not being able to lift himself up to breathe. It’s in the midst of this that He offers a prayer to God that almost seems hard to fathom:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Yes, you read that right. Jesus asked God to forgive the very people who had brought him so much pain. When you really think about it, what excuse do we all have for allowing unforgiveness to fester?

As we consider our reading today, I pray that we would take a good and hard look at our lives and identify anywhere in our life where we have held onto unforgiveness. As hard as it may be, I pray that we would take steps towards forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a tough topic.

It may not be instantaneous for you but, I pray that you would take steps toward forgiveness. Talk to a friend, pastor or counselor in order to take a step toward forgiveness.

The Bible is very clear, we are called to forgive. While, it’s a tough thing to do, given who Jesus forgave, we really don’t have any excuse.

Jake Lawson

January 24 – Prayers of Jesus – Dealing with Difficult People

Read Matthew 11:25-26, Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 and Hebrews 12:14-15

Oh no, Uncle Joe is coming to dinner?  You know what I am talking about. Every family has one. A grouchy old uncle who doesn’t seem to like anyone or anything. He just makes everyone in the family on edge until he doses off in the lazy boy chair in the living room. Maybe in your life it isn’t an uncle.  Perhaps it is a neighbor, a child, a parent or a fellow employee. You know who I am talking about, people when you see them heading your way, you just know the rest of the encounter will not be good!  We all know at least one or two people who would fit that category. Your first thought is to run the other way.  However, God tells us to persevere with them! Jesus tells us, to make every effort to live in peace! But surly He never had to spend some time with my “Uncle Joe!”  And maybe that is exactly why “Uncle Joe” is the way he is!  It just might be up to you to introduce “Uncle Joe” to Jesus and help him learn how to live in peace.

Jesus may not have had to spend time with “Uncle Joe” but he did have to deal with irritating people including the Devil himself!  The Sadducees and Pharisees were constantly buzzing around Him like annoying gnats trying to catch Him in a lie.  Jesus stayed calm, then let the word of God lead the way and get to the heart of the problem. I know being on a road trip without my GPS or a good map can make me very irritated.  Can you imagine going through life without God’s road map to guide your way? You don’t need to only read the Bible but LIVE it.  Show God’s love, confident in His guidance and direction!

Listen more, talk less. We need to really listen to others, not just their words but the meaning behind their words.  What are they really trying to tell you? Or better yet, what AREN’T they telling you? Do they just want to be listened to? Are they feeling left out, ignored? Remember God gave you two ears and only one mouth.  

Listen more, talk less.

Calmly listening to “Uncle Joe” might be all that is needed. What makes him tick? Sometimes people just want to be heard, included, valued. 

Persevering takes time, not just writing someone off because they are difficult to deal with.  Our verses today tell us to be patient, not respond in haste. Remember- nothing is more important than you being “Christ” to someone.  

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord!

Pat Arnold

January 23 – Prayers of Jesus – To Start the Morning

Read Mark 1:35-36 and Matthew 5:21-42

Since I have a pride problem that I am working to solve, I often don’t need anybody to give me directions. After all, I am in a hurry. I really don’t need your directions or advice.

With that pathetic attitude, Birdie and I recently set out for a 25-minute walk to visit a venue in a big American city. I didn’t need directions because we made the same city walk 5 years ago. Why would we need directions? I knew the way through the city! We started walking and, after about half an hour, Birdie says, “Let’s check our GPS.” Then the GPS took us away from our destination because of similar names. So, then I started asking people (3 total) on the street for directions. By the time we got there and then walked back, I had walked 7 miles.

If you follow God’s directions for life, you can enjoy His blessings and be a blessing to others. And when you are beginning a journey, the best time to get good directions is before you begin.

Start each day waiting and seeking directions from God. This involves patience, time and prayer. Set the tone for your day and how you will live, act and how you will speak. Your words are a big key in how your day is going to go.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this…shine.”Matthew 5:14-16

Shine. Be different. Start your day with God by reading the Bible for direction and talking with God. That is how to shine and be different in a dark and selfish world.

Begin your day with gratitude and by laying your requests before God. Listen to Him. Follow Jesus’ directions for life by reading the Bible every day. To follow the straight path that God has designed for us in the Bible is efficient and it keeps us from wasting our time and energy. The Bible is sacred! It is an anthology – a compilation of texts – that include instructions, stories, poetry, and prophecies. It is different than our world.

“While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed.”Mark 1:35

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6

Tom Weckesser

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 21 – Prayers of Jesus – Blessing Children

Read Matthew 19:13-15

I love little kids! Having worked in various Sunday School, Bible School and elementary schools for over 50 years, I had better!  I feel it has been one of the greatest honors God has given to me!

There is just something about children that is missing in the rest of the world…

Is it their acceptance of everyone, no matter what skin color, body size or abilities?

Many times, I have seen children volunteering to help special needs classmates in the classroom and on the playground to the dismay of others around them.      

Or could it be their sense of awe of God’s handiwork?  They see the beauty in butterflies, the humor in a donkey’s bray, and the fascination of how water drips from the end of a faucet.   

Or could it be their genuine trust in people?  Or is it their forgiveness of people who have wronged them, unlike some adults who will hold a grudge for years?

As followers of Jesus, we need to look at how He viewed children.  Did He think they should be seen and not heard like several leaders in His times or something different?  Several times Jesus used little children as examples to His followers. 

What was it that Jesus saw in them that the people around Him couldn’t see? 

In Matthew 18, the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in Heaven.  Jesus called a child over to Him and said, “Unless you humble yourself as a little child, you will not be in heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the low position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” He saw humbleness.

In Matthew 19:14, He said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He welcomed them and delighted in them and they in Him and therefore they had direct access to the kingdom of God!

Then He said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me!” They showed all the traits that followers of Jesus should have and so He saw Himself in them!  

However, He also saw innocence and vulnerability.  In Matthew 18:6, He warned, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea!”   

Do you have a childlike faith? Not a naïve faith that will fall for anything and is shifting in the wind but a trusting faith that is constantly maturing to make you into a strong faithful follower of Christ? Are you trusting, hungry for the truth, in awe of God’s wonders, humble, and a reflection of Christ Himself to everyone around you?

As Jesus warned, “I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What do you need to change today?

Pat Arnold          

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