December 2 – By Faith or By Sight – Look Ahead with Anticipation

Years ago, we traveled by van to Florida. The anticipation was electric for the boys. We were on Burbank Road pulling onto the Dix Expressway (1 mile from home), when our youngest at the time genuinely asked, “How long until we get there?” We laughed…“22 hours, buddy!” For Abraham and Sarah, while the anticipation was real, the journey was long. Hebrews says, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)

Abraham, his kids and grandkids were all waiting to possess what God promised. We hate to wait, don’t we? Waiting in line for our food or even for the end of the pandemic. Abraham and Sarah lived in tents as foreigners who didn’t belong. They couldn’t wait to get there, wherever “there” was. For Christ followers, this is a picture of our life today. You were designed for a different destination. And this life is a journey.

But you know what gets you through a season of waiting? Hope. The confident anticipation of what is on the other side. For our kids, it was Florida. For Abraham, it was a destination that will not disappoint. Abraham was longing for a location that would last forever – a real place called Heaven. One second after you breathe your last breath, you will spend forever somewhere. There aren’t countless destination options. One is separated from God in a real place called Hell and the other is connected with God in a real place called Heaven. Abraham had confidence looking ahead. Do you? Real faith is confident that, no matter what problems you experience, the destination you expect is for sure. Hope in heaven drives peace on earth. Hope sets our minds on things above and things that last forever. What you set your mind on is what you live for.

What do you live for? Too often, our focus is on what doesn’t last, so we become disappointed when it disappears. Abraham was looking ahead with anticipation to what would last forever. To follow God fully in a season of uncertainty, we have to focus on what lasts. Will you look ahead with anticipation and decide to live for what lasts?

Nick Cleveland

December 1 – By Faith or By Sight – Leave Your Past Behind

When Vicki and I moved here 18 years ago, we felt the uncertainty of not knowing anyone. Maybe you know that feeling of moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It’s precisely what Abraham and Sarah did, leaving friends, family, and ways of life when they responded to God’s call and moved. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Faith is more than just belief; it’s accompanied with action. To fully follow God, you must leave your past behind. We don’t always get a detailed description of what’s next. Faith is taking the first step when you don’t know exactly where the path leads. In Abraham’s case, that was Ur – his homeland. Ur was filled with idolatry- worship of created things and not the Creator. It was a place of selfishness. It represented security and comfort, but Abraham had to leave the past behind to fully follow God. And so do we.

We must leave behind our old way of thinking and living and journey toward a new way of thinking and living. Paul told the Corinthians that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation the old is gone and the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God is inviting us to a new life and the journey begins by giving up our unbelief, selfishness, pride, sin and worship of anyone or anything other than God. Giving up our way of life for God’s way is the biggest obstacle to living by faith.

What do you need to leave behind? God’s way is the best way and He is calling you to leave behind your way and fully follow Him to a new destination.

Nick Cleveland

November 2 – The Poor Millionaire – Contentment

Read Philippians 4:12 and Hebrews 13:5

Jake and I are two weeks removed from finishing up Financial Peace University and it was such an eye-opening experience doing it alongside my husband. We considered how much we were spending and I was specifically convicted by the Lord regarding my discontentment.

I grew up in central Florida with a single mom (me being the youngest of 4) who worked for the state and we were in the loooowww middle-class income bracket. We didn’t have a lot but we always had enough. Mom never complained but always prayed. She depended on God for it all and we were blessed with a great village of people who cared for our needs when my mother’s income couldn’t.

Looking back, the 10-year-old Kelly was selfish and mean, wanting the newest and best outfit because my friends did. When it came to comparison, I was beyond discontent to the point where my heart would grow calloused and mean. 

I believe this is where the root was implanted. 

I’ve said this many times before, but the enemy’s number one goal is not for you to walk away from the Lord but to forget WHO He is. When our hearts become discontent, we begin to believe that what we have been given simply isn’t enough.

Now, you can have a nice car, house and consistent vacations but, if your heart’s motive isn’t rooted in contentment, you’re walking down a scary slope that will quickly lead to discontentment. 

Too many times in my life I have been in a discontented place with this past summer being a recent example. A lot was going on within our family with Jake’s health and restrictions we were facing. Because of it, my mind turned to social media to escape from it all. For a week I just sank into a place where I would compare, judge and envy things from others thinking that would make my life better. 

When really, all I needed was Jesus.

After that week, I sat with the Lord and wrote this piece:

“I found myself to be a person I do not recognize

Where insecurities transformed into pride

Where loneliness and jealousy met hostility

I found myself to be a person I do not recognize

Where heartache and sadness scream in despise

Where happiness is met with a smile in disguise

So, what is there to do?

The only answer is

…and always will be

Jesus.

Where I’m broken, He picks up the pieces

Where I’m sad, He shows me Joy

Where I’m weak, He holds me up
Where I’m lost, He leads me back

Take me back

Back to your Throne room

Where I surrender all.”


You see, we may think we know what is good for us but the Lord knows what’s best. We may look at someone else’s life and think “I want that” but the truth is the Lord would NOT be able to use YOU in YOUR LIFE the way He does if YOU were in THEIR life.

I challenge you: go before the Lord and ask if there is any discontentment sprouting in your life and surrender it to the Lord.

When this happens, you can move into a place of contentment!

Kelly Lawson

October 27 – Personality of Jesus

Read Hebrews 4:14-16

“No one understands like Jesus. He’s a friend beyond compare. Meet Him at the throne of mercy; He is waiting for you there.”

Over fifty years ago, John W. Peterson penned these words into a song following a bitter experience. Mr. Peterson gave this account of the song.

“I began to feel very alone and forsaken. Suddenly, I sensed the presence of the Lord in an unusual way and my mind was diverted from my difficulties to His faithfulness and sufficiency. Soon the thought occurred to me that He fully understood and sympathized with my situation- in fact, no one could ever completely understand or care as did He.”

My husband was only twenty-one when he experienced the tragic loss of his mother. He recalls hearing the radio play that comforting song soon after she crossed into glory. He was able to stay the course because he could cast all his care on Jesus. Why? Because Jesus, fully God, was also fully man and can sympathize with all of our weaknesses and difficulties.

Three words summarize the book of Hebrews:

Jesus is better.

Jesus is better than all the Old Testament symbols that pointed to Him. As Moses was instructed on Mount Sinai, the tribe of Levi was set apart for priestly duties. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of a spotless lamb for the sins of the people and his own sins. Hebrews chapter 5 says that the high priest can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided since he himself also is beset with weakness.

But, as the theme of the book tells us, Jesus is better. When Jesus stepped out of heaven, He chose to come, not as a fully grown, mature man, but as a baby. He was dependent on His parent’s nurturing. He ran and played and probably fell down and scraped His knee. He learned a trade as a craftsman from His earthly father. He had friends and enemies. He laughed and cried. Jesus embraced all of our humanness, but, because He was also fully God, never sinned. For this reason, He is the greatest high priest. He understands all of our weaknesses but, because He has no weakness or sin, He not only offered the sacrifice, but He became the sacrifice. John called Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Only Jesus could be both the priest and the offering.

We all want an understanding friend when we encounter difficulty. We long for someone who accepts us and will never let us down. But, as I have heard from one of my favorite Bible teachers, the content of contentment is Christ. We will always be disappointed if we look to others to meet our needs that only Jesus can meet. Is Jesus your friend? Do you come boldly before His throne and find His understanding help in your time of need? May your heart be filled with the chorus, No one is so near, so dear as Jesus; cast your every care on Him.

You can give Him all your cares because He fully understands.

Charline Engle

August 16 – Perseverance – With irritating people

Read 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. When you see them heading your way, you just know the rest of the encounter will not be good!  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 surely 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 an “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 and 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 and 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? What does he like to do for fun?  What was his childhood like? Sometimes they 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 and 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 because, without holiness, no one will see the Lord!

Pat Arnold

August 10 – Perseverance – When things go right

Read Hebrews 12:2 and Ephesians 6:17-18

Dolly Parton is the fourth of 12 children and grew up in an extremely poor home. She married Dean, who is now retired from running an asphalt road-paving business. Dolly suffered from endometriosis, a condition which eventually required her to undergo a hysterectomy. So they don’t have children of their own.

In interviews and in her music, she has looked back on her destitute upbringing, concluding that, while she values the lessons it taught her, she would not want to go back.

She wrote a song titled, “When life is good again”:

“When life is good again

I’ll be a better friend,

A bigger person when,

Life is good again,

More thoughtful than I’ve been,

I’ll be so different then,

More in the moment…

I’ll open up my heart,

And let the whole world in,

I’ll try to make amends…”

Parton sings that she will prioritize her personal relationships and share her appreciation for life when life is good again.

Whether things are going right or wrong in our lives, we must persevere – with persistent effort despite opposition – in our relationships. Work to improve relationships with others. Continue to talk and listen to God.

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” Ephesians 6:13-15

Because God’s gift of salvation is an eternal gift, believers should persevere in the Christian life, whatever the circumstances.

To persevere when things go right, we need to keep God first!

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

When things go right, you are most vulnerable.

On November 30, 2013, Alabama and Auburn were playing in a college football game. With the score 28 to 28, there was one second left in the game. Alabama attempted to win the game with a 43-yard field goal attempt. What happened next was unforgettable for anybody who watched it, including me (see video below).

When things go well, you cannot relax! Be prepared for trials.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James 1:2,4

Dolly Parton’s attitude of perseverance is admirable. Take time today to patiently listen to God and develop an attitude of perseverance, regardless of your circumstances. 

Tom Weckesser

July 8 – Fear of – Change

Read Hebrews 13:8

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”

 In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company faced a strong challenge from Pepsi. “The Pepsi Challenge” was an advertising campaign where participants, in a blind taste test, were surprised to learn they preferred Pepsi over Coke. The Coca-Cola company responded with a reformulated product that was launched on April 23, 1985, called “The New Coke.”  This was a national disaster: ads were ridiculed, and “New Coke” was dumped publicly into sewers.  On July 11, 1985, the previous version of Coke was brought back as “Coca-Cola Classic”. As a result of all this, they lost millions in research and advertising. The Coca-Cola Company thought this change would bring about a positive public response as they were trying to please the public, trying to make their product better. 

There are times when change is good.  A new job, a vacation, a new outlook.  Change can be desirable and exciting.  However, when change brings loss of finances, loss of health, or the death of a loved one, change can be frightening.  Fear creeps in, there is now an “unknown” in our life.  How will my life look now?  What’s going to happen? For those who know Christ as their Savior, even during the most difficult changes in this life, there is hope.  Our foundation is set upon an unchanging, perfect, and faithful God.  

He is the one constant in an ever-changing world.

Christ is Changeless because He is God.

“I the LORD do not change…”Malachi 3:6

Christ is unchanging in a world that’s full of change.  Because Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the gospel message is timeless. The plan of redemption is the same and will always remain the same. His love for man is eternal. His assurance of resurrection and eternal life remains untouched. If He were to change His plan, and, if He were different today from who He was, then who could we depend on?

What would we be able to expect from tomorrow? 

Christ is Perfect, so there can be no change.

“…your Father in Heaven is perfect.”Matthew 5:48

Every plan, every action, every decision is perfect, because a perfect God deemed it so. There is no need for change.  If He were to change His plans, then that would suggest that it wasn’t good or perfect in the beginning.  If God changed, then what certainty do we have in this life?  What hope could we stand on when things of this world change?

Where in your life do you need to accept His good and perfect plan?

Christ is ever faithful.

“…your faithfulness reaches to the skies…”Psalm 36:5

Because He is faithful, we are encouraged to persevere in our faithfulness to Him, when the world around us is ever changing.  He was faithful to His people in the days of Abraham and remains faithful to you today. Our devotion to Him may change daily, but His love is steadfast. He chooses us every day. He is constant and faithful always.  

As we saw with the example of “New Coke”, Christ will not change to accommodate public opinion. He will not change to satisfy our desires. Because He is the same yesterday, today and forever, we can trust Him with our “todays” and with our future.

He has always been true to His word and will remain so.

“…But You remain the same…”Hebrews 1:12

Janene Nagel

July 7 – Fear of – God

Read Psalm 89:7 and Hebrews 12:28-29

We just passed by Father’s Day and I was thinking about my Dad, who passed in January 2018.  I have a lot of fond memories of my Dad, and I knew that he loved me and wanted what was best for me.  I also knew to toe the line.  He used to do this thing when I was little – when he ‘sent me to my room’, he stood in the doorway, pointing to my room, which forced me to push past him on my way.  I dreaded this (he never actually did anything to me as I hurried past, hands covering my caboose!), and can honestly say it quickened the pace of my trip to my room. 

We laugh about it now… it’s quite funny to all of us. I was fearful of the discipline that my Dad would apply to the situation.  I wasn’t scared of him, but, when I knew that I was wrong, I was at the mercy of his disciplinary decisions, and I always knew that discipline was coming.  In the end, this was for my good, and my father knew that he needed to hold me accountable for wrong actions or decisions.  

Though not exactly the same, the ‘fear of God’ is similar.  In Psalm 89:7, a “God greatly to be feared” is spoken of, and we need to rightly understand this concept.  The Hebrew verb used here is “aras” (ah-RAHTS), which has a different meaning than the colloquial American understanding of fear.  More directly, this means to regard or treat with awe, or to inspire with awe.  You can see this echoed in today’s sister verse; Hebrew 12:28 where the Aramaic words aidos [(ay-THOSE) – awe or reverence] and eulabeia [(ave-LA-vee-ah) – caution, piety, reverence, discretion, or dread] are used.  Many translations simply use the word ‘fear’ as the English translation.

This can be confusing for people. Many of us grew up being terrified of what God might do to us if we messed up! Pillars of salt, fire from the sky, plagues of insects and bodily sores are just some of God’s just punishments. How terrified might we be in the physical presence of the perfect, holy, righteous, just Creator of the universe?  Particularly when knowing our own sin before Him?  

BUT… God is, at the same time, loving, merciful, and near to the broken-hearted.  We need to be in awe of God, because we know that He IS God!  God saved us; He sent His one and only Son so that we may LIVE!  Hallelujah!  Jesus bore our sin and shame.  God’s wrath FOR OUR SINS was poured out on the cross where Jesus died. As you travel through this series, remember that you need not be scared of what God might do … it has already been done!  We need not be afraid of hard situations we encounter in our life; God didn’t cause them.  The New Covenant ushered in by Jesus promises that faith in Him is all that is needed to overcome the world.

Craig French  

June 29 – Names of Jesus – Mediator

Read 1 Timothy 6:15-16, Colossians 1:21-22, Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 7:25, 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Five adult bodies, plus a Shih-tzu puppy, were crammed into my daughter, Kelsey’s, 2001 Jetta. We were headed to Flagstaff, AZ, which is a hair over two hours from Phoenix, where Kels lives. Spending the day shopping and taking in the town we had run out of adventure and kicked around the idea of going to the Grand Canyon. Some were interested; some were not. While conversing with a chatty, young girl at one of the shops, she assured us it was worth the trip. “You can be there in an hour and a half, tops!” Convinced, I pushed in that direction, so, off we went.

Google agreed with the chatty girl but for some reason it took us more like two and a half hours to get there. Trying to pass the time, we played games, but it was a l-o-o-n-g ride while we tried to stay out of each other’s personal space. There was ample time for my mind to wander to comments I had heard in the past, it’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not a big deal.

Arriving (mostly ecstatic about exiting the tiny Jetta) we trekked to the rim. As we walked, doubts were still circling around us like an annoying swarm of mosquito’s, until we finally got close enough to peer over the edge. Gasping, we took in the enormous view. God’s imagination and creative power on display left me tingly. I was awe-struck by the depth, expanse, and beauty. There was not an ounce of disappointment in me. Not one.

I don’t know if you’ve had the joy of seeing the Grand Canyon in person? I hope you have, but if not, could you imagine yourself standing on one rim and God standing on the other? Now, imagine trying to get to Him. If you’re anything like me, you immediately start thinking of ways: calling for a helicopter (my personal favorite), rounding up climbing gear, filling a backpack with water and food, finding a companion to go on the journey with you.

It’s our human nature to think we can get to God, isn’t it. We think we can somehow make it happen if we plan well enough, work hard enough, think smart enough. But as we read today God is ‘unapproachable light.’ The only way into His presence is pure perfection and we fall short.

Thank God He made a way to bridge the chasm. No gear required. None of my effort required, just a humble, life saving, admission of faith that I need Him.

Jesus is the one and only mediator. He is the pure, perfect, peacemaker that takes me from enemy to friend. From alienated to reconciled. The cost was great as He laid down His holy life for my necessary ransom and I’m forever grateful that He mediates for me.

Shelly Eberly

Questions to consider

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • How would you describe the giant chasm between God and you in your own life? In what way did it cause you to lean into a relationship with Him?
  • What feeling does it bring you to know that God is incredible and divine yet personable? How can this truth, and the illustration of the Grand Canyon, influence someone to trust in Him for the first time?

December 30 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 4

Read Matthew 4:1-25 and Hebrews 4:15

There is such a power in someone relating to something you’re going through.

If you’ve read our devos over the past year or know Kelly and I personally, you will know that she and I are fairly outspoken about our miscarriage in the fall of 2020. We do that, not because we want people to feel sorry for us, but so that people can see the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of a trying time we experienced.

As we were dealing with the grief of the loss of our child, my mind immediately shifted to the many couples in our church who I know have experienced this exact thing. Over the months that were ahead, Kelly and I both met with individuals who we knew had experienced a miscarriage themselves. I can’t explain the power that had for Kelly and I. For someone to say, “Hey, I’ve been there. You’ve got this. God is faithful.”

It was monumental.

There are many different aspects of Jesus that amaze me even today. There is a theological term called “hypostatic union” which is the truth that Jesus was and is both 100% God and 100% man. When Jesus put on human flesh as described in John 1, Jesus was fully human while also complete deity, however He laid aside the right to some of His divine power.

One of the greatest truths in the gospels and one that, if untrue, destroys the Christian faith is that Jesus never sinned while on earth.

However, that doesn’t mean that He wasn’t tempted.

Matthew 4 describes the temptation of Jesus immediately after His baptism. This brings about the principle that, often after a great high point in your life, you are the most susceptible to temptation.

Hebrews 4:15 puts it this way:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

When Satan offered food to Jesus, it wasn’t as if Jesus immediately cast him aside and declined. He was tempted. He may very well have thought about giving in. When challenged to throw Himself off a high point and have angels miraculously save Him, I bet Jesus thought about making Satan eat his words. However, He resisted temptation and He did so via Scripture.

When we are tempted and we pray for deliverance, Jesus can say, “Hey, child, I’ve been there. You’ve got this. I am faithful.”

When you are tempted, in what way can you utilize Scripture to fight through? How does it make you feel to know that Jesus was, according to Hebrews 4, tempted in every way we are? Also, is there anyone that you can come beside and say, “Hey, friend, I’ve been there. You’ve got this. God is faithful”?

There is such a power in someone relating to something you’re going through.

Jake Lawson