March 6 – Parables – Persistent Widow

Read Luke 18:1-8

There has been a very specific prayer request on my heart for several months now. Have you ever prayed for something for so long that you begin to lose the desire to even lift it up to God? You are not alone. I understand what it’s like to come up on a perfect opportunity to talk with God about a specific request but fail to say a word because you’re just too weary. I am so thankful for the character of God, His Word, and the truth we discover in Luke 18:1-8 when it comes to praying to our Heavenly Father.

Luke 18:1-8 is the written account of Jesus telling His closest followers a story involving a judge and a widow who resided within the same town. Basically, the judge in the story is an unjust individual who does not respect God’s ways and does not care what anyone thinks of him. The widow in the story approaches the judge time after time, consistently requesting the same thing: for justice to be brought against her adversary. In the end, the judge gives her what she is asking for, solely because she won’t stop bugging him and repeatedly asking him.

After Jesus tells His disciples this story, He lets them in on an amazing truth about who God is! In verses 7 & 8, He says to the disciples, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” If this judge, who is unjust in character, is compelled by the persistence of the widow to deal justly with her, imagine how moved our God, who is upright in character, is to answer our prayers when we come to Him!

God doesn’t answer our prayers because He gets tired of hearing us ask; He answers our prayers because He hears us all of the time and that is who He is. He loves when we come to Him faithfully and persistently in prayer. He often won’t give us the answers we are expecting to receive. However, He can be trusted.

Keep praying and don’t give up!

Sidney Rupp

March 5 – Parables – Lost Sheep, Coin and Son

Read Luke 15:3-32

Have you ever lost something really important to you? Maybe it’s your wallet, phone, or even a relationship. I lose things all the time- especially my keys. Did you know that the average American spends around two and a half days per year looking for lost items? We care a lot about the items we spend time trying to find, and Jesus shows infinitely more love and care towards finding and helping people who are lost. He illustrates this through three parables.

The first parable is about a lost sheep. When a shepherd loses one of his sheep, he leaves the ninety-nine others to search for it (v. 4). When he finally finds his lost sheep, he rejoices and throws a party to celebrate its return (v. 5-6). This seems silly, right? He has ninety-nine others, why does just one sheep matter? The shepherd knew the lost sheep was in danger, so he went out to find it. Jesus explains, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (v. 7). We’re like the lost sheep in the story. God never stops pursuing us and, when we do return to Him, He celebrates!

Jesus uses a lost coin in his next parable. When a woman loses one of her ten silver coins, she searches carefully until she finds it. When she succeeds, she invites her friends over for a celebration (v. 8-9). Again, Jesus says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).

In Jesus’ next parable, He tells of a son who leaves his father with his inheritance and then throws it all away by seeking fun and pleasure (v. 12-13). When hard times hit and the son’s money runs out, he doesn’t know what to do except return to his father and beg for a job as a servant. But when he reaches his father’s house, instead of the unforgiveness and malice he expected to receive, his father told the servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate” (v. 22-23). That’s exactly how God responds when we come back to Him. He celebrates when we come back home, no matter what we did when we were away.

Have you noticed the connection between these three parables? Jesus searches tirelessly for the lost. When they are found, He rejoices and forgives. How comforting is that? No matter what our past looks like, we can always return home to God. He loves us so much and will never stop pursuing us. Where will you go next time you feel unworthy of His love? He will always welcome you back home.

Grace Wasson

March 4 – Parables – The Great Banquet

Read Luke 14:16-24

Excuses. Sometimes I’m full of them. Even in writing this devotional I’ve been coming up with them left and right. I’ve been tired, working a lot, there was a family death, I don’t feel like writing…next thing I know, I’m staring at an unmet deadline.

God’s kingdom can seem far away and fade into the background of our daily lives that feel so urgent. It’s not hard to get lulled into the routines of busyness, work, and relationships.

It seems that’s what the first guest list to this party was experiencing. They were busy with work and managing their wealth. They were consumed with relationships. They weren’t needy. So, the master sent his servant to the suffering. To the ones who had little going their way. These invitees readily accepted the invitation and blazed through the door of this generous master.

I hate suffering. It has crashed into my life due to circumstances out of my control and admittedly, I’ve cracked the door open to it on more than one occasion. The thing I’ve learned from suffering is that I’m not as self-sufficient as I want to be and that this life isn’t as grand as I want it to be. Pain makes me look beyond myself for help and care. Suffering reveals my neediness. It makes me eager for a feast. Eager for belonging and fellowship with my Savior and His people. Eager for something better than my earthly life. Jesus talks about the ‘something better’ in Matt.19:29… “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

The offer for what lies ahead is one hundred times what we leave behind.

It takes faith to trust that what is ‘to come’ will far outweigh what is right in front of me. It takes faith to accept the invitation to follow Jesus into the unknown. I have the joy of telling you He’s worth following. He holds the abundant life we long for. He sees us and invites us when the world could care less about us. He offers us a place at His bountiful table even though we don’t have the right clothes, family history, wealth, manners, abilities, or morals. His grace-filled invitation is for all, if we will just say yes.

He’s done all the work. We are welcome at His feast. There is room for all. I can’t think of one valid excuse to say no.

Can you?

Spend some time in stillness and prayer and ask God to reveal the excuses you’ve been using to avoid deeper faith and surrender to Him. Tell Him you need Him. Ask Him to meet you there and give you the courage and strength to leave your excuses behind and trust Him for the abundant life He’s dreaming for you to live, now and forever.

Shelly Eberly

March 3 – Parables – Seat at the Table

Read Luke 14:7-11

Have you been inconvenienced lately? Silly question, I know! As soon as I wake up and begin my day, I don’t think about the fact that I will be inconvenienced. I also don’t think about the idea that I will inconvenience others! I wake up with a sense of clear direction and plans.

*Then I make that phone call regarding an unexpected bill from a company we no longer use. Twenty minutes later, I get to ask my question.

*I go to the grocery store to buy aluminum foil, frozen broccoli and peas. They are out of all three.

I know I am not alone in this and I know I inconvenience others! Somehow I don’t feel the agitation in my spirit when I am the one asking for consideration and help.

When I look solely at my day through my human grid of understanding, I am living a self-focused life. I may get my tasks done and my goals may be completed but I have focused on an idol…me! When I get irritated because things don’t go according to my plan, I am worshiping my plan.

Jesus explains His kingdom solution for my problem of a self-focused life in our text today. This parable uses a direct form of conversation. Jesus inserts His listeners into the parable.

“When YOU are invited to a wedding feast…sit down in the lowest place.” (vv. 8-10) Jesus is speaking to a group of religious leaders who were called Pharisees. They understood wedding protocol and knew what would be an honorable seat at the occasion. He had been invited to a ruler’s house for a Sabbath meal. Jesus noticed how they jostled for the best seating at the table. Jesus explains in v. 11 what the kingdom principle is.

 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus himself had shown them how! Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-7 that “He made himself of no reputation taking the form of a bond servant, and came in the likeness of man.”

This is our example! It reminds me of the chorus to a hymn I learned as a child.

“Make me a blessing, make me a blessing, out of my life may Jesus shine.”

So, when I wake up tomorrow, may this be on my heart instead of my “to do” list:

  • To live and serve as Jesus did with a humble, serving heart.
  • To bless and love others as He desires me to.
  • To remember: Jesus, then others, then myself. What a great way to spell JOY.

Celeste Kern

March 2 – Parables – Good Samaritan

Read Luke 10:25-37

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37 NIV)

In this parable which is told by Jesus, two people chose NOT to show compassion for the person who was robbed, beat up and left for dead. The third person showed compassion.

Jesus gives an extraordinary example and model of how to love your neighbor. This good Samaritan put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn. He gave the innkeeper money (two day’s wages) and said that he would reimburse him for extra expenses. What if everybody showed compassion when they saw somebody in need? Wow.

Look for daily opportunities to be compassionate!

Help that older person carry groceries since you’re headed the same way. Ask the employee how he’s doing and thank them for the help. Take time to check on that coworker you know isn’t doing so well or the new guy. Just be interested. Take time. Buy a meal for a homeless person. Accept and respect disagreements and differing opinions. Empathize with others. Listen to others.

Jesus said to go and do likewise. So let’s look for opportunities to show compassion – they are all around us.

In the name of Jesus Christ:

Encourage others. Show kindness. Learn how to advocate. Open the door for someone. Motivate others. Practice acts of kindness. Allocate time to bond with friends and family. Say encouraging words. Share a hug or elbow bump (2020 style). Incorporate the phrase “thank you” into your daily routine. Offer to help someone with their to-do list.

Compassion is not just an attribute of God, but also a quality of His people.

  • Ruth loved her mother-in-law, Naomi, and had compassion for her. If you’ve ever heard someone called “ruthless,” it means that person is heartless. But the biblical Ruth was compassionate.
  • Joseph – After being sold into slavery and then rising to power in Egypt, he showed compassion to his brothers when they came to Egypt looking for food.
  • Paul – Several of Paul’s letters speak of raising money for the poor in Jerusalem.

Go and do likewise.

Tom Weckesser

March 1 – Parables – Two Builders

Read Luke 6:47-49

As a mother myself, I often look back on things my mother once said to me growing up and think, “If only I would have listened” or “That’s what she meant when she said that.”

… the words that we build our choices on matter because one small choice can affect the entire story that is written.

Have you ever decided something in your life because someone spoke to you? Did you settle for good and sacrifice God’s best because someone stated that you weren’t worth anything else? Whatever the case may be, whatever instance comes to mind, what someone says and what you choose to believe can either break or build you.

Too many times in our lives we listen to the words, the false truth, the opinions or judgments too closely. We allow them to shape our minds, our hearts, our motives, our perspectives. When instead, we should be looking at the words and truth of the One who creates, who bestows, who loves, who cares, who sacrifices, who guides, who nurtures, who protects, who provides.

Jesus mentions the two different builders because He wants us to understand that we have two choices in this life. We can build a deep foundation in our relationship and faith with Him or we can choose to keep it at arm’s length and only “use it” when we feel we need to.

The imagery here is beautiful.
The house is our faith, life, security.
The rock is our relationship with Jesus.
The torrent can be anything: our lives, our short comings, our unfortunate situations, our horrible circumstances, the words, opinions, choices of others.
We are one of the two men.

Now the beauty of this, to me, is that Jesus does not mention how a life with Him, following His ways and words, means we won’t come in contact with the wind and waves or even sometimes destruction. He does, however, promise that He is there with us through it.

He does promise that, through Him, there is life. Through Him, there is peace. Through Him, there is hope. With Him, everything doesn’t seem so big. It’s in those moments that the current comes knocking on our doors that we get to decide if we are going to bend and break, or withstand.

Which builder are you?

Have you taken the time to build that deep foundation, steadfast on the truth of Christ and His word? Is there solid rock around you? Or have you done that which is easy and, in your control, and when life hits hard, you feel hopeless?

I pray everyday I can be this first builder Jesus speaks of. I pray everyday that, as the wind and waves may crash against my house, it will not be shaken.

I pray this for you too.

Kelly Lawson

January 30 – Wait, who? – Thief on the Cross

Read Luke 23:32-43

“The Thief on the Cross” is only known to us by the sin he committed.  We don’t know why he stole, what or even when it all happened.  We don’t know if it was a matter of desperation or peer pressure.  We don’t know if he stole from the rich, the poor, his neighbor or a stranger.  We do know, however, his punishment had been justified because he told us so. (vs 41). We also don’t know what he had heard about this Messiah who had been preaching around the area.

But none of that mattered to Jesus.  When the man came face to face with Jesus, he acknowledged Him to be the one true Son of God, able to forgive sins, confessed that what he had done was wrong. Then he asked to be saved and it was granted. For that reason, I prefer to call him the “Forgiven Man on the Cross”.

Jesus forgave him, so why shouldn’t we? Why do we hold grudges against people who have done wrong things and have asked for forgiveness?  Why do we hold in our memories the things people have done in the past, maybe even have gone to jail for, yet have turned their lives around? Do you only know these people, not by their names but the wrongs they have done?  Do you forget all the great things they may have done before they yielded to temptation? We have ALL sinned and, if you say you don’t, you just did!

Judging people is not our job. That is God’s job. Our job is to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you don’t want to be a person who is nameless to everyone else and only known by the bad things you do, make sure you know the names of those you meet not by what they might have done.  Get to know their “story” – what makes them tick.  Let them know you care and introduce them to your friend and Savior Jesus. There was a sign that was posted long ago that said, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care!” They aren’t going to listen to you until you listen to them. That includes your own kids!

We know what happened to the Forgiven Man on the Cross; however, what about the others?  The really sad part of this story is the fact that the other thief who was in the same circumstances joined the blinded jeering crowd, soldiers and even rulers in mocking Jesus as He hung there for THEIR sins!  We don’t know what happened to them after they died. We can only hope that what happened 3 days later drew them to repent of their sins and they joined the Forgiven Man in paradise!

Pat Arnold

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 18 – Prayers of Jesus – Before Important Decisions

Read Luke 6:12-13

As you read today’s Scripture, it’s clear that Jesus really values prayer.

We can learn a lot from His approach: He went to a place with few distractions where He could focus and spent the night praying.

The night!

We aren’t told what He was praying about but, based on verse 13, I have to assume that there was a great deal of focus on who was to make up the group of apostles.

Talk about an important decision, He was deciding who He would entrust with the future of the Church!

Even with the future on the line, He still chose Judas who He knew would betray Him and Peter who He knew would deny Him. I have to believe He was first and foremost seeking what God the Father wanted Him to do.

We have great evidence of Him putting the will of the Father first when we look at Jesus’ prayer the night before He died a horrible death on the cross.

He knew what was going to happen to Him and, yet, look at His prayer in Luke 22:42:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

He is saying, “Father I really don’t want to have to go through this BUT, if it’s really what you want me to do, I’ll be obedient and do it.” As we know, He did go ahead and die an agonizing death on the cross which He could have stopped at any time. Instead, He chose the Father’s will.

So, as we come to important decision points in our lives, whose will wins – ours or our Heavenly Father’s?

Will we truly be looking for what God wants us to do or will we be asking Him to bless what we have already decided? Will we be laying out our timeline or will we accept God’s timing if He says wait or what about if He says no?

I’ve often thought about who is better equipped to make the decisions in my life:

Me, a finite, flawed human being who can only see a tiny part of the big picture OR a loving God who knows everything, past, present and future; who is all powerful and who died for us so we can have a relationship with Him?

I choose God!

Please take the time to pray before making decisions; God is listening and wants to help.

Mike Molter

January 17 – Prayers of Jesus – When Life Gets Tough

Read Luke 22:44

I LOVE taking pictures!  I take pictures of nature, babies, animals and, even sometimes, pictures of people taking pictures!  My favorite shots are the ones I take at my grandkids’ sporting events.  I am constantly amazed at some of the action that I catch!

The difference between a good and a great shot often depends on my perspective.  Up close a play can look like a mess but, from a different angle or further up in the stands, I can get a clearer view of what really is going on. Zooming in can reveal a whole new set of actions.

That is the way it is with life too.  When you are in the heat of the “battle” dealing with a spouse, rebellious child, a back-stabbing friend, or even a life-threatening medical condition, you might not be able to see any way out. You may feel like Jesus in the garden crying out to God to take it away from you! But stepping back and looking at everything from a different perspective, seeing everything through God’s camera lens, you get a totally different look at what is really going on.   The storms of life are there, not to make us bitter but to make us stronger. A favorite saying that has been posted lately says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

We are encouraged in Joshua 1:9  to “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!”

The lyrics to Through It All by Andre Crouch say it all:

I’ve had many tears and sorrows
I’ve had questions for tomorrow
There’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong
But in every situation
God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong

I’ve been to lots of places
I’ve seen a lot of faces
There’s been times I felt so all alone
But in my lonely hours
Yes, those precious lonely hours
Jesus let me know that I was His own

I thank God for the mountains
And I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
For if I’d never had a problem
I wouldn’t know God could solve them
I’d never know what faith in God could do

Are you ready to get a different perspective on your life?  In this world you are going to have trouble.  God is waiting to help you by not taking away the storm but teaching you how to dance in the rain!

Pat Arnold