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 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 19 – Prayers of Jesus – Thy Will Be Done

Read Matthew 26:36-46

“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’”Matthew 26:38

Hillary Scott is an American singer, who, in 2015, miscarried her second child, which inspired her to write the powerful song, “Thy Will”:

“I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear,
So, I followed through
Somehow, I ended up here.
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand,
That my broken heart
Is a part of Your plan?
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt
And these four words:
Thy will be done.”

Scott’s and Tyrell’s twin daughters, Betsy and Emory, were born in 2018.

It appears that, after their miscarriage, Hillary and Tyrell felt a little like Jesus did right before He was arrested. They were crushed with grief, something that all of us experience at times in our lives.

Here is part of a comment from YouTube, after hearing the song “Thy Will”,

“I said thy will be done when my mom died, when my two brothers died, when my music teacher died, when my father died, when I lost my job. I said thy will be done when I married my husband, my best friend. I said thy will be done when my friend became sober from alcoholism after 15 years, when we got a new house, when we opened a business. Thy will be done through it all…”

In his book “Hope for the Hurting”, Dr Tony Evans writes about how:

“God has a greater plan for the pain in your life.”

Pray to God. Talk to Him. Take time to listen.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”Proverbs 3:5

Ask God for direction so you can do His will.

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

These verses in Matthew 26: 36-46 show the depth of Jesus‘ awareness of the suffering that awaited Him on the cross, as well as h

His complete commitment to God‘s will (v.25).

“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Growth happens in the middle of grit and grind.

Is there pain in your life that you’re struggling to see the purpose of? Are you, in the midst of healing from pain, still searching for the purpose of this season? Do you face an important decision and are struggling with the weight of it all?

“Dear God, let thy will be done.”  

Tom Weckesser

January 3 – Habits – Read the Bible

Read Matthew 4:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16

The alarm goes off at 6:15 and my day begins.  I get ready for the day and have breakfast. I turn on the TV for the day’s weather report.  The grandkids come over (who I watch before school).  I give them breakfast, we practice piano, and we read our morning devotional.  Based on our devotional, the grandkids are challenged to put their faith into action.  I say goodbye, “have a good day, be a good friend, share Jesus and I love you”.  But what is missing in this morning routine?  I have taken time to care for myself and others, but there was no personal time for God’s Word! 

Devotionals, like the ones I read to my grandchildren, and the one you are reading now, may be a great resource and a great way to start your day. Devotionals are meant to stimulate your desire to read more of the Bible. Devotionals are another’s thoughts, which may be inspiring, but are not the Word of God.  There is nothing which has a greater impact on our spiritual growth than reflection in His Word.  

In the context of Matthew 4:4, Satan has just tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread.  Satan is appealing to Jesus’ physical hunger while at the same time, tempting Jesus to meet His own needs. But Jesus replied, “It is written” … Jesus, who was the Word, (John 1:1-4) honors the Scriptures.  Jesus understood firsthand the power behind the Word of God.  Jesus then continues with His reply:

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus set the example for us by using the power of God’s Word to overcome temptation.  His Word prepares us to expect temptation, to detect it and ultimately to reject it.

Second Timothy 3:16 teaches that God’s Word is His divine revelation, “All Scripture is God breathed…”  The Bible is a divine revelation that we can depend on to be infallibly true, pure and powerful.

His Word instructs us – to know God better and His plan of redemption through Jesus..

His Word reproves us – exposes sin, leading us to repentance

His Word corrects us – pointing out the evil nature of sin and its consequences, offering a solution through the Gospel message.

His Word is profitable for training in righteousness – pointing to the practical application of His Word.

Through Scripture we learn what is true, how to correct what’s wrong and then how to apply truth to our lives. I’d like to share a simple way to read and study the Scriptures for yourself, called “CLAP”.

Content – Identify the facts of the Scripture being read, don’t spiritualize.

Learn – How have you been instructed?  What have you learned from the passage?

Apply – How can you take what you’ve learned and personally respond to God’s Word? Application is about putting your faith into action.

Praise – Spend time in prayer thanking God, praising Him for what you have learned and how you’ve come to know Him better through His Word.

What steps do you need to take to make reading your Bible a daily habit?

“I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”Job 23:12

Janene Nagel

January 2 – Habits – Generosity

Read Matthew 6:21 and Luke 6:38

Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in the United States and lived alone for most of her life while taking care of her parents. It was not until her death in 1886 when her sister – Lavinia, discovered her treasure of over 1800 poems – that they became public. She wrote about the value of generosity:

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain…”

Generosity is a way of living, rather than a moment of giving. Generosity is who you are.  It can be the giving of time, abilities and gifts for the glory of God.

Riley Clemmons sings a meaningful song titled FOR THE GOOD:

“For the good
You work all things together.
For the good (For the good)
For the good (For the good)
Your promise stands forever.
You alone are my greatest hope,
I trust You on the broken road,
You work all things together like only You could.”

Develop a plan for giving. Some organizations try to get you to give by appealing to your feelings. Use your stewardship, your mind and decision-making skills to decide when and where to give.

We can be generous in many ways:

We can be generous with our influence by being a good example to others.

We can be generous by giving a person our total attention when they are speaking to us.

We can be generous with our words by asking questions and investing in the lives of others.

We can be generous with the subjects that we talk about such as spiritual things, and how we show gratitude and respect for others.

Our thoughts, our money, our influence, our time, our words, our actions…we sure can be generous in a lot of ways.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:21

In the blink of an eye the things that you and I have devoted endless hours into building and improving can be taken from us. We can do everything we can to create a type of security in life, but actually, everything in this life is temporary. So why is it that so many of us Christians often live for this world alone? Where is our treasure? Is generosity in our hearts?

Here is an example of generosity that Jesus gave:

“Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, ‘The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!’”  Luke 21:1-4

The Bible encourages generosity in Proverbs 22:9, Hebrews 13:16 and many other verses.

Consider generosity for the good!

Tom Weckesser

December 25 – Christmas Day

Read Matthew 1:1-25

Has the special, long-awaited gift arrived?  

I purchased the gift well in advance and then the dreaded notice came. Backordered!  I waited for the date when it should’ve been in stock again.  Then came the news that the product was out of stock! Now what?

When our hope is to give a loved one the very thing they have wished for and circumstances make it impossible, then it can seem that Christmas isn’t quite as special as we had hoped it would be.

The real meaning of this day and the hope it brings to us cannot be compared with a Hallmark moment of giving the perfect gift

Throughout the Old Testament is woven the imagery and prophetic messages of a Messiah and King to come and rule in peace forever.  These were like clues so the generations to come would know when He came.

  • The Messiah would be the seed/offspring of a woman and would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15).
  • He would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3).
  • He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
  • He would have a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David (2 Samuel 7:16).
  • He would be called “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” and would possess an everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7).

After Malachi wrote some of the last promises about both Jesus and John the Baptist, there was a long silence that lasted 400 years. During that time, there was no new information about the coming of the Messiah. I wonder, did those who lived during that time ask the question: When will this long awaited “package” arrive?

 Then Matthew recaps the generations who waited and writes the beautiful words; “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.” (Matt. 1:18) The waiting was over. The greatest Gift had arrived! The perfect Gift! “Because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)

 Share the gift of Jesus! Read about the birth of Jesus and tell how you received the gift of eternal life! This is the perfect gift for all who are on your Christmas card list. Merry Christmas!

Celeste Kern

December 24 – Behind the Christmas Card – Busyness

Read Matthew 11:28-30

The overwhelmed seems to scream loudly as the craziness of Christmastime gathers momentum. December blew in and the to-do list blew up.

Even in the midst of a freed-up Saturday morning, I feel paralyzed by all I have to do. I pick up my phone to check the weather and instead find Facebook events and holiday shopping deals blaring. They’re trying to fill my life and dictate what’s important. Two minutes into my day and the quiet my soul longs for is already out of reach, drowned out by the noise of the season I’m trying to savor.

Ironic, isn’t it? The whole purpose behind the crazy of Christmas is to honor the One who came to quiet our souls. The busyness that overwhelms is the very reason we have Christmas at all.

There is so much to do we don’t know where to start. It’s like trying to find the end of the Scotch tape roll so we can get that gift wrapped.

But somehow even in the spinning, He whispers in the deep places where thoughts form.

Remember the quiet that Almighty God offers. Remember the baby we’re doing this for.

Let it take you straight to your knees. Face to the ground, let’s bow before the God who thought up Christmas. He knew the crazy overwhelmed we would feel. The stress and the busy and the too-much-to-do list.That’s why He stepped in. That’s why Christmas.

Even right in the middle of the minutes you have to get something crossed off your list, be still and tell God He is Lord. Lord of the whole earth. Lord of your whole life. He already knows, but we can always use the reminding.

Let Him quiet the noise of overwhelmed and show you what to do. Let Him remind you that this is His plan. It’s His hand that’s brought you to right here. His hand has pointed us straight into this season.

Let the Living God breathe air into the lungs of your soul, and whisper away the paralysis.

Bria Wasson

December 13 – Honoring God – While content

Read Proverbs 16:9, Psalm 25:4-5 and Matthew 15:21

Terry Pluto is a sports writer for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland who is a nine-time winner of the Ohio Sports Writer of Year award who also writes books about his faith.

In his book FAITH AND YOU, Terry writes about how the death of his father changed his life. A World War II veteran, his dad used to put Terry up on his shoulders when they went to old Cleveland Stadium to watch the Indians play baseball. He said he felt like he could see the whole world from his dad‘s shoulders and that his dad was always there to carry him.

He was content.

Then his dad had a stroke and he realized “now it was time to be a real son, to care about someone besides myself.”

Have you ever had a similar experience?

His dad battled the aftermath of the stroke for 5 years. Terry thought about himself, “God, this isn’t fair.” But it was really his father who had the right to feel that way because Terry still has his health, his freedom, his job, his wife and his friends. But his dad had lost all of that.

Maybe Pluto was like Simon, a guy described in Mark 15:21 who contently showed up in town (Jerusalem) with his sons Alex and Rufus to celebrate the Passover, and was forced to carry a 40-pound beam of the cross of Jesus. He had no choice but to carry it to the place of crucifixion. Jesus started out carrying his own cross (see John 19:17) but he had been weakened by flogging – beaten and whipped to the point that he could barely walk. If Simon had not carried the beam of the cross, he may have also been murdered like Jesus was.

Our lives can have many detours. That is what can happen when someone you love gets sick and/or passes away. Trials and the hope Christ offers – in the middle of suffering – can bring you closer to God and contentment.

There’re only several sentences written about Simon in the Bible, but we know that his sons became important figures in the early Christian church. Do you think that seeing their dad carrying the cross of Jesus had an impact on these boys?

Simon thought he was going to a service at the temple but ended up taking part in something that changed history. This was not Simon’s plan most likely. But Simon’s plans changed. In one day – one moment – a person’s plans can change.

Pluto’s plans changed. His dad’s stroke was a wake-up call and it resulted in Pluto becoming serious about his Christian faith. He honored God by helping to take care of his dad. This brought contentment.

One way to honor God is to be ready to serve every day through changes. Follow God’s plan and purpose for your life by listening to God. This takes time and patience. Ask God to lead you to contentment.

Tom Weckesser

December 7 – Anxiety – Birds and the Lillies

Read Matthew 6:25-34

As you look back over your life, can you identify moments where you thought your circumstances were much bigger than they actually turned out to be? Can you recall thinking that you were sinking when God, in turn, had no such plans to allow that to happen?

Several years ago, I was changing our 18-month old son’s diaper when I got a call from Kelly telling me that she had just lost her job.

“Uh, what?” I question as I fasten the straps of Mattie’s diaper and place him on the floor.

God has this habit of blessing me with peace in crazy moments. I encouraged Kelly and told her that we would talk when she got home. Once I hung up and sat down in Mattie’s rocker, the tears started to come. As Mattie is crawling around the room, I think to myself:

“How on earth are we going to make it?”

“The budget is already tight. Is this even possible?”

“How am I going to stay strong for Kelly and lead my family?”

Through the blurriness of my tears, I call my dad and tell him the news. Looking back, I guess I was reaching out for hope and the slightest hint of light that things would be okay.

Dad told me that God wasn’t surprised by this and would help us through this trial. He assured me that not only was God for them but they were too.

Simple but effective.

Our reading today provides such a perspective to our trials. When we really stop to think that God cares for and provides for animals and flowers…things that don’t further the Kingdom of Heaven in the slightest…it brings us hope.

“Are you not much more valuable than they?”

These aren’t Matthew’s words or any other disciple. These words are straight from the lips of Jesus.

Our reading tells us that if God cares for and provides for material things, how much more does He care for us?

When we are struggling with anxiety, it is very easy to think that our situation is unique. While it is unique for us individually, there are people all around us struggling. Some of the battles are known while many more are not.

In what way are you going to, first of all, live in God’s provision? What circumstances in your life to do you need to give over to God and allow His will to be done? Who do you know who is struggling that you need to show them this hope that we learned about today?

Several years have passed since I got that phone call from Kelly. I can confidently tell you that God took such good care of us. The best was yet in front of us and it still is today.

God is for you. He loves you. He will take care of you.

Jake Lawson