November 7 – Attributes of God – Wisdom

Read James 3:17 and Proverbs 19:20

Who is your hero?

Outside of the obvious Christian answer of “Jesus”, who would you say is the person you look up to and idolize the most? A parent? Spouse? Friend? Sibling?

To me, the answer is easy…

Dad.

To many, he is “Pastor Dave”. Many choose to see him as a serious and professional perfectionist while, when he calls me, “Dad” comes across the screen of my phone along with a picture of him photobombing a family photo.

Best. Photo. Ever.

I can confidently say that I would not be the man I am today without my dad. Not even close. His patience and guidance, along with the work of Christ, helped form me into the man I am today (I am by no means a finished product). There were definitely some high and lows, but Dad’s consistency and wisdom guided me through.

When I signed up for the devo about wisdom, my mind immediately shifted to Dad. I read our scripture today about how James describes wisdom that comes from Heaven and all of those words describes the wisdom of Dad that I have grown accustomed to. As long as I can remember, he has always been the source of wisdom for our family.

I remember his gentle guidance to me when Kelly and I had a pregnancy scare when Mattie was only a few months old…we were so not ready for another child! I remember his counsel when I was contemplating huge changes in my life in high school. When I was immature, angry and overly emotional, he would calmly guide me back to Christ. Before marrying Kelly, Dad was always my first call when I didn’t know what to do. He’s now my second : )

However, there is truth that Dad’s wisdom pales in comparison to that of God. When you read James 3:17, I love how he says that wisdom that comes from Heaven is “first of all pure”. This means that it is 100% authentic, natural…perfect. When you think of your own wisdom, would you say that James 3:17 describes it?

Proverbs 19:20 describes how we can grow in our wisdom…listen to wise people. So much of my life was spent thinking that I knew everything I needed to know and I didn’t need to listen to wise and godly counsel in my life. Looking back, I see all of the value in their words and the difficulties I brought upon myself by not listening.

Do you listen to people when they talk to you? Do you let certain people into your circle? Or are you so prideful to think that you don’t need the advice of other people? Proverbs tells us that, if we listen to advice and accept discipline, we will be counted among the wise.

Will you humble yourself enough to admit that other people can speak into your life and bring a positive change? Who do you need to listen to that you’ve been ignoring?

Jake Lawson

August 7 – Perseverance – Being honest with others

Read Proverbs 21:28

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

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

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

We withhold our mistakes and exaggerate our accomplishments.

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

So, how do we turn this ship around?

It’s not as hard as you think.

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

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

“and He says: ‘You are enough’”

Nate Torrence

August 3 – Perseverance – While parenting

Read Proverbs 17:6

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

Chaos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay the course! Your children are a gift : )

Jake Lawson

June 11 – Enough – giving enough?

Read 2 Corinthians 9:7 and Proverbs 21:26

Generosity is a tough topic to grasp. It can be relative to each person, someone with a $100k salary might feel that giving $1,000 is impossible while someone earning $50,000 might be able to give $10,000 with no problem.

Money in general is a moving target, there is always a next level, another milestone to achieve.

The verse in Proverbs explains this perfectly, “all day long he craves for more…” Given to our selfishness and desires, our cravings can overtake us. The verse goes on to say “but the righteous give without sparing.”

The correlation of righteousness and generosity must not be overlooked.

The sanctification process that God is working in our lives is expressed in a variety of ways, one of which is giving. When we have been blessed with the greatest gift of salvation we should be filled with grace and display it, specifically in our finances, amongst other areas.

The part I struggle with when reading this verse is “without sparing.” If I really give without sparing wouldn’t I end in financial ruin and have a family that is desolate, lacking their everyday needs? There is always another area that would benefit humanity if I chip in a few dollars, as many as my life savings could afford. Does this conflict with Luke 14:28 where Jesus says?“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Finances and generosity require a plan!

How much do you spend on gas a week? How much are your groceries? What are you committing to a retirement fund or your 401(k)? How much are you giving? All of these questions should have an answer and by having one, you can be much more strategic, way more influential and accomplish goals that are currently just dreams.

We shouldn’t expect to give our last dollar if our family has needs. However, we should be constantly looking for ways to bless others out of our abundance. Generosity looks a little bit different for every person because we have all been gifted differently.

Though one expectation that we all should have is living generously no matter our circumstances.

Do you need to put a plan in place? Do you need to revisit your plan? What is your plan for generosity?

Jeff Walter

November 28 – 10 Commandments – Don’t Lie

(Today’s devotional is borrowed from the You Version plan, “The Ten Commandments: A 10-Day Devotional”.)

Read Exodus 20:16 and Proverbs 18:17.

The ninth commandment doesn’t cover just courtroom infractions. It deals with all manner of falsehoods. Throughout the Ten Commandments we’ve seen that God cares about justice. Why would He make laws against murder except that He cares about each person made in His image? Why would He make laws against stealing except that He cares about the right of private property? Here we see that God cares deeply about verbal justice. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true. Lies hurt people deeply. This command was meant to protect marriages, property, life, reputation, and honor.

Why is telling the truth so important? It’s important because it is the nature of God himself. “The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret” (1 Sam. 15:29). What makes God *God* and not human? One answer is that He doesn’t lie—ever. “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Rom. 3:4). As Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It’s the nature of God himself.

Reflect

How is motive a factor in breaking or keeping the ninth commandment?

October 11 – Living Sacrifice – Don’t Hit Back

Read Romans 12:17-20, 1 Peter 3:9 and Proverbs 25:21-22

When I was a kid I could recall my parents telling me not to hit my brother or sister back during any disagreement. Pretty standard parental advice for siblings, especially for a middle child like myself. In the literal terms, hitting someone as an initial act or retaliation is not a good option, but how do these passages apply in 3 areas of our lives and not just in the sense of violence?

  1. Words

What we say and how we say it in today’s culture seems to be very tenuous. Some think they can say whatever they want on social media with no repercussion, but the words we use tell others a lot about what is going on in our hearts and minds.

Paul writes “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone” (Romans 12:17), but, most importantly, doing what is right in God’s eyes. Think about how that social media post or comment on someone else’s post sounds before sending it out. 

2. Actions

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” (1 Peter 3:9). Everyone has someone in their sphere that just rubbed them the wrong way. It always seems like they are putting you down or just always against you. The scripture today instructs us to not repay their unkind behavior back to them, but to, instead, show undeserved kindness to them. This is very challenging, especially if you know that you aren’t the person who should be apologizing.

Pray for patience and kindness to be part of your response to that person.

3. Thought Life

It’s easy to turn to harsh thoughts and want to think poorly about someone who has said or done something against you. Take those thoughts captive and, by doing so, apply the words in Proverbs 25:22:

“…you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Returning kindness as a response to an offensive act is difficult to do; however, praying for someone or flipping your thought life to the positive instead of negative is even tougher. 

There’s never been a better and more opportune time to show kindness to the opposite political party, the other side of the vaccination fence, or to someone who just doesn’t believe what you do.

So, the next time you have the chance to “hit back”, choose to respond with His unfailing kindness!

Drew Hilty

October 2 – Living Courageously – Avoid Deception

Read Proverbs 12:22 and Titus 1:15-16

“Liar, Liar, pants on fire!”

This was a chant heard many times on the school playground growing up. Someone had gotten caught in a lie.  No one likes a liar or being lied to, not even God! 

He detests it!

Many heartaches, even wars, have their origin in one kind of lie or another.  You can’t claim to love your neighbor on one hand and try to cheat and deceive them with the other.  Life is not a game of sleight-of-hand tricks.

Yet, in our society today, we have come to and even expect people in certain occupations to be lying to us. When they are not called out about their lies, they just keep on doing it.  In Proverbs 12:20, the Bible  says there is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil but joy in those who promote peace.

Deception is not just lying to cover your mistakes, it is a heart problem. How someone can look another person right in the face, knowing full well what is coming out of their mouths is a lie, comes down to who their God is. Is it Satan, the father of all lies, or Jesus the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace?

Why do people lie? 

Some do it to cover up what they have done, maybe to cover up their previous lies or to see if they can get away with something that is forbidden to them. They are forgetting we have an All-Knowing God who sees and hears everything and knows their heart better than they do! 

Others will waste their whole lives seeking fame, or fortune and will lie to some of their best friends or even loved ones to get what they want.

Words in this old hymn say it all:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,

I’d rather be His than have riches untold;

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,

I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,

I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;

I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,

I’d rather be true to His holy name.

Than to be the king of a vast domain

And be held in sin’s dread sway.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today.

What would you rather have: fame, fortune, power or a clean conscience so that you can be at peace with God and your fellow man?

My one principal used to always end the morning announcements with this,” Have a good day or not.  The choice is yours!”

So, I am asking you: are you going to have a good lie-free life or one filled with deceit? The choice is yours! 

For me, I’d rather have Jesus!

Pat Arnold

September 29 – Living Courageously – Constructive Criticism

Read Proverbs 19:20

Each Christmas Eve, my husband would find himself sneaking to the basement to assemble complex train tracks for our kids. He would open the box and about one hundred gray, various-sized track pieces would fall out. He would sit there surrounded by straight and curved pieces, unsure of where to begin. I would take that opportunity to wish him well and leave him to figure it out!

Thankfully, the directions were included with words and pictures to help this dedicated dad assemble the pieces into a spectacular Christmas surprise. I’m sure many of you can relate to this experience. In this instance, directions are a lifeline to completing a difficult task. In life, we have much more difficult tasks to face. Relationships, parenting, and finances are just a few that we would all like to have a set of detailed directions for. The good news is that God provides the help we need to live courageously for Him.

In Proverbs 19:20, God’s Word teaches us that courageous living doesn’t mean that we have all the answers, but that we must be willing to seek out direction. It says, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, and be wise the rest of your life.” So many things in life are easier when we follow directions, not try to figure it out on our own.

God gives us several avenues to use in order to find direction for right living.

First, we have God’s Word. Wisdom is found in the pages and stories of the Bible. Accounts of men and women like Abraham, Jonah, David, Rahab and Deborah help us understand how God wants us to live. The Bible also includes advice about how to treat our fellow Christians and neighbors and, when followed, these words can cause us to live and love with courage only God can provide.

God also places certain people in our lives either for a season or a lifetime. I once heard this wise advice: It is good to have friends who are older than you and friends who are younger than you. The point being that you can learn from the older, wiser friends and influence the younger friends who can learn from you! As I pondered this, I realized it was true! I had friendships with women who were older than me who lovingly offered me advice about relationships and handling stress. Fortunately, I also had younger women around me with whom I could share bits of wisdom I had learned along the way. Sometimes, we just need a word of confirmation to reassure us that we are headed in the right direction. Other times, we need words of admonition or accountability to keep us on the right track.

Be brave and seek out these people in your life.

Finally, God gives us a direct line to Himself through prayer. When we need advice or wisdom, James tells us to simply ask (James 1:5). We can talk to God honestly, admitting we don’t know what to do. We can ask for direction, opportunities, and insight. The other part of prayer is listening for a response from God. When we are quiet and listening, God reveals His will for us through His Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us to pray about everything, expecting God to help (Philippians 4:6).

In order to live courageously, you and I need to bravely seek the wisdom and advice of God. Will you commit to searching the Scriptures for direction? Will you send a text or meet with a friend who can encourage you? Or will you block out some time today to pray and seek God’s wisdom?

Go ahead . . . be brave!

Tammy Finney

September 23 – Anxiety – The Weight of Anxiety

Read Proverbs 12:25

Nearing the end of my college career at Ohio State, I had my first engineering position lined up and was extremely excited to be graduating and moving out of state for this new endeavor. Things had lined up really well with accepting a job offer at my 1st choice employer prior to graduation, making the last half of my senior year low stress. 

At least, so I thought, until the latter half events of my senior year started to unfold.

During 2003, the conflict and unrest with Afghanistan was increasing and the United States was beginning talks of intervening. The situation was one I monitored closely as I enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard coming out of high school and served during my college career.  As my enlistment was scheduled to complete in March of 2003, the unrest in Afghanistan was high, making my near-term future very unclear.  Needless to say, there were many anxious days and nights, waiting to see if God would change my life direction towards serving in the Middle East or continue my intended civilian career path.

Today’s text summed up my emotional state quite well during this time:

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up”.

All of us have had their fair share of anxious times during the last year, fighting through personal, family, work, and just stressful times in our country.  If you’ve had a chance to be encouraged by a friend via text or a phone call, you know what that can do to lift your spirits and ease those anxious thoughts.  Anxiety is our soul’s prompt that it’s time to pray and only Jesus can provide the ultimate relief to our uneasy situations. 

God guided my path in college and, as my enlistment ended, 3 days later the U.S. entered into Afghanistan. I had prepared my mind and heart for whatever His plan was but not without anxious thoughts of the unknown path.

Two quick takeaways for those anxious thoughts this week:

  1. Reach out to a friend and tell them about what’s causing anxious thoughts for you and seek prayer support, but also ask what is on their mind that you can pray for them. Never underestimate what praying for someone else can do to help change your perspective.
  2. Pray in the morning, evening – giving Him thanks for the good days and presenting your concerns in the midst of conflict.

Jesus is there to listen to our fears and anxious thoughts, give them all to Him today!

Drew Hilty

September 22 – Anxiety – Trusting God

Read Isaiah 26:3-4 and Proverbs 3:5-6

Peace.

The very thought of peace brings with its expectations of unhurried serenity. It is freedom from the pressures and anxieties of life. Peace is not necessarily the absence of howling winds of turmoil that might surround us. It is, however, the calm that is possible in the eye of the hurricane. Most all of us yearn to experience more peace. But real peace is not the result of changing our circumstances. Instead, it is the byproduct of changing our focus and attitude.

Isaiah describes it like this:

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

(Is. 26:3)

According to Isaiah, God is the source of peace. If we try to generate it by controlling our environment, we will work frantically and, ultimately, in vain. Although God can use the insights and counsel from others to calm our anxious thoughts and wandering hearts, He is the definitive source.

Isaiah also outlines a description of those who receive His peace. They are those who trust in Him. These are children of God confident in the care of a loving Father (1 Jn. 3:1), Who gives good gifts to His kids (Matt. 7:7-12). Those who receive peace recognize that even adversity gives way to the good that God is working in them (Rom. 8:28).

But the trust required here is a steadfast conviction. It is a relentless posture where the person’s thoughts continuously come to rest on the immoveable and reliable Rock eternal. He alone can sustain us. He alone can calm our fear and infuse peace in its place.

So, what is the rock on which your mind comes to rest? I am not proud of the fact that my mind regularly seems to settle on the most recent concern about the unknown and fears about the “what if…” I must discipline myself to focus on the promises, character, and goodness of my Heavenly Father. He alone is the Rock eternal whose peace can replace my anxiety.

What about you?

Steve Kern