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

September 17 – A Changing Culture – Parenting

Read Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

That is sometimes easier said than done.  Just what is “the way he should go?”  This little “bundle of joy” didn’t come with an owner’s manual. . . or did they?

Nothing is more precious than to hold a newborn baby in your arms for the first time.  They stretch and squirm, maybe let out a few little purrs and squeals.  They might blink their eyes as they adjust to this strange new world of light.  Soon they start looking around and may even focus on your face.

They stare at you mystified at what they are seeing.  Eventually they start to imitate you.  You smile, they smile, you frown, they frown – so fasten your seatbelts, your job of parenting has begun.  

It can be scary. There are plenty of books and even YouTube videos on how to take care of your baby physically, but parenting involves more than physical needs.  And, in our changing culture, you might think this is just too complicated. 

But is it? 

God has given each of us an instruction book of life, the Bible.  It doesn’t just apply to adults but to raising children as well.   You might think, “That’s a pretty thick book.  How could I ever find what I need?” You can start with the ten commandments. They pretty much cover everything that our culture is trying to turn upside down! Jesus even made it easier for us when He narrowed it down to just two.  Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you think about it, no matter how crazy the world or culture changes, those two commandments never change and they apply to everything.

From day one this little “bundle of joy” has had you under surveillance.  Watching your every move, your expressions, your reactions, your speech patterns and words.  They have been imitating you because you, to them, are their guide through this jungle called life.  You yell, they will yell, you get frustrated easily, they will do the same. But if you are kind and generous, and love others, guess what they will do?  You love the Lord, not just in words but in actions, they will do the same.

Let’s face it, life is rough! Kids don’t need parents who are “saints”, ones who never make mistakes, know all the right answers. They need GENUINE parents who make mistakes, have problems but, most of all, confess those mistakes and seek God’s help to correct them!

What kind of example are you setting for your kids, and the kids around you, through your actions and words?

Be genuine!

Kids can detect a fake in a second!

Teach them to love God and His ways (not the world’s) and, when they are old, they will not depart from it.  

That’s a promise!

Pat Arnold

September 8 – A Changing Culture – Handling Success

Read Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 16:3 and Psalm 101:5b

“Just bought a book on narcissism. It’s great. It’s all about me.”

Have you ever watched the old video segments of The Beatles in 1963 from The Ed Sullivan show? You would see that these guys were hungry for success and had worked hard to produce pleasant music. They were young and ready to make some money. They were enthusiastic, excited and singing love songs such as THIS BOY (my favorite), SHE LOVES YOU and I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND.

Then, as I watched old video segments from 1965 through 1969, their attitudes changed. A lot of my friends say that their music got even better but what I saw were guys who weren’t as hungry and excited. They were burnt out. How could they not have been burnt out with the fame they experienced?

As they approached 1970 when the band broke up, they became drug addicts. Their music changed from love songs to drug songs such as LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS and DAY TRIPPER. Many people liked the music better. I didn’t. What changed?

Then on March 4, 1966 The Beatles’ John Lennon said, “We are more popular than Jesus.”

Reactions included radio stations banning Beatles music and rallies of boys and girls stomping on their records and bonfires of Beatles material.


Audio Adrenaline, a band of 5 Christian men aged twentysomething, sang a song titled NEVER GONNA BE AS BIG AS JESUS in 1996. This song was a response to The Beatles’ claim that they were bigger than Jesus.

“Never gonna be as big as Jesus

Never gonna hold the world in my hands

Never gonna be as big as Jesus

Never gonna build the promise land

But that, that’s all right, O.K. with me.

I could build a tower to heaven

Get on top and touch the sky

I could write a million songs

All designed to glorify

I could be about as good

Good as any human could

But that won’t get me by.”

How do you handle success? Do you work to avoid arrogance? When you become successful, it is natural to become arrogant and not realize it – too much pride, personal superiority and thinking you are more important than others.

But Jesus said to seek Him first:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”Matthew 6:33

That is how to avoid arrogance and handle success in a modest way.

In 2021, we have a culture that has changed. Arrogance and narcissism seem to be common. Jesus said to seek Him first.

Pray for humility!

As Christians, many parts of our life are UPSIDE DOWN from the rest of the world.

Avoid arrogance.

Do you seek Him first in all that you do?

Tom Weckesser

July 25 – $ – Saving

Read Proverbs 21:5

As you approach the local county fairgrounds, you see all of the cars jammed into parking lots and the signs indicating the possibility of close parking for a pretty penny. Are you paying $15 to park close to the fairgrounds or are you walking from blocks away in order to save that cash?

One of the biggest adjustments Kelly and I had to make upon our marriage was realizing that we are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to spending money. Kelly is paying $15 all day for close parking where I’ll walk as far as it takes to not spend that money.

(by the way, Kelly has read over this introduction and has approved it haha)

What I have had to realize is that we both need to meet in the middle. She needs to learn, and she is, the value of being wise about purchases where I need to not break out in hives when a necessary purchase opportunity arises. I’m a work in progress…

While our reading today doesn’t explicitly reference money, the principle still applies:

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

When it comes to your finances, would you say that you are planning diligently? Or would your money habits best be described as “hasty”?

We all know the consequences of being hasty with our money. The “impulse buy” is a weakness for so many. You see something on the shelves or on Amazon and think to yourself “I deserve this!” or “My life would be so much better with this!”.

Do you think about the difference between “need” and “want”? Do you really NEED what you are looking for?

There are so many more benefits to saving money than I have room for. Think about the space and buffer having a little bit of money saved provides you. When something unexpected comes up, will you be able to afford to make it through?

At the end of the day, we all need to take it upon ourselves to be “diligent” with our financial plans. Whether it is saving, spending, addressing debt or tithing, we should never be hasty or impulsive with what God has blessed us with.

Again, I ask, are you “diligent” or “hasty” with your money? How are you preparing for the future? In what way are you setting yourself up for success? How much of a savings buffer are you going to commit to give yourself so you are prepared for whatever may come?

At the end of the day, we are managing what God has blessed us with. How are you going to handle your money to be the best stewards you can be?

Jake Lawson

July 23 – $ – Debt

Read Proverbs 22:7

Americans are swimming in debt. No… maybe drowning is more accurate. And, if you wanted to switch metaphors, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to say we are enslaved to debt. Need proof? Here you go:

  • A May 2021 report from Debt.org revealed that the total U.S. consumer debt balance grew $800 billion in 2020 – an increase of 6% over 2019, the highest annual growth jump in over a decade.
  • The average American has $90,460 in debt, which includes all types of consumer debt, from credit cards to personal loans, mortgages and student debt.
  • And before you dismiss it all to mortgages, we are seeing consistent growth also in auto, student loan and credit card debt.
  • The average household carries 1.8 times more debt than income.

Think about it. Most Americans are not getting ahead financially because they’re paying someone else rather than themselves. The banks and lending institutions are happy to keep building beautiful, glass high rises with your money, while you struggle to keep up with home repairs.

Earlier in the Proverbs, we are reminded to “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” – Proverbs 3:9

While we’re paying a bank or other lending institution, we are struggling to honor God with our money. Rather than generously contributing to the cause of Christ, paying our bills, accruing savings for emergencies and planned expenses, and investing in retirement, our money is flying out of our bank accounts to pay debt on the magic carpets of electronic payments and automatic deductions.

And then we wonder why money is so tight.

God’s principles for financial stewardship work. And when we follow them, we honor Him. And until we follow them, we won’t have financial peace.

When we are a slave to debt or are stressed about finances, it affects our focus on our devotion to Jesus. We can become distracted about money.

Jesus talked about this.  He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

Indebtedness makes us slaves to another master.

It’s time to get some peace. I encourage you to register for our next Financial Peace University class in the fall of 2021 (keep an eye out on this page for updates: https://woostergrace.org/events/). No matter how well or how poorly you think you are handling your personal finances, there will be something you can learn to not merely gain peace with your finances, but enhance your generosity, as well.

David Lawson

July 12 – Leadership – Feedback

Read Proverbs 19:20

Getting feedback from others is complicated. I’m not sure any of us naturally enjoys it, though you can learn to love it.

Feedback, generally, has two features – highlighting the positive and, second, identifying what needs work and growth. It’s the second part that’s really hard to accept. Since our verse seems to infer the type of feedback that identifies our weakness and admonishes growth, let’s talk about that.

Feedback, especially unsolicited, tends to sting. It gnaws at our pride and our perception of ourselves. If we live with an inflated view of ourselves, we can scoff at it, discredit the messenger or get angry. If we are insecure and timid, feedback seems to confirm what we despise about ourselves. Neither of these reactions are helpful. Instead . . .

When feedback stings, befriend it.

While not all feedback is equal, it’s always an invitation to grow. Keep this in mind when you feel the sting:

  • Feedback leads to wisdom.

If the giver of the feedback sincerely has your best in mind, you can trust it. They may spot something that isn’t fully informed or they may know from their own experience that there are consequences up ahead. At the very least, if you’re tempted to reject their words, practice pausing to listen and consider. Wise people examine all the data, so consider the advice and wisdom someone is introducing to you!

  • Graciously receiving feedback is endearing.

It might be hard to listen to someone’s feedback when it stings, but admitting you may be wrong and seeing the opportunity to grow is often one of the most endearing qualities. People are drawn to this characteristic. This is probably at least, in part, why wise people tend to find other wise people. Like attracts like. Proverbs 15:31 says, “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” On the other hand, people who aren’t teachable are harder to befriend because they aren’t gracious listeners.,

  • It makes you more self-aware.

Self-aware people know their weaknesses as well as their strengths. They’ve gained this awareness by listening to others tell them what they can’t readily see at first – their blind spots. When you know your weaknesses, you can work on them. When you know your strengths, you can finesse and perfect them. All in all, you get wise!

So now what? Next time you receive feedback – the kind that stings – try responding in these ways:

  1. Send signals that you like, even if it stings. Every wise person I know appreciates feedback and you can be at any stage of your growth to assume the same posture. It will endear you to others.
  2. Ask for feedback before it’s offered. This one’s simple. Feedback hurts (a little) less when you ask for it than when someone feels they must give it unsolicited. This way, at least, you won’t be caught on your heels!
  3. Reframe “the sting” by thanking God that He’s growing your wisdom. The Bible says that the Lord’s discipline is evidence of His love for us (Proverbs 3:12). He cares for you. He desires your best and knows a little correction and feedback is growing you into who He’s destined you to be.

When feedback stings, don’t fight it. Befriend it.

Ben Framstad