December 18 – Behind the Christmas Card

Read Psalm 55:22

I’m not sure about you, but, every time I get a Christmas card from someone, for a split second, it appears that their family is perfect. They are all smiling with seemingly such genuine joy. None of the kids are fighting but have arms around each other in the spirit of Christmas splendor. The baby may not be smiling, but at least is looking at the camera. Heck, even the dog is sitting down and looking at the camera. You look at a card like this and suddenly your perception of this family is based off of their Christmas card. You think to yourself that, if their Christmas card is any indication, they must have things figured out.

Little do you know that, right after the picture was taken, kid #1 punches kid #2 in the face, causing a hot pursuit around the living room, the baby throws up everywhere, causing the dog to instinctively investigate, the mom remembers that dinner is burning in the oven while the dad tries to restore peace in the house. You may be thinking of your own family and chuckle, “What peace?”

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be examining issues “Behind the Christmas Card”. These are issues that most all of us have dealt with at one point in our lives and some may be battles we currently are fighting. These issues could be causing you to dread the holidays. Christmas isn’t always joyful for many people.

As you read through these corresponding devotionals, take an honest inventory of your life. Can you relate to what is being shared? True change won’t take place unless you are honest with yourself. Healing and growth won’t happen apart from the Lord. Our passage in Psalm 55 today encourages us to cast our burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain us. As Pastor Nick has said repeatedly, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to stay that way.”

As you read the words from our writers, open your heart to some of the same issues that you are dealing with. If you know someone who could be encouraged through these words, share the series with them and allow them to be encouraged as well!

Over the next couple of weeks, let’s all peek behind the Christmas card and examine ways that the holiday season can cause some internal issues to arise. Let’s also open our hearts to the Lord and the healing and forgiveness that He offers!

Our EverydaywithGod team is praying for you as you journey through this series with us!

Jake Lawson

December 17 – Honoring God – With our love

Read Psalm 51:10 and Mark 12: 30-31

Brandon’s parents divorced when he was three years old, and he was raised by his mother for six years before she remarried. He said that during his early life, he grew bitter towards his family, but in high school he converted to Christianity, learned forgiveness and then forgave his parents.

He was given a guitar as a Christmas gift at the age of 13, and around the same time he began writing his first songs. He was a choir member at his school and was encouraged by his music teacher to pursue music.

Brandon was invited to a “Young Life” camp as a teenager where he “heard about Jesus for the first time” and he says that Young Life “showed me Christ and got me plugged into a church”. After high school, he became a Young Life leader and is still involved with this ministry.

Brandon Heath started writing songs such as Give Me Your Eyes – songs about honoring God with your love and with your eyes. It was nominated for numerous awards. It’s about how our lives can be full of confusion and chaos. And all those people in our lives – going somewhere – he asks, “Why have I never cared?”

He asks God to “Give me Your eyes for just one second, Give me Your eyes so I can see, Everything that I keep missing – Give Your love for humanity.”

Our love is really all we have to give to people!

We can pray for others and give them our love, our time, our listening skills, our interest, our resources and our hospitality. I can put down my device and I can make sure they know how much I love them. I can serve them, rejoice with them and mourn with them. I can introduce them to Jesus (See John 1:35-42).

That is what we can give people – our love.

We honor God by loving others. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

We can honor God through obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” – John 14:15

We can honor God with humility. Jesus said, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” – Matthew 5:5

We can honor God with our eyes. Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light”. – Matthew 6:22

There are hurting people practically everywhere. Do we see them? Are we prepared to honor God by acting and demonstrating God’s love?

How do you honor God?

Tom Weckesser

December 16 – Honoring God – While emotionally exhausted

Read Psalm 73:25-26 and 2 Corinthians 12:10

The scriptures above are two that I have clung to, time and time again. Over the last 13 years, as a surrendered follower of Jesus, I have come across many seasons when I am emotionally exhausted. This could be from just life running its course, health, being a parent or starting a new job. 

I am no stranger to feeling deeply and, sometimes when I feel deeply, I begin to feel emotionally exhausted from all the changes, situations, newness, and the unknown that could be surrounding me. 

Something I love about the Psalms is that there is every emotion under the sun felt within the pages of its writings. At the end of all of the lamenting, most of the time, the authors will point back to the Lord and point back to His strength and His power pulling them through. 

My question to you is, “When you are emotionally exhausted, what do you do?” 

Do you sit back and read a novel? Watch a movie? Have dinner with a friend to vent about the frustrations that have pulled you into this season?

The biggest question is, “When you are emotionally exhausted, do you still honor the Lord with your time, talents, treasures, words, and actions?” 

It is so easy for us to feel our feelings because we live in a fallen world where everyone tells you “your truth is THE Truth!”, when that just isn’t a holy perspective. 

Something that I fall into when I find myself emotionally exhausted: I do one of two things:

1) The first is, I go to my closest friends to vent and whine before ever going before the Lord. In this, I have been convicted in the past that I am not leaning on Him but leaning on the validation of others. 

2) The other thing is that I tend to lose my sense of reality by spending my free time watching movies or television shows so that I do not have to think about all that I am going through or feeling. 

Would you say that either one of these is honoring the Lord first?

I wouldn’t. 

I have had to practice and re-train my brain and life to do something that is honoring before something that I feel like, so that I do not fall into the brokenness of this world that leads me down a slippery slope of sin. I have had to examine when I feel emotionally exhausted and, instead of going to a friend or losing myself in a false reality, I have learned to take actions of obedience by opening up the Bible and reading God’s Truth or journaling in a prayerful way in order to lay it down in surrender and gain a holy perspective. 

No matter what I do, I have to recognize that just like the author of this Psalm and Paul writes to the Corinthians; “My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever”… and that, through the weaknesses I may go through, if I go before the Lord, I will learn that He is strong in my weaknesses and will always use them to make me stronger in character and faith. 

Now, ask yourself, do you honor the Lord when you are feeling emotionally exhausted? Do you give into your emotions and try to escape reality or do you go before the Lord and allow Him to reshape your perspective? 

Which one is most honoring? Do you honor Him?

Kelly Lawson

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 12 – Honoring God – While grieving

Read Romans 12:12, 8:28 and Psalm 62:5

“For God’s glory.”

Three words we say and sing that make us feel all warm inside, until we realize the weight of them.

It’s easy to live for God’s glory when life is sweet, but when grief lands on you like a house, you start to wonder… ‘God, where are you? I know you can do anything you want…is this it?’

And it’s there that the wrestling match begins.

The ‘letting go’ in grief may feel like you’re giving up, but what if it’s really gaining something lasting and beautiful like joy, hope, patience, and faith?

It may sound like a bunch of messy questions: ‘Why can’t I just trust God with this pain? I thought I was stronger than this?’, ‘I’ve been living for You, and this is what You give me in return?’ and ‘I was considering life with You, Jesus, but if this is what You’re offering, count me out.’

Jesus is the master of asking the best questions. When some of His followers couldn’t stomach His teaching, He asked them if they were going to abandon Him and Peter answered:

“To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”John 6:68

I can think of a lot of other places to go, can’t you? You may have traveled there yourself. Places like: pity, isolation, substance abuse, buying things, denial, keeping busy. I bet it’s made your grief all better, hasn’t it? You’re all healed up and living an amazing life that honors God?

Humbly, I suggest that being joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer sounds a lot like action, not just lying under a house doing nothing.

Hear me loud. There’s no shame in lying under a house of grief and there’s no shame for how it landed there. Jesus isn’t condemning you. He cares for you.

He’s waiting for you to trust Him.

Imagine Him listening to your laments and actually having the power to do something about them. What if you decide there is nowhere else to go and invite Him into your grief? Even that would give Him glory.

What if you commit to reading the Psalms and asking the Spirit to bring you comfort through His words?

What if you speak honestly about your pain with someone you know will direct you toward faith?

What if you believe Jesus is under the house with you, fighting for every breath with you, and that He is the source for everything you need to heal?

I can’t lie.

I hate grief.

And I can’t lie.

The closeness I’ve gained with Jesus through suffering has been a gift.

He’s taught me how to trust Him time and time again.

And with each tiny act of faith, He has responded with His faithfulness and lifted the weight off my chest, one piece of the ‘house’ at a time.

And I’ve felt a little lighter, and hopefully, given Him the glory.

Shelly Eberly

November 17 – Attributes of God – Wrath

Read Psalm 7:11 and Romans 9:14-24


Oxford defines it as “extreme anger”. Inside and outside the church, it can be a stumbling block to rightly understanding God’s perfect character.  When talking to people about God’s wrath, judgment, punishment, even Hell, it is imperative that we know how to discuss these difficult topics in a way that lovingly points people to Jesus.

Sharing the Gospel starts with God’s creation.  Implicit in His creation is an important distinction that often gets overlooked; God’s ownership.  God makes the rules, He judges, and He always judges rightly! Misunderstanding this concept sounds like this; “How could a loving God __?”  or “Why would a loving God do this/allow this to happen to me?”  Paul obviously heard these objections and others like it; just read Romans 9!  Here are some excerpts: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”, and “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy…”  These are HARD concepts that we need to pray on, and ask for help with our understanding!

I can remember vividly a recent circumstance where one of my children had done something extremely rude and disrespectful to my wife and I, and I reacted with emotional violence.  Towering over my child (physical intimidation), yelling at my child (verbal intimidation); I lashed out in ANGER.   The problem is, my anger was rooted in sin, it was not righteous, and it was not for my child’s good.  There was nothing LOVING about the way I acted.

We shouldn’t think of God’s wrath like this.  God has many attributes.  Here, we are discussing wrath.  He is also loving, merciful, just, holy, etc.  God is perfectly ALL of these things, ALL of the time.  So, while exercising His judgement on His creation, He is exercising Love and Mercy at the same time.  Our inability to understand this is an issue with us, not an indictment of Him.

Think about it like this… God hates evil, and speaks strongly against it throughout scripture.  Would you want to serve a God who turns a blind eye to sin; who tolerates evil?  Without God’s wrath, would you have any idea just how serious your sin really is?  We need to understand that it’s God’s wrath that cracks open the door for His Mercy and Grace; His judgment creates a NEED for a Savior.

The truth is, we are uncomfortable with God judging or punishing.  Our discomfort is an important human response, however.   It is this spiritual and emotional discord that drives us to repentance.   When confronted with God’s unchanging Holiness, we fall short, and we wrongly defend, posture or justify.  Know this…when God displays wrath he is showing His POWER, asserting His OWNERSHIP.  Brothers and sisters; it is done for OUR GOOD, and HIS GLORY.  The cross displays all of this PERFECTLY, Praise God!

Want to see God’s perfect wrath?  Look at the cross.  Want to see God’s perfect love, mercy and grace?  Look at the cross.

Craig French

August 12 – Perseverance – With self esteem

Read Psalm 139:13-14

A woman knits a blanket. Row by row, she holds the yarn, wraps the needles, works her hands until her creation is complete. As she finishes her project, she inspects each stitch. This woman knows her blanket inch by inch. She has searched it thoroughly, even as she created its very form. She knows the value of her creation, and, no matter what happens to it now, that value will never change in her eyes.

I wonder if David pictured something like this when he wrote Psalm 139. He knew what it was like to create a masterpiece. He had created so many of the songs you and I know as the Psalms, knitting words together, inspecting each stanza, forming each phrase. Each one holds distinct value even now, thousands of years after he wrote them. Just as God had distinctly woven together David’s very being before he was born, so David had carefully crafted Psalm 139:

“You have searched me, LORD…and you know me.”

When he wrote this psalm, David constructed it in such a way as to focus on the praise due to the One who had carefully and wonderfully created him. The God who had distinctly defined his very person. David knew that his worth was totally tied up in the distinct value his Creator had assigned each stitch of his person. His worth would never change, no matter what anyone said. The enemies David mentioned in verses 19-22 could never change the value his Creator had given him from day one. No matter what might happen to disfigure his shape or mar his character, David knew his value would never diminish because the God who created him was an excellent Creator who only makes wonderful works. 

And this is how we persevere when our worth feels gone.

When we feel beaten down, having failed yet again, still our value remains unchanged. When we see ourselves as broken and unworthy of love, the God of the universe, who knit us together stitch by stitch, sees His beautiful creation, full of value. 

You see, the value is actually not about us at all. It’s about Him. And He is the perfect Creator whose works are only ever full of wonder and worth everything to Him!

Bria Wasson

August 8 – Perseverance – While displaying kindness

Read Psalm 141:5 and Ephesians 4:29

When I think of perseverance, I begin to sweat. I feel drenched, exhausted, and short of breath. You see, perseverance reminds me of training to be a stand-out athlete with lots of running and exercise. In order to be a good athlete, you must train and practice over and over. And so, all that practice and working out makes me think of running, lifting weights and…sweating.

Not my cup of tea.

I can think of other pursuits I would rather persevere towards. One such area would be to pursue kindness. We hear the slogan “Be Kind” in a lot of places today. It’s on t-shirts, posters, and embedded in children’s programming.

A single act of kindness here and there is not all that hard to achieve.

When a teacher encourages students to be kind in the classroom, they will look for a dropped pencil to pick up, or assist a fellow student in picking up trash in the hallway. Often, when students are caught being kind, they are rewarded with a treat or recognition. As an adult, it is not that difficult to contribute to a community food drive or help a neighbor care for their pets. We feel good about ourselves when we are kind.

Living a consistent lifestyle that demonstrates kindness requires perseverance. Being kind sometimes requires a person to share some hard truth. Perhaps a child needs to be corrected for inappropriate behavior, or a spouse needs to be reminded that their words hurt, or an employee needs to be told about a mistake they made. It would be easy to look the other way and ignore these problems, but it wouldn’t be kind. In the moment, the truth may not seem kind, and may not be received well. That’s why consistent kindness over time is important. Kind words and actions build trust and demonstrate love. Then, when a hard truth must be shared, it will be more easily swallowed.

Psalm 141:5 says

“Let the righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me- that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of the evildoers.”

We all can begin training to be kind by following the advice found in Ephesians 4:29:

 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Pursuing kindness takes perseverance as it won’t happen overnight. It takes careful practice and repeated attempts to consistently respond with kindness. Perhaps you are a person who needs to accept the truthful words of a kind person. It can be difficult to hear that you aren’t doing something correctly or need to stop doing something hurtful. You may not even perceive the behavior as inappropriate, but let the kind words of a trusted advisor sink in and change you, even though it stings.

Use your words carefully today. Be kind…even if it requires a little sweat on your part.

Tammy Finney

August 1 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 145

Read Psalm 145:1-21

Have you ever experienced something so great that you had to share all about it to everyone you see? It could be a favorite restaurant with the best burger you’ve ever eaten, a movie theater with the most comfortable chairs you’ve ever sat in, or the best hotel that had the most wonderful service you’ve ever experienced! When we know something is great, we talk about it!

In Psalm 145, David can’t stop talking about his incredible and amazing God! There are 21 verses where the psalmist declares he will exalt and praise God. That He is a mighty King, worthy of all glory! He says that no one can measure His greatness and that it’s a name so good every generation to come will know it. David had experienced something SO GOOD that he couldn’t stop talking about it!

If you were to flip through the pages of my Bible, you’d see every pen color in the rainbow and more- circles and boxes around specific words, underlines, scribbles, notes, and doodles galore! The book of Psalms has crinkled pages because of the marks I’ve made throughout each chapter. God has used these chapters to transform my heart and I don’t ever want to forget those moments, so I jot them down! The biggest reason I love this book of the Bible is because of chapters like Psalm 145. There are one-hundred and forty-four chapters before it that contain poems of hurt, pain, confession, praise, wisdom and so much more that always lead right back to the reason we have hope. Every chapter points our eyes directly to the goodness of God and the thousands of reasons that He deserves all the glory and all our praise on this side of Heaven and for all eternity.

Even when things don’t seem good, God gives us so many reasons to worship and praise Him for how He has loved us and continues to care for us every single day. As you pray through Psalm 145, I want to challenge you to thank God for the moments in your life when you’ve seen Him move. It could be big moments that changed the course of where life was headed or a small moment that reminded you just how big God’s love is for you. Then, take a moment to read through these 21 verses and THANK God for each thing!

Becca Harbaugh

July 31 – Praying Through the Psalms – Psalm 139

Read Psalm 139:1-24

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

Psalm 139:8

Have you ever had an experience where you could have been killed? A close call that you survived and are not sure why?

Since I was involved in a serious car accident, I have had reminders of that day. And then I am thankful to God. And I believe He is with me all the time, including those 10 seconds that ended in a broken knee, surgery and a totaled car. The fact that I am still here is proof to me that God was with me and He still has a plan for me on this earth. And within 5 seconds after crashing into a cement wall, a woman opened the passenger side door and prayed to Jesus that I would be OK.

Psalm 139 tells me that God is always with me –  no matter where I go, before birth, after birth and after death on earth. He is with me while I’m sleeping and when I’m awake.

On the day of the car accident, I was working at Valet parking at Wooster Community Hospital. A man with one leg asked me to park his car, and he told me the brakes and the accelerator were switched. I did not think that would be a problem. So I got in his car and, the next thing I know, the car is lunging forward and I am moving. And I didn’t know where the brakes were. The brakes were in a different place on the floor of his car. I could not stop the car!

But this accident has brought many blessings my way. And one of them is that I have had more time to read the Bible while recovering.

Have you ever noticed that many times the writers of the Bible talk about God’s right hand?

“Your right hand, Oh Lord, shattered the enemy.” (Exodus 14:6b)

“Your right hand upholds me.“.  (Psalm 63:8)

“Then he placed his right hand on me” (Revelation 1:17)

“…even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”. (Psalm 139:10)

One message I have learned from reading Psalm 139 is that God is always with me. In life and in death.

Tom Weckesser