December 12 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are those who are persecuted…”

Read Matthew 5:10-12

It is hard to envision blessing in persecution. Where is the win in the verbal assault, personal discrimination, or perhaps even physical harm? The whole idea deserves further exploration.

The reason for the persecution – This is mistreatment because of righteousness. Think of righteousness as right living rooted in right standing. God requires a righteousness which surpassed that of the highly respected Pharisees in His day (Matt 5:20). He demands perfection (Matt 5:48). In that regard, then, not one of us is righteous (Rom 3:10). Jesus alone lived life the way God designed it to be lived—sinless. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Christ’s right living leads, then, to our right standing and a transformation of our lives whereby we, more and more, live the way He intended.

Since this righteousness comes from Him, it is no surprise, then, that He further describes this persecution in verse 11 as “because of Me.” In other words, people may verbally malign you (or worse) because they hate Jesus and/or the morality they see manifested in your life because of Him. They may lash out because your life is a nagging reminder of what theirs ought to be.

The blessing in the persecution – So where is the blessing in that? First, you can recognize that there is a certain comradery in suffering. You are part of a larger group of Old Testament prophets (Matt 5:12) and New Testament apostles who suffered before you. In fact, the apostles rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). You are blessed in persecution as you participate in their experience and as you grow to understand the suffering that Jesus went through (Phil 3:10).

But there is also a future dimension to this blessing. Your reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Although persecution may seem undesirable now, there is eternal blessing in it later.

Nowhere does Jesus instruct us to go out looking for persecution. Still, those who unashamedly identify with Him and seek to live an upstanding life in Him will be persecuted . . . and blessed (2 Tim 3:12).

Steve Kern

December 11 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Read Romans 12:18

To live in peace is quite hard to do. Especially when you disagree with the person next to you. I think about my work environment and just how I am constantly striving to live in peace with everyone I come in contact with because, to me, I am striving to represent my Savior. But, man, is that hard! It’s hard not to be upset, it’s hard not to allow your flesh to win over with frustration and anger. However, in order to be the living sacrifice, in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we must live in peace with those around us.

Now this does NOT mean we need to agree with everything everyone says. This does NOT mean that we can let everyone walk over us. What this DOES mean is that, when we disagree, when people need us, we approach it with the eyes of Jesus. We approach people with respect and love. No matter what.

I love what the NLT translation says in verse 9:  “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”

The Lord wants us to act in a holy manner. The Lord wants us to look different in the world around us. Why? So that people look at us and think:

“Why are they different?”
“What do they have that I don’t?”
“I want what they have!”

And when they feel and think that, they start to ask questions to get to know us and that is our opportunity to share Jesus. Especially in today’s world, when we live in a peaceful manner, we look different. When we live acting as the hands and feet of Jesus, we look different. We are holy.

I challenge you to read all of chapter 12 in Romans and go before the Lord to ask how your life can represent Him more and begin to make those changes.

I am fully convinced the only way that we can live in a peaceful manner among our circles is to know more of who Jesus is. Once we do that, once we dive deeper into His character and get to know what He loves and how He lives, we can start to follow His example with those around us.

The Lord does not ask us to be perfect;  He asks us to strive to be like Him and, though He WAS perfect, we have the grace to continue to try when we mess up.

All He expects is that we repent, turn 180 and continue to follow after Him.

Kelly Lawson

December 10 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the pure in heart…”

Read Psalm 51:10

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

In the YouTube program titled “Childhood 2.0”, the subject of smartphones in the hands of young people in our country is discussed. Created in August of 2020, this documentary is a must-watch for parents, grandparents and anyone who influences the next generation.

This program may get your attention in recognizing what Generation Z really faces every single day and how much significance can be connected to a smartphone or an Instagram account. Despite the many positive aspects of a smartphone like a Bible app, a wonderful camera and maintaining important relationships, there are possible negative factors to consider so that young people can develop a pure heart and steadfast spirit. We must stay ahead of the game and be prepared for what is next in the incredibly challenging job of a parent and person who influences young boys and girls. Destructive criticism, bullying and pornography are some of the focuses of this documentary.

How can we help young people develop a pure heart both in themselves and others?

Train a child in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6a). It is not just about “stranger danger” anymore. It is about other people all over the world who can influence your young person. It is important that parents try to be up to date about technology, friends of your children and friends’ parents. Be PROACTIVE with letting your young people know of temptations to help them create a pure heart. Have limits on the phone. Communication is essential.

Parents and grandparents have the privilege and opportunity to provide a positive Christian family life that can bring joy and worth to young people through their church, family, school and community. It involves a titanic amount of effort. It is the most important job you’ll ever have.

What does it mean to have a pure heart? Philippians 4:8 says that we should think about things that are pure as well as noble, right, lovely and admirable. It starts with modeling and then mentoring. It must be a priority in life.

Who are you mentoring today?

To be pure means to be clean. In your one-on-one relationships and connections with those you lead, coach, teach and parent, be a great role model.

Psalm 51 is an expression of repentance written by David. He fell into serious sin and recognized his need to plead with God for forgiveness. God will forgive us of the mistakes we’ve made, our selfish thoughts and all our pride (Hebrews 4:15-16). By recognizing this and seeking a pure heart, David was on the path to become the greatest of Israel’s kings.

Have you asked God to create in you a pure heart? How about the young people who you influence?

Tom Weckesser

December 9 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the merciful…”

Read James 2:13 and Luke 6:36

“Mercy me. Get a real job.”

These were the words of the grandma of Bart Mallard before he wrote the amazing song, “I Can Only Imagine.” He sings now in one of my favorite musical groups – Mercy Me. Was his grandma showing mercy or simply paraphrasing “Get your act together!”?

I don’t know but I like the song.

Mercy is another name for compassion or lenient treatment. Do you have a merciful attitude?

Jesus said to be merciful in Luke 6:36.

Another one of my favorite bands is Elevation Worship. I recently heard these lyrics:

“You take what the enemy meant for evil

and you turn it for good.”

It is from the song, SEE THE VICTORY.

Here is an example in the words of Nicky Gumbel, a Christian minister:

“Earl had far too much money. He did not need to work. He took all kinds of drugs, including heroin. At the age of thirty, he ended up in a hospital. Someone came to visit him in the hospital and gave him a New Testament. He was thrilled. The paper was very thin and was ideal for rolling joints. He rolled his way through Matthew, Mark and Luke. When he came to John’s Gospel, he started reading. As a result of reading the words of John’s Gospel, he encountered Jesus. He was filled with joy. The psychologist in charge of his case was a very beautiful young woman, who had been a model. One day she said to Earl, ‘Look, I have it all – success, beauty and endless qualifications – yet I am not fulfilled. Your life is a mess, yet you seem to have something – a PEACE and a JOY. What is it?’ Then he led her to FAITH in Jesus Christ. They fell in LOVE. Later they were married. Earl and his wife were great friends of ours at theological college in Oxford. His life had been radically changed by the words of God in the Bible.”

Mercy me, that is life change!

“Which do you prefer? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?”  (1 Cor 4:21 NLT)

I think it is uncommon to show mercy to others. But it is something that a Christian should strive for. (James 2:13). Tony Dungy wrote a book about it.

You can purchase a blue wristband that says DARE TO BE UNCOMMON from the Christian ministry of Tony Dungy. In his book THE UNCOMMON LIFE, Tony Dungy talks about mercy. The wristband is a personal reminder to be merciful.

Do you need a reminder?

Tom Weckesser

December 8 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”

Read John 6:35 and 7:37-38

I have heard Coach Tom Ryan speak two times at Grace Church. His is a story of being a husband, father and Christian coach, hungry for answers. I have found Tom’s story to be inspiring.

He talks about leadership and hunger for excellence, initiative, teamwork and endurance. He is thirsty for Christ and talks about CHOSEN SUFFERING, which is the title of his book. He says he is blessed.

Coach Ryan’s spiritual hunger and thirst for Christ is contagious! The coach also says drinking dirty water can be harmful – the world wants us to feel good. It will mislead us. We must drink from the life-giving water of the Bible.

There is an empty space in every human being that longs to be filled. A lot of times we fill it with “fool’s gold”, which he says is a euphoric feeling incapable of lasting.

Can you relate?

Fool’s gold: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father.” – 1 John 2:15

We become the righteousness of God through Christ, and I believe that part of that is integrity, self-control, goodness and decency. It is how we live. We need more leaders in our world who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness.

Coach Ryan says that no one can lead until they can lead themselves. Start simple. Wake up on time. Make your bed. Put away your dishes. Keep your room clean. Build simple habits. Prepare yourself. Share the truth. Stay hungry for God’s righteousness. He says do something uncomfortable, but right. Apologize to someone you’ve wronged. You will grow to like yourself more, which is great because that’s who you’ll be spending the most time with. But be a selfless leader.

All three of our adult children are public school teachers and so we have had quite a bit of discussions about the amazing challenges they are facing here in 2020. Christian leadership and dealing with adversity with the right attitude are two of the subjects we have talked about. Every day is a challenge and a different way of teaching. Every teacher’s decision affects numerous young people and their families. To have the selfless, positive attitude of Jesus Christ in everyday tasks is a bonus.

The answers to many of life’s questions we ask are found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). Spiritual nourishment comes from Jesus Christ for well-being that can last for the rest of life.

Are you hungry for the daily bread that Jesus offers?

Tom Weckesser

December 7 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the gentle…”

Read Titus 3:2 and Proverbs 15:1

For those of you who don’t know, I went to Wooster Christian School from Pre-K through 6th grade. My church and school were the same building and I grew up a pastor’s kid as well so, you could say, I grew up a little sheltered. WCS just went through 8th grade and my parents thought it was best that I experience public middle school before just jumping into public school as a freshman.

August of 2005 rolled around and tall, lanky Jake graced the halls of a local Jr High for his first day of public school. I knew one person in that whole building and they didn’t even share my homeroom. As I encountered people, I quickly began hearing words that I was told never to utter. Things were talked about that I never would have thought to talk about. I decided to play a sport that I had never played organizationally and soon found out that public and private schools handled sports VERY differently.

I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Mom and Dad raised us kids to be gentle and in such a not gentle environment, I was made to wonder if gentleness was a bad quality. However, I came to understand it as a biblical characteristic.

Our readings today talk about the value of being gentle as a good way to diffuse a situation and keeping good accounts with people. Sure, there were times where I failed at this but I came to realize that, just because I wasn’t a freak of nature that would sacrifice my body for a sport and didn’t talk the way others did, didn’t mean that I was anything less than the man God was forming me into.

I am particularly drawn to the Titus passage and the word “all” that is present. I have begun to see that word for what it is…a 100% word. When “all” is used, we aren’t talking about a group of people but ALL people. When Paul tells Titus to remind the people to show consideration to all people, he is talking about every individual they encounter…not just the ones that are easy to love.

Gentleness may not be the first word people would use to describe you but, in the same breath, are you, as Paul states, peaceable, gentle and showing consideration for ALL people?

How you respond to people and how you treat them will go a long way to setting yourself apart as holy. During my 6 years at this school, I took it upon myself to, the best of my ability, stand apart as different while being gentle to all people. I thank God for the ministry He gave me those years and even beyond.

I pray that all of us can practice gentleness…even if it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Jake Lawson

December 6 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are those who mourn…”

Read 1 Samuel 21:1-15 and Psalm 34:1-22

Every parent longs for a perfectly healthy child. But we are brokenhearted when we’re born.

We’re driven to be independent, desire control, and exhibit ownership from the first time we’re encouraged to share. It’s evident that we are spiritually broken.

Add to that, the loss that comes with living. Blow after blow of disappointments. Failures. Abuse. Death. It’s a big pile of brokenness, isn’t it?

It’s my story. It’s anyone that is human’s story.

We’re needy.

I don’t like being needy.

I’ve also found that when I admit my need, when I agree with God that He’s my only source of sanity, that He’s my only hope of forgiveness and salvation, that He’s worthy of my dependence…

I find a healed heart. I find intimacy with a God that is close.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)

If I would have started there, I wonder if you would have skipped this devotional, thinking, ‘I’m not mourning so this one isn’t for me.’

But aren’t we all mourning something? Aren’t we all suffering from some kind of loss? An inward and outer brokenness?

David wrote Psalm 34 from a place of brokenness. He was crushed. When he learned that Saul was planning to kill him, he fled. He was alone and had nothing. This young warrior, who was told he would become king, was running for his life. As he ran, God orchestrated a beautiful reminder of His presence. It was Goliath’s sword. Isn’t it just like God to remind us when we’re crushed that there have been victories in the past? That He is the same, faithful God today that He was yesterday, when we were facing other giants.

David still went on to lie and act like a fool. His faith was weak. He was crushed, remember? But He found His God to be faithful and forgiving.

He was near. Close.

And He’s offering that to you.

He’s offered that to me.


I will call on Him in truth. If I will admit that I need Him. If I will lay down my independence, my need for control, my pain and disappointment, and call on Him. Put my trust in Him. He will draw me close. He will comfort me. He will be the source of everything I need. It’s not that He ever isn’t. It’s just agreeing with Him that He is.

It’s in agreement that He draws near. Or rather, we draw near to God who is already there.

He’s close to the brokenhearted.

Near to the humble.

He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

And for that reason, we are blessed.

Shelly Eberly

December 5 – The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

Read Matthew 11:28-30

Someone once told me that you never really know the word “tired” until you have a kid. The day Mattie came into the world, I woke up to Kelly telling me she was experiencing contractions at 3:00 AM. Mattie was born at 8:47 AM and the last person didn’t leave our hospital room until 8:30 PM. I specifically recall holding Mattie in the midst of the quiet and the tiredness hitting me like a brick wall. Now, I had stayed up stupid long hours in my teenage years playing video games with friends, but this was a different kind of tired. As of this writing, Mattie is 3 and still wakes up several times a night. He usually goes back down quick but that means Kelly and I waking up ourselves. Makes for some long nights.

Then there are the times where you are mentally and even spiritually exhausted. I recall the time recently when a close friend of mine was in rehab. During that month and a half, I almost couldn’t escape the thought of worry and the deepest desire for them to get better. My heart was heavy and I was in a mental and emotional funk for a month and a half. Just recently, Kelly and I lost a baby who was 5 weeks along. The emotional and spiritual pain that came was one that I had never felt before, and it came in waves for days at a time. I know that God is good and loves and hurts with us but my mind and heart were so tired that it seemed like I was fighting an uphill battle.

I’m sure that you have your own examples of being, as Matthew says, “weary and burdened”. The burden is so thick in your life that you just feel constantly under the pressure of life’s circumstances. How are you during these times? Do you talk to people? Do you try to fight through the pain or do you suppress it? Do you fight through it or do you allow it to hold you down?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

This is one of the greatest promises of all time! If we come to Jesus with all of our baggage, concerns, fears and emotions, we are promised rest. It is only through Jesus that we can experience true rest.

True deliverance.

As we near the end of 2020, I can’t image what it must be like for those who don’t know Jesus. What hope is there that anything will get better? When you are hurt so deeply by life, how do you heal apart from Jesus?

So, I challenge you; if you are weak, burdened, tired, or frustrated, go to Jesus. He is a good Father who wants to hear from His children. If something is bothering you, let Him know about it.

My first conversation with my dad after learning that we had miscarried consisted of him  saying, “I’m really sorry”. Knowing that my father was hurting with us meant the world to me. If an earthly father is capable of this kind of care, how much more is your heavenly Father capable of?

Jake Lawson