January 18 – Prayers of Jesus – Before Important Decisions

Read Luke 6:12-13

As you read today’s Scripture, it’s clear that Jesus really values prayer.

We can learn a lot from His approach: He went to a place with few distractions where He could focus and spent the night praying.

The night!

We aren’t told what He was praying about but, based on verse 13, I have to assume that there was a great deal of focus on who was to make up the group of apostles.

Talk about an important decision, He was deciding who He would entrust with the future of the Church!

Even with the future on the line, He still chose Judas who He knew would betray Him and Peter who He knew would deny Him. I have to believe He was first and foremost seeking what God the Father wanted Him to do.

We have great evidence of Him putting the will of the Father first when we look at Jesus’ prayer the night before He died a horrible death on the cross.

He knew what was going to happen to Him and, yet, look at His prayer in Luke 22:42:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

He is saying, “Father I really don’t want to have to go through this BUT, if it’s really what you want me to do, I’ll be obedient and do it.” As we know, He did go ahead and die an agonizing death on the cross which He could have stopped at any time. Instead, He chose the Father’s will.

So, as we come to important decision points in our lives, whose will wins – ours or our Heavenly Father’s?

Will we truly be looking for what God wants us to do or will we be asking Him to bless what we have already decided? Will we be laying out our timeline or will we accept God’s timing if He says wait or what about if He says no?

I’ve often thought about who is better equipped to make the decisions in my life:

Me, a finite, flawed human being who can only see a tiny part of the big picture OR a loving God who knows everything, past, present and future; who is all powerful and who died for us so we can have a relationship with Him?

I choose God!

Please take the time to pray before making decisions; God is listening and wants to help.

Mike Molter

January 17 – Prayers of Jesus – When Life Gets Tough

Read Luke 22:44

I LOVE taking pictures!  I take pictures of nature, babies, animals and, even sometimes, pictures of people taking pictures!  My favorite shots are the ones I take at my grandkids’ sporting events.  I am constantly amazed at some of the action that I catch!

The difference between a good and a great shot often depends on my perspective.  Up close a play can look like a mess but, from a different angle or further up in the stands, I can get a clearer view of what really is going on. Zooming in can reveal a whole new set of actions.

That is the way it is with life too.  When you are in the heat of the “battle” dealing with a spouse, rebellious child, a back-stabbing friend, or even a life-threatening medical condition, you might not be able to see any way out. You may feel like Jesus in the garden crying out to God to take it away from you! But stepping back and looking at everything from a different perspective, seeing everything through God’s camera lens, you get a totally different look at what is really going on.   The storms of life are there, not to make us bitter but to make us stronger. A favorite saying that has been posted lately says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

We are encouraged in Joshua 1:9  to “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!”

The lyrics to Through It All by Andre Crouch say it all:

I’ve had many tears and sorrows
I’ve had questions for tomorrow
There’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong
But in every situation
God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong

I’ve been to lots of places
I’ve seen a lot of faces
There’s been times I felt so all alone
But in my lonely hours
Yes, those precious lonely hours
Jesus let me know that I was His own

I thank God for the mountains
And I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
For if I’d never had a problem
I wouldn’t know God could solve them
I’d never know what faith in God could do

Are you ready to get a different perspective on your life?  In this world you are going to have trouble.  God is waiting to help you by not taking away the storm but teaching you how to dance in the rain!

Pat Arnold

January 16 – Prayers of Jesus

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:17

One thing that not a lot of people may not know about me is that I am very much an introvert. Sure, part of my job is being around people but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally to me. This past fall, Kelly, the kids and I went into the fair, as is customary for Wayne County residents. We weren’t more than 20 yards past the gate and I could feel my chest getting tight with anxiety.

It’s even worse when I have to talk in front of a lot of people.

One time, I led a portion of our Communion services here at Grace. I had written out what I was going to say and had rehearsed it over and over again. As I was sitting at the table getting ready to take the stage, I couldn’t help but think about the lights turning on and everyone turning from their tables to look at me. I was uneasy and sweating. It must have been obvious because Kelly leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.”

As I walked on stage, I began to pray. As a pastor, your main goal, in communicating, is for people to see Jesus through you. You don’t want people to say, “Good job” but, instead, how God worked in their lives through your words.

I was trying to re-center my thinking as I went to the middle of the stage and, with trembling hands, set my notes on the table. I reached to my hip to turn on my mic and prayed the very simple words:

“Your words not mine, God”

Prayer is a very common practice for believers but it’s easily overlooked. In its simplest form, prayer is a conversation with God. However, rather than it being a common practice, we tend to only utilize it when we need something from God, as though He is a magic genie that is going to grant only a select number of wishes.

Rather, prayer should be used to help change our perspective. God has a holy perspective on life and prayer is you asking Him to realign your thinking.

It’s one thing to talk about our praying, but did you know that, throughout His time on earth, Jesus practiced the future words of Paul to continually pray?

Over the next several days, we are going to be studying some prayers of Jesus. Before we do, I want to challenge you to think of your own prayer life.

In what spirit do you pray? Is it to get something or to change your perspective to a holy one?

What do you most often find yourself praying for?

How often do you pray? Would you say that you are anywhere close to praying without ceasing?

Jake Lawson

January 15 – Think About Such Things – Excellent or Praiseworthy

Read Philippians 4:8

I can hear my mom’s words echo in my mind. “You can’t keep the birds from flying around your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” She was a wise, godly woman who prayed earnestly for my deliverance. As a teenager, I was a prisoner to irrational, fearful thoughts. Captivating every thought to the obedience of Christ, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, was my ticket to freedom. The battle of the mind is powerful. I believe that’s the reason scripture commands us to renew our mind. Part of the renewal process requires us to destroy speculations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:5) But that’s only the first step. Paul’s writing in Philippians 4 shows us step 2. To renew our mind, we must not only remove the old, sinful thoughts but we must replace our mind with new, godly thoughts. Fill the void with praise.

Recently I have been memorizing and focusing on Psalm 71. The chapter is filled with commands to praise God. “My praise is continually of You. My mouth is filled with Your praise and with Your glory all day long. But as for me, I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71: 6,8,14) Continually, all day long, more and more – those are challenging words. How do we praise God like that? It starts with the attitude of our heart and where we set our mind. Jesus said that the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. (Luke 6:45) Our mind and thoughts must be set on Him who is worthy of all praise so that our mouth will tell of His righteousness and His salvation all day long. (Psalm 71: 15) When a hurtful, negative, sinful thought enters, we must captivate that thought and replace it with praise.

When my mind wants to default to fearful thoughts, quoting scripture is my rescue. God’s Word, the Sword of the Spirit, is the best weapon for the battle that rages in our mind. What can be more praiseworthy than the Word of God? It’s living, active and divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. Tap into the power of praise and shoo those birds away. Our mind is not a nest or a resting place for negative thoughts. We were created to soar-even on bad hair days.

Charline Engle

January 14 – Think About Such Things – Whatever is Admirable

Read Philippians 4:8

I have always admired Bart Starr, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers who won Super Bowl I and II. He was a gentleman and a Christian and I admired the way he lived his life.

The Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award is given annually at the Super Bowl Breakfast to a National Football League (NFL) player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.” The award, bearing the name of the Hall of Fame quarterback, honors his lifelong commitment to serving as a positive role model to his family, teammates, and community.

To admire means to regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval. It is to have a high opinion of and to respect. Have you considered what you admire?

What we decide to put into our minds is important. It comes back out in our words and actions. You know – TV, internet, conversation, books, magazines and movies. Make sure it is admirable. Would your spouse or other good friend be OK with what you think about?

Replace impure thoughts with the admirable and wholesome. This is a big challenge and something to work on every day.

Most importantly, read God‘s word and pray about this subject as well as for the needs of others every day.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”Colossians 3:2

Focus on God’s good gifts so your life can be exemplary (which means deserving imitation, commendable, to deserve imitation because of excellence).

Do you have a role model – someone you hold in high regard and respect? Are you serving as a model? You can be a blessing to people with your life. By living an exemplary life, you can turn other people’s lives around by example. Be a model of positive influence. That can start by thinking about and focusing on what is admirable.

People can be a model of negative influence. Ask yourself:  what kind of life am I living? Is it a life that will cause people to be negative?

To live an exemplary life, it is important to try to do the right thing. Can you do that without Jesus Christ? I do not think so. He must be the driver in your life. When that happens, people notice! Jesus will help you live an exemplary life. This may involve letting go of some things, but Jesus said that “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b).

Embrace hard work and excellence. Focus on what is admirable and pure.

What are you doing in your life that helps you think about what is admirable? Is someone holding you accountable?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

The biblical model in 1 Timothy is to have a mentor and be a mentor.

The only person to truly admire is Jesus Christ. He is perfect and He is the son of God. The challenge is to emulate what He did when He was here on earth and live the way He said to live.

What did Jesus admire?

Tom Weckesser

January 13 – Think About Such Things – Whatever is Lovely

Read Philippians 4:8

“Whatever is lovely—think about such things.”

Glamor has been a goal of some women for years.  In older films, there often was a chorus line of beautiful women dressed in flowing gowns.  Their hair was all pulled back close to their heads and sometimes they wore giant headdresses.  They usually had sparkling jewelry dangling from their ears, necks and wrists.  This was supposed to be the standard for being “lovely.”  Something every woman should aspire to.

But is that really lovely?

What do you think of as lovely?  Is it a butterfly, a baby’s laugh, beautiful flowers, a snow-covered tree or a cuddly puppy?  God has given us these things to think about in times of trouble, when we think we are at our wits end, after a long tiring day of coping with life. We can think on these things, smile, and see God.

When I think of lovely, I think of a young lady I met about 50 years ago while working at a home for handicapped children.  Her name was Renee.   I worked with about 20 different children but Renee is the one I think of when I think of lovely.   She was far from what the Hollywood elite would think of as “lovely.”   She was overweight.   Her legs and arms were all twisted, making her wheelchair bound.   Her oversized teeth made it impossible for her to close her mouth completely and so she often drooled when trying to talk.  She couldn’t speak clearly so it was really hard to understand what she was trying to say.    But, there was a sparkle in her eyes, a gentleness in her crooked smile that showed a true “loveliness.”  She may not have had jewels hanging from her body but she had a heart of gold. When she and I would have a private chat, she intently listened and, although she couldn’t verbally respond, she let me know she understood by her genuine belly laughs that almost threw her out of her wheelchair.  Although her body was twisted, she had a sharp mind that I am sure most people missed because they couldn’t get past the way she looked on the outside.  That is a real shame because they missed out on a chat with a lovely lady.

I don’t know whatever happened to Renee but, when I read the verse about thinking on things that are lovely, I think of her and smile. I truly think that God put Renee and me together, even for a short time, to let me know to look beyond the outside of people, beyond the skin color, beyond the circumstances into the loveliness inside and see the heart of God!

Think back on your life and see if you might have crossed paths with your own “Renee.”

Someone who makes you smile just thinking about them, not because of what they looked like but because of who they were!  If you still have contact with them, why not jot a note to them or give them a call to tell them how very special they are to you and how you thank God that you met.

In what way can you have the same effect on others?

Pat Arnold

January 12 – Think About Such Things – Whatever is Pure

Read Philippians 4:8

To be pure.

What do you think of? Water from a spring, an adolescent child, snow even? When researching “What does it mean to be pure?” to try and gain an understanding of the perspective of our culture, the main things that came up were “Purity of heart” or other articles regarding a movement of purity that is widely controversial.

However, when Paul was encouraging the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord, in Philippians 4 especially, he was trying to remind them of the things that root us in a strong foundation. Purity, of course, in the first century was one that was foreign to most because you had pagan cultures deprived of God surrounding you. The church was the minority.

Sound familiar?

Here is Paul reminding them to think of whatever is pure. Which, principally speaking, also pertains to what they do, see, think and walk in. In order to have a pure life, you need to have a pure heart. Pure living follows purity of the heart but also purity of the mind.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “What you put in is what will come out?” I think I first heard this in youth group, while in middle school. Like every hormonal teenager, I rolled my eyes only thinking, “I know some things are wrong but I’ll be okay…”.

Turns out, I wasn’t and I wish I had asked more questions about what that actually meant. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that the Lord showed me exactly how my choices in what I did, saw, watched and thought affected my walk with Him.

I think James says it best in the first chapter of his writings. Sin produces death. Now, does James mean physical death? No. However, he speaks of the death of our spiritual life. The more we give into the things that are not of God, the more we die spiritually.

When standing firm in Jesus and our walk with Him on this earth, we are going to be challenged by many things of this world; temptations, discontentment, greed, fear…etc. However, the Lord is with us. He provides the strength to stand firm in choosing that which is holy, choosing that which is set apart from the world and what culture is telling us is good or beautiful or right.

When I think of purity, I am challenged to think about what I watch, listen to, read, do… and compare that to the holiness of God. Would He approve? Does it cause me to glorify Him in my choices or satisfy what I want? I am challenged to evaluate my life. How do I spend my time? Is it pure of heart? Is it holy? Does it help my spiritual life grow or die?

Stand firm in the Lord… think of whatever is pure.

Kelly Lawson

January 11 – Think About Such Things – Whatever is Right

Read Philippians 4:8

“It is never wrong to do the right thing.”

This was the saying on one of my favorite bulletin boards at school. The message is clear – do the right thing. How do you always do the right thing? The answer to that is, you don’t. The simple truth of the matter is that we don’t always do the right thing. We may not even know the right thing to do.

Doing the right thing begins with thinking the right thing. We have to train our brains to dwell on what is right. It takes a conscious effort sometimes to not dwell on the wrong things. It is easy to dwell on our hurt feelings when we are on the receiving end of harsh words. Or we replay our own words over and over that were unkind towards our spouse or kids. We can get stuck thinking of ways to get revenge for a wrong we’ve endured. These are not helpful and definitely not where our mind needs to focus in order to think about things that are right.

So just what is right to think about?

It is right to think about God’s love for us. We can do this by thinking of how He loves us unconditionally. Think about His gift of forgiveness and grace. Think about His desire for us to be in a relationship with Him.

It is right to think about loving others. Think of ways to be kind and generous towards others. Think of ways to demonstrate love to someone who seems unlovable. Praying for people turns our thoughts towards God and loving others.

It is right to think about the spiritual fruit our lives bear. We should evaluate ourselves in terms of the patience we show ourselves and others; the peace we obtain and establish in our lives; the joy we feel and share with others; even the self-control we maintain in the heat of the moment.

We all know people who think they are always right. It can be a bit frustrating and annoying. Our goal in thinking about things that are right is not to have a sense of pride or arrogance. Our aim should be to obtain truth. It is not about being rigid and legalistic; it is about being full of grace.

In today’s society, we don’t often think of things in terms of right and wrong, or black and white. We like there to be a little gray area. We want a little wiggle room. Some would even claim that what is right for some, is not right for all.  It is as if the standard is different from person to person. So, how do we know what is right? God says only His way is right (John 14:6). He sets the standard for right and wrong. Early on in the Bible, God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments. These were parameters for the Israelites to follow in order to be right with God and their fellow man. In the New Testament, Jesus tells the believers to love God and to love others. (Matthew 22:37-39) We can’t do this if we aren’t focused on doing what is right. Right thinking produces right actions. We reap what we sow. When we put time and effort into focusing on what God wants us to do, we are more likely to do the right thing.

Today, take some time to focus your thoughts on what is right. Ask God to show you what is right. Remember, it is never wrong to do the right thing.

Tammy Finney

January 10 – Think About Such Things – Whatever is Noble

Read Philippians 4:8

During my career as a high school basketball coach, I worked with some young men and young women who could confidently focus on the positive. They believed they were going to make the next shot. The successful players were able to envision the ball going through the net.

You know – swish.

They knew from experience that negative thoughts ruin their efforts. Some of the players would get in “foul trouble” and have to spend time on the bench. Each had a different technique to help maintain focus until the crucial moment when I would insert them back into the game. Some would talk about other things with teammates. Others would sit by themselves at the end of the bench. Still others would sit next to me and stay focused on the game.

Eventually these players do what the apostle Paul suggests we do in whatever situation we find ourselves: focus on the positive – focus our thoughts on things that are noble, pure, good and right. On the basketball court, in our homes or at work, when we think of our spouses, our children, friends, or coworkers, we should fix our thoughts on what is noble and positive. We should think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Adopting a positive attitude, even when you’re under pressure or the odds seem to be stacked against you, can really help assure a positive outcome. Thinking of people in a positive light changes how you treat them.

So, thinking about what is noble is part of the teaching of this verse.

A definition of noble is having personal qualities that people admire – such as honesty, generosity and courage.

A part of being noble means to be honest – in every part of life. Honesty is to know, do and say what is right. It is how you act and live. It is to be genuine and not deceptive. Are you all-in?

When you are asked a question, what is needed is a thoughtful, compassionate answer.

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”Matthew 5:37

Another part of being noble means to be generous. “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Prov 11:25) What are some ways that you can be generous to others?

In my view, to be noble means outstanding character all of the time. Not just some of the time. Exemplary character!

You apply this by thinking about it and trying to live like Jesus. This is how He wants us to live. It’s something to think about every day.

Do you think about what is noble?

Tom Weckesser

January 9 – Think About Such Things – Whatever is true

Read Philippians 4:4-9

Most Jesus followers I know have had opportunity to practice the invitation of verses 6 and 7 from today’s reading. Through grateful prayer, they have surrendered their anxiety to God in exchange for His unexplainable peace. Is that a regular part of your life? Is there a worry you are carrying now that you should yield to your Father?

In your familiarity with those two verses and their encouragement, don’t lose sight of verse 8 that addresses the focus of your thoughts. How can the peace of Christ guard your heart and mind, if you allow your thoughts to roam freely into some treacherous or even unseemly areas? This current devotional series addresses areas of healthy thought. Over the next few days we will portion out the individual ideas of verse 8. We have titled the series after the apostle’s words: “Think on These Things.”

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)

First of all, we are encouraged to think about “whatever is true.” While that may sound pretty elementary, keep in mind the challenges we face.

  • The news we hear or read includes fake news designed to raise our eyebrows and influence our thinking. Some of it is written with a political party slant that may not offer a balanced perspective. Sorting through all of that to “fact check” and discover reality is no simple task. Still, think on “whatever is true.”
  • In addition, there is the commentary from others about ourselves that we hear. The accolades of others can lead you to a prideful perspective of yourself. The truth is, you are a sinner, saved by the grace of God. But the commentary of others at times also implies that you are a loser or failure. That is not true either! You are a deeply loved child of God (1 Jn. 3:1), who is valued and useful for His purposes (Eph. 2:10).
  • And then there are the things we tell ourselves…our self-talk. With truth, we must regularly remind ourselves that Christ is enough. We don’t need other crutches and escapes in life in order to function. He alone satisfies our longings (Jer. 2:13; Jn. 4:1-18).

Think on “whatever is true!”

Steve Kern