Devotions

James

Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #5: James
Max Sinclair | Children’s Director

I am the oldest of two children in my family. My sister graduated from Taylor University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and she is planning on going to Trinity College in Ireland for the fall of 2017 to receive her Masters in Philosophy with a specialization in peace making. To say the least, I am very proud of her, but at the same time, I am jealous of what she has achieved. I am 23 and just skated by in high school. By the grace of God, I was accepted and attended Liberty University to study political science, but I was not welcomed back. I then joined the Navy where I fixed aircraft and went on many deployments and detachments. I do not have a degree, I do not have a fancy title (besides “the Intern”), and I do not feel as proud of what I have done as I probably should. I can only imagine what James, the half-brother of Jesus felt. His brother was perfect, never sinned. He became a teacher and a preacher who went forth to proclaim the Gospel and died for the sins of the world. James was His brother. Even on the cross, Jesus looks to John and tells John, not James, to take care of His mother, Mary. So when I was asked to write these devotions on world changers in the Bible, I can only thank and praise God for this opportunity.

James in his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel wrote about faith, and how faith is defined by what we do. Today, and back then, this idea of being justified by faith and not through works is somewhat controversial. James knew that faith in Christ and what he had done is how one is saved, but to have a real God act and move in our real lives we need to work. In James Chapter 2, the infamous verse 17 says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James comes to us with a simple idea, the idea that through our works our faith should be known. I encourage you to read James 2:14-26 to see the whole passage where James defends and promotes this idea.

Like Jesus, we are to be seen and act upon our faith. Who will be benefitted if we hide our faith? Like the light hidden under the bushel, or the light house on the shore with its light off during a storm, we would be worthless. We hurt our relationship with Him and with others. Throughout our lives, we will look at others and see what they are doing and feel discouraged. Do not let the lives of others dictate how we are to love Him and affect our doing the work of Christ.

Philemon

Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #4: Philemon
John Carter | Director of Finance & HR

The power of forgiveness

There is a small short book in the New Testament called Philemon. It has only one chapter, so it is not a long read. The story that it tells is that of forgiveness. It is a powerful story indeed. Before you read this short devotion, I would encourage you to read the book.

The early church did not meet in a big elaborate cathedral or adorned buildings; often they met in fellow believers’ homes. Philemon was one of those early church believers that did this. Paul speaks very highly of Philemon, and you soon see that he is a world changer in his involvement with Paul and other churches in the area.

Paul says, “…because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints… for I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”

Philemon was a man that did much in helping his fellow believers, whether it was from his wealth, home, or other resources, it is known that he gave them to honor Jesus and God.

Paul then pleads with Philemon on behalf of a man named Onesimus, who was most likely a former servant of Philemon. There was a wrong that took place between Onesimus and Philemon which Paul references, “Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment… for this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”

I find myself reflecting on these words and wondering what Philemon must have felt. A man that had most likely done something wrong to him had come to know Christ in prison with Paul; now they were face to face again. This story may seem like a distant story of two people that were able to work out their differences. However, as I reflect I have to examine who it is in my own life that I might need to approach and ask for forgiveness, or maybe even harder, forgive. The real-life application for me in this is that last phrase, “charge that to my account.” That is exactly what Christ did for us on the cross. How then in our world of processing right and wrong can we not do the same for others? If Christ charges all of our wrongs to His account, does it not seem foolish to withhold forgiveness to others?

Paul concludes it well, “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.”

May the prior statement be said about me! Examine this story and apply it to your own life, maybe you can see the power of forgiveness like never before.

Pilate’s Wife

Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #3: Pilate’s Wife
Danielle Hardenburg | Nursery & Pre-K Director

The truth can often be uncomfortable. The noise and business of this world can make us want to hunker down pretending we are in control of our lives (or at least try to make it look like we are) instead of genuinely owning where we truly are. Challenging our brothers and sisters in truth can be even tougher and sometimes very confrontational. Pilate’s wife, Claudia (as historians have noted), was in this situation.

In Matthew 27, we learn about Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified. Pilate knew why Jesus was imprisoned. He knew that the priests were jealous of this popular teacher and they wanted Him dead. The crowd, there at the Feast, was calling for Jesus’ blood and they wanted Him crucified. As a Roman governor, Pilate held some political power which he was not willing to risk over some man in prison. Scripture tells us that Pilate’s conscience even knew Jesus was innocent, but he was not going to rock the boat and put his occupation on the line for Jesus. Pilate’s wife even came to him while he was on the judgment seat calling for Jesus’ release saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man.” She was convinced that Jesus was blameless because of a troubling dream she had that day. I am sure that Pilate’s wife wanted what was best for her husband and that she also knew the “popular” choice was not to let Jesus go free. However, that did not stop her from speaking truth to her husband who was in a position to do something about it.

Her efforts could have persuaded her husband and cost him his job and status. It could have cost her the comfortable lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.  However, she pleaded the truth just the same. Pilate in the end just decided to walk away from the situation. He seemed to think he could relieve himself from the circumstances by turning Jesus over to the crowd and washing his hands of the whole situation.

Have you ever been in a position where making a stand was hard? Maybe the right choice was not the popular choice, and you felt the weight of what you could lose from speaking the truth? Maybe it was to a friend or someone in your family, or even to yourself? Sometimes speaking the truth is not the marketable option and sometimes appears it is just easier to do nothing.

Claudia had a dream. She knew it was real. She challenged her husband. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Zechariah 8:16 adds, “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace.”

Love and mercy are essential, but there are times we need to step up and speak up.

Caiaphas

Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #2: Caiaphas
Mike Fox | Creative Director

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Romans 10:9 – “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Romans 10:13 – “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The above passages all come from the well known “Romans Road to Salvation.” Many of us have been taught to use this to present the Gospel to someone and show them the path to salvation. This is the very foundation upon which all Christians live. One of the key pieces in the Scripture here is that Christ died for us. He took our sin and bled His blood for it.

We have been looking at World Changers in the Bible recently, and I would like to take a quick look at Caiaphas. Caiaphas played a pretty key role in fulfilling God’s ultimate plan.

Matthew 26:57 says, “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.” Here, and in several other places in the Bible, we learn that Caiaphas was the high priest at the time that Jesus died on the cross. Hebrews 5:1 explains what a high priest does, “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Before Jesus becoming the final sacrifice, the high priest would offer sacrifices to God for man’s sin.

John 11:47-53 says, “So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”

Several scholars conclude that it was Caiaphas who, unknowingly, made the incredible prophecy concerning God’s plan of sacrificing Jesus for the sins of the nation and even the whole world (John 11:49-50). Also, it was Caiaphas who ultimately sent Jesus to Pilate to be sentenced to death. I believe this shows a picture that God can use us to help fulfill His plan and help change the world, whether we know that we are a part of it or not.

Agrippa

Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #1: Agrippa
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

(A letter to my son Zeke)

Ezekiel,
You are the start to the greatest blessing God has ever given me, our family. Your mom and I were just talking about me having to learn to be a family man the hard way. At one point I was open to the idea of being single for the rest of my life, and then God saw fit to let your mother fall in love with me. A few years later God saw fit to bless me with your brother, and then on February 16, 2017, God saw fit to bless me with you. Sadly, my family never gave me a blueprint on how to be a godly husband or a godly father. Sadly, you very well might be the first, second-generation Jesus follower that our family tree has. Do not take this as an opportunity to judge your family, but realize you and your brother are something special, and I will do everything in my power to show you how to live for Jesus.

In the Gospels, there was a man by the name of Herod the Great. Herod was the Roman client king of Judea. Herod’s power over all of Judea was artificial because the Roman government had given it to him.  When Herod heard stories about the coming of Jesus the true King of kings, Herod feared he would lose his authority and attempted to kill Jesus. Son, when you read the Bible, make sure you take the whole thing in context and connect the dots. Genealogy is important, do not skip it. If we fast forward to this Herod’s grandson, we see a man by the name of Agrippa. He is showcased in Acts 25 and 26. We see Paul pleading for his life in front of many men who want him dead. A man named Festus put Paul’s case in front of Agrippa. After hearing all the allegations before him, Paul was fearless and was able to defend his faith to the point of evangelizing to an entire room of enemies. In the end, Agrippa found Paul innocent and even scolded Festus for imprisoning him.  It is hard to imagine, but I have always been curious if there was a change in Herod’s family. Herod was so much against Jesus that he was willing to kill babies to keep his power. Fast-forward two generations, Agrippa has one of the world’s most renowned church planter before him, and he lets him go. I could not tell you if there was a change in this man or not, but what I do know is that we are not chained to the mistakes of our forefathers.

Son, I have no idea what this world holds for you. I do not have the slightest clue what decisions you will have to make to stay true to God’s Word. Watching the news scares me. Spending time on Twitter or Facebook, causes me to lose sleep thinking about the strength it is going to take for you to stay true to God. The one thing I do know, you get to choose your path with God. Not me, not the world, not our past, nothing on this Earth dictates your desire to live for Jesus. Son, I ask one simple thing, help me start a new branch for our family.  Jesus has started an amazing work in you and your brother. You are going to be something that our family tree has never seen. Help me start a limb that lives for Jesus with passion and zeal. Help me grow a branch that does not succumb to alcohol or addiction. Help me break the cycle and start a new heritage with Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  If Jesus is capable of making a person new, He is capable of making a family new, but only if you push after Him. It only happens if you see how great your life will be living for Christ. Son, never let yesterday affect your tomorrow; that is one lesson I learned very late in life. So, what great blessings await you, your sons, or your son’s sons?



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