Praying Together

Doing the Dishes | Devotion #1: Praying Together
Justin Dean | Student Director 

One of my favorite memories growing up are some of the times spent at the dinner table. There were so many laughs, jokes, and my mom’s amazing food. However, honestly one of the things that drew my family the closest was not my mom’s spaghetti; it was our prayer time together. My mom came up with an amazing idea for our family to pray through the church directory. We would pick a family each night and pray for them by name. There is something about prayer that aligns our focus as people when we do it together. It is one of the major reasons Paul puts a huge emphasis on prayer together in his letters to the church. We see that in Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

As your family goes about their day, they all experience different things throughout the course of that day. As you come back together and seek to unify yourself, prayer refocuses your mind and sets a direction for your family. It ties you together and unifies your desires to grow as a family in a certain direction. Whether it is praying for other families, praying for the current tragedies in our world, or praying for the struggles individuals in your family are going through, prayer strengthens the relationships within your family by growing your relationship to the Creator. That is why we see in Romans 15:5-6, Paul says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That is the ultimate goal for your family, right? You desire to live in harmony together so that in the end, your family glorifies God in unity with one voice. Prayer together is a big step that your family can take to begin cultivating unity and focusing on glorifying God. It takes regular practice to implement it into the lives of our families, but the fruit that it will yield is well worth the intentionality it requires. Seek that intentionality through prayer, and the rest will follow. 

Baby Napping

More Than Baby Food | Devotion #6: Baby Napping
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

I will never forget the second night I spent with our daughter, Heidi. Ashley was a new, 24-hour old mother and she was exhausted. I, being an incredible husband and father (yeah right), offered to take Heidi out of the room so Ashley could get some uninterrupted sleep. After all, how hard could this whole dad thing be, right? I proceeded to take Heidi to the NICU waiting room on the 5th floor of St. Joseph Hospital. Everything was great! The Pistons replay was on Fox Sports Detroit. Heidi was quiet. However, then it happened. Heidi started to cry. Her cry eventually became a wail. She was inconsolable. Nurses would pass by the waiting room, feel sorry for me, and offer help, but nothing worked. Her incessant crying continued for four hours. It was horrible. I will never forget the feelings of frustration, anxiety, and utter panic.

Despite the crying, that moment bonded my daughter and me. I remember thinking to myself that no matter how frustrated I was with her, my love for her would always outweigh any negative feelings I have toward her. I felt a change happening in my mind. The change was so deep that I started to feel it in my soul. This little girl could never do anything that would weaken the love I had for her. She eventually learned how to sleep. Before too long, she was sleeping through the night. She was, how the old saying goes, sleeping like a baby.

You can sleep like a baby too. You can be at peace. Nothing you do separates you from the love of God. So many times, we live our lives substantiated by this formula: Who I Am = What I Do.

This formula is false. It is a lie straight from the mouth of Satan and the pit of Hell. The Bible says in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

So how has Christ loved you? He values you for your inherent worth and offers grace freely to you without exception. God knows the real truth about you – that you were created in His image – and that truth allows Him to separate your person from your performance. He loves despite the things you do. I do not know about you, but that motivates me to want to love Him more and more. It motivates me enough to “put off childish ways” and love people as He does. How about you? Will you respond the same way? 

Baby Strength

More Than Baby Food | Devotion #5: Baby Strength
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

I remember the day my first son was born. I will spare you some of the details of the day, although it can be a pretty entertaining story and fast forward to after he was born. We were in a hospital room at North Oakland Medical Center. There I was sitting in a rocking chair holding this floppy little baby. I had never been nervous about holding babies; I loved it. This one was a little different. I was responsible for it for a considerably longer time than a couple of hours of babysitting. Everybody kept telling me to be careful with his head because he was not strong yet. I was keenly aware of that. 

What I was not keenly aware of was how short a time that statement would be true of our future strong man. It took him some time to start to walk, but it did not take him long after that to realize the brute force of his strength. We went through many different contraptions to keep doors and drawers closed and childproofed. There were not many at the time that a little force could not handle. I recall watching Nate look at a set of cabinet doors with a zip-tie like device on it. He studied it for a minute, grabbed the door and threw himself back with all his might, snapping the zip ties with ease. That was our life. 

Kids move on from that weak phase very quickly most of the time. Once a baby figures out how strong they are, they continually test that and grow. To be honest, it can be way faster than we would like sometimes. Yet they grow.

Why do Christians not work the same way? Paul tells us in Ephesians to no longer be like children. Ephesians 4:14 (NLT) says, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.”

I typically do not teach from the NLT, but I really like the way it words this. We will no longer be immature. We have some very immature adults in the midst of the Church in America. There needs to be a longing in your life to grow in your relationship with Jesus. We talk about that all the time. There also needs to be a growing of maturity in your understanding of who God is and what the Bible says. 

This “Sunday only” thing does not cut it anymore. We ask why things in our lives stay the same and grow stagnant. We wonder why we do not see the blessing that others see. There is a process that takes place when you fully immerse yourself in Scripture, not just to read it but to understand it. When you invest in this growth, you will begin to see what the life of a mature follower of Jesus looks like. The storms will still come. The wind will still blow. When it happens though, you will be ready. You will be equipped. You will be strong enough to bear it only because you let Jesus stand before you and take the brunt of it.

Baby Diet

More Than Baby Food | Devotion #4: Baby Diet
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

All week long, we have been using 1 Corinthians 13:11 to illustrate spiritual progression in our lives. We are going to switch gears today and turn to a very well-known Scripture concerning spiritual maturity.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, “But I, brothers [and sisters], could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” 

When my daughter Heidi was about 6 months old, she started eyeing everything that Ashley and I ate. It was hilarious. Her eyes would follow the food on our forks from plate to mouth. We got excited about the prospect of feeding Heidi solid food, so we started the transition from milk to real food. Every time we sat down for dinner, we would give her little bits and pieces of whatever we were eating, and Heidi loved it! It was great until she could not go number two anymore. Our poor baby went ten days one time without defecating. She was miserable! It got so bad we had to use an enema on her as she writhed in pain. We felt like the world’s worst parents. She was not ready for solid food. We will not be making the same mistake with Uriah when he starts ogling the dinner goods.

Unfortunately, most Christians are in the same spot spiritually speaking that Heidi was in physically. They are not ready for the transition from milk to meat. They are not mature enough in their spiritual lives to digest deep, theological issues found in God’s Word. They are not mature enough for God to trust them with spiritual responsibility. Why? We again find the answer in our 1 Corinthians passage, “And even now you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”

Why are most Christians not ready? It is because they are still consumed with everything this world has to offer instead of what the next world offers. They care more about the big house, cars, clothes, and money than the things of God. They are jealous of everyone who has what they do not have. Because of that jealousy, their life is filled with strife. It is time to grow up and get ready for solid food. God wants so badly to start feeding you the good stuff, but you have to be ready. You get ready by changing your focus from earthly to eternal. When you do that, get ready and open wide because here comes the airplane.

Baby Reasoning

More Than Baby Food | Devotion #3: Baby Reasoning
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

It is incredible the change that happens in children when they start to realize there is wrong and right. You can see the hesitation in my daughter when she is about to do something that she knows is wrong. Heidi will try and be real sneaky, she will look left and right to make sure mommy or daddy are not watching, and she will contemplate whether or not she can get away with it. I have watched this contemplation process. It is comical to me. But it also has taught me an important lesson: Left or right does not matter; up matters.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

When I read that phrase “reasoned like a child,” I thought of that left or right illustration. Children reason or contemplate based on the reward or punishment of their parents. They want to know if they are going to get caught if they do something wrong. On the other hand, they want to know what reward awaits them if they do something right. As we mature in our spiritual lives, this left or right reasoning should start to change. We should not care so much who knows what we do to the right or the left, but up. Ultimately, what God thinks of us is what should matter most.

The best example of this is Joseph in Genesis chapter 39. Joseph has been put in charge of Potiphar’s house because he trusts him and in verses 6-9, Scripture says, “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time, his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, because of me, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’”

Lives would change if we could be a people that care more about what God thinks of us than others. Do not reason and contemplate like a child — reason like an adult, but more importantly, reason like a Christian. Look up; left and right is not as important.

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