Devotions

Obey | Who?

Obey | Devotion #1: Who?
John Carter | Director of Finance & HR

Have you ever set expectations for someone? Do you have expectations for your employee, spouse, or child? Have you asked your kid to clean their room before they start playing a video game or computer game? You go outside to work in the yard, come back in, and you see them playing on the computer. You ask your kid, “Hey, did you get the room cleaned?” His response, “Yeah, of course, I did.” When you go up there, you can tell they have picked up some things, but it was not quite to your expectations.

One of the major causes of conflict is missed expectations. If you have never experienced such a thing, give it time because it will inevitably happen to you. It can even happen when you purchase products. You think you are getting one thing and then when you get it in your hand it not quite what you expected.

I am sure you can relate one way or another to this idea of missed expectations. The disciples experienced this “miss expectation” after the cross. Their whole expectation was that Jesus would redeem them from Roman rule. They were probably surprised that Jesus was arrested and even more so that He was crucified. It is interesting to read the Gospel accounts of when Jesus returns to the Eleven to reiterate His expectations to His closest friends.

Mark’s account is most interesting to me. The passage says, Jesus found the eleven disciples reclining at a table, He then rebuked them because they did not believe what others had said about Him rising from the dead. Jesus Himself said He would rise again on the third day (Matthew 16:21). Jesus set the expectation, but there were a few of the Eleven that missed it. Jesus sets the expectation of what He wants His disciples to do. If you have been in church for any amount of time, the “Great Commission” is something you have heard before.

Read the following passages:
Matthew 28:16-20
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Mark 16:14-16
“Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” 

Luke 24:35-39; 46-49
“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’”

“And said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’”

John 20:19-23
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

The above passages all describe the same thing, Jesus had expectations for His disciples. He gives clear instructions for His disciples. It also helps us see the state of mind that some of the disciples felt.

It is so easy for us to ridicule the doubting disciples until we reflect it in our own lives. Have you ever doubted God? Have you ever been unsure of His leading? Have you ever been uncertain of His expectations? As I study these passages about the Great Commission, I cannot help but relate, just a little, to those doubting disciples. Doubt is like this, “Is God real?” or “Is Jesus real?” These were the first doubts I had to deal with in my own life. The answer is, Yes! He is real! Jesus has not stopped showing His realness to me ever since I asked Him to help me with my doubt. I love that Jesus shared the Gospel when dealing with the doubt (Luke 24:46-47 and Mark 16:16).

There is another level of doubt that goes like this, “Can I do what God wants me to do? Do I have the skills? What if I fail?” and “What if I cannot meet the expectations?” Maybe you read the passages as a good idea or a suggestion. You might see them as something the original eleven should do, or maybe someone else should do. Have you ever considered that it was Jesus’ expectation for us, as a church, to fulfill the Great Commission? How about us as individuals, do you think it applies to you? Maybe you think the same questions just previously listed in regards to the expectations set for us? There are a couple of words that would have encouraged the disciples in overcoming their doubt they may have experienced. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” and “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you…” These words spoken by Jesus would have been huge words of encouragement to the eleven disciples. These words also apply to as in this current day and age.

How do we view the expectations set by Jesus for His disciples? Is it personal? Do you think it applies to you? Let us consider that the One who asks us to do these things is the One who rose from the dead. He gave proof of that to those who doubted. He also promised that He would be with us and send the Holy Spirit to be with us through it all. I hope this encourages you not to miss the expectations set by Jesus, and that the fear and doubt that can so often creep into our hearts can be conquered in knowing that He is with us to the end of the age!

Believe | How?

Believe | Devotion #6: How?
John Hubbard | Worship Leader

The disciples saw Jesus do many miraculous things, but each one of them did not fully understand the resurrection. After seeing the power that Jesus had over sickness, over storms and the sea, overfeeding a multitude of people, and even raising a man from the dead, the disciples had lost all hope and were in hiding following Jesus’ death and burial.

If you read Mark 16:10-13, you will see that each one of the disciples failed to believe the accounts that the resurrection had taken place. We always like to single out Thomas as the one who doubted Jesus’ resurrection. Read the passage beforehand.

John 20:19-20 says, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”

In this passage, we find that the other ten disciples all doubted the resurrection until Jesus appeared before them. They saw His body and the scars, and they believed. The next passage is where we come to Thomas who was absent during Jesus first visit. Jesus appears again, eight days later, to the disciples and instead of rebuking Thomas for his disbelief, He comes and meets Thomas where he was in his doubt and shows him the truth.

Luke 24:44-47 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’”

The disciples needed to see Jesus to understand what Jesus had been telling them all along, that He was to die and on the third day rise from the dead. It is awesome that even from the point of total hopelessness, Jesus takes the time to set us straight and lead in the right direction.

Believe | Why?

Believe | Devotion #5: Why?
Phil Piasecki | Worship Leader

Conspiracy theories fascinate me. There are so many different theories people have that they fully believe with their whole heart. Two theories that I seem to still hear about constantly are that America faked the moon landing and that the earth is flat. I recently read about an NBA player who is funding his satellite to send up to space to confirm for himself whether the earth is flat or round. The common denominator with so many of these conspiracy theories is that people tend only to believe what they can see with their own eyes. Sure we have “pictures,” and NASA has “told” us that the earth is round, but unless they can go to space and see it themselves some people will never be convinced. When I think about people needing to “see it to believe it,” I cannot help but think about Doubting Thomas and his unbelief.

Everything that Jesus did on earth had a purpose. We can learn so much just by asking the question “Why?” when we are reading the Bible. Why did Jesus appear to Thomas? What is the purpose of the story of Thomas being included in Scripture? First, it is important to know that Jesus did not appear to Thomas to embarrass him. Unfortunately for Thomas, this specific encounter defined him in history, but as we will see in other devotions this week, Thomas went on to do some incredible things for God’s Kingdom. First, through Thomas’ encounter with Jesus, we see the truth that Jesus always hears His disciples. In verse 25, Thomas explains his stipulations for him to believe to the other disciples.

John 20:25 says, “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’”

When Jesus appears to Thomas and the disciples eight days later, He gives Thomas the opportunity to do exactly as he had said to the other disciples earlier in the week.

John 20:27 continues, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’”

This is such an incredible truth that can so easily be overlooked in this passage. Jesus showed His disciples, and to us through Scripture, that He always hears us. He hears us even when we may think He is not listening. What a comfort that must have been for Thomas to have Jesus show up, and utter the same words back to him, giving him the exact thing that he needed to believe. Once Thomas is given this opportunity to see Jesus, he immediately confesses Christ as his Lord and God. Then in verse 29, we see Jesus’ response to Thomas, revealing another reason why Jesus appeared to Thomas. John 20:29 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Jesus takes this moment to acknowledge the fact that soon people will not have the opportunity to see and believe as His disciples did. Soon, He would ascend to Heaven, and faith in Him would have to come solely from believing without physically seeing the resurrected Christ. Jesus appears to Thomas so that He can speak these words to all of His future followers throughout time. He is speaking directly to you and me; we are called to believe in the Christ even though we do not see Him in the flesh. We are blessed and accepted by Christ when we believe in Him without physically seeing Him.

Jesus appeared to Thomas to show us the incredible truth that He is always listening and hears His disciples. He loves us and desires that we believe in Him. True belief is faith without sight, but it is not blind. It sees the truth of Jesus Christ and His Scripture beyond the physical, knowing that Jesus has resurrected and that we will one day see Him in all His glory. We should pray that the Lord would be patient with us and help our unbelief when we doubt like Thomas doubted, that He would rescue us from our unbelief, and lead us to do incredible things for His kingdom just like in the life of Thomas.

Believe | When?

Believe | Devotion #4: When?
Michael Fox | Creative Director

Have you ever needed to see something to believe it was true? This happens to me sometimes. My son came in my room the other day and said he had cleaned his room. He does not have a problem with lying; however, I felt the need to look before I fully believed him, simply because this was not something he would normally do without my prompting. A similar thing happened to me the other day. A shipment had arrived at work that was not due to arrive for another week. I was told it was there, but I had some disbelief until I walked out and took a look for myself. These are small examples, and I am sure we all can come up with things like this both big and small. When it comes to asking God for things, and believing that He will provide an answer, sometimes it can be tough when we do not see what we want on our timetable, and when we cannot physically go to Him.

Sometimes God uses time to teach us things. An example from the Bible deals with Thomas, one of the disciples. John 20:24-29 says “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

This is just after Jesus was raised from the dead. It is hard to imagine as I have never experienced anything quite like this. In the text, Jesus had appeared after His resurrection to the disciples before this passage (John 20:19-21), but Thomas was not there at that time. We see that the disciples try to tell Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas said he would not believe unless he saw it with his own eyes. Jesus waited eight days before revealing Himself to him, but after that time gave him what he needed to believe.

Sometimes, those eight days can be the difference between us doing something on our own, or letting God show us His will in our lives. Those eight days can lead us to the Scripture where we can find the answers and promises we need. Though we cannot physically see Jesus today, He does provide a way to Him through prayer and reading the Word. I would encourage you today, if you are struggling with something, seek God, read the Scripture and wait. Wait for God to reveal His plan and then look back at what you learned in those “eight days” and how you are stronger for going through it. m

Believe | Where?

Believe | Devotion #3: Where?
Roger Allen | Recovery Director

“Then he released for them Barabbas and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.” Matthew 27:26

The year was 30 AD, and the disciples have just witnessed the capture of the Lord. Not understanding the full implications of what had just happened, they must have felt lost, abandoned, scared, and unprepared for what was to come. Fearing for their lives, they went into hiding hoping no one would betray their association with Jesus. The week had been one of many different emotions, from the triumphal entry to the last supper, and then the crowds turning on Jesus. Spending three years with Jesus, one would think that the disciples’ faith would be unwavering, and they would take Him at His word. But they were disillusioned and did not understand that Jesus would come back to life. Their hopes had been crushed for a new kingdom, and they feared for their safety in this environment that did not include Jesus.

“But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” Mark 9:32

There are at least eleven different accounts in the Bible of where Jesus appears over the forty days He remained on earth. The tomb, Jerusalem, Galilee, the road to Emmaus, and Damascus were some of the places that He appeared. Jesus knew that He had to establish that He was alive.  Mary would be the first at the tomb to meet Jesus. The disciples would be given the Great Commission at Galilee and Paul would have a complete transformation on the road to Damascus. These encounters became a turning point in each one of their lives.  With their faith strengthened, they were able to finish the race and proclaim the Gospel.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:16-20

Places can hold a special meaning to each one of us. For me, the church where I work is also the place I call “my road to Damascus.” Unforeseen, this is where my salvation story began. I did not search the “tomb” and neither did I believe those who told me about the Gospel.  Like Thomas, it would take a supernatural event to repent of my disbelief. It is where I met Jesus.

“And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” Matthew 28:9



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