Devotions

Author Archives: Brett Eberle

The “End” Zone

Reach | Devotion #6: The “End” Zone
Brett Eberle | Production Director

I can remember getting the opportunity to preach my first sermon. I was part of a class being put on by some of the pastors of the church, and they gave everybody in the class the same topic and five minutes to preach the sermon. I do not remember how the sermon went, but I am sure it was not very good. What I do remember is the topic lighting a fire within me that no matter what I do will not go out. The fire that was lit inside of me was the desire to share the Gospel.

The statement that I am about to make may get me in trouble, but I am going to make it anyway. I do not like that we use the word “Reach” in the vision statement for our church, in my mind it sounds too nice. In my opinion, it gives believers an excuse. Believers will say, “I tried to get through to them” and statements along those lines which mean I reached, but I just could not grab them. I had the opportunity to coach a football team this year and what I did not expect was that I learned as much or more than I taught the players. One of the things that I learned was that I have a major issue with what we call arm tackling. Arm tackling is when you reach for someone to avoid the collision and attempt to drag them down instead of planting your shoulder into them and driving them to the ground with everything that you have.

One of our Student Pastors showed me a quote by Charles Spurgeon a few years ago that has become a constant reminder in my life. The quote was, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” 

Since the day that I preached my first sermon, I have treated reach like a goal-line situation in football. I treat it as if I am the only person standing between them and hell and I will do anything in my power to stop them from making it into that end zone. So I challenge you, if there is someone in your life that you have only attempted to arm tackle, plant your feet on the goal line and give it everything that you have because who knows, you may be the only person who stands between them and eternal damnation. 

Lazarus

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #2: Lazarus
Brett Eberle | Production Director

As we have explored the people in the Bible, we have seen how many of them were used by God in extraordinary ways. The man that we are focusing on today is a bit different from the others we have looked at so far. David, with the help of God, killed Goliath. All that Lazarus managed to do was die at the beginning of the story. I have heard this story a countless number of times whether it was Sunday School or Vacation Bible School but the closer you look the faster this story comes alive.

We are going to start at the beginning.  One of the biggest things that this story screams to me is that Jesus was truly wholly God and also wholly man. When Jesus finds out that His friend is sick, He tells His disciples that the illness does not lead to death but that it is all for the glory of God. But instead of running straight to His friend to heal him, which Jesus has already done in front of his disciples, He waits two more days where He was. In that time, Lazarus died, and when Jesus arrives, we see his human side shine through His emotions. Jesus was fully aware that Lazarus was coming back from the dead, but when seeing the pain that death has brought, Jesus weeps. Jesus knows that we brought all of this on ourselves and yet was still moved to the point of tears at the pain that death brings. Jesus then brings Lazarus back to life with such authority that no one could discount the fact that God sent Him.

As I read this story for probably the fiftieth time, one of the simplest biblical truths exploded in my life. That truth is that Lazarus is not the only one that Jesus raised from the dead. I have struggled my whole life with the fact that I do not have a crazy powerful testimony. My family is filled with godly examples of marriage, and my parents have had me in church my entire life. I accepted Jesus when I was seven years old, and for as long as I can remember, I have had hope. It was not until I found this truth that I realized how amazing my testimony is. I have no idea what it means to have a loved one die and not have the hope that I get to see them some day in Heaven. You see, we are all sinners, and the price for that sin is death, but Jesus came and nailed your sin and my sin to the cross. Jesus took us from the hopeless death that this world has for us, and He resurrected us, giving us hope and peace in our new lives with Him. I may not have a testimony that most people would consider powerful, but I thank God every day that I do not know what it is like to live dead in my sin and it is all because Lazarus was not the only one that Jesus raised from the dead. He raised me, too.

Solomon

Lesson Nine | Devotion #1: Solomon
Brett Eberle | Production Director

I play softball every week, and a few weeks ago there was a baseball team practicing on the field next to us. The baseball team was taking some batting practice when the kid fouled the ball onto our field. The problem is that we were mid game and the foul ball distracted the batter in our game which caused him to completely swing and miss.

The Lord spoke to the prophet Nathan to tell King David that Solomon would be the one to build the temple. Solomon gets one of the greatest opportunities in the Bible; he gets to build the temple, the permanent place where the Spirit of God will live on earth. Before Solomon gets a chance to build the temple, God came to him in a dream and asked him, “What shall I give you?” Solomon answered saying that he wanted wisdom so that he could justly govern the people of Israel. 1 Kings 3:5-14 records the conversation, At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?’  It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.’” For the rest of the first part of Solomon’s rule, the Lord is pleased with what he does and the way that he is living.

In 1 Kings chapter 11, things start to take a turn and Solomon starts to take his eyes off of God. I have played sports my entire life, and nearly every single sport that I have played has a common rule, keep your eye on the ball.  The same can be said for our walk with God. If you look away from the ball when you are playing baseball there is little to no chance that you will hit it and if you take your eyes off of God and the will that He has for you, it is impossible for you to live the way that God has called us to live.

Solomon’s distraction was women that he had married and they caused him to take his eyes off of what God had planned for him. For us, it can be anything that pulls our attention from God. We have to remember that no matter how hard things in life try to distract us, we have to keep our eyes on the ball that is the plan God has for us.

Nathan

Lesson Eight | Devotion #2: Nathan
Brett Eberle | Production Director

I have a confession to make, when I was given Nathan as a topic for these character studies I had no idea who he was. As I began studying and reading, I realized that he played a huge part in a couple of stories that I knew well, I just did not know his name.  Nathan was a prophet who was very close to King David.

The first story that Nathan is involved in had to do with David’s desire to build the temple. In the story, David is struggling with the fact that he lives in a cedar palace while the presence of the Lord dwelt in a tent. David called for Nathan to find out if it was acceptable for him to build the temple and Nathan told him that the Lord is with him so he can build the temple. That night God comes to Nathan and tells him that David cannot be the one to build the temple. Now, this is not all that God told Nathan, but we should stop for a second and look at what just happened. Nathan, who just told King David, the most powerful person in Israel, that God is on his side and he can build the temple, now has to tell the king that somebody else will be the one to do it. There is a good chance that what Nathan had to tell the king could enrage David possibly costing Nathan his life. This is the first huge decision we see Nathan have to make, whether he was going to honor God and convey the message or save his own skin and let David build the temple. Nathan decides to tell David what God has said, and it results in David rejoicing in God’s decision because Nathan got to tell David the second part, that David’s offspring would be the one to build the temple.

The second story has to do with David and Bathsheba. After it seems like David has gotten away with his sin, God comes to Nathan and tells him that He is displeased with David. Nathan has the second huge decision to make, and unlike the first one, the news Nathan has to tell David has no upside. Nathan makes the hard choice to follow what God has told him to do. 2 Samuel 12:1-10 records the conversation.

If you keep reading, after David dies, his son Solomon, becomes the king and his high officials are listed. Among those listed, two were sons of the prophet Nathan, one of which is described as the king’s friend. Nathan had to make some very difficult decisions, but no matter how difficult they were, he always decided to follow the plans that God had given to him and it resulted in two of his sons being among some of the most important and influential people in Israel at the time. God has an incredible plan for your life, but that plan starts with you choosing to follow God no matter how hard the decisions are to make.

Ready | What?

Ready | Devotion #2: What?
Brett Eberle | Production Director

I have attended a few churches throughout my life, and something that they all had in common is that they did some sort of Easter production. My parents and I have participated in more Easter productions than I can remember. Ever since I was hired on at The River, I have gotten to be more involved with the planning of what we call the “Passion Play.” Starting somewhere in October, we have weekly meetings about what the Passion Play is going to be in the coming year and every year without fail the question of whether or not we can ascend Jesus at the end of the play will be discussed. When I began researching what the ascension was really like, I realized that it lined up with many of the qualifications that we have for the play. It is good to look at what a few of those qualifications are.

Acts 1:6-11 says, So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”

If you read our Fallen book that was used to go along with our Fallen series, then you know that Lucifer was cast out of Heaven like a bolt of lightning. Knowing that is how he was cast out, it is logical to think that Jesus may have ascended in the same manner. Maybe it was more like Superman jumping into flight, breaking Mach 3 before his feet leave the ground as he takes off. While literally jumping into Heaven may have been super cool, the Bible tells us that is not how it happened. Verse 9 tells us that the disciples watched as Jesus was carried out of sight. It was slow and deliberate. This has always caused us problems in the play because we always want to have a song that goes with the ascension and attempting to lift someone two stories through the ceiling takes an extremely long song.

Verse 11 tells us that Jesus will return in the same manner that He was taken to Heaven. This has never caused us any problems in the play but last year I had the privilege of traveling to Israel and one of the first places that we went was the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended to Heaven. As we stood at the top, we looked out, and the first thing you notice is thousands upon thousands of graves where people have chosen to be buried as close as possible to where Jesus will return.

One of the toughest parts about making the ascension happen in the play was finding a chance to put the harness on the actor playing Jesus. When we choose to do the ascension in the play, we are then forced to portray the things that Jesus did in the days before He ascended and hiding a harness is not an easy thing to do. The fact that the ascension was physical takes away any ability for us to portray it using the screen or flashing lights to hide the fact that there is a thick cable hanging from the ceiling.

While the ascension may be an incredibly difficult task for us to pull off as a production staff, we know that it happened and it was a visible, physical, and deliberate act as Jesus went home. Just do not forget what the angels told the disciples, Jesus is coming back the same way that He left. It will be visible, physical, and deliberate.



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