Devotions

Author Archives: Debbie Kerr

In the Presence of Jehovah

Gather | Devotion #2: In the Presence of Jehovah
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

“I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise will continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

It was late December 2007. The world was preparing for the busiest, and some would say, the most wonderful time of the year. While this frenzy of activity was going on in the world, my cousin Bruce and his wife Jennifer sat in a doctor’s office in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were a godly couple that loved Jesus and served in the church for many years.  They had a strong faith and knew God was good in all things.  One day Jennifer noticed a lump on the back of her neck.  She went to the doctor, and they ran some tests. Within days the doctor called Bruce and Jennifer back into the office and delivered the most devastating news anyone could hear.  It was cancer! There were not a lot of warm fuzzy words about her prognosis, and very little hope was given. While still in the doctor’s office, Jennifer looked at Bruce and said seven of the most powerful words that have impacted my faith to this day. She said, “There’s no panic in the throne room.”  Wow! I am not sure I would have that same reaction; I believe I would eventually get there, but it might take me a minute or 500.  But here she is only moments after hearing this terrifying news, and she is ministering to her husband assuring him that her faith is still strong.  Jennifer lived six more months, just long enough to see her precious daughter graduate from high school. 

In June 2008, my parents and I traveled to Indianapolis to attend Jennifer’s funeral. The service was so beautiful and God-honoring.  It highlighted how Jennifer’s life consistently pointed people to Jesus. It was obvious that she impacted many lives.  After the service, the family gathered for a meal in Bruce and Jennifer’s beautiful home. I walked around and looked at every picture and every Scripture verse that had been thoughtfully placed on the walls. I could not get enough and wanted to know as much as I could about this amazing woman.  As I looked around, I noticed a den off the foyer with a baby grand piano.  As you can imagine, I was very curious to see what was most likely the last song played in that room.  I respectfully walked in and looked at the sheet music resting there, and I was instantly undone. “In the Presence of Jehovah” was one of my all-time favorite worship songs.  Before we headed home that day, Bruce shared with me that during the last few months, he would wake up in the middle of the night to find Jennifer missing from their bed. He would make his way downstairs to find Jennifer sitting at the piano quietly worshipping the God she knew and trusted so well.  Bruce said, he would sit on the floor next to her in those darkest moments, as she worshipped. She was not waiting to be transported to her Heavenly home; she was the kind of lady that lived daily in His presence.  Jennifer had an intimacy with Jesus that I have rarely seen in all my years as a Christian.  It has been nine years since her death, and I have never forgotten the blessing and inspiration I received from her that day. Worship has an amazing way of replacing the focus from ourselves and our circumstances to our faithful and loving Jehovah God.

“In The Presence of Jehovah”
In and out of situations
That tug of war at me;
All day long I struggle
For answers that I need.
But then I come into His presence
And all my questions become clear
And for a sacred moment
No doubt can interfere.

Chorus
In the presence of Jehovah
God Almighty, Prince of Peace,
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended
In the presence of the King.

Through His love the Lord provided
A place for us to rest;
A place to find the answers
In the hours of distress.
Now there is never any reason
For you to give up in despair;
Just slip away and breathe His name
He will surely meet you there.

Mary of Bethany

Lesson Twelve | Devotion #3: Mary of Bethany
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

Broken and Spilled Out

Do you have a favorite Bible character, I mean, other than Jesus? One of my top 10 would have to be Mary of Bethany.  Mary possessed characteristics that I admire and are somewhat relatable to me.  She was a true worshipper in every sense of the word.  I have loved serving in some form of worship music ministry since I was 15.  It has always been my gifting and passion to lead people into His presence through music.  In hindsight, I can see that I did not fully understand what that even meant, or what that required of me.  As I have grown spiritually, I have come to realize that true worship is about “being,” more than “doing.”  It is about abiding in Christ in our heart and life. When we come together corporately in worship each weekend, everything we do is an act of worship, whether it is singing, giving, listening to the Word of God, or loving on each other. In the past 20 years, it is probably thought of most commonly about music.  People love to attend worship concerts by the thousands; it is a huge part of our Christian culture.  Anytime we lift up the name and awesomeness of our God, with a pure heart, it is pleasing to our Heavenly Father.   Mary understood that a life of worship must flow out of our heart and lives as a true expression of reverence and adoration to our great and awesome God.

In John 12:1-7, we get to take a peek in the window of the home belonging to Mary, her sister Martha, and her recently resurrected brother Lazarus. It is Saturday night, and they are having a dinner together known in the Jewish religion as Shabbat, meaning the end of the Sabbath.  Scripture tells us that Jesus was soon to be crucified, but no one else knew.  We find Martha very busy as she was the doer, she was busy preparing and serving and worrying about the meal as Lazarus was seated right next to Jesus. You can imagine the extra preparation and detail she was putting forth because Jesus was in attendance.  Lazarus must have felt great adoration and gratitude toward Jesus because he had recently been in the tomb for four days when Jesus raised him from the dead. Then we see Mary doing what she loved more than anything else, sitting at the feet of Jesus listening intently to every word He spoke.  Scripture describes this family as not having any special ministries, gifts, or positions of leadership and yet they caught the attention and heart of Jesus.  As Jesus taught, He began telling them that He was going to die.  His disciples and the others did not seem to fully comprehend His words, but Mary listened with her heart, and her response was sacrificial and loving.  She quickly got up to find her most priceless and precious possession, an expensive bottle of the best perfume.  She sat back down and proceeded to break the bottle and spill the ointment on her blessed Savior’s feet.  She took her long, beautiful hair and washed His feet with the fragrant mixture.  This was a beautiful picture of her life that had been broken and spilled out for the love of her Lord.  She was criticized by some for expressing her extravagant worship because of the value of the offering.  Many people will not understand a life of complete devotion to the Lord. Jesus gently rebuked the others saying that she was preparing Him for His burial, a direct reference to his imminent death.

The broken bottle of perfume poured out on Jesus is a beautiful picture of a broken life that is lavishly spilled out and used up for Him. I love what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:6, I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”  Paul died empty; he gave all that he had to the One who had given His all for him. I pray this will be said of me when my time on this Earth is done. I hope this is your prayer, too.  Always remember that God is more concerned with our heart of worship than our act of worship.

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on Thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee.

~ Gloria Gaither

Mary Magdalene

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #6: Mary Magdalene
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

We are introduced to Mary Magdalene in Luke 8:2, “And also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out.” She is one of the best known and yet one of the most misunderstood names in the Bible. First of all, Magdalene is not her last name. She was from the town Magdala, a very dark and violent place, due to much demonic activity. Magdalene was used to identify her from Mary the mother of Jesus, and the other women named Mary in the Gospels. The Bible does not go into great detail regarding her past or background. However, she is mentioned by name fourteen times in the Bible and all four of the Gospels, making her one of the prominent women of the New Testament. Scripture reveals that she had the distinct honor of being the first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. However, there are other unsubstantiated assumptions made regarding her identity. Some people believe she is the prostitute that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and others believe she was the woman caught in the act of adultery and almost stoned to death. According to John Macarthur’s book, “Twelve Extraordinary Women,” there is no biblical basis for either assumption.

Mary Magdalene was met by a loving and powerful Savior. Through His grace and mercy, Jesus looked beyond her faults and lovingly saw her need as He cast out seven demons from her. Before her life-changing encounter with Jesus, she lived a tormented and most likely isolated life. Demoniacs were unpopular and isolated from mainstream living. Scripture does not give us all the gory details of her darkness but instead spotlights and magnifies Christ’s grace and goodness to her. Christ set her free, and she was free indeed! Mary’s life was not simply reformed but completely transformed. We read in John 10:10, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He gave her life that day…abundant life!

Mary’s demonic deliverance led to a life of complete devotion to her deliverer and Savior. She remained very close to Jesus, and even led the women in the care and provision for Jesus and His disciples as they traveled and ministered. Luke 8:3 (NIV) reveals that these women, led by Mary Magdalene, financed the work of the Lord “out of heir own means.” Mary Magdalene remained a very close follower of Jesus and was named among the women at the foot of the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother. In their unbearable sorrow and grief, these women stayed until the bitter and painful end. In fact, she may have been the last one to leave the tomb that horrific day. We read in Scripture that it was Mary Magdalene that informed the disciples of the location of the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea placed His lifeless body.

Luke 23:55-56 says Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had purchased more spices used for burial, and as soon as the Sabbath was over, would go first thing in the morning to give Jesus a proper burial. Mary Magdalene could not wait any longer. She went ahead of the others and was the first one to reach the tomb on the resurrection morning. Jesus meets the grieving woman outside the tomb and says her name, “Mary,” in a way that pierced her grieving heart. She knew in an instance this was her Lord and Savior, once dead and now alive. He instructed her to go and tell the others that He had risen. Mary Magdalene ran immediately to find Peter and John, to tell them. Then they went to see for themselves. He rose just as He said!

This transformed woman that went by the name of Mary Magdalene is the perfect example of the limitless power and extravagant grace of God. She was snatched out of Satan’s death grip and became one the closest followers of Jesus, with intense love and devotion. If you and I have been saved by the blood of Jesus, we also have been snatched from the enemy’s grasp and placed into His marvelous light! Do we have this type of undying devotion and love for our Savior? He desires to take the ruins of our life, and transform them into something beautiful and useful for His glory. He requires that we lay it all at the foot of the cross, give Him our whole heart, and follow close after Him. We must die to self and say as the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” His grace is free, not cheap!

Mary of Nazareth

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #3: Mary of Nazareth
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

Greetings, You who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” We find this greeting being given to a young virgin girl named Mary in Luke 1:28-35 (NIV).  The shocking and unexpected announcement continues as the Angel of the Lord informs this sweet young girl that her life is about to drastically change!  He goes on to say, “‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will regin over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’  ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the Angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’  The Angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called, the Son of God will never fail.’” My very favorite part of the narrative is Mary’s response, “I am the Lord’s servant, May Your word to me be fulfilled.”  Do you think her response could be why she was found “highly favored” in God’s eyes?  She was not just some random virgin girl that found favor in God’s eyes. The Prophets in the Old Testament foretold the details of Christ’s birth many years earlier, and it was fulfilled with perfect precision!  The woman chosen to carry and give birth to the Son of God was described in detail from the Old Testament Prophets. Listed below are a few of the prophecies surrounding Jesus’ birth.

  1. He was to be born of a virgin.

Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

Fulfilled- Mary was a virgin girl.

  1. The Messiah would be from the line of Abraham and David.

Genesis 22:18 says, “And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Matthew 1:1 says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”

Luke 2:4 adds, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” 

Fulfilled-Mary was a descendant of Abraham and David.

  1. He would be born in Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 (NIV) says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  The account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is told in the New Testament books of Matthew, Luke, and John.

Fulfilled – Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census.

Mary is not a prominent figure throughout Scripture, in fact, she is mentioned only a few times in the Gospel accounts during Jesus’ early childhood; His birth, fleeing to Egypt when Jesus was two years old, and again when Jesus at age 12 is teaching in the Temple. Other than that, Mary is not mentioned again until Jesus begins His public ministry. When Jesus was 30, He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana. This is where He turned the water into wine. Mary inadvertently launched His ministry a bit early when she asked Jesus for a miracle at the wedding, because they were running out of the good wine. After a gentle rebuke, He complied (John 2:1-11).

In Mark 3:31-35 we read, “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’  And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”  This is where we begin to see a shift in their mother and Son relationship. He stated He was about His Father’s business. Mary, nor anyone else in His family, had a greater claim on Him than anyone else.  Jesus treated Mary with respect and honor but never placed her on an exalted level of supremacy.  Mary, herself eventually came to a place where she let go of her maternal duties and submitted to her Son as her Lord and Savior.  She ultimately followed Him all the way to the cross.  Mary was an ordinary young lady who was chosen by God to do an extraordinary thing.  She obeyed without hesitation and became a major world changer!

Recognize | What?

Recognize | Devotion #2: What?
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

I remember as a young girl often looking at a painting that hung on the wall in our house.  It was a picture of Jesus walking on a brightly lit road with two men.  As a young girl, I did not fully understand that this picture was a rendering of the amazing story in Luke chapter 24.  I am not sure why I never asked my parents what the painting was about, all I knew in my young understanding was that Jesus walks alongside us on the road of life.  However, the story behind this particular walk carried a much greater significance.

This significant walk that is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke is an event that took place right after Jesus’ death.  As you can imagine, there was great heaviness and despair among Jesus’ followers.  Their hopes and dreams had been shattered when Jesus died on the cross.  This account in Luke chapter 24 tells the story of two men walking along a road that led seven miles out of Jerusalem to a town called Emmaus.  As they journeyed, they talked about what had just happened and the effect it would have on their lives.  As they continued on their journey, a man unrecognizable to them, joined them.  This “unknown” man asked them what they were talking about, “And they stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him’” (Luke 24:17-21). Little did they know they were walking with the risen Christ.

We read in the Gospels that Jesus told His followers about His death and resurrection, even the women who saw the empty tomb proclaimed to them that He indeed had risen.  But they were still doubting and blinded to the truth. There is a big difference in knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus personally. They were unable to see Jesus and believe because their faith was weak, and had lost all hope.  As they lamented, this “stranger” stayed close.  One of the lessons here is that Jesus seeks us out and meets us where we are.  The reason they did not recognize Him was all part of the plan.  Jesus did not reveal who He was because He was testing their faith. We often make the same mistake and base our belief system on our circumstances.  Jesus did not leave them by the wayside because of their unbelief, He lovingly saw their hearts and opened their eyes to who He was.

Has Jesus ever tried to get your attention, but you looked everywhere else for the answer?  When we begin to recognize Jesus for all that He is, we start to rest in the assurance of His great love for us.  God’s Word is true and faithful 100% of the time.  He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do every time! Do you completely trust Him or are you like these men, focused on your disappointing circumstances? Pray today to have the eyes of faith and begin to walk in the fullness of His promises.  Faith is the lens that enables us to see the miracle in the mess!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.  – Helen Lemmel



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