Devotions

Author Archives: Donna Fox

Milk, Meat, and Apples

Grow | Devotion #1: Milk, Meat, and Apples
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

We have some apple trees in our yard. They have been there for quite some time and produced apples in abundance! One of the trees was producing fruit year after year and suddenly died. We had to remove it. The remaining trees continue to produce apples. That one tree produced good fruit until it died.

Some trees live for many years and never produce fruit, or at least good fruit. They do not have good soil or do not receive enough sunlight or water. The life of the tree may be long, but the fruit is not good. People are the same. Some keep growing, maturing, and producing fruit until the day they die. Some just “exist,” not maturing or producing fruit.

We continue to grow physically as we age. But more importantly, we must continue to grow in maturity. God has placed us here to be used by Him until the day we leave this Earth. Whether you are 20, 50, or 90 years old, being in the Word, listening to sermons, and praying, we continue to grow in God’s Word and share the Good News with others. I have a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s and even though she cannot remember names, or recent events, she sings hymns all day long and is ministering to the staff and visitors at the nursing home. God still uses her for His glory! I had another dear friend who has now passed on to eternal life with her Heavenly Father. In her last years, she could not walk or see, but she could pray. She prayed day and night for our leaders, our country, and individuals. She was one of the godliest women I have ever met and was used by God until the day she died. She never stopped learning, growing, and maturing in her relationship with her Lord and Savior.

The Bible speaks of producing fruit, vines, and branches over and over. John 15:5 is an example of this, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Also, Matthew 7:17 adds, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit” (Hint – the disease is sin.).

Just because we grow old does not mean we are mature, especially spiritually mature. Oswald Chambers said, “Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the will of God.”  

New Christian’s need spiritual milk (1 Corinthians 3:2; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12). But as we learn the Word of God, grow in our relationship with Jesus, listen to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and follow the will of God (turning away from sin), then we begin to mature spiritually and begin to long for the meat (solid food). 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 says, “But I, brothers, 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 yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.”

Are you ready for the solid food? Or are you content drinking milk? God desires more for you. He wants a relationship with you that is not just superficial; it is meaningful and deep. It is reading the Bible, it is praying, and it is sharing your “story” (testimony) and His “story” (the Gospel) with others. Be like the apple tree and continue to produce fruit until your end on Earth. Do not waste a day!

Anna

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #3: Anna
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

Luke 2:36-38 says, “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Luke 2:22-35 prefaces Anna’s story to tell us that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple for dedication. As Simeon is blessing the child, Anna happens along.  This is where we learn all we know about Anna in these three verses.  She is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.

Anna was married for seven years. Her husband died, and she never remarried. The rest of her life was spent living at the temple. She was present in the temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to be dedicated, as was the Jewish custom. She saw and heard Simeon bless the child and then told everyone she knew that the Messiah had arrived.

What can we learn from this? Anna was a godly woman. She was a “prophetess,” a female prophet, which means one who publicly proclaims the Word of God. She “worshipped with fasting and prayer night and day.”  She very much looked forward to the coming of the Promised One, the Messiah.  So when Jesus was brought to the temple and with Simeon, she immediately knew this was the Messiah.   She heard the blessing given by Simeon, then went “to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”  She was the first missionary, the first person to witness Jesus and go to others to spread the Good News!

Anna was from the “tribe of Asher,” known for their faithfulness and belief in God.  Likely from an early age, she was taught Scripture, learning the Old Testament and about the coming of the Messiah.  Her faith continued throughout her years at the temple, studying Scripture, praying, and by being close to Simeon and following his teachings. When Jesus arrived at the temple, Simeon and Anna both immediately recognized this was the Messiah. What a joy it must have been for both of them to see their Messiah, in the flesh, before their time on earth was done.  They were both advanced in years, and probably beginning to wonder if they would see the Messiah before they died. God was faithful and fulfilled His promise to Simeon (Luke 2:26).

Widows typically lived in poverty, and this is likely why Anna lived and worked at the temple.  She would have lived a simple, frugal life after her husband died, quietly devoting her remaining days to the work at the temple.   Because she fasted AND prayed, night and day, it shows her focus was solely on God, seeking Him, knowing Him.  She was eager to hear from God.  In turn, she shared her knowledge with other women at the temple.

Also, the temple was a large place, hustling and bustling with people all the time.  Anna happened upon Simeon and Jesus at just the right moment, “coming up at that very hour.” There are no coincidences!  God orchestrated these events perfectly!

She saw the Messiah one time but spent her remaining days telling everyone about her encounter. Do you spend your remaining days telling everyone about your encounter with Jesus?

Hebrews 9:28 says, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Just as Anna and Simeon awaited Christ’s first coming, all of us are to be faithful and eagerly await Christ’s second coming.

Bathsheba

 

Lesson Eight | Devotion #3: Bathsheba
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

2 Samuel 11:2-5 says, “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.  And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’  So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.  And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’”

Her husband (Uriah) was away at war.  King David should have been at war but stayed behind.  Enter Bathsheba. Up on the rooftop, bathing, King David summoned her into his presence. Why did she not say “no?”  She was likely being submissive to the king.  When she discovered she was pregnant, she sent word to David.  He hatched an evil scheme to bring Uriah back from war and make it look like it was his child. When this failed, he hatched an even more evil scheme to have Uriah killed in battle. After a period of mourning, David took Bathsheba as his wife.  The baby was born but quickly died as prophesied by Nathan. The lesson here is that our sins have consequences, but through repentance, we can make things right with God.

David realized his sin and repented. God then blessed them with a second child, Solomon, who was later named king. Eventually, they would have five children total, four living, and God blessed them greatly.

She raised Solomon in a godly way, which we glean from Solomon’s writing, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Fast forward to the book of 1 Kings chapter 1.  Here we find David is old and sick.  Without his knowledge, Adonijah had been made the king (when it rightfully should have been Solomon).  Nathan tells Bathsheba, and she goes to see David to get the matter straightened out.  She reminds David that Solomon should be king and Adonijah had been made king without his knowledge.

Bathsheba was unfaithful, became pregnant, her husband died, and her child died.  She endured a lot.  Nevertheless, by her faithfulness in God and her godly home, eventually, Jesus would be born to a descendant of David and Bathsheba and her place in history would be secured!

Roman Soldiers

Delivery Plan • Roman Soldiers
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

Mark 15:16-20 says, “And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters) and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.”

The Roman Soldiers delivered Jesus to His death. Pilate gave Jesus over to the crowd for crucifixion in place of Barabbas. The soldiers had their orders, “Crucify Him!”

They beat Him and tortured Him. They placed a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, nailed Him to the cross, and killed Him. Read Matthew 27:27-31. It describes the torture even further. He was stripped, thorns placed on His head, and reeds in His hand. He was mocked, spit on, and led away to be crucified. The Roman Soldiers were wicked men, enjoying their job a little too much, casting lots to see who would get His garments.

How would you like to have a job like that? After given the order to crucify, they carried out these horrific acts to the point of death. How could they do that to any man, much less the Son of God?

This was their job, to obey the orders and to crucify people. There was no emotional stake. The ones they crucified meant nothing to them. They did not realize who He was until after His death. Mark 15:39 says, “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” Here we see the Centurion, the head of the Roman Soldiers who realized the truth and was changed by Jesus.

Why crucifixion? Crucifixion was a Roman death, not the Jewish custom which was stoning. Pontius Pilate gave the order. The Roman Soldiers simply carried it out.

The Roman Soldiers delivered Jesus to His death. They prepared Him by stripping Him and beating Him. They forced Him to carry His cross. They nailed Him to the boards. They tortured Him until He took His last breath. God had a plan when He sent Jesus to earth as a man. The crucifixion (and resurrection) was a fulfillment of that plan. Unknowingly, the Roman Soldiers had a part in that plan. They realized afterward what had just happened.

We are like the soldiers; our sin caused Jesus to be led to the cross to cover our sins.

Hell

Delivery Status • Hell
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

If I asked you if you want to spend eternity in Heaven, or in Hell, you would say Heaven I bet. I have never met anyone who honestly said they want to spend eternity in Hell. But why, then, do we live in sin, live following Satan rather than following Jesus as Lord and Savior? We are all born into sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” We need to realize that we are sinners and we need Jesus for salvation. How do we receive this free gift? Is it by anything we do or say? Is it a one-time prayer said at VBS as a child that was not understood and changed nothing? Is it by good works? No, none of these. It is by Jesus and Jesus alone!

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Colossians 1:13

The ‘He’ referred to here is God. His beloved son is Jesus! He lifts us up from the depths of Hell and transfers us to His Kingdom – Heaven! What a glorious day when a sinner confesses he or she is a sinner, repents, and makes Jesus the Lord and Savior over their life, living for God’s glory and the promise of Heaven.

Through Jesus, we are delivered from the darkness into the light. It is from Hell into Heaven. God created the light (Genesis 1:3). God created everything, including Hell. It is not His desire for us to spend eternity there, but we have a choice to make.

What does it mean to be delivered? The first thing that comes to my mind is a newborn baby being delivered. A baby is in the womb, in darkness. Then labor starts and they are delivered into the light. Fast forward to a believer’s confession; some call this being “reborn.” It is the same concept, leaving the darkness, entering the light. Both of these birth’s come from God. He is the only one that can deliver us from our sin into His glorious kingdom.

We do not deserve it. We did not do anything to earn it. We did nothing; God just transferred us to His kingdom because of our trust in Him as Lord and Savior at the time of salvation. If we are saved, He has delivered us from Hell.

We must believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to be saved and then we are assured of this deliverance from Hell.

Jesus came and made a way for us to be delivered, to be rescued, to be set free from Satan’s power. Because God sent Jesus, and Jesus died on the cross, today we have the hope of eternity in Heaven.

Have you met the God that delivers? Has he delivered you?

“All you need to do to go to Hell is do nothing.” – John MacArthur



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