Devotions

Author Archives: Holly Boston

Sarah’s Name Changed 

Abraham, Sarah, & Isaac • Devotion #3: Sarah’s Name Changed
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

Have you ever wished you could change your name? Several years ago my daughter Mackenzie was complaining about her name. I told her that originally our favorite girls name was Andrea but by the time she was born Mackenzie was the up and coming name, unique. Her response, “You should have stuck with Andrea.”  

According to Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” In biblical times, there was more to choosing a name than googling the top ten baby names. A person’s name was a reflection of their character, their reputation. Throughout the Bible we see God change names: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Cephas to Peter, and Saul to Paul to name a few. Sarai, wife to Abram, was the only woman in the Bible whose name was changed by God. Sarai, meaning “my princess” was changed to Sarah, meaning “princess to all” which reflected God’s plan for her life. Genesis 17:15-16 records, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 

In addition to reflecting God’s plan, I found this citing in a commentary by James Garlows, “The Hebrew letter H is the sound of breath and generally signifies the breath or presence of God.” But this was the wife of Abraham, “father of Israel,” she had to have known God before this. 

A review of Sarai’s life helped me to understand. In Genesis 12:1-2, Abram her husband was called to leave his home, “To the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Sarai followed her husband to this new land and by Genesis 13:14-16, God’s promise becomes more specific, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.”

The Bible does not tell us what their conversations were, but I am confident that Abram shared these promises with Sarai. By Genesis chapter 16, we see a wife committed to her husband and fully in support of God’s calling on her husband’s life. There was just one problem: she was aging, barren, and unable to see her part in God’s plan. As a young Christian, I was so encouraged by the testimony of other believers, how God was speaking to them, working in their lives, and directing them. I was not experiencing these things, and I began to question if I knew Christ.

I would imagine this might have been how Sarai was feeling. After all, God was speaking to Abram, not her. With no child in sight and time passing, Sarai takes matters into her own hands and has her husband sleep with her maidservant. She opened the door to a season of personal pain as well as centuries of embattlement as we see in the history of the Arab people.

In Genesis chapter 17, God speaks profoundly and changes the landscape of Sarai’s life. We see her name changed to Sarah and so much more. God specifically names Sarah as the woman He would use to build the nations (See 17:15 above). For the first time, Sarah experiences God’s Word for herself, “The Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him” (Genesis 18:10).

It is after Sarah hears her name and has a personal experience with God that we see God’s incredible plan come to fruition. Shortly after, Sarah conceived and bore Abraham’s son, Isaac. Generations later Jesus Christ the Messiah would be born.

Like Sarah, when our experience with God is second hand, limited to a great sermon or the testimony of others, our view will be limited by our perspective and our resources which always results in us going our way to our destination. But a personal walk with Christ, grounded in daily prayer and studying the Word of God, will open our eyes and ears to His perspective, give us access to His resources, and ultimately take us to His destination.

If you know Jesus as your Savior, your name has been changed, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1-2 NIV).

You are His, and His plan for you is perfect. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It is time for each of us to go beyond hearing about the amazing Savior we serve and see Him for ourselves.

Job 42:5 adds, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you.” 

 

Sin and the Cure

The Fall • Devotion #1: Sin and the Cure
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

Whenever someone says to me, “I have good news, and I have bad news,” I always ask for the bad news first. I want to get it out of the way. So, here is the bad news:

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin entered the world through one man (with the help of one misguided wife).  Adam enjoyed perfect fellowship with God, had a perfect job, worked for the perfect Boss, and was married to the perfect (only) woman. The one thing God denied him was fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). In one weak moment, Adam succumbed to temptation and “he ate of it” (Genesis 3:6). One man, one temptation, and one choice led to one sentence for all mankind, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Romans 6:23 adds, “For the wages of sin is death.”

However, there is Good News. Romans 5:15 says, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” The Sovereign God of the universe loved us so much He devised one plan, one way to save the world from eternal damnation. In 1 John 4:9 we read, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his Only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus laid His life down on the cross so we can live forever in Heaven with our gracious Father. He paid our penalty so that we can live. The most amazing part is that He accepts us just the way we are, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). I thank God always that my salvation has nothing to do with my ability. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

One God, one Son, one way leads each of us to one decision, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). One decision leads to one prayer, “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The one who believes and prays with a sincere heart will ultimately make one commitment, “By the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Incredible: One fall, one gracious God, one perfect plan, one obedient Son, and one changed heart equals one new life! That is Agape (perfect love)!

Got Jesus?

ACTS • Devotion #4: Got Jesus?
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

I love to hear people give their testimony, the story of their journey with Jesus. I have realized that each story begins with a need that seems to always fall in one of two categories: where they will spend eternal life or how they will bear the struggles of this life. The place, time, and circumstances vary greatly, but all are out of a need that only Jesus can fill.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Note: Not some needs or most needs, but every need!

As a young adult in my “B.C.” (before Christ) days, I was a self- sufficient perfectionist with a tendency to worry…a lot! To illustrate what I mean, I remember thinking that I needed to worry because “it works.” I remember getting upset because I forgot to worry. I think this classifies as abnormal. Later, as a young wife and mom, I began to realize how little control I had and I had a lot more to consider. The normal struggles of marriage and raising a child while working full-time were tough enough, but watching my parents’ marriage end made life unbearable. I shared with my sister that I was at the end of myself and could not handle this life on my own. That day Heidi led me to my Savior. She told me I could have peace with Jesus “…in me you may have peace” (John 16:33) through faith in Him “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

My journey came from a need for peace, calm in the chaos. As a new believer, I had little knowledge of the Bible and no understanding of how Jesus would work in my life. Thank goodness Jesus received me just as I was (John 6:37) with a child-like faith (Matthew 18:3). It turned out; I only knew half of what I needed to know. I did have peace with God and no longer under his wrath but forgiven of my sins because of Jesus’ work on the cross. But I missed the second part of John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” I spent the first few years of my walk with Christ feeling duped. A child diagnosed with Autism, unemployment, and losing our home left me with one question: Where is the peace? After declaring my decision to walk away from Christ, my brother-in-law challenged me with his observation, “You are ready to walk away from Jesus but you do not even know Him.” It has taken the better part of 23 years to understand that the peace Jesus offered is different than I expected.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” John14:27

It is not a peace without problems, but in spite of them. Once I understood struggles were a part of the journey, I had to learn how to get His peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

In my “A.D.” (after death to self) days, I have learned that the key to His peace is the complete dependence upon Jesus. Jesus is the calm before, during, and after the storm. Get Jesus; get peace!

A Win-Win Situation

Confession • Devotion #2: A Win-Win Situation
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

I am so glad that Jesus does not forgive me the way I forgive others. When I read Matthew 6:12, the saying “Do as I say not as I do” comes to mind. I am good at quoting Scripture and claiming God’s promises as it applies to me. I believe in the complete forgiveness of my sins from my Savior and that He remembers my sin “no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). But when it comes to the sins of others, forgiveness is often conditional, and I have a memory like an elephant.

My daughter is studying to be a social worker and is finishing an internship at a juvenile detention center. She struggles because she faces youth every day who are in desperate need of a Savior but she is not allowed to speak of Jesus or the things of God. A young girl wrote a response to a question, “I don’t have to forgive. My Jesus does it for me.”  Mackenzie called me and wanted advice on how to talk about forgiveness without mentioning Jesus. This great, timely question got me thinking (God was already working upstream to help me prepare to write this).

I began to put myself in this young girl’s place. I wondered who she was having trouble forgiving: an absent parent, an abusive parent, perhaps a family member or friend who abused her. It is hard to imagine the “unforgivable” person or circumstances that led to her being detained. What I do know is there have been people and circumstances in my life that I viewed as unforgivable. As believers, we are called to forgive as Jesus forgives, “Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

God’s Word does not say Jesus will do the forgiving for us, but it does say He will help us. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” On our own, forgiveness can be impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Then I began to imagine the reasons this young girl might not want to forgive: they do not deserve forgiveness, they did not apologize and ask for forgiveness, or she wants them to hurt the way they have hurt her. Sound familiar? I have found I have much more in common with her than I realize. Whenever I find myself considering what others deserve, I remember what I deserved. But by the grace of God and the shed blood of Christ, I will not get what I deserve – an eternity separated from God. Often, I think that I do not need to forgive because they have not even apologized. But then I am reminded that Jesus died for me when I was “yet a sinner” (Romans 5:8).

Yes, I believe we have much more in common with this troubled youth than we think. But there is one profound difference: we have people who can and will tell us about Jesus if we choose to listen. Most of what I just shared with you, Mackenzie is unable to share with this lost little girl. What can she say? There is one truth we all seem to miss: our unforgiveness hurts us more than it hurts others. If you read the story of the prodigal son in Matthew chapter 15, you will see the effects of unforgiveness and the fruit of forgiveness.  We see the bitterness and anger of an unforgiving brother and the joy of a forgiving father.

Forgiveness is a “Win-win situation.” When you show forgiveness, especially to the undeserving, they see Christ in action, and you experience the joy and freedom you are meant to experience.

What is in a Name?

Gather | Devotion #5: What is in a Name?
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

What do you call going to “church?” Some call it “Mass.” Some call it “Church.” Others call it a “Service.” Then you have: “Traditional Service,” “Contemporary Service,” “Worship Service,” and a host of other titles. The list goes on and on. When my church started calling it a “Gathering,” I had two questions: Does the name matter, and how am I going to remember another new name?  Habits die hard.

As I sat down to write this devotion, I realized my view of “going to church” has changed.  Years ago, my family and I faithfully attended church each Sunday.  Being early birds, we would arrive 15 minutes early and find an empty parking lot and wonder if the church was closed for the day.  Fifteen minutes later there was not a parking spot or a seat in the sanctuary left.  No one took their coats off, and we were greeted with a less than sincere “Good morning.” After the service, there was a mad rush for the door, and fifteen minutes later not a soul could be found. I also remember being told that if you missed certain portions of the service “it did not count.” Though people religiously attended, it was abundantly clear that attending church was no more than an opportunity to check something off the “to do” list.

Years later, by the grace of God, my family and I began attending a Bible believing, teaching church.  It was then that I experienced a community of believers.

Acts 2:42 describes the early church, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” 

Together we studied the Word of God. I learned how to apply it to my life, and I received encouragement from others struggling with similar circumstances.  I found people who sincerely cared for me, prayed for me, and even noticed if I had been absent.    

Acts 2:44 continues, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Every week I was eager to go to church.  I was eager to receive that nugget from God that would carry me through the week.  I was eager to hear the encouraging words of a friend who sincerely asked me how I was doing and told me that she had prayed for me throughout the week.  I finally had found my home and had all I needed (All great biblical stuff, but did you notice how many times I used the word “I” or “me?”).

Then I became Director of Women’s Ministry and things began to change.  Suddenly, I was missing my worship time because someone needed prayer or information.  The messages were all about “What the church is not” and the need to get involved; not something with which I was struggling.  I started to get bugged when my worship was interrupted, or the message was not deep enough.  About that time, our church changed the name of our services to “Gatherings” and the process of teaching me the true meaning of church began.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Ouch! I realized it was not all about me. I am there to do the encouraging, the serving, and the praying with others. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.”  I guess in this instance the name was important because it has taught me the true meaning of going to church, but ultimately what you do with going to church is what matters and “counts.”

Finally, Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 

Wow! For years I was missing the boat.  We must always keep in mind that we may be the only face of Christ to someone around us.  Do not miss a single opportunity to encourage another.

Eternity Counts!



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