Author Archives: James Mann

The God of Promises

Burning Bush | Devotion 6: The God of Promises
James Mann

Exodus 3:13-22 gives us a promise that God has for His people. “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I PROMISE that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt…” (verse 16). In our society, promises, and even people’s word, do not carry the same amount of weight as they once did. Everyone reading this can think of a time that someone made a promise that ended up not coming to fruition. This is difficult due to the fact we are imperfect beings. We are also limited in what we can actually accomplish. We have outside factors that may make it impossible to follow through with a promise. I think that we often take for granted the fact that we have a God that controls everything. This even goes for these outside factors.

We need to start looking at these promises that God makes with His people throughout the Bible and realize the weight that they carry. Joshua 23:14 tells us, “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” This verse shows us just how powerful these promises are. As we read throughout the Bible, we can see all of God’s promises, whether they are about supplying what is needed, protection, or deliverance, and we can see them come true.

This section in Exodus is so important because it is God promising to guide His people out of Egypt. From the Israelites’ point of view, this probably seemed impossible. They had been under the control of Pharaoh for hundreds of years. They got to the point where they had lost all hope. God was able to provide them this hope. If we look through the Bible and remember the weight that His promises hold, we should be strengthened and encouraged during our times of struggle. One example I like to turn to is Isaiah 41:10, which tells us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” These are the kinds of promises that God has given to us, which held meaning then, should hold meaning to us now, and will continue until long after we are gone.

Freezer Burn

Leftovers | Devotion #2: Freezer Burn
James Mann | Children’s Director

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:25-27

One of my most favorite freezer foods is chicken taquitos. Nothing is better than pulling out the George Foreman Grill and cooking up a half box of those in the middle of the day. The problem is what you do with the other half of the box. My dad tells me that I am like a bull in a china shop, and he is not wrong. I demolish the box as soon as I try to open it. So, the next viable option is to put the leftovers in a plastic bag. Since I have the focus of a toddler, sometimes I do not check to make sure the bag is completely closed. You can fill in the blanks from there. I go back a few weeks later to finish the second half of the bag, and they are all freezer burned. 

We have been learning about the things that are left over after the problems within the family. One option that many of us take is to put the issues into the freezer and forget about them until we think we need to work through it. Sometimes we think life is easier if we avoid hard situations. Sometimes you will think that going to bed and trying again in the morning will solve all your worldly problems. The truth is, when we open our eyes in the morning, our reality is still the same. God has warned us about these situations. We cannot let the issues within the family sit in the freezer. If it festers, it will grow in severity until it is out of our control, and any chance of reconciliation has diminished. It is these moments where we need to drop everything and focus on the family with which God has blessed us. Do not put the important things in your life in the freezer.

Sphere of Influence

Back to Reach | Devotion #5: Sphere of Influence
James Mann | Children’s Director

This idea of “Reach, Gather, and Grow” has always been an interesting idea to me. Too often, I see people reaching Grow and stopping. Why is going back to Reach so important to me? Quite simply, someone going back to Reach is what brings the unsaved through the door. It can be so simple for us to reach Grow, stay there, and focus solely on our relationship with God. This is not God’s plan for us, and we are selfish by thinking otherwise. 

Matthew 9:37-38 says, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” 

We should be viewing the idea of going back to Reach as a blessing and an honor to be a part of, not a burden. I want you to take a moment and think about how you came to the Lord. When was the first time you heard someone preach God’s Word? Some of you reading this may have been born and raised in the church. For those who were not or those who stepped away from the church, you probably came back due to someone going back to Reach. Reach is simply getting the Word of God out to the nonbelievers. With this thought process, you could be going back to Reach by just inviting someone to a church activity. This is why we have our Reach events for all age groups. 

As the Children’s Director of our Goodrich location, I believe it is crucial to teach children at a young age what this idea of going back to Reach looks like as well as what they can do to be a part of it. I tell the children that as a mid-20’s male, my Reach is limited. I can make phone calls, write emails, send text messages, and talk to families all day, but I am just one person. If they were to reach out to those that they already have relationships with, it is more meaningful, and they are more likely to come. The same goes for us adults. If we all step out of our comfort zones and invite those that we have relationships with to hear God’s Word, we are doing what God commanded us to do. Like the verse above tells us, there are a lot of people out there who have not heard God’s Word, and they are just waiting. We need those who can and will go out into the world and deliver the Good News. That is the purpose of us going back to Reach.

Growing with Knowledge

Grow | Devotion #3: Growing with Knowledge
James Mann | Children’s Director

Growing in God is undoubtedly the most important thing one can do to develop in God personally. Growing takes you from someone who just attends a Gathering and bumps you up to the next level. For me personally, growing has been furthering my knowledge and relationship with God. In 2017, I graduated with my undergraduate degree from Oakland University. Immediately, I joined Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. It is not my goal to just have an extra piece of paper to hang on the wall. I truly believed that the next step for my personal growth was to study God at the graduate level. It has been a game changer on how much closer I have gotten to God. Going into my master’s program, I had the mindset that I knew everything there was to know, and this degree would be a breeze. I sat through my first class, and my eyes were truly opened to how little I knew about Him. I remember sitting there and not understanding every tenth word my professor used. It was extremely discouraging but humbling at the same time.  

James 3:17 (NIV) says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 1:5 (NIV) adds, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Knowledge is an important thing; there is no arguing that. Since God is and should be the center and most important thing in our lives, we should be centering our knowledge around Him. The Bible tells us He will give us this knowledge if we ask. That is simply what I did, and He opened the doors for me to have access to the knowledge achievable in a graduate program. 

I will never tell someone they should not go to school. I am a very big proponent of schooling and think it is something in which everyone should find value. What I will say is that depending on what stage of life you are in, God may open a door that might be different than mine. There are many ways to grow in your knowledge of Him. Your avenue could be one of our Growth Communities, a discipleship program, or maybe it is schooling. Whatever path you choose, ask God to show you the way. A crucial point to add is that once He shows you how to grow, do not ignore Him. Instead, act on it.

Stop Hiding

Forget It | Devotion #3: Stop Hiding
James Mann | Children’s Director

Anyone who knows me knows I grew up in a Christ-centered house. In 2005, my family and I moved from Michigan to Florida. Christ started moving from the center of my life as it became difficult to find a church to call home. Before I knew it, God was completely out of my life. I still prayed before meals and bed, but I was just saying a rehearsed prayer just to appease my parents. I was dead in my faith. For the longest time, there was this skeleton in my closet. I moved back to Michigan in 2011 and began to try this whole church and God thing again. I did not want anyone to know about this hidden past of living in the world. I avoided telling anyone and in return, became even more lost in the world. 

I went on an entire year like this. It was not until a year into going back to church that God made things clear for me. Luke 8:17-18 challenged me, “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” For me, God was telling me that all my sins of the past would come to light eventually. If I bring them to light, then I can grow and truly start on the path He has chosen for me. 

Something we need to remember is that everyone has something in their life they are trying to hide from the world. Some skeletons are larger than others, but they need to be shared. The only way we can leave our skeletons behind us is by making our past known. Then, instead of hiding these skeletons we can leave them behind us and continue down the path God has chosen for us. As believers, the most important thing we can do right now is pray for God to show us what these skeletons are that we are carrying around and trying to hide from the world. Ask Him just to strengthen you and allow you to bring them to light and leave them behind. If we allow ourselves to do this, then, and only then, are we able to lighten our load and run after the desires that God has for us in our lives.

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