Author Archives: James Mann

Fasting for Spiritual Guidance and Knowledge

Fasting • Devotion #3: Fasting for Spiritual Guidance and Knowledge
James Mann | Children’s Director

B.B. King, a famous blues musician, once said, “Education is the one thing that no one can take away from you.” I firmly believe in the importance of education and overall knowledge. I always went into my educational career caring less about the degree at the end but focused more on the knowledge gained throughout the journey. As someone who has been in school for twenty years of my life, I still believe this to be true. Most people will think that I am going to continue this devotional by talking about King Solomon, who is known as the wisest man in the Bible, but that is not the case. In Acts chapter 14, we come across Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. In verses 19-22, we see Paul and Barnabas going all around the city and preaching the Gospel in order to make disciples. He attempts to encourage them and push them to keep moving through the struggles of the world to reach Heaven. The interesting part happens in verse 23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

The reason that this is such a powerful section is that Paul and Barnabas did not lean on their own understandings to make these choices. Instead, they fasted and took this time to pray and ask God for guidance on the decision at hand. This is without a doubt one of the best points for fasting. We need to know that our understanding is limited as human beings. We have a God who will help us during these times of need. What we need to do is show how important it is by going into a fast and taking that time to focus on God and His desires. While no one can take your knowledge away from you, not everyone can give it to you. Many things in our life can only be explained and made clear to us by God.

We need to understand that all of these things are only possible because of the death of Jesus, whom they were just with not long ago. Before we required a priest as a mediator, now we have this direct access through Christ to our Heavenly Father.

Washing your Hands  

Radioactive | Devotion #3: Washing your Hands
James Mann | Children’s Director

In a household, if one person is sick, everyone is likely to get sick. You are near everyone and unless you quarantine yourself, you may spread the illness. Most of the time, sin is brought into the household by one of the family members. Once it is brought in to the home, it is likely to spread to everyone, and before you know it, your household is infected. I may not be a parent or a head of a household, but I have been in a household long enough to see this happen first hand.

 As a God-loving household, we are constantly under attack from the enemy. The devil is using everything in his arsenal to tear down our walls and take control. Often, he tries to make it seem like the grass may be greener on the other side. When in reality, the grass is not any greener at all. In fact, the grass is dead and infectious. In 1 Peter 5:8-9, it says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” We live in a world that temptation is around every single corner. You can barely drive to work and back without seeing or hearing something trying to tempt you. As believers, we must be checking ourselves constantly. All it takes is to be exposed to the tiniest amount of the infection before we become infected ourselves. Once we get infected by the world, we then go home and expose our families to it. The scariest thought to me is that babies have lower immune systems. If we carry the infection, and they grow up within the infected radius, they will contract this disease and not even know it, because it is how they grew up. 

God has called every single one of His followers to not be of this world. Instead, we must rise and fight against this infection that the enemy is trying so hard to get us. We cannot afford to take this thought lightly. Our families and their lives are way too important to expose them to this. Unfortunately, it only takes a father to be unfaithful to his wife one time, a wife to try something to numb the pain one time, a child to try and “fit in” one time, and then the whole family is destroyed. It is not easy to avoid the enemy and his temptations. If it were easy, we would not see families everywhere completely engulfed in this disease. We could easily be the single vessel to bring this into our family. We need to remain strong during our lives. We need to ask God daily to provide us with the tools to go through this world that is trying so hard to bring us down.

“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Reviling for Reviling 

Combustion | Devotion #2: Reviling for Reviling
James Mann | Children’s Director defines revile: “to assail with contemptuous or opprobrious language; address or speak abusively.” The sad truth about our society is that we live in a world where verbal abuse is everywhere. It is at school, work, and even at home. Studies tell us that for many children, their first bully was one of their parents. This is the honest to God sad truth. I see this all the time in my position. Then, once they get older, parents get mad at their children for doing this to other children, that the parent was doing to their child just the previous night. God created parents to guide and love their children. The family is like a team. We are supposed to be working together. The Bible even goes far enough to say, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).  

I see parents demanding respect from their children, but they are saying such harsh and uncalled for things. Children look to their parents for spiritual guidance. If a parent is talking about how amazing God is in one sentence and the following sentence tells their child how worthless they are, do you think they will want to follow Christ when they get older? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I truly believe that part of the reason we see a huge drop off rate in people following Jesus right after high school comes down to the parenting that was done before that point. If we are showing our children the true love of God through our speech, that child will want to grow closer to God in years to come.

“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but the words of the pure are pleasant words” Proverbs 15:26. As believers, everything we say should be pointing directly to our Lord. I believe that there is no such thing as a list of “bad words.” That is a general list created by society throughout time to try and guide children verbally. The truth is that anything we say that is not pleasant to God is a “bad word.” If we cannot say these things to God directly, then we should not be saying them to anyone at all, especially our family. If we do not stay strong together as a family, our household will crumble to the enemy. All our enemy needs is one crack in the foundation to take control. The things we say to one another out of anger creates these tiny cracks. They keep building up and building up until there is a hole large enough to take down the entire house. I urge families to consider what they are saying to their children and to think about the impact they are creating in their lives. Make sure the impact is positive and points your children towards a life of loving and honoring God.

With Us is God

Immanuel | Devotion #4: With Us is God
James Mann | Children’s Director

Immanuel is a symbolic name meaning “with us is God.” This is one of the most beautiful names that we can call Jesus, because it is showing Him actually with us. He is not portrayed as this unattainable figure that we can never get to, but instead as someone who we can enjoy as we spend time with Him. Something that I always found interesting is that people are always waiting for Jesus to come back, but if you are truly a follower of Jesus, you know that He has never left us. Isaiah 8:10 says, “Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” Most religions praise and worship a god that they cannot even reach. They are trying to obtain something that is not even possible. Our amazing God has made it possible to reach Him and be with Him. 

Something interesting about the name Immanuel is that in the Old Testament (before the birth of Jesus) we first hear the name, Immanuel. Then we hear this name again in Matthew 1:23., “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Many biblical scholars search the Bible for moments like this when the Old Testament is showing us something that will later occur in the New Testament. I like to view the name Immanuel less of a name and more of a promise. The name is brought up in the Old Testament, but then the promise is fulfilled in the New Testament. We receive Immanuel (Jesus) here in Matthew. No longer is God this figure that we cannot see or hear, but He becomes a baby that is born into the world, takes on the sin of the world, and dies for our sins. 

Starting Strong

Grow | Devotion #6: Starting Strong
James Mann | Children’s Director

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

As the Children’s Director at our Goodrich location, I am constantly working on building a firm spiritual foundation for our children to ensure their walk with God is the best that it can be. Many people begin their walk with God but never go anywhere with it. They are starting a race, and barely crossing the starting line. God commands us to dive into His Word and pray to Him for understanding. This is a key starting point in our growth. Many people, like myself, struggle with this. We have so much going on in our day to day, that focusing on our growth is pushed to the back burner. We are all guilty of this to some degree.

After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided it was time to take my spiritual growth seriously. I was noticing that my plateaued growth was no longer just affecting me, but my students as well. I was not setting a good example for them. I decided that I was going to begin my master’s degree, in pastoral studies, to get my growth back on track. Now, I am not saying that everyone should go out and get a Bible degree, but this is what made the most sense in my life. Since starting this journey, I have noticed a change in my walk. I am enjoying my time with God, and I am getting more from my studies. Growing with God has become less of a chore and more of an enjoyable thing to do. Like it says in Colossians, if we have truly received Christ Jesus, then we should be walking in Him and have our roots be established in Him. We are not following God’s will for us if we are not taking the time to grow. Sometimes we need to go out of our way and prioritize our time. God desires for us to draw closer to Him through reading His Word and talking with Him. As believers, we should have the same desire.

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