Devotions

Author Archives: Mark O'Connor

God’s Will

Burning Bush | Devotion 2: God’s Will
Mark O’Connor

Would it not be great if God would show up in front of us and tell us what He wants us to do? I have spent a lot of time pondering that over the years. I have spent so much time in prayer and study, asking the Holy Spirit to point me in the right direction. From minor decisions about a situation in my family to His call for me to do ministry, I have spent time waiting, struggling, and seeking God’s will.

I am sometimes envious of our Old Testament counterparts. I recently taught a series about Moses in our Wednesday night student program. We talked about God doing amazing things in messy situations. Moses’ life was indeed a messy one. From birth to death, Moses faced many obstacles and challenges. He ran from God and ran to God. He tried to escape and figure things out for himself only to find God chasing after him.

Picture yourself out in the middle of nowhere, and you come across this amazing spectacle. There is a bush set ablaze, but not burning. I may question my mental faculties at that point. Just as you may be coming to grips with what you are seeing, it speaks to you. These are the things that land you in somebody’s office talking about your well being today. Yet, there you are, hearing the voice of the Lord, giving you some precise instructions. Coming to understand the gravity of the situation, you begin to realize you were destined for more than what you are currently doing.

If you take some time and read Exodus chapter 3, and I encourage you to do so, there is a lot more to the story. Moses refused to believe that God would call him in all of his mess and brokenness to do the incredible things that were in his future. However, it is not Moses all along. Moses is a vessel. The Lord could have picked anybody, but He chose Moses.

I do not know what God has in store for you. I do not even know what God has in store for me. Yet, I have come to realize in the last several years that whatever it is that God lined up for me, He could do the same thing through any guy or girl off the street. So we can fight God’s plan, or we can seek it. Incredible works will be done. Lives will be changed. The Gospel will advance either because of you or despite you. I chose to be a part of this incredible journey. I fought it for a while, a long while, and I still do from time to time. However, I am thankful that, while I am pretty sure I will not see a burning bush speaking to me anytime soon, I have the Holy Spirit guiding me and pointing me in the right direction. That is how it works. It may take some time, or it may hit you very suddenly, but always be seeking to fulfill His plan.

Playing Together

Doing the Dishes | Devotion #5: Playing Together
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

This has been a truly exhausting week. I am spent both mentally and physically. My family has endured one of the most shocking experiences of which we can think. It was not a death or illness, but the fall of a man we all love and respected. As I researched what the Bible had to say about playing together and spending time together, I learned that it does not say a lot. It speaks of unity and supporting one another. Both of these are incredibly important.

The idea of playing together, or rather just being together having fun and laughing together is of the utmost importance. Many times this week, my wife and I sat in our home, pondering and processing the weight of this terrible thing called sin. Then my boys, having no idea yet what was going on in our heads, would pop their head out of their bedroom for a moment or a few and just come talk. They might come out and share a meme, and we would all laugh. The helped me through this week more than they will ever really understand. Even after a long Sunday of talking to both students and adults, my family provided me the comfort and distraction we all needed at that moment.

Parents, play with your kids when they are young. These are the times and experiences they will remember and cherish. Spend time with your kids as you age. You will help each other and honor the Lord when you do this. Lean on each other and support each other. You are helping one another in ways you might not know.

We are instructed to live in brotherly love over and over again in Scripture. Psalm chapter 133 tells us this, even though it is only three verses long. Verse 1 tells us, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

God uses the family as a picture of what the church is supposed to look like. Let us take time to think about how our families honor God in that picture. Love each other and live together well. Enjoy each other with the same zeal that Jesus calls us.

Baby Strength

More Than Baby Food | Devotion #5: Baby Strength
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

I remember the day my first son was born. I will spare you some of the details of the day, although it can be a pretty entertaining story and fast forward to after he was born. We were in a hospital room at North Oakland Medical Center. There I was sitting in a rocking chair holding this floppy little baby. I had never been nervous about holding babies; I loved it. This one was a little different. I was responsible for it for a considerably longer time than a couple of hours of babysitting. Everybody kept telling me to be careful with his head because he was not strong yet. I was keenly aware of that. 

What I was not keenly aware of was how short a time that statement would be true of our future strong man. It took him some time to start to walk, but it did not take him long after that to realize the brute force of his strength. We went through many different contraptions to keep doors and drawers closed and childproofed. There were not many at the time that a little force could not handle. I recall watching Nate look at a set of cabinet doors with a zip-tie like device on it. He studied it for a minute, grabbed the door and threw himself back with all his might, snapping the zip ties with ease. That was our life. 

Kids move on from that weak phase very quickly most of the time. Once a baby figures out how strong they are, they continually test that and grow. To be honest, it can be way faster than we would like sometimes. Yet they grow.

Why do Christians not work the same way? Paul tells us in Ephesians to no longer be like children. Ephesians 4:14 (NLT) says, “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.”

I typically do not teach from the NLT, but I really like the way it words this. We will no longer be immature. We have some very immature adults in the midst of the Church in America. There needs to be a longing in your life to grow in your relationship with Jesus. We talk about that all the time. There also needs to be a growing of maturity in your understanding of who God is and what the Bible says. 

This “Sunday only” thing does not cut it anymore. We ask why things in our lives stay the same and grow stagnant. We wonder why we do not see the blessing that others see. There is a process that takes place when you fully immerse yourself in Scripture, not just to read it but to understand it. When you invest in this growth, you will begin to see what the life of a mature follower of Jesus looks like. The storms will still come. The wind will still blow. When it happens though, you will be ready. You will be equipped. You will be strong enough to bear it only because you let Jesus stand before you and take the brunt of it.

Cups

Main Dish | Devotion #2: Cups
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

Dishwashers are great. It is nice just to put a dish or cup in the machine and walk away and not think of it. You go back, take it out, and put it in the cupboard. When you are thirsty, just grab a cup and repeat. Sometimes though, you go get that cup, fill it with some nice cool water, and go to take a drink; however, you are dismayed to find the cup full of nasty floating grossness. It looked so clean on the outside. However, you look on the inside, and it is full of crumbs and crusties.

Somebody clearly did not rinse it out and look on the inside before putting it in the dishwasher. That is a thing that needs to happen. The dishwasher is not going to clean everything itself; it needs some help. You need to clean the inside of the glass too. It may look good on the outside, but unless all the grime is out of the inside, it cannot be used for which it was made.

You need some help; you cannot do it yourself. By the way, I am not referring to the inside of the glass anymore, and I want to focus on the inside of you. Matthew 23:25-28 says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Jesus spent quite a bit of time speaking to the religious hypocrisy of the day.

As parents, your kids are going to watch for hypocrisy in your life. You can only be fake for so long. If you are not working on holiness and cleanliness in the parts of your life that no one sees, it is just a matter of time before it is shown to the world and our families are usually the first to see and experience it. That is when disaster strikes. That is when families become fractured and even broken. Make sure you are not so focused on making sure everything looks good, that you forget actually to make it good. Work now, it is never too late to start letting God work on cleaning out the mess you have made of your life. However, while it is never too late for our salvation and growth, sometimes the breaks and bruises take far longer to heal if not addressed in a timely manner.

Prophecy & Birth 

Jacob & Esau • Devotion #1: Prophecy & Birth
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

Would it not be great as parents, if God were to let us know well in advance what it was that our children were going to be and what we were supposed to do? I wonder how I would look like a father if that were the case. Would my interactions with my kids be different? Would my personality today be the same?

We sometimes think about how much easier life would be if God would just lay out the path as clear as we could possibly see it. Think about it; if you knew from day one what it was you were going to be doing when you were grown, you would never have to stress about anything. Mark, this is what you were meant for, this is what your wife and kids are meant to do. I mean, how could we make a mess of it?

We see a family in Genesis chapter 25 that had a path laid out for them. From God Himself, Rebekah is told what her boys would be. Both would be leaders of a nation. One would be stronger than the other, but the older would serve the younger. They come into the world as God intended. Esau was full of hair, while Jacob’s skin was a smooth as a baby’s butt, confirming once again that God knew what He was talking about and is to be trusted. They had an idea of what was going to transpire in the coming years but were unsure of how they were going to get there. This all worked out in the end, but there was a deception involved that we really could not begin to understand. There is a deception on the part of both a wife and son. 

It is a very difficult thing to wrestle with, and I would be lying if I said I totally understood it. Here is what I do know. While I am not always going to understand the how and why of the way things happen, I have seen and learned enough to know that it is all part of a much bigger plan than I will ever be able to understand. We can have some peace in that if we begin to look at it through the correct lens. We do not have to know how or why, we just trust that God is in control of taking care of it. It may not be exactly how we want it to go, but it gets us there.



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