Devotions

Author Archives: Mark O'Connor

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.

Rainbow 

The Flood • Devotion #6: Rainbow
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

There was a time not too long ago when I learned something that changed the way I viewed the Bible. For years, I had read the Bible, studied it, and grew close in my walk with Jesus. I knew the stories and events in the Old Testament, but only a small portion of it connected with me. Much of it at the time was downright painful and boring for me to read and study. As a result, I did a disservice to myself and those I was teaching.

I took an Old Testament Survey class for college, and it opened my eyes quite a bit to the amazing prefacing that was happening about the arrival of Jesus. This was quite interesting to me. I knew of much of the prophecy in the Old Testament that told of Jesus’ coming to save the world. The book of Isaiah, throughout its sixty-six chapters, lays out in great detail the coming of Jesus and His life and reign. It tells us of John the Baptist coming before Him. 

There is more to it than that. When we start to examine the fact that every event, story, and character in the Old Testament points back to Jesus, He is intertwined in every piece of Scripture. Jesus can be seen from Moses striking the rock, showing the pouring out of the living water, to the rainbow God showed Noah after the flood.

The rainbow you may be asking? Yep, before it became the sign of the LBGTQ community, the rainbow was, and still is, the picture of the promise made to Noah that God would never again flood the Earth. This is not even a short passing verse or two that is easy to skip over and miss. There are eleven verses that make up this new covenant that God makes with Noah. You can read it in Genesis 9:7-17.

My wife and I had the good fortune to spend a week in Maui, Hawaii this past January. I saw for the first time in my life, in all of its beauty, the entirety of a rainbow that stretched from end to end. We saw both ends touching the horizon. I wish I could put a picture here for you to see now. When I think back on it, I do not think of joking about the pot of gold at the end. I do not think of the rainbow flag filters that take up space on my Facebook page. I see Jesus. I see that, just like God sent the rainbow to Noah, for them to always be reminded of God’s love and grace, He sent Jesus to us. He sent His Son to be an example of the love that He has for us. He lived a perfect life which included the sacrifice to carry a weight that I am not able to bear.

Pursue Righteousness 

Chain Reaction | Devotion #1: Pursue Righteousness
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

Flee – think of a time when you have heard this word in the news. Sometimes people have fled their homes because a wildfire is approaching the neighborhood. We see refugees fleeing their countries because of persecution. The point is, there is always danger lurking somewhere when we hear the word “flee.” I can recall a time when I was a child that our fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. It was very loud and disorienting. I recall my mom coming into my room to wake me up (as if I could have somehow been sleeping), quickly got me out of bed, and dragged me out of the house. Thankfully, nothing was wrong, and we and our house were fine.

Paul tells us, and more specifically you, this action in 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

He says to flee youthful passions. Like we discovered above, this implies danger. Our natural reaction when we recognize danger is to run, but it is the hidden dangers that we do not see that can bring some of the greatest pain. Satan tries to pull us away from chasing the righteousness for which Jesus has called. While it is important that we flee from the things that pull us away from Jesus, it is equally important that we move in the other direction and chase after Him. 

Attaining righteousness is an unreachable goal. Do not fret, that is why Paul tells us to pursue it. Knowing full well that only Jesus will ever have perfect righteousness here on Earth, we are simply called to seek it out and pursue it. So, we are called to live out a moral life to the standards the Bible sets for us. It is also a bit of a relief that we do not have to worry about being perfect. 

Long story short – flee. Turn and run as fast as you can from the things that tempt you to walk away from Jesus. Then chase after Him with all you have. Never stop and do not slow down.



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