Devotions

Author Archives: Mark O'Connor

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.

Keep your Tongue from Evil 

Combustion | Devotion #4: Keep your Tongue from Evil
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

Oh, let us count the ways that our tongue causes us to do evil! It is always amazing to me how little control students have of their words. It is even more amazing how little control adults have of their words. Not only does it amaze me, but it also annoys me in a way that few other things do.

I can remember times when in stores, public places, and even in the church where a parent says downright degrading things to their child. At the same time, I watch students do the same thing to or towards their parents, their peers, and any adult in general.

We see in our culture today, a mindset to speak first, get your feelings and your opinion out there, and have no regard for who it affects and how. We live in a share before you read, copy and paste society. Our kids, whether they are yours or not, are learning from watching how we react and then how we speak. When kids are watching their parent do nothing but rant and complain, they will naturally do the same thing.

I am a naturally very sarcastic person, as is my wife. Actually, both sides of the O’Connor and Meyecic clan excel at sarcasm. We saw fairly early on the effect that this had on our kids and the way they interact with others. This is something I have had to stay very focused on in dealing with both adults, my kids, and the students in the church.

It is imperative that we learn to control our tongue in our homes and within our families. It does not mean we are perfect. I am certainly guilty of speaking before I think. It is something that I work very hard to control and keep in check. James tells us this:

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” James 3:5

Left unchecked, our word can burn our worlds to the ground, even worse, it will burn our kid’s world to the ground. It is our responsibility to tame that fire. It takes very little to shift those words from a fire, tearing things down, to a place of edification. We can lift up those around us. We need to be an encouragement to our spouses, lift our kids up to the Lord, and spur them on to do incredible things in the name of Christ rather than tether them down.

So the next time we start to react to a social situation, and most importantly our family, let us stop and consider what we are going to say. Let our words glorify Jesus and not tear others down.

Unity

Bonded | Devotion #1: Unity
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

Have you ever disagreed with someone who is very close to you? Chances are yes. Do you let those hang out there for awhile or do you address them quickly?

If you pay close attention to my wife and me, you will have a hard time ever seeing more than a moment of annoyance on either of our faces that is as a result of either one of us. That does not mean you will not see moments of annoyance on my face, seeing as I have three kids in their teens at the time of this writing. Oh, and there is the little fact that I work with the teens in this church.

That also does not mean that we agree on everything all the time. We have our differences of opinion. But we always rally around Jesus. We do the same thing with our children. We mess up as parents; they make mistakes as kids. At the end of the day though, we know that if we are not together in unity as man and wife, we cannot be together as a family. We are warned of this in 1 Peter. We are warned to be like-minded.  

Ephesians 6:4 tells us not to provoke anger, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Psalm chapter 133 verse 1 tells us how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”]

Unity in the home creates peace. Unity in Christ in the home creates peace and purpose. When the whole family is in on the same cause, to glorify God, it is a beautiful thing to witness and live.

Parents: stay together. Do not let disagreements or differences in personality hang out there and let them cause long-lasting strife and division between you. The same goes for your kids. Sure, they are going to do things that annoy and anger you. Talk to them. Let them talk to you without you showing anger. Practice showing each other just a little bit of the grace that Jesus has shown us.

Kids: Believe it or not, whether they are using the best tactics or not, they do want the best for you. Practice patience and use them to help you navigate this world in which you live. I tell my kids all the time, do not be like your mother and me, we want you to be better. Use Jesus as the bar you set for yourself.

Unity in the family starts with being rooted and united in the cause of Christ and nowhere else.



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