Author Archives: Mark O'Connor

Strength Over Swayed

Grow | Devotion #1: Strength Over Swayed
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

This passage sticks with me for one reason. I have spent more than a few years of my life being ineffective and unfruitful. It took me a long time, a lot of anxiety and stress to come to the point where I realized this was the state of my life. It was not until I decided that I needed to take the time to study and get to know the Word of God that these feeling started to dissipate. Do not get me wrong; they still pop up from time to time. Now the thought of being ineffective or unfruitful scares me.  

There is a calling that God has placed on all of us to mature in our faith. Paul, speaking to the entire body of the church in Ephesus, not just the church leaders or staff, tells us to grow and mature. Ephesians 4:14-15 says, “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

He tells them to not be like a child, grow up in every way. Do not be swayed by any small shift in the wind but stand firm in the Word. The only way to do that is to know it.

You are responsible for that growth in your life, and it takes dedication and consistency in how you spend time with God and in the Bible. Use the people around you in the church.  There is a saying that I like a lot that says, “Circles are better than rows.” You can learn from the people you serve with and worship with by opening God’s Word and exploring it together. We need to get away from our immature, high school thought of just doing enough (at least that was true of me), and start digging into, studying, and then applying God’s Word into our life. 

Obey | When?

Obey | Devotion #4: When?
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

Picture if you will, you are one of the eleven remaining apostles. This is a dark time for you. Your leader, your teacher, your Messiah is gone. You do not know what to do next. You have no idea that Mary Magdalene has just encountered the risen Jesus.

Matthew 28:10 says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’”

Then, all of the sudden, you have been summoned to see Jesus. This might not be a big deal had you not seen him die earlier. So what do they do? I imagine with some amount of skepticism, they go. You listen to the request and obey. You show up not sure what to expect. Right then and there, you see Jesus, as He always does, coming through on a promise.

The timing could not have been better. Imagine how dejected they must have felt. People would have been searching for them and mocking them for what they believed. Then He starts talking and instructing them, teaching one last time.

Matthew 28:19-20a says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Then showing His constant love for us, He reminds them something we all too often forget, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). You see, when we listen and obey, Jesus will be there at the right moment all the time.

Religious Leaders

Delivery Plan • Religious Leaders
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, John 11:48-50 says, “‘If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’”

Soon it would be time for Jesus to finish His mission which included death. God used the religious leaders to fulfill prophecy. John 11:51-53 continues, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being the high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.” It is humbling to realize that God does not just use the “super spiritual” to fulfill His work. He even used people who were against Him. God can even use a lost individual to prophesy for Him.

We read in the beginning in Mark 26:57 about Jesus being led to Caiaphas and the council. He had been arrested and knew what was coming in the day ahead. For some time now they have been trying to rally against him and levy charges. The High Council saw that their goal is now attainable. This is a great reminder that the crowd can be wrong.

Matthew 26:59-60 says, “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward.”

There were no charges to be brought against Jesus. Knowing this, they were seeking out those willing to lie about what Jesus had said or done. Not being able to do this, He spoke the truth as Jesus always does in verse 64, “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

People are often offended and angry at the truth of the Gospel. We see a great example of this in verse 65 when the high priest tears his robe at what he feels is a blasphemous response. With this reaction to Jesus’ words, a course is set in motion that leads Jesus to Pilate, and His eventual death and resurrection.

This anger at truth continues today in our culture. The Gospel should be offensive to those who argue so emphatically against it. We will eventually face this false witness to the message of Jesus from those who seek to discredit it. This is why it is so important that we equip ourselves to face it and address it with the same love and grace that the Lord shows us when we so obviously do not deserve it.


Blooming • Patience
Mark O’Connor | Student Director

I just got back from two weeks of student summer camps. I had to laugh a bit as I began to type this devotion on patience. My patience was tested more in one week of middle school camp than it had been in the last couple years of serving in student ministry. It has always been a little odd how patience has worked in my life. When it comes to people, I have never had a problem. However, this week of middle school camp was a problem for me. There were three kids that took the vast majority of my time from the rest of the students from our location. Those that know me well know that I am the slowest person to anger or freak out in the history of the world. There was one situation though that I observed a particularly awful piece of behavior that I finally lost my cool. Rightfully so as I was defending a student, I lost all chill. At that moment though, I recognized that I needed to handle the situation with the grace and patience I have been afforded so many times in my life. I had to retreat for a moment, and this Scripture popped into my mind:

Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

I had lost sight of a principle I held very dear to me. At that moment, the enemy had placed a wedge between Jesus and me. All evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit had left my mind and body. It is easy for us to let that happen. Maybe you are a parent with a child that has challenging behaviors. Maybe you are teen struggling with your parent’s authority. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit in those times to carry us through the challenge. It is very easy for us to think we can do it on our own. We live like that until something blows our world up, and it is in those moments that we surrender completely to the will of God and realize that He will carry us through whatever circumstance comes into our life. That is, as long as we rely not on our knowledge and understanding but His.

Wise Men With Bad News

Herod • Devotion #1: Wise Men With Bad News
Mark O’Connor| Student Director

Imagine with me if you will for a moment. You are sitting at work one day, three guys you have never seen before walk up and ask for the new guy. I do not know what it is you do, but when you ask them who exactly they are looking for, they say it is the guy who is replacing you. How do you feel at that point? You are just going about your day when you find out you are done in your current position. Most of us would be a bit panicked, probably very uneasy. I would venture to say there would be a bit of anger there as well. This is what happened to a guy named Herod. He is sitting on his throne when this happens in Matthew 2:1-2,

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”

It was pretty shocking news for Herod. I am sure it was the same feeling we get when there is some unexpected bad news. I feel like I have been punched in the gut and a weight comes over me that can sometimes cause me to react in quite an unreasonable manner. Thankfully that does not happen very much and I am much better equipped to handle it these days. But Herod did not, and we will examine later through this week how well he did not handle this terrible news.

But was it really that bad? Maybe for him. Certainly, not for us. In fact, Luke lays it out quite clearly in chapter 2 when a group of shepherds find out from an angel that Jesus had been born:

And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’”

A Savior is born. Yep, pretty great news for us. We celebrate this incredible event every year and rightly so. We often forget about this dark time that came as result of such a miraculous event. Some people have never even heard of this king named Herod. Take in the whole story and grow in your relationship with God and in your knowledge of His Word this Christmas season.

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