Devotions

Author Archives: Randy Johnson

Preconceived Notions

Thirst | Devotion #1: Preconceived Notions
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Fox Broadcasting Company showcased a new show in 2019, “The Masked Singer.” On the show, celebrities competed against one another by singing while wearing an elaborate costume. They were fully covered, and their voice was altered to hide their identity. At every performance, they revealed a secret about their identity. Four celebrity judges tried to guess the performer’s identity. 

A man dressed as a peacock was one of the performers. He was wearing a cape and waved it across his body. It appeared to be solid black, but the underside was full of color. All four judges immediately focused on the rainbow and assumed the performer was part of the GLBTQ community. Their preconceived notions could only let them consider this option. I immediately said to my wife, “It is the coat of many colors. It is Donny Osmond.” About ten years ago, I took my wife to see Donny Osmond perform “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in Detroit. They gave another clue about a wig he wore while in prison. Donny may not have been in an actual prison, but Joseph was. One judge was thinking it was Donny Osmond but dismissed her guess as he was not part of that community and not believed to have been in prison.

Sometimes we get so locked into our natural thinking that we miss the obvious. John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” There are two valuable points to gather from the phrase, “I thirst.”

The first one is prophecy. Psalm 69:21 informs, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” One thousand years before Jesus, this moment on the cross was proclaimed. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy.

The second point is very basic. We can become so focused on Jesus’ loving sacrifice for us that we forget He was human. Jesus was 100% God, and He was 100% man. He could forgive sin and still be thirsty. Right when we are so focused that Jesus is God, we are reminded that He was also a man. 

This month as we visualize Jesus as God on the cross, we also need to remember Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  

Do Not Gamble

Forsaken | Devotion #1: Do Not Gamble
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

While Jesus was on the cross, He said one of the most misinterpreted phrases of all time. Matthew 27:46 records, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” I have heard and read many faulty theories. Jesus was not confused. He was not questioning His choice to go to the cross. He intentionally carried the sin of the world knowing God would not be able to look upon Him. He left Heaven for this day. It was even prophesied.

Jesus was taking His present audience and even us back 1,000 years to a writing by David. The get the attention of a specific group, He chose to say the phrase in Aramaic. Luke interprets it for his readers. Jesus gives the opening words to a song every adult Hebrew male had memorized. He took them to Psalm chapter 22.

The song starts, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As a seasoned Rabbi, he started the poetical section expecting his pupils to continue through the piece they had studied. The chapter goes on to mention that the Messiah was “despised by the people” (verse 6), they “mock” Him (verse 7), He is surrounded by enemies (verses 12-13, 16), His “bones are out of joint” (verse 14), He is thirsty (verse 15), they “pierced” His hands and feet (verse 16), and for His “clothing they cast lots” (verse 18). The crucifixion is clearly described and predicted in Psalm chapter 22.    

Verse 18 makes me laugh as I picture the whole scene, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” I imagine the Jews, both who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah and those who rejoiced in His abuse, humming out loud or in the mind all the lyrics recorded in this song. Jesus started it, and they caught His lead. I picture everyone who understands Aramaic looking at the guards as they are casting lots. I believe it is the first time Satan ever said, “Do not gamble.” I picture him screaming for them to tear the clothing in half, burn it, steal it and run, or even for them to be kind and give the clothes to the needy. He could not change God’s Word or plan. A millennium earlier, it was recorded, and no one could do a thing about it. 

Jesus chose the cross. He knew what that meant and even took time to teach another lesson. He was the ultimate object lesson.

Jesus loves you. He lived for you and died for you. His plan was not and could not be thwarted. He has a plan for your life. Listen to Him and step out in faith and confidence. 

We Are Family

Son, Mother | Devotion #1: We Are Family
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

I coached a number of varsity sports for the past two and a half decades. I remember when I was coaching girl’s varsity soccer. Katie was a very good player but seemed so stressed. Both her brothers were first team all-state stars. They were excellent, and because of them, she put more pressure on herself. We had a good conversation. I reminded her that she was a good player in her own right, that I was not comparing her to her brothers, and that she needed to have fun. The season turned out great.

Following an older sibling can be difficult. You can be discredited or overly pressured because of their track record. Many of you might still fight the battle. Jesus was a firstborn (please remember the doctrine of the Virgin Birth). Scripture tells us that He had brothers and sisters. He must have been a tough act to follow. It is hard to improve on perfection.

The Bible speaks of Jesus having siblings. John 2:12 mentions Jesus’ brothers being at the wedding feast where He performed the miracle of water to wine. Luke 8:19-21 (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35) records when His mother and brothers came to visit Him, and He says, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Mark 6:3 (Matthew 13:55) is even more specific by giving names and adding his sisters to the discussion, “‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”

Although Jesus had siblings and Mary had other children, John 19:26-27 says, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Mary had other children, but it appears they were not at her side when she needed them most. Early writers convey that Jesus’ siblings did not accept Jesus as the Messiah until after His resurrection. They were nowhere to be found as Mary wept at the feet of her eldest child. Therefore, Jesus called on a friend.

Have you heard the phrase, “Brother from another mother?” It means that although two guys are not related, it is as if they are because they have the same Heavenly Father. They have a love for each other and have each other’s back. John was Jesus’ brother from another mother.

If you do not have family nearby or cannot count on them, remember that in the church you have a family. You have brothers and sisters that God has placed near you to encourage you. They are there for you when you are hurting, and you can be there for them when they have a need. It is the church family.

Gain

Paradise | Devotion #1: Gain
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Luke chapter 23 records Jesus on the cross. While rulers “scoffed” (verse 35), soldiers “mocked” (verses 36-37), and a criminal on a cross “railed at Him” (verse 39), Jesus saw past the moment. He was not looking for an excuse to zap someone; instead, He was listening for a child to be born. The other criminal took a stand, “But the other [criminal] rebuked him [the first criminal], saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’” (Luke 23:40-42). A criminal on his death bed instantly became a child of God. The next verse shows grace, forgiveness, and mercy, “And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” In his commentary, John Martin pointed out, “Even in death Jesus had power to make people right with God.” He could, and He did.

At his lowest point, one criminal chose to be bitter. He ignored his own natural consequences due to a life of selfishness and barked out at others. He tried to elevate himself by lowering others. The other criminal saw himself as he truly was and chose God’s saving grace through Jesus.

Fear can stir our emotions. We may strike out at others, hide from life, or face reality and push forward. As one criminal came to grips with his situation, Jesus promised “paradise.” It is an interesting word. Jesus did not have to explain that it described a place of beauty and delight.

Nothing else is said about that criminal turned child of God. It is well accepted that he continued to suffer, was disrespected, had his legs broken, and died grasping for another breath. Throughout this struggle, I believe the word “paradise” echoed in his mind. It became his happy place. It brought peace. 

As our brothers and sisters in the Lord pass, we need to focus on “paradise.” Paul reminds us of the beauty in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Death for the believer takes them to “paradise.” This is also felt by Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Need #1

Forgive | Devotion #1: Need #1
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.” Luke 23:34

Ravi Zacharias has said, “One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven…works have a place – but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit of having earned it.” 

Jesus lived and died with the goal of providing forgiveness for our sins. In Matthew 26:28, while Jesus was giving instructions on the institution of the Lord’s Supper, He said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” His death was all about the forgiveness of sins.

The topic of God’s forgiveness is so important that it is repeated often in Scripture.

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” 1 John 2:12

“Then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’” Hebrews 10:17

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” Psalm 86:5

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19 

Billy Graham would regularly point out man’s need for forgiveness. He said. “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.” 

God offers us forgiveness. We do not earn or deserve it. It is all about Him, C.S. Lewis made a challenging point when he said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 

We are forgiven. We are changed. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”



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