Devotions

Author Archives: Richie Henson

Anticipation

Immanuel | Devotion #1: Anticipation
Richie Henson | Production Director

As a child, Christmas is all about waiting. After Thanksgiving is over, you wait to visit Santa in the mall. Then, you wait for Christmas vacation at school. Finally, you wait for Christmas morning, just hoping that the event can live up to the hype. Often, the anticipation or expectation of the morning arriving became heavy and burdensome. It felt that it would never come. 

This Christmas season, I have been looking at the Christmas story from the perspective of a child waiting for Christmas. In Matthew 1:22-23, Mary is told by an angel that she will bear a son: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jews had been waiting in expectation for hundreds of years. The Old Testament prophets promised that Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, would come as their Savior. However, as the decades passed, and the Roman captivity began, there is no doubt that their expectations for God to be with them became a point of anxiety. 

Although we live after the times of Jesus, I think it can be just as easy for us to feel loaded down with the need for the presence of Jesus. We can feel in our struggles and difficulties that we are waiting around for God to show up. However, we must always remember that the names of Jesus are references to His perfect character. So, Immanuel does not just mean God is with us when we feel Him, or that God is with us when Jesus returns. Instead, we can know that God is with us always because it is in His character and nature to be present with His people.  

Life is rarely ever easy, but we can live with ease knowing that Jesus is always with us. He is Immanuel.

Wonder

Wonderful Counselor | Devotion #1: Wonder
Richie Henson | Production Director

My son is growing up very differently than I did. I grew up in the California sun, a true beach bum. However, my son has only known the frozen tundra and boat life of Michigan. The other day, I showed my son some videos of people surfing in the Pacific Ocean. He was utterly blown away and full of true wonder. The images were so unknown to him that he could scarcely believe them to be real.

Our society struggles to understand this sense of wonder that my son expressed. We are so overloaded with content, that we no longer possess the ability to be blown away by something. I think there are times where we struggle to understand God because we struggle to be in wonder of Him. We struggle to be overwhelmed by the extraordinary nature of God. We fail to see that God is so beyond us, we struggle to even behold His goodness.

That being said, I think it makes it difficult for us to understand Jesus as Wonderful Counselor. When I hear this name, I am drawn to think of a consultant who is giving you advice on a decision you are trying to make. However, this name of Jesus goes so far beyond this understanding.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus has knowledge that is so far beyond our comprehension. It is so wonderful, and perfect that we cannot even perceive it. I think there are times when we wait until we are in dire straights before we seek the counsel of Jesus, but in reality, Jesus’ counsel is all that we need. If we would commit ourselves to seeking the counsel of Jesus first, I believe we would begin to understand the sense of wonder that comes from hearing the words of Jesus. I believe that we would be so blown away, that it would leave us speechless.

This holiday season, as we think about the life of Jesus, let us all consider His words as our counsel knowing that we will be filled with wonder as we see Their good counsel.

Sing It Out – Lamb of God

Gather | Devotion #3: Sing It Out – Lamb of God
Richie Henson | Production Director

The most profound truth for all times is that Jesus, the Son of God, came down to be the ultimate sacrifice and payment for our sins. As profound as this truth is, it remains unmistakably simple. This simplicity is eloquently expressed in the song “Lamb of God.”

The Lamb of God in my place
Your blood poured out my sin erased
It was my death You died I am raised to life
Hallelujah the Lamb of God 

Jesus died on our behalf to pay a debt of sin we could never overcome, pulling us out of death and into life. What a beautiful truth that we get to spend everyday living in Heaven.

I believe there are times when we feel our sin is so complicated that salvation must be complicated. We think that there must be some other knowledge or understanding that we need to fully grasp God and our faith in Him. However, we must learn to embrace the beauty of the simplicity.

I think this truth is evidenced by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NLT),

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”

If anyone had the ability and authority to complicate the message of the Gospel, it was Paul. Paul was an Old Testament scholar having all the ability and tact in the world to express the deepest truths of the Word of God. However, Paul felt it necessary to forsake all other messages except Jesus Christ as Messiah.

The Bible is full of rich truths, but only one is necessary for salvation. Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on our behalf. If we could simply cling to the reality of our Savior, I believe we would see this city and state changed for Jesus in a radical way. As we sing Lamb of God, it creates a special moment for all of us to let go of the complexity of life and faith, just spending a moment affirming our faith in the foundational truth of Jesus as Messiah.

Nicodemus

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #4: Nicodemus
Richie Henson | Production Director

Some characters in the Bible are hard to contextualize. They appear and disappear so quickly that it can be difficult to figure out why they are even mentioned. Nicodemus is one of those people. Nicodemus only appears in the Gospel of John on three occasions, but through those mentions, a spectacular lesson is taught.

We first see Nicodemus in John 3:1-2, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’”

Nicodemus was obviously intrigued by Jesus as a teacher, but Nicodemus was not so bold as to come to Jesus publically because there would no doubt have been a severe level of push back from the elite group of religious leaders with which he was in association. So, Nicodemus comes to ask his questions at night, when no one can see him. Nicodemus and Jesus have a very interesting conversation about being born again, and it leaves Nicodemus quite confused and unsure.

However, Nicodemus obviously continued to consider this encounter and eventually came to believe Jesus’ teaching enough that he was willing to speak on Jesus’ behalf to the other Pharisees.

In John 7:50-51 Nicodemus speaks out concerning the validity of the actions taken against Jesus by the religious leaders. “Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’”

Nicodemus is still battling some uncertainty as the religious leaders pursue the crucifixion of Jesus, but he is open to Jesus being the Messiah. However, Nicodemus had a lot to lose by accepting Jesus completely. He would be ostracized from the only society he had ever known.

After Nicodemus speaks out, we do not see him again until after the death of Jesus in John 19:38-40. “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”

After the death of Jesus, Nicodemus was finally ready to make his choice. Nicodemus became a public participant in the burial of the very man his cohorts had just put to death and in doing so, he also violated his oath as a member of the Sanhedrin to never touch a dead body. In these final words concerning Nicodemus, we see that he cares more about Jesus than he does about religion. Nicodemus had cast off the shackles of religious elitism and replaced them with the freedom found through faith in Jesus.

This can be a huge lesson for us. Often we grapple with emphasizing our preferences, and we forget that our lives should focus on faith in and service to Jesus, not our religion. As we let go of our religious feelings and embrace a life of service to Jesus, our barriers will break down making way for a life of true freedom devoted to a risen Savior.

Saul

Lesson Seven | Devotion #5: Saul
Richie Henson | Production Director

The story of King Saul is deeply tragic. Saul was a man called out by God to be the first king of Israel, and over time, Saul became more concerned with the people of Israel than he was with the God of Israel. As Saul began to focus his God given influence on the happiness of people instead of the will of God, things began to crumble quickly.

Saul makes several decisions that prove his fear of man to be more prevalent than his fear of God. An obvious example of this is Saul refusing to fight Goliath, but allowing a child to fight instead. Although David was obviously full of the faith needed to slay Goliath, I often feel that the ultimate responsibility to be God’s warrior rested with Saul.

Over time, Saul’s heart becomes hardened, and then, in 1 Samuel chapter 15, we see that Saul has exhausted the grace allotted to him as king. Saul disobeyed God by keeping the plunder of wars for himself instead of destroying it all as God commanded. Samuel, God’s prophet, approaches Saul on this issue and we see their final conversation before Saul’s death.

1 Samuel 15:24-26 says, “Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.’ And Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.’”

This passage records a terrible realization and consequence. Saul realizes and admits that he feared people more than he feared God. That is a scary and truly sad feeling. The thoughts and opinions of God were out weighed by the demands of the people. The consequence of Saul’s actions is being rejected by the Lord.

Saul made many mistakes in life to which most of us will never relate. However, I think Saul’s life serves as a warning to all of us. God gifts and places each of us for a specific purpose. After salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit and in turn, spiritual gifting. How easy it has become for us to take our gifting for granted and use it selfishly. How easy is it to stop pursuing the growth of our gifts and allow them to become stagnant and stale?

We must look at Saul’s life with understanding that God desires for us to use the influence and gifts we are given to work for His purpose. If we are unwilling to obey the will of God, we must not be surprised when our gifts and influence are taken away.



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