Author Archives: Wes McCullough

Amazing Grace

Stand On It | Devotion #3: Amazing Grace
Wes McCullough | Production Director

Do you know anyone unfamiliar with the song “Amazing Grace” by John Newton? It seems even among the unchurched this song is known and sung. It is arguably one of the most famous songs ever written. While most have the lyrics committed to heart, they are unaware of the story of the writer or the circumstances that brought him to these words.

Before he was a theologian and preacher, John Newton was in the Royal Navy and then a sailor in the slave trade. His language was beyond profane, and he lived without respect for others. He rejected the faith of his parents and mocked those who lived out their faith. His biography describes him to be quite a wretched individual.

In 1748, Newton’s ship was caught in a violent storm that led him to call out to God for mercy. That moment was the turning point for him, and he eventually left the slave trade and pursued God’s calling on his life.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Each of us has lived in sin. We have made mistakes and have our own personal testimony of how God has forgiven and redeemed us. Some testimonies are stories of incredible transformation from God-hater to God-lover while some are that of a lifelong Christian. Each testimony will be used by God. 

John Newton put his “skeletons” into a song, and it has been ministering to souls for nearly 250 years.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

The skeletons in your closet provide a perspective of God’s gift of amazing grace. In 1 Peter 4:10 it says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Do not hide your skeletons. Stand on them and use them to show others that no sin is beyond God’s redemptive love.

Genesis 50:15-21

Joseph Forgives Brothers • Devotion #1: Genesis 50:15-21
Wes McCullough | Production Director

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50:15-21

Here we see one of the more incredible stories of forgiveness in the Bible. Because of his brothers, Joseph had been thrown down into a well, nearly killed, sold into slavery, and imprisoned for years. When they reunite, Joseph is second in command of all Egypt and could have had his brother killed for what they did to him. Incredibly, there is no animosity in Joseph’s heart toward them, and their submission to him brings him to tears.  

Why was Joseph not out for revenge? Verse 20 is the key, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Joseph did not blame his brothers for the hard parts of his life. His enslavement was not directly because of his brothers. Joseph chose to see the big picture of God’s plan. He resolved that God had allowed events in his life to put him in just the right position to save his family and even their nation. Joseph accepted God’s plan, good and bad, and it saved his heart from sinful attitudes. 

You will have hard times in life. They may last for days, weeks, months, or years. Remember that this life is temporary and strive to secure your eternal salvation.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

Joseph as Dad’s Favorite

Joseph & Brothers • Devotion #1: Joseph as Dad’s Favorite
Wes McCullough | Production Director

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” Genesis 37:3-4

Favoritism seems to be a genetic problem for this family. Isaac favored Esau while Rebekah favored Jacob. Of his wives, Jacob favored Rachel over her sister, Leah. Of his sons, Jacob favored Joseph. The case can be made that Rachel, being the love of Jacob’s heart, was his “first” wife while he actually married Leah first. Joseph, as Rachel’s firstborn and coming in Jacob’s old age, would definitely have a special place in his father’s heart.

I can definitely say I am my father’s favorite son, primarily because he only had one. However, when my sisters married, I noticed a certain change. My parents welcomed my sisters’ husbands into the family with the same love they had for me.

I have also seen them love my wife as their own daughter. My parents’ attitude and actions make me proud and have been an example to follow in all my family relations.

There are several lessons we can learn from this story. 1 John 2:9 says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” Matthew 5:23-25 provides some directions for such a situation, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.”

 Furthermore, 1 John 3:15 says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” At the root of it all is hate which Proverbs 10:12 addresses, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” Hate will lead to other sins. It will cause you to become someone you are not and do things you are against. Combat hate with forgiveness and love. Jesus taught us to love and forgive, and we would do well to honor those instructions.

Abraham Believes 

Abraham, Hagar, & Ishmael • Devotion #3: Abraham Believes
Wes McCullough | Production Director

“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him [Abraham]: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:4-6

When God told Abraham he would have more descendants than he could count, Abraham was childless and more than 75 years old. His wife was approaching 70, but he believed the promise of God without hesitation. That is pretty incredible. 

It is helpful to contrast this story to another found in Judges 6:36-40. Gideon, in seeking God’s favor in battle, asks that a wool fleece, left out overnight, be wet amongst dry ground. God does exactly that, but then Gideon curiously asks God the next day to keep the fleece dry amongst wet ground. God again provided the sign of His favor to Gideon in battle. There are many times in Scripture where people asked God for a specific sign to confirm their faith. Asking twice, as Gideon humbly did, strikes me as an instance where I expected God to be unhappy for being tested and untrusted.

Abraham was different. He received God’s promise and believed without question, without tangible confirmation. It is an inspiring and encouraging example of unconditional faith. The New Life translation says that Abraham’s unquestioning belief in this promise made him right with God” (Genesis 15:6 NCV). I find it so satisfying when people do the right thing as Abraham did in this case. In my book, it ranks close to the quality of David being a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). 

Looking back, God has always kept His promises. Sometimes they seemed impossible or took years to be fulfilled, but God always kept His word. If God tells you He will do something you should have no doubts, only patience.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” Hebrews 11:1-2.

Abraham & Sarah Lie 

Abraham’s Call • Devotion #6: Abraham & Sarah Lie
Wes McCullough | Production Director

A few weeks ago I watched a special on Netflix called The Push. The premise of this social experiment is this: can an ordinary person be coerced to kill someone in 90 minutes? The entire situation is scripted and directed with actors, props, special effects, and filmed with hidden cameras. Dozens of people were involved in the social experiment but only the subject was unaware of the goal. Starting with small compromises the subject of the experiment is influenced with peer pressure and strong suggestions that were less than moral. This social experiment was conducted five times, only one person refused the final “push” to take a life. 

When I read of Abram and Sarai’s journey to Egypt in Genesis 12:10-20, my thoughts were of principles. Principles are foundational to our character. We should not violate them for any reason. I wonder why Abram would trust his own cunning over God’s protection. God had just directed Abram towards the Promised Land with this assurance, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). Much like ourselves, Abram’s focus on God’s impending blessings was quickly lost. He let the situation be more important than God’s will. 

God’s faithfulness to His promise shines in this story. God promised Abram and Sarai’s offspring would be too numerous to count. When Abram gave up his wife for his safety, God orchestrated a reunion so they could one day receive the promised blessing. Once again we see that God can not be caught off guard and His plan can not be distorted by our failures.

Are your principles set in stone? If someone asks you to lie, cheat, steal, or kill will you be ready to answer? Make the Christ-like choice and let God sort it out. It is much worse to offend God than man.

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