Devotions

Author Archives: Wes McCullough

G.R.A.C.E.

Delivery Day • G.R.A.C.E.
Wes McCullough | Production Director

In the spring of 2004, a movie was released that rocked the world. It was bloody and violent, but people still flocked to see the rated R film. The premise of the movie was the brutal death of one man. Watching this film caused masses of people to weep and make life changes. The movie was THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

Having grown up knowing the story of Jesus’ death, the movie was not as much a surprise as it was a reminder and a visualization of His sacrifice. I do not watch the movie every year, but I am reminded of it each year through the Easter season. Memories of the graphic visuals flood my memory, and I am humbled knowing Jesus accepted that fate in my place. I have fallen short of His glory, but God’s grace is abundant.

The theme of Easter 2015 at The River Church (Holly) was “Undefeated.” There was a boxing ring on stage as a visual for Christ’s battle with Satan. You and I were destined for a fight with Satan that we could not win. It was going to be an excruciating, torturous beating for the rest of eternity. When Jesus died, He stepped into that ring to fight Satan in our place. Christ’s victory in that battle was unquestionable. Jesus gave us victory over death and punishment.

1 Peter 2:24 says it all, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 

Isaiah 53:5 is similarly a favorite, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

These verses are a reminder of the punishment Christ took on our behalf. We have all sinned and been separated from God, but Jesus paid the price to reunite us with our Heavenly Father. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

If it helps, remember grace this way:

G- God’s
R- Riches
A- At
C- Christ’s
E- Expense

This Easter season do not be distracted by the commercialized Easter bunny, eggs, and candy. Focus on the victory you have been given and thank Jesus for fighting for you.

Leave a Mark

Nurturing • Leave a Mark
Wes McCullough | Production Director

Social media is a great thing. No longer is lengthy and intermittent written correspondence needed to keep up with the lives of friends, loved ones, and others. Now we are always connected to those people through websites and apps.

As much as social media can bring people together, it can also drive them apart. The days of 8-year-olds saying to friends, “You cannot come to my birthday!” because of a disagreement are gone. No longer do middle school girls have to say, “You are not my friend anymore.” Today those actions are accomplished with the simple task of “unfriending” someone on social media sites. It has happened a few times to me. Even more shocking has been seeing family members “unfriend” each other. My policy is not to “unfriend” anyone. In my mind, despite whatever situation or disagreement we have had, I still care about and want the best for them.

Paul was a relentless apostle throughout the New Testament books. His life was dedicated to taking the Gospel to all the world. In Acts, we read about a mission trip Paul took with Barnabas and John Mark, where John Mark left them before their trip was finished. John Mark’s premature departure would cause problems on later trips.

“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:36-41)

What catches my attention in that passage is “sharp.” Paul and Barnabas had a passionate disagreement about taking John Mark with them. Paul likely doubted John Mark’s dedication to the important task of evangelizing, while Barnabas was looking to give him a second chance. Neither man would compromise on their position. They split ways, and there is no record that they reunited.

Everyone loves second chances and happy endings. Previous sermons and devotions have taught about forgiveness. How many times should we forgive someone? The clear answer is as many times as God forgives us. God does not stop offering second chances and neither should we.

GPS

Planting • GPS
Wes McCullough | Production Director

God’s
Perfect
Steering

The world used to get navigation instructions from an atlas or word of mouth. Reading an atlas was a learned skill, and some people gave bad directions, so you did not always get where you wanted to go easily. Today we all use GPS and know exactly where we are and the fastest route to where we are headed. I find myself no longer paying attention when someone gives me verbal directions knowing I will type in the address and GPS will direct me turn by turn.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 gives us wisdom on who we should trust as we navigate this world.

“Thus says the Lord:
‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.’”

The Bible is clear that those who trust in men will not prosper. Like a thirsty plant in the desert, they will always be unsatisfied and searching for what is not there. We have all learned the life lesson that people will let you down because man is fallible. Whether by mistake or incompetence we have faced disappointment when trusting in man. The passage continues with good advice.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

God is the best navigator, of course, because he knows everything. God’s promise in these verses is beautiful; trust in the Lord and when hard times come there will be no worry. When you are rooted in the Heavenly Father, trials do not mean the end. God sustains us through hard times so incredibly that we come through having prospered.

Life is a journey that takes you over new, perfectly smooth roads and old roads with deep pot holes. When you trust in God and follow His navigation, you not only get where you need to go, but you arrive in better condition than you left.

Great Fear

Shepherds • Devotion #2: Great Fear
Wes McCullough | Production Director

Have you ever been outside during a thunderstorm when a giant lightning bolt is followed by a massive boom? In an instant, your legs can go limp and your heart races. A close encounter of a strong thunderstorm makes you feel vulnerable and insignificant. It is not just about the possible physical harm, at that moment you have a renewed respect for the strength of the storm.

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  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.’” Luke 2:9-10

I imagine the surprise of an angel appearing before you is much more intense than a thunder boom. You would probably fall to your knees in their heavenly presence. I do not think you would fear harm from them, but you would certainly have absolute respect for their authority. I believe this is the fear the shepherds experienced in Luke 2 when they were visited by an angel.

The Bible speaks a lot about the fear of the Lord. In many instances, it is in the context of teaching life lessons and promises wisdom, knowledge, and life.

“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” Proverbs 19:23

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10

“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.” 1 Chronicles 16:25

“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:4

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” Psalm 112:1

If you are always cognizant of God’s infinite power and authority, you need not be afraid of the Heavenly Father. Respect His power, His justice, His authority, and always know that He has a plan with your best interests in mind.

Absolutes

Miraculous conception and birth #4  November 9 Absolutes

There are absolutes in this world. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything that goes up must come down. We do not question these rules because they are known and accepted truths. There is another absolute, the Almighty God is not bound by absolutes, and we can learn from Zechariah that it is not a good idea to be skeptical of God’s Word coming from an angel. Zechariah was told in Luke 1:18-23 that he and his wife would have a child. Zechariah was doubtful because his wife was barren and they were now well beyond their child-bearing years. For his lack of faith, Zechariah was made unable to speak until his child was born. 

In the book of Matthew, Jesus gives a powerful lesson, “If you have faith and do not doubt…if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen” (Matthew 21:21). In Matthew 14 we read about Jesus feeding over 5000 people. The Disciples doubted that they could afford to feed the large group that had gathered to listen to Jesus. Jesus stunned them all when His prayer to God turned a small boy’s lunch into an abundance for thousands of people. Also in Matthew 14, we read of Jesus walking on water and calling Peter out to Him. Peter successfully walks on water until he is distracted by the wind and waves and begins to sink. Somehow Peter forgot that he was already doing the impossible.  These are a few of the countless examples of God’s power over the “impossible.” Our thinking tends to be limited to what we think is possible when we should remember Matthew 21:22, “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” 

Zechariah was a faithful, God-fearing man. He knew God had no limits, but like us, he was distracted by his limitations. For nine months his inability to speak was a daily reminder of the sin and doubt that was in his heart. We need not doubt. God knows the desires of our heart, and we should bring them to Him humbly and honestly. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

We are all going to face doubt and uncertainties in this life, but one thing is for sure, faith is much stronger than any doubts this world can cause. God has no restrictions and no handicaps. Focus on His power, not your limitations.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

Wes McCullough

Worship Leader



Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

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