Devotions

Category Archives: World Changers

Daniel

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #4: Daniel
Isaiah Combs | Worship Leader & Young Adults Director

The story of Daniel is one of faithfulness and trust in God. We usually just know Daniel from the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. However, Daniel had already set a standard for everyone that knew him. He was a follower of God. Daniel was part of a group of young men that were taken from Israel by a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar (King Neb).

“Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:3-4).

Daniel was one of these young men. Ashpenaz (Ash) was ordered to feed the young men the food that the king ate, but Daniel did not want to defile himself with the king’s food. So, God gave him favor with Ash. Daniel would only eat veggies and water, and after ten days Ash would compare him to the others eating the king’s food. After ten days, Daniel was better, stronger, and smarter than all the others.

God then gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. He used this gift to interpret King Neb’s dream. King Neb then took a liking to Daniel and made him the ruler over all Babylon.

Eventually, King Neb is out and King Belshazzar is now the new king. He did not last long, and Darius became king. This whole time Daniel was still faithful to God, and God gave him favor in the sight of all three kings. Daniel would go up into his upper room three times a day every day. He would open the window and pray to God.

There were some jealous men of Daniel’s status and favor with King Darius. They plotted and convinced Darius to sign a law that no one could pray to any gods except Darius. The punishment for breaking this law was being thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel trusted and knew God was still in control.  He continued to pray to God three times a day. Daniel was then punished for breaking the law and thrown in the lion’s den. God shut the lion’s mouths and was taken out of the lion’s den in the morning.  King Darius was blown away that Daniel was not harmed by the lions.

Daniel 6:25-27 says, “Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: ‘Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Daniel’s faithfulness and trust in God were used to save not only himself from lions, but a whole nation. It was all for God’s glory.

Mary of Nazareth

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #3: Mary of Nazareth
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

Greetings, You who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” We find this greeting being given to a young virgin girl named Mary in Luke 1:28-35 (NIV).  The shocking and unexpected announcement continues as the Angel of the Lord informs this sweet young girl that her life is about to drastically change!  He goes on to say, “‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will regin over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’  ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the Angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’  The Angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called, the Son of God will never fail.’” My very favorite part of the narrative is Mary’s response, “I am the Lord’s servant, May Your word to me be fulfilled.”  Do you think her response could be why she was found “highly favored” in God’s eyes?  She was not just some random virgin girl that found favor in God’s eyes. The Prophets in the Old Testament foretold the details of Christ’s birth many years earlier, and it was fulfilled with perfect precision!  The woman chosen to carry and give birth to the Son of God was described in detail from the Old Testament Prophets. Listed below are a few of the prophecies surrounding Jesus’ birth.

  1. He was to be born of a virgin.

Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

Fulfilled- Mary was a virgin girl.

  1. The Messiah would be from the line of Abraham and David.

Genesis 22:18 says, “And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Matthew 1:1 says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”

Luke 2:4 adds, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” 

Fulfilled-Mary was a descendant of Abraham and David.

  1. He would be born in Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 (NIV) says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  The account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is told in the New Testament books of Matthew, Luke, and John.

Fulfilled – Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census.

Mary is not a prominent figure throughout Scripture, in fact, she is mentioned only a few times in the Gospel accounts during Jesus’ early childhood; His birth, fleeing to Egypt when Jesus was two years old, and again when Jesus at age 12 is teaching in the Temple. Other than that, Mary is not mentioned again until Jesus begins His public ministry. When Jesus was 30, He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana. This is where He turned the water into wine. Mary inadvertently launched His ministry a bit early when she asked Jesus for a miracle at the wedding, because they were running out of the good wine. After a gentle rebuke, He complied (John 2:1-11).

In Mark 3:31-35 we read, “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’  And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”  This is where we begin to see a shift in their mother and Son relationship. He stated He was about His Father’s business. Mary, nor anyone else in His family, had a greater claim on Him than anyone else.  Jesus treated Mary with respect and honor but never placed her on an exalted level of supremacy.  Mary, herself eventually came to a place where she let go of her maternal duties and submitted to her Son as her Lord and Savior.  She ultimately followed Him all the way to the cross.  Mary was an ordinary young lady who was chosen by God to do an extraordinary thing.  She obeyed without hesitation and became a major world changer!

Ezekiel

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #2: Ezekiel
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

(A letter to my son, Zeke)

Zeke,One of the strangest phenomena of being a parent is realizing you have to name your child. Your mother and I would spend hours throwing names around. At one point your name was almost Kalen Elias, and we would have called you Kal-El for short. Sadly, I did not want to limit you on the potential of Superman; I wanted to name you something where God would take you on an amazing adventure.

Being that I am a strange person, when I read the Bible, I find comfort in the oddest places. When asked, “Who is your favorite Bible character other than Jesus?” most might say Daniel, David, Samson, or Peter. Your dad likes the guys who are tough, the ones that stand up for God’s Word, and the ones who are a bit crazy. I have always been amazed by the prophet Ezekiel. Depending on when you are reading this, determines on me giving you permission to read that book. Ezekiel has some of the toughest sections of Scripture and some of the most beautiful.  Throughout his whole life, Ezekiel had one amazing characteristic, his strength. Now with most men of God, Ezekiel knew his strength came from God, which is what his name means, “God strengthens.”  Ezekiel did not have an easy life, but I think that helped him realize that he needed to rely on God that much more. The horrible things that this prophet must have seen while warning his loved ones to repent (Ezekiel 3), to watching God’s Glory leave the temple (Ezekiel 10), to not being able to mourn his wife because of what God told him (Ezekiel 24).

Hard times can do one of two things, break you or make you. While it was not Ezekiel who said it, but one of his fellow prophets wrote, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).  Take the affliction to receive the refinement. Son, life is going to kick your teeth in at some point. I wish I could protect you from it, but it will. Even if you are as righteous as Job, the world will hurt you. There will be days when giving up seems like the only option. There will be days when you feel surrounded, and darkness seems to be everywhere. When the day comes when you feel you might break, remember your namesake, ‘God strengthens!’ The day when you do not know how you are going to make it through another horrible situation, remember God strengthens. Fear will sneak up on you, and the enemy will try to destroy you, but remember God strengthens.

You need to be strong, but never forget who gives you the ability to be strong. Never forget that the only reason we cannot be beaten is because God is with us. God gave His life for us, and now because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are His people. If you never forget who has your back, you will never be without strength.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Jeremiah

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #1: Jeremiah
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

Faithful, Frustrated, and “Fruitless.”

Imagine serving God your whole life and never seeing anything good come from it. There you are, faithfully sharing what God gives you to share, going where God tells you to go, and doing what God wants you to do. But no one heeds your message. No one repents, no one turns, no one accepts what you are saying, and in the end, they come after you to make your life miserable! That is the life and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. To say that it was a rough go for Jeremiah is putting it lightly.

But his story is an important reminder to us. It is the reminder that it is faithfulness to God that matters, not the results.

God told Jeremiah very early on that he would be His prophet. The Lord told him that this was His calling for Jeremiah from before he was even born. Jeremiah’s response was not heroic and did not inspire confidence. He said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6 NKJV). He said, “I cannot do that. I am too young. I cannot speak to anyone.” God steadied him by telling him that He would be with him and always put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.

From that point forward, Jeremiah’s ministry was a continual announcement of coming judgment and a call to repentance for the nation of Israel. As you read it, it is immediately clear that every aspect of the Hebrew nation in Jeremiah’s day was a spiritual mess. Israel, once faithful, had now slipped back into idolatry, rebellion against God, and spiritual lethargy. Israel’s leaders are leading the people astray. Jeremiah is a lone voice crying in the wilderness all that God is telling him to say.

Think about it; he is just doing what God wants him to do. But no one is listening. No one wants to hear it. His message is not just ignored; it is rejected and even mocked. Jeremiah becomes despised by both the common people and all of Israel’s religious and political leaders. He feels alone, he is frustrated and at one point even decides to throw in the towel.

We cannot miss the point. He is doing what God wants him to do. So, what gives? Why is there not any “blessing?” Why no “fruit” from his labors? Why no “success?” We have got to learn something here. Just because God tells us to do something, it does not mean that it is going to be easy or that it is going to work out. I have met many Christians who think that if it is “of God” it is going to be easy. If it is God, then it is going to be successful. If it is God, then it is going to be simple and smooth sailing. But that just is not the case. There are many times we are called by God to do things that are not at all easy, not smooth, not simple, and not fun. There are times where we will be ignored, rejected, mocked, and even persecuted for doing what God wants us to do. There may be times we will not see the “fruit” of what we did.

So what then? What are we to do? Jeremiah’s life reminds us to faithfully carry out God’s will even when there does not appear to be the success or favorable results. It reminds us that we must trust Him for the reasons He is telling us to do what He is telling us to do. We must make pleasing Him our chief goal rather than ease, success, the approval of people, or the blessings of it all. If we do, then we too will hear what Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, without doubt, heard when he stepped into eternity, “well done good and faithful servant.”

Elizabeth

Lesson Ten | Devotion #6: Elizabeth
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

Righteous. Blameless. Barren. One of these words is not like the other, especially in biblical times. But, they were the words used to describe a woman named Elizabeth.

Luke 1:5-7 says, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.”

In Elizabeth’s day and age, there was perhaps no greater shame for a married woman than being unable to bare a child. Whether true or not, being barren was often considered a curse or a result of some not so righteous living. It must have been difficult for her and her husband, not just because they longed for a child, but because their reputations were probably often questioned. They were already set apart as descendants of Aaron and members of the priesthood (Elizabeth, the daughter of a long line of priests and Zechariah, a priest himself). They had the “godly” credentials on paper, but the lack of children in their advanced age probably suggested the lack of favor from God.

Are you not glad that things are not always as they appear? 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that “the Lord sees not as man sees…the Lord looks on the heart.” Elizabeth had a righteous heart, “walking blamelessly in all commandments of the Lord.” While she must have known the stigma that she carried, she lived her life to please God, not men. She could have easily become angry with Him, knowing that she was doing everything right and yet she still was stuck in a hopeless situation. Instead of questioning why, Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed. They probably prayed for decades. It was all they could do. So many things in life are out of our control, but we can rest in the complete assurance that we have a mighty God who cradles our lives in His hands. While we may never know why and when, God has a plan.

His plan for Elizabeth was a great one. Luke 1:13-17 tells us that the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth were answered and that they would soon be given a son whose name would be called John, and that they would “have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will…make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Their son would be John the Baptist, a man that had been prophesied centuries beforehand by the prophet Malachi. A man whose mission would be to prepare the way of the Messiah Jesus Christ who would be born to Elizabeth’s cousin Mary just months later! Matthew 11:11 says, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” It was by no coincidence that God chose Elizabeth to be his mother in that specific place in time. She was faithful, righteous, and obedient. Coming from a long line of priests, she would have known God’s Word and how to raise a child in the ways of the Lord. She was the perfect woman for the job, and God blessed her.

Elizabeth lived a good portion of her life in what seemed like a hopeless situation, but God had great plans for her, in HIS perfect time. Likewise, God has great plans for you! If you are struggling, feeling like God has forgotten you or left you alone in difficult circumstances, do not lose hope! Live faithfully, be patient, and pray, as Elizabeth did. Your time may be coming soon. Our God is the God of the impossible!



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

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.