Devotions

Monthly Archives: March, 2016

Thursday | March 31

The Resurrection brings Loving Sacrifice

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

We need to die to self

You are reading this because of sacrifice. All that you benefit from The River comes from sacrifice. Starting with Jesus, people gave their all to share the hope we have in Him. Jesus died and rose again to give us hope. The Apostles, with the exception of John, were martyred for their faith. Many throughout church history died so you and I would know the truth of the resurrection. In fact, many died and suffered so you and I could read the Bible in our own language.

First offering was 100%

We get scared when people talk about money, and we get frustrated when people put demands on our time. When the church started in Acts chapter 2, the saints sold all that they had and had all things in common. Why? Pentecost was a pilgrimage feast. People from all over the known world would gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the receiving of the Torah (law). Suddenly there were a bunch of weirdoes speaking about a risen Jesus in their own language! They showed up to celebrate a feast, and they left as missionaries. The truth of Jesus rising from the dead radically altered the direction of their lives. Tradition tells us that a group of believers at Pentecost were the ones that started the church in Rome.

Loving our enemy to life

John tells us the world hates us because the world does not know the Father. Paul says whoever desires to live a godly life will be persecuted. Following Jesus could cost us a dream, our time, our job, friendship, and for some even our life. This sounds hard and unfair. This often seems foreign to us because our country is an exception to the historical rule. We have freedom of religion. What becomes radical is not to stand up for our rights, but to stoop down and serve. The pathway to winning people to Jesus is not bolstering our rights, but in lovingly serving our enemy.

In the end, we win

At summer camp, a pastor told a story of a girl who made a commitment to win her peers to Jesus. Her freshmen year they made fun of her and bullied her all year long. Sophomore year she made the same commitment. The suffering increased. Junior year she made the same commitment, and the bullying got even worse. Ridiculed by the school, stuffed in lockers, books knocked out of hand, and she got back up. Senior year she made the same commitment, and the persecution started until she got yelled at by a classmate. She could not understand why after all these years she would not give up. Why?! The girl shared why and who once bullied her became a sister in Christ. One by one more got saved and a profound work of God came upon that school. She endured years of suffering because she knew in the end we win…

Pastor Ty Woznek
Pastor’s Academy Lead Professor

Wednesday | March 30

The Resurrection brings a Mission

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus saves, Jesus sends

Jesus didn’t just save us so we could escape hell, have hope, and be restored to God. Jesus saved us to send us to be a blessing to others. This is a pattern we see throughout the Bible. God saves someone and then commissions him or her. We do not have to earn God’s favor or His love. He pours it on us, and then He sends us out with that incredible news.

Make disciples

A disciple is one who follows Jesus to become more like Jesus. This is not a solo effort, but a family activity. Our focus on reaching the lost, gathering with the saints, and growing in the Word comes from here. Your job and my job is to make disciples as well as be a disciple. The disciples couldn’t help but share the truth that Jesus is alive. It transformed their lives, and it should transform out lives as well.

Here’s how:

  • Define your mission field

Where you are is your mission field. Be intentional about it. First, pray. Seek who God wants you to connect with, how to connect with that person, and for open doors. Second, get others to pray with and for you. Third, figure out how to be around people who do not know Jesus in meaningful ways. Presence comes before friendship. Fourth, build genuine friendships with those who don’t know Jesus. Relationships are the glue of truth. Fifth, have the courage to share the Gospel with your friend. Presence comes before friendship and friendship before truth.

  • Identify with Jesus

Baptism is a symbol, like a wedding ring, of our love and devotion to Jesus. Baptism also pictures Jesus’ death, being put into the water, and resurrection, coming out of the water. It is identifying. The word baptism was used for dying cloth. It carries the idea of being put in but never coming out. Once a part of Jesus, always a part of Jesus. The Bible also talks about how we are baptized with the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus died and rose again for us. God Himself resides in and identifies with us. Baptism is a symbolic act followed by living a lifestyle that says we are all about Jesus.

  • Grow in the Word

We are all to be teachers. Our audience sizes may be different. A key part of discipling people is teaching them to be like Jesus. This comes from serving with them, from discussing what they learned about the Bible, and even taking them with you as you share the Gospel with others. Studying the Bible is not just for our information or for us to live better lives. Studying the Bible is also about teaching others what we’ve learned. However, there is more to making disciples…

Pastor Ty Woznek
Pastor’s Academy Lead Professor

Tuesday | March 29

The Resurrection brings Forgiveness

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17).

No mistake is too big for Jesus

Denying Jesus is a big deal. Peter had foot-in-mouth disease. He often spoke first without thinking. When Jesus describes what would happen, Peter said he would stick by Jesus. Even after being warned, Peter denied Jesus three times. Peter was ecstatic that Jesus rose from the dead. Feeling guilty about scattering and abandoning Jesus, they went back to what they knew, fishing. Then, a living Jesus shows up and cooks breakfast.

An elephant feast

Too often you and I like to dismiss the elephant in the room. We are scared by conflict, scared by reconciliation.  You and I are afraid of rejection. If the Bible included a heart rate monitor, Peter’s pulse would be pretty rapid at this encounter. Jesus engaged Peter in conversation and slaughters the elephant in the room. In this brief story, Jesus not only reconciles but also restores Peter.

Band of brothers

There is much commentary about what the word love means in the Bible. Jesus asks Peter twice using one word for love; Peter responds with a different word all three times. Phileo commonly referred to as “brotherly” love also carries the idea of men together in combat. Think Band of Brothers. For some, this kind of love was actually higher than the commonly used term agape for love. Peter said three times he was all in. The third time Jesus asked, He was seeking if Peter was all in.

Stop “fishing”

Jesus tells Peter to follow Him. He is telling Peter to stop going back to his old life of fishing and to live the life God called him to. We all struggle with sin. It is not a matter of if we struggle with sin, but what sin is the struggle. Some of us failed horrifically, and we think that God is done with us. We may attend church, but our life and purpose is back to our old “fishing.” It is time we stop fishing. Let me be clear: Jesus conquered the grave. Our sin is pretty small in comparison to that. Jesus restored the denier Peter, the skeptic Thomas, the murderer Paul, the IRS agent Matthew, Zacchaeus, and His desire is to restore you. However, there is more than just the healing He brings…

Pastor Ty Woznek
Pastor’s Academy Lead Professor

Monday | March 28

The Resurrection brings Hope

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Our view of death is life

Every culture and worldview operate based on his or her view of death. Ancient Greeks believed that if they were forgotten, they ceased to exist. Others believe in a treadmill called reincarnation. Some don’t believe in death at all. The Christian view of death isn’t death, but resurrection. We believe in life. Our story is not merely we die and go to Heaven. Our story includes being resurrected and forever living with Jesus!

Jesus is coming back

A massive theme in the New Testament is that Jesus is coming back. He will not be sending a representative. Jesus Himself will return. Christians have differing views on how Jesus’ return will appear. Sadly, some tend to ignore a critical teaching in the Bible. Regardless of our view of Jesus’ return, the Spirit makes it clear his returning establishes hope. This hope is founded on Jesus rising again and conquering death.

Death is temporary; Life with Jesus is forever

God designed us to have a relationship with Him. Death is an unnatural state that resulted from sin. Death brings mourning because death is a tragedy. The Thessalonian believers thought that their loved ones who died missed Jesus. Paul encourages them by saying, “No, our loved ones who died get to go first.” Death is a temporary state who was defeated by Jesus. Like God designed us, one day we will live forever in relationship with Jesus.

Be comforted

Holidays are challenging times for those who recently suffered loss. The first year is the hardest and after that mourning is just hard. What I love about this passage and others like it, is Jesus gave mourning an end date. This is why Paul later says that we do not mourn like those who have no hope. However, there is more than just comfort in life after death…

Pastor Ty Woznek
Pastor’s Academy Lead Professor

Saturday | March 26

My wife absolutely hates flying. There is just something about it that scares her to death. The good news for me is that it doesn’t keep her from flying. She is able to put up with the difficulty of the flight because she knows that there is an end in sight. Also, she knows that the destination is going to be worth the trouble she goes through to get there. I think of this example when thinking about sorrow. This whole week we’ve discussed being buried in sorrow. We’ve looked to Scripture to see what it has to say about the subject and to get direction on how to deal with the sorrowful times in our life. The final aspect of sorrow that I want us to deal with is the truth that one day sorrow will be no more.

Revelation 21:1-4 says, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ This passage is one of my favorites in all of the Scripture. It paints such a beautiful picture of what eternity is going to be like for God’s children. One day God is going to wipe every tear from our eyes, no more death, no more mourning, and no more pain. When we feel buried in sorrow, we can rejoice knowing that one day it will end. One day we won’t have to deal with a death of a loved one, we won’t have to hear a bad diagnosis from a doctor, and we won’t have to experience emotional pain inflicted on us by a friend. God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins, allowing us to spend eternity with Him in a perfect place.

When we are buried in sorrow, we need to keep pushing forward in life. We need to honor God with our every word and action even in the difficult times. God has promised us that one day all the terrible things in this world will pass away. Let’s allow that truth to sustain us through our difficult times. Let’s keep our eyes focused on Christ and the eternity that He has promised us, knowing that one day our sorrow will be no more.

 

Philip Piasecki
Worship Leader



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