Devotions

Monthly Archives: November, 2016

Empathy

Storm Chaser • Devotion #3: Empathy
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

I am fascinated by the movie “Twister.”  A group of storm chasers rushes after tornadoes in hopes of studying how they work and get a better idea of how to predict them in order to save lives.  The idea of driving a vehicle quickly up one road and down another while trying to follow an unpredictable storm and facing risk of injury or death, well, it is quite exhilarating and gets the adrenaline flowing.

Sometimes in life, we are storm chasers.  We run into the storm head on.  More often, though, we are trying to run the other way, away from the storm.  However, there is a lot to be learned from facing the trial, going through the trial, and coming out on the other side.  We have that experience and can now empathize with others in the same or similar situation.  I have had many life experiences that I can share with others in the same situation.  They know I have been there, done that, and I truly know the pain they are feeling.  There are many life experiences I have not experienced that others have.  God makes us all unique.  Just as the Bible tells us that we are each given different spiritual gifts, we are each given different life events to be able to comfort others.  1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”

One of the great privileges of friendship is being able to help others through the storm.  Sometimes it is sharing how we got through it, or how it changed us.  Sometimes it is just listening and not talking.  However, for them to know that you have experienced the same situation makes all the difference.

Have you experienced a storm?  The loss of a baby?  Financial difficulty?  Addiction?  The list goes on and on.  How can you use your experience to help others?  Is there a group at church you can mentor through?  Is there a friend facing a similar problem that you can meet for coffee?  God gave you this experience so you could help others.  Just as Jesus suffered during his time on Earth, He was tortured, humiliated, alone, etc., He empathizes with us and knows how we feel in the same situation.  He loves us and cares for us through our storm.  Just as God comforts us, we need to comfort others around us and help them through their storm.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says,  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Gratitude

Storm Chaser • Devotion #2: Gratitude
Jill Osmon | Assistant to the Lead Pastor

Psalm 107:28-32 says, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.”

There are many conversations about how to get through the storm, how to endure it, but we do not usually talk about what we do after the storm. What happens when we survive? What does God expect of us on the other side? I know gratitude is the last thing that usually goes with a storm. Storms are devastating, they can destroy your life, and they can radically change your life. So how can we be grateful at the end?

Gratitude changes you. Think about it… when you are grateful your entire perspective changes. You see actions in a different light; you are more forgiving, more loving, and more Christ-like. However, gratitude is not a natural reaction for us; we have to strive for it. If we do not strive for gratefulness, we are useless. It says in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” An ungrateful heart is a heart open to bitterness, anger, worry, hate, and much more. When we go through a storm, we as humans can immediately become embittered because our perspective has been battered and abused. Gratefulness protects us. It allows us to gain a perspective that is focused on God and understanding that He is in control. It allows us to learn and teach from our storms.

God commands us to be grateful to protect us from our feeble human reactions. Be grateful, especially after a storm. Allow God to show us the what, the why, the deep down lessons that we need to learn through our storms. Gratitude allows that. It opens us up to being used by Him. Isn’t that the most amazing thing to be done? To have our storms used to help others, to change us to be better ambassadors for Him.

Choose gratefulness!

Enduring the Storm

Storm Chaser • Devotion #1: Enduring the Storm
Jill Osmon | Assistant to the Lead Pastor

Enduring a storm is difficult; the kind of difficult that breaks men and women. Enduring a storm can seem impossible. Then God brings people into our lives; people, who try to help us endure storms, get through storms, and then thrive after the storm. Those people, the ones that speak into lives of people enduring a storm, that is whom I want to speak to for a bit today.

In the Bible, Job went through a pretty intense season in his life. He lost everything; I cannot imagine his pain and devastation that he endured. Job had a lot of friends surrounding him, with A LOT of opinions. Most giving some pretty terrible advice. His friends were going as far as telling him just to die because his life was so miserable. One friend had been sitting quietly, waiting, and listening to all that the others had to say, and he could not stay quiet any longer. His name was Elihu.

Elihu gave the perfect balance of love and truth; he did not allow Job to wallow in his circumstances, but he also gave Job solid advice. He goes on for a few chapters, and he has some difficult conversations with Job’s friends and with Job. He did not diminish the storm Job was in, but he also stood firm in who God is. Job 37:14 says, “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” We have to remember to point people to God during their storm. Self-help, self-esteem, self-whatever, does not help if they do not recognize that God is in control, and He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3). Elihu reminds Job who he is and Whom he belongs to. Although it seems simple, this simple fact brings a sense of peace and calm that only God can bring.

We will all have opportunities to help others through a storm and to endure a storm. We must be prepared to have some difficult conversations. The most important part of helping others through storms is to point them to God every single time.

We’re Mean, Not God

Storm Damage • Devotion #6: We’re Mean, Not God
Ty Woznek | Lead Instructor of the Pastor’s Academy

People often reject the Old Testament because they view God as a mean grump. The fact check is quite the opposite. We were mean to God. We should be very careful to think we are better than God’s people in the Old Testament. We do the same things. Evil is when we try to replace God with another god. Most storms in life are manmade whether by our own choices or suffering from the poor choices of others. As you read the rest of this, ask yourself if and how you are rejecting God. It is never too late.

God warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of a certain tree. Adam and Eve rejected God’s instruction. You and I suffer death, disease, and suffering as a result. God promised a Son that would redeem.

God warned Cain that sin wanted to control him. Cain rejected God’s instruction and murdered his brother. Salvation seemed lost. God provided Seth.

God warned people to repent or he would flood the Earth. Mankind rejected God’s instruction. According to creationist accounts, the world population was about six billion people. They all died. God saved Noah and his family.

God told Noah and his family to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the Earth. Instead, they congregated under one rule to make a name for themselves, rejecting God’s instruction. God confused them by creating languages. God chose Abraham’s family so the world would still know a way out.

God told Israel to go into the Promised Land that He provided for them. Israel sided with ten spies who said otherwise. A whole generation was wiped out for rejecting God’s instruction. Only Joshua and Caleb were able to cross into the Promised Land.

God told Israel to destroy everything in Jericho. One man thought otherwise and brought failure to Israel and the loss of his family. God still forgave, and Israel took the land.

God told Israel to teach their children about who He is. Israel ignored God’s instruction, and there arose in Israel a generation who did not know God. They suffered under tyranny from other nations. God provided Judges to redeem them.

God told Israel the Law, and their Elders were to lead them. Israel rejected God’s instruction and requested a king like the other nations. The monarchy brought about the destruction of the nation. Through one king, David’s line, God protected to bring us a Savior, Jesus.

God sent many prophets to warn Israel to repent and turn back to the Bible. They rejected and killed off God’s prophets. God handed them over to their enemies. In all the promises of destruction, God also promised restoration and a Savior.

God sent Jesus to heal. Jesus was rejected and hung on a cross one time for all sin. God raised Him from the dead on the third day, providing the perfect way out of a nasty cycle.

Why does God love us even when we reject His Word repeatedly? God is a God of grace and mercy. The Old Testament should serve as a massive warning to us. God, is there something you are trying to tell me that I am rejecting?

No Excuses

Storm Damage • Devotion #5: No Excuses
Ty Woznek | Lead Instructor of the Pastor’s Academy

Micah says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

We were warned

In a Hebrew class, we were instructed to pick a verse and do an in-depth report on it. I loved the song growing up that quoted this verse. It was a sweet tune of a verse that is often a favorite of those who love Jesus. After studying it, I realize the tune missed the tone of what Micah was saying. Micah 6:8 was an indictment. God’s people were to be punished, deserved to be punished, and they were without excuse. Why? God showed them the answer. They did not follow.

Hard of hearing

Israel, like you and I, were hard of hearing. God showed them the way but they chose a different path. God showed them what good was, what justice was, love, kindness, and humility. These were rejected like at the beginning. Often when life is hard, we want to get mad at God, but the reality often is we ignored God. An older businessman said that if communication is the problem, it is that people are not listening, not that people are not talking. The bottom line is, are you and I listening to God?

Too many stories

When Doc asked me to write a couple of devotions on the devastation of sin as a storm of life, my heart sank. There are too many stories of heartache I could share. That is just starting with me. In all my years of ministry, they sadly add up. I noticed a common theme in many of the stories. They simply did not listen. Without fail, many pastors and I deal with an issue on Mondays that we addressed on Sunday, but the person was absent. I would not be surprised if some of you reading this today ignored what some of the pastors shared this past Sunday.

Hear

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses writes about loving the Lord our God with everything we have. He instructs us on teaching our children and talking about the Bible constantly. However, before that Moses wrote the bottom line, “Hear of Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one.” There is more I could say on this, but here is what we need to do. Take a moment and simply ask God this question, “God, how well have I been hearing you?”

The reality is

We can be mad at God when he allows hard times in, but sometimes the reality is we knew the right answers but chose to go our own way instead. Micah 6:8 should be a depressing song. God gave them the answer; Israel did not listen. I guess that is why Paul so urgently warned us to no quench the Spirit. Like a good soldier, we would be better to answer “No excuses.”



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