Devotions

Monthly Archives: July, 2018

Lazarus

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #2: Lazarus
Brett Eberle | Production Director

As we have explored the people in the Bible, we have seen how many of them were used by God in extraordinary ways. The man that we are focusing on today is a bit different from the others we have looked at so far. David, with the help of God, killed Goliath. All that Lazarus managed to do was die at the beginning of the story. I have heard this story a countless number of times whether it was Sunday School or Vacation Bible School but the closer you look the faster this story comes alive.

We are going to start at the beginning.  One of the biggest things that this story screams to me is that Jesus was truly wholly God and also wholly man. When Jesus finds out that His friend is sick, He tells His disciples that the illness does not lead to death but that it is all for the glory of God. But instead of running straight to His friend to heal him, which Jesus has already done in front of his disciples, He waits two more days where He was. In that time, Lazarus died, and when Jesus arrives, we see his human side shine through His emotions. Jesus was fully aware that Lazarus was coming back from the dead, but when seeing the pain that death has brought, Jesus weeps. Jesus knows that we brought all of this on ourselves and yet was still moved to the point of tears at the pain that death brings. Jesus then brings Lazarus back to life with such authority that no one could discount the fact that God sent Him.

As I read this story for probably the fiftieth time, one of the simplest biblical truths exploded in my life. That truth is that Lazarus is not the only one that Jesus raised from the dead. I have struggled my whole life with the fact that I do not have a crazy powerful testimony. My family is filled with godly examples of marriage, and my parents have had me in church my entire life. I accepted Jesus when I was seven years old, and for as long as I can remember, I have had hope. It was not until I found this truth that I realized how amazing my testimony is. I have no idea what it means to have a loved one die and not have the hope that I get to see them some day in Heaven. You see, we are all sinners, and the price for that sin is death, but Jesus came and nailed your sin and my sin to the cross. Jesus took us from the hopeless death that this world has for us, and He resurrected us, giving us hope and peace in our new lives with Him. I may not have a testimony that most people would consider powerful, but I thank God every day that I do not know what it is like to live dead in my sin and it is all because Lazarus was not the only one that Jesus raised from the dead. He raised me, too.

Joseph

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #1: Joseph
James Mann | Children’s Director

Who is Joseph?

There are more than 12 different Josephs in the Bible. Some of them have remarkable stories, and some of them have one verse about them. The Joseph we are going to be spending some time with is Jesus’ father. Not much has been documented about Joseph, and the information we do have on him sometimes contradicts one another. For example, we are not sure who his father is. In Matthew, we read that his father is Jacob. This is what most people know. Then when you read the genealogy in Luke, we learn that his father is Heli. Is one a stepfather and another his birth father? Is one of them an uncle? Does Luke’s genealogy through Mary’s family line making Heil his father-in-law? This is a completely different topic for another time.

For someone who raised Jesus, it is shocking how little we know about him. For this devotional, I would like to take some time and discuss what we do know about Joseph. For the sake of all our sanity, I am going to be working out of Matthew instead of hopping around between all the Gospels. Joseph was a carpenter who was married to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Through a divine action, Mary became pregnant with Jesus. Imagine coming home to find out your wife is pregnant and you are not the father. It is interesting to see what actions follow.

In Matthew 1:19 we read, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Divorce is a difficult subject to discuss, so often we avoid this topic. Since I am a single male, I should not be the one to talk about divorce and the difficulties of marriage, but I was around for my parents’ divorce and remarriage. Sadly, I do know a thing or two about divorce. Joseph is a world changer for multiple reasons. Could you imagine how different things would be if Joseph did not listen to the angel of the Lord? The childhood of Jesus would be very different if He had to spend one week with Mary and one week with Joseph. As someone who lived a year in a divorce environment, I had the opportunity to learn just how difficult it can be for a child in this situation.

We all know what the Bible says about divorce, and if for some reason you do not I will leave a couple of verses for you to read.

Mark 10:2-9 says, “And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

If Joseph had ignored the angel, he would have changed the world in a negative way. Instead, he fought the fight of marriage. Divorce is a straightforward way to resolve an issue in a marriage, but it creates problems, too. Sure, for the next couple of years things may be difficult. However, in the end, things get easier. The difficult path is to fight for your marriage even when things get tough and even when things happen that are unexplainable. Marriage is an oath to not only your spouse but to the Lord. If Joseph can make a marriage work, even after his wife gets unexplainably pregnant, then we have very little excuse to go through a divorce. By choosing divorce, we become negative world changers.

Martha

Lesson Twelve | Devotion #6: Martha
Jill Osmon | Assistant to the Lead Pastor

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In our culture, making a difference or serving others, is looked upon as the ultimate path in life, the ultimate sacrifice.  We love a story about sacrifice and about serving others. This is the pay it forward generation. It is great to live in a world that highlights that, that sees the good in that, that acknowledges the sacrifice in that.

It is not just our world, but God wants us to serve. It is throughout the Bible:

Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Hebrews 13:2 adds, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

1 Peter 4:9 continues the thought, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:10, “And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”

It is a good work to serve others; it is commanded! So why was Martha rebuked by Jesus for choosing the wrong thing when He was in her home?  Luke 10:38-42 says, “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”

Martha loved serving others, so much so that it consumed her life. It became a distraction. John McArthur said in his commentary, “The highest priority for believers – the deep, transforming knowledge of God.” Mary was distracted with good things, but distracted nonetheless.

How many times have we distracted ourselves with good things, but we let that take us away from our highest priority? We can serve, we can love, and we can sacrifice, but it means nothing if it is not coming from a transforming knowledge of God. Our service and our love have to come from our deep, overwhelming love of God. We cannot love Him without knowing Him. We cannot leave one behind. We cannot serve without knowing God; we cannot know God and not serve. Martha left behind knowing God, wanting to work her way into His mercy and grace.

What we need is both, to know God and to serve others for Him. That was the reason for Jesus’ rebuke. We need both.  So do not leave one behind!

Mordecai

Lesson Twelve | Devotion #5: Mordecai
Bryan Fox

Mordecai was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar. He had a cousin named Esther who he took as his daughter after her mother and father died.

The king of that time, Ahasuerus, was looking for a new queen and Esther was selected as one of the women in contention for the role. Mordecai commanded her not to reveal that she was Jewish and would check on her every day to see how she was and what was happening to her. When the time came for Esther to see the king, she won his favor and became the queen.

Mordecai showed his character and loyalty by revealing to Esther about a plot to kill the king.

Esther 2:23 says, “When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.”

Then comes Haman, who held a high office under the king. Haman hated Mordecai because he refused to bow in honor to him which the king had commanded, as he would only bow to the Lord God of Israel. This made Haman furious but he did not want to kill Mordecai alone, so he came up with a plan to kill all the Jews within the kingdom, which the king approved.  When Mordecai heard of the decree, he tore his clothing, put on sackcloth and ashes, and mourned.

When Esther discovered he was mourning, she asked him why. Mordecai told Esther of Haman’s plot against the Jews, telling her to go to the king, beg his favor and plead for the Jews’ lives. Esther knew that if she were to approach the king uninvited the punishment was death. Mordecai told her if she did not go the king, she would be killed anyway because she was a Jew and would not be able to escape. Mordecai then tells the queen this famous statement: Esther 4:14 (NIV) says, “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai escaped Haman’s plan to hang him after the king realized that it was Mordecai who revealed the previous plot to kill him. The king ordered Haman to be hung instead on the very same gallows, and Mordecai was promoted to second in command.

Mordecai’s concern and character put him in good standing with the king, and his faithfulness to his Jewish lineage brought the blessing of God. He orchestrated events and was responsible for saving the Jews from being destroyed. He changed their world! His wisdom, along with Esther’s courage, is still celebrated today.

Nehemiah

Lesson Twelve | Devotion #4: Nehemiah
Roger Allen | Recovery Director

In America today, the “wall” has a significant meaning. The President has promised it, others have demanded it, and yet others have demonized it. Many believe it will protect us, while others feel it separates us from humanity. One thing seems certain; it is polarizing. Your thoughts on this one word can describe your political allegiance. You are either for me or against me.

About twenty-five hundred years ago there was another “wall.” Nehemiah’s concern for his people and Jerusalem had produced in him an unending desire to help. Alerted to the need of protection; Nehemiah 1:2-3 records, “Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.’” Nehemiah was moved. The cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia was so burdened that the King himself took notice. Nehemiah 2:1-2 adds, “In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid.” So great was Nehemiah’s concern for the people that he was sold out by his countenance. To appear sad before the king could cost you your life. Is our concern for the lost so great that someone may notice? If so, what do we do?

Nehemiah fasted and prayed for the people for days. He sought God’s will for his life. Great leaders have a sense of responsibility for those around them and for those they oversee. Burdened by the need, they will act accordingly. They are not discouraged when opposition arises. The Bible says in Nehemiah 2:19, “But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’” 

Do we become discouraged when those around us do not share our beliefs? You should take comfort in the Bible when it says in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Knowing that God is with us should impart strength. Maybe, like Nehemiah, you have been called to be a leader in the church or the community. Will you have the resolve to follow through? Are you being asked to build a bridge instead of a wall? Remember, that through all of the opposition, Nehemiah never forgot where he received his strength. That should bring comfort to us all.



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