More Than a Prophet

ACTS • Devotion #6: More Than a Prophet
Jill Osmon | Assistant to Lead Team

I had the privilege of going to Israel at the end of 2017, and in the simplest of words, it was life-changing. To see the places I had been taught, I had read about and studied, in person, was and still is a defining moment in my life. Riding into Jerusalem, one of the stories that stood out to me in my mind was the Triumphal Entry. The excitement that they must have felt had to have been powerful, a moment they would never forget. Matthew 21:9-11 records, “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” But as we know, that moment was fleeting for most of them, and they missed the brevity, the true meaning of that moment. Look at verse 11, “‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” They refer to Jesus as a “prophet,” not the Son of Man, but a prophet. They liked the Jesus that healed people and helped with injustices of the world. However, when He asked for more (their life, sacrifice, and faith), they retreated and became critics of those that wanted to highlight that part of Jesus’ life.

If you take the teachings of Jesus out of the Bible and take them as a “nice” or “moral” way to live, you are missing it. You cannot take Jesus out of the context of the whole Bible. If you do, you will end up like the crowd at the Triumphal Entry, turning against the idea of Jesus, the Bible, and all that God asks of us. When it became difficult, deeper, and required something from them, they turned because they never truly accepted who Jesus is.

He is not just a prophet, good teacher, or moral man to be admired; He is God in human form, the Son of God. He loves us, and He is for helping those in need, being an advocate for social injustices; but we cannot miss the reason for that. That is not all He is; those things are a result of our faith, not our actual faith. Please do not misunderstand, God calls for us to help those in need, to be advocates for social injustices but that is not the whole of our faith, it is because of our faith in God that we embrace those things.

Do not be afraid to go deeper into your faith; do not be afraid of the sacrifices that He requires. In those moments of deepening our faith and those moments of sacrifice that we come to a deeper understanding of God and His love for us. Do not miss that for a shallow, empty view of who Jesus is. He is our Lord and Savior who gave His life for us. Do not miss it!

Misguided Expectations

ACTS • Devotion #5: Misguided Expectations
Jen Combs | Women’s Ministry

Have you ever believed in something so much before and it turned out to be not at all what you expected? These last few weeks, Josh and I did a 21-day detox. We lived on fruits and veggies for 11 days and then were able to add some meat to the mix. Can you imagine, me on just fruits and veggies? I am a coke drinker, butter user, and cheese slatherer. We were able to make smoothies, but the kicker was, we had to ingest two times more veggies than fruit. I was coming up with all sorts of stuff to try. I had this great recipe that involved pumpkin, cinnamon, and some spices. I mean, I like pumpkin pie, how bad could it be? I had high hopes for this smoothie. This one was going to be my life-saving smoothie for this 21-day venture. I got it all mixed up, it did not smell awful, so I took a nice big spoonful. It was awful. It was not at all what I expected. I wanted to chuck it across the room and run the other way.

You are probably thinking, “What in the world does a gross pumpkin smoothie have to do with the Triumphal Entry?” But this is exactly what was happening. The Jews believed that Jesus was a king. While He was entering the city, they were honoring Him. Matthew 21:9 says, “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna, to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” They were throwing their cloaks on the ground, they were cutting palm branches, and they were lining the streets. This was something they did only for royalty. They believed Jesus was a King wholeheartedly.

John MacArthur does a great job describing what they were expecting, “The people wanted a conquering, reigning Messiah who would come in great military power to throw off the brutal yoke of Rome and establish a kingdom of justice and righteousness where God’s chosen people would have special favor.” The crowd missed Him then, and they still miss Him now. They believed so much in Jesus being the conquering King over Rome that they missed why He was here; they were turning Him into something He was not. He wasn’t at all what they expected. Can you imagine having the Savior of the world walking down the street and only expecting Him to be an earthly King? I love how MacArthur finishes it up as he says, “But Jesus did not come to conquer Rome but to conquer sin and death. He did not come to make war with Rome but to make peace with God for men.”

Do not miss Jesus. He is right here. He died for you. He is willing to take your shame and guilt. The Bible says that you have to repent (turn) from your sin and make Him Lord of your life. Do you need to do that?  What is stopping you? If you know Him, are you following the Lord? Or are you looking for Him to be something He is not?

Got Jesus?

ACTS • Devotion #4: Got Jesus?
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

I love to hear people give their testimony, the story of their journey with Jesus. I have realized that each story begins with a need that seems to always fall in one of two categories: where they will spend eternal life or how they will bear the struggles of this life. The place, time, and circumstances vary greatly, but all are out of a need that only Jesus can fill.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Note: Not some needs or most needs, but every need!

As a young adult in my “B.C.” (before Christ) days, I was a self- sufficient perfectionist with a tendency to worry…a lot! To illustrate what I mean, I remember thinking that I needed to worry because “it works.” I remember getting upset because I forgot to worry. I think this classifies as abnormal. Later, as a young wife and mom, I began to realize how little control I had and I had a lot more to consider. The normal struggles of marriage and raising a child while working full-time were tough enough, but watching my parents’ marriage end made life unbearable. I shared with my sister that I was at the end of myself and could not handle this life on my own. That day Heidi led me to my Savior. She told me I could have peace with Jesus “…in me you may have peace” (John 16:33) through faith in Him “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

My journey came from a need for peace, calm in the chaos. As a new believer, I had little knowledge of the Bible and no understanding of how Jesus would work in my life. Thank goodness Jesus received me just as I was (John 6:37) with a child-like faith (Matthew 18:3). It turned out; I only knew half of what I needed to know. I did have peace with God and no longer under his wrath but forgiven of my sins because of Jesus’ work on the cross. But I missed the second part of John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” I spent the first few years of my walk with Christ feeling duped. A child diagnosed with Autism, unemployment, and losing our home left me with one question: Where is the peace? After declaring my decision to walk away from Christ, my brother-in-law challenged me with his observation, “You are ready to walk away from Jesus but you do not even know Him.” It has taken the better part of 23 years to understand that the peace Jesus offered is different than I expected.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” John14:27

It is not a peace without problems, but in spite of them. Once I understood struggles were a part of the journey, I had to learn how to get His peace.

“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 transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

In my “A.D.” (after death to self) days, I have learned that the key to His peace is the complete dependence upon Jesus. Jesus is the calm before, during, and after the storm. Get Jesus; get peace!

Psalm 86

Acts • Devotion #3: Psalm 86
Max Sinclair | Young Adults and Guest Services Director

Prayer has always been something to me with which I have had trouble. I can remember saying my prayers before bed as a young child, and before meals. I recall my mom saying that I was her little prayer warrior and that I would talk to God as if I was talking to a friend. As this became a routine in my life, it lost its meaning and importance; it just became a thing that I did. While this became a more distant thing, so did my relationship with God. Instead of this intensely personal relationship, it felt more like an obligation, this nagging thing that I had to do instead of me wanting to do it. Because of that outlook, I began to feel my relationship with the Lord evaporate to nothing. I can say with some certainty that at points in my life I looked down on people who were praying because why would the God of the universe have any inclination to hear my wants, desires, pains, and problems? Is He not busy with other issues in the world? This mindset caused me to doubt my relationship to Him and cemented my distance from Him. In this time, I became a wreck of depression, anxiety, anger, and selfish. I drew ever closer to myself, and because of that I saw nothing but darkness and anger, and I did not know how I was going to get out; I thought there was no escape for me.

My story continues to the point where I contemplated suicide and even tried to do so. I saw no end to my suffering and my distance from God. At that moment, while laying on the bathroom floor of my barracks room, I cried out. I cried out in prayer for God to restore my heart, to help rebuild the broken relationship we once had. It was as if He picked me up and restored my soul. I felt that kindle of a great passion in my soul, I heard His voice, I saw His glory, and I felt His presence.

I am still trying to restore that relationship since that day three years ago. It is not something that was healed instantly, it was difficult, and from time to time I still feel unworthy to come before the Lord’s throne. Recently, while studying for this devotion, I found a Psalm by David that is also a prayer and it something of a wake-up call for me. Psalm 86 says,

“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save your servant, who trusts in you – you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come.

and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

 This prayer has been my rock that I cling to when all else seems dark, and the storms of life prove to be never-ceasing. In this, the truth of our sinfulness is revealed, and still, God loves us and calls for us to come before Him, to let our requests be known to Him. When we enter His presence with prayer, God does not see our sinful nature, but according to Ephesians 1:4 He sees us pure,“…that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

God does not want perfect people to come and say fancy words to tickle His ears; He wants broken people who put their faith entirely in Christ.

Prayer of Faith

Acts • Devotion #2: Prayer of Faith
John Rigg | Assistant to the Reach Pastor

“Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17–18

If you are like me, these words from the Apostle Paul are much easier to read than fully understand. How can I pray without ceasing? Is there no time for talking to my family? Do I ignore my friends? Must I always be talking to God and never engaging in the world around me?

I do not believe that was Paul’s intent here. What he goes on to say and is probably eluding to, is the practice of praying “in all circumstances.”This is something that Paul not only preached but also put into practice himself. Today, we often recite Paul’s encouragement to the Romans that God is working in all our circumstances, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Romans 8:28 adds, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

So, we continually pray knowing that God is at work in “all things!”

James, the brother of Jesus, has this same attitude towards prayer. In James 5:13, he said, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”

Has the weight of the world afflicted you? Are you suffering spiritually? Are you struggling physically? Well then, pray and talk to God about it.

Has God’s blessings brought happiness into your life? Have you experienced God’s grace in your life? Does the thought of your salvation and the reality of spending all eternity in the presence of Almighty God give you unspeakable joy? Well then, sing and talk to God about it.

What do we do when we are sick? I mean spiritually sick. How do we approach a holy God when you have disobeyed His commandments and sinned against Him? How can we get past the desire to hide and cover up our sin?

James has a solution. It is called “the prayer of faith.”James 5:14-16 record, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

 Is it possible that we can be so sick that we are unable to pray for ourselves effectively? That might be the case. The word “sick” used here literally means “to be weak.” James says that the person who is sick should call for “elders of the church.”These are probably those who are spiritually mature and full of faith. They possess no special powers other than the power of the Holy Spirit that has been unhindered by sin.

The promise here is that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power.”

So, as we are encouraged to pray in all circumstances, we cannot dismiss “the prayer of faith.”Often, because of sin, we are weak and unable to pray this prayer alone. We must bring those who are spiritually mature alongside us to pray. Let us be obedient to the Word of God and submit ourselves to its power.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16

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