Believe | What?

Believe | Devotion #2: What?
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

“Poor Thomas.”  Though part of our Savior’s inner circle, he was and always will be defined by one statement: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). In other words, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Thomas will be known as “Doubting Thomas” for all eternity, or will he?

I have always felt like kin to Thomas: a pessimist, a skeptic, and a doubter.  I have always viewed the glass as half empty.  These characteristics are not the makings of a good Christian, or are they?  When I received the email for my next writing assignment, I was elated because I was asked to write about “Doubting Thomas.” Suddenly the purpose of the last year of my life made sense. All the pain, the betrayal, the loss, the financial calamity, and the health scare finally had a purpose.  I have spent the last year fighting doubt, and now I have an opportunity to share all that I have learned.  I can share how again and again I have repented of my doubt, chosen to believe, and seen the goodness of God (Psalm 27:13). But I needed more.  So, I began to do some more research, and it was then that God changed my world.

My research took me to John chapter 11, where I saw a courageous Thomas; willing to return to Jerusalem with Jesus and die with him (verse 16). Then it took me to John chapter 14, where I saw a truth seeker and faithful follower, with a desire to go wherever Jesus would lead (verse 5).   What a difference a day makes.  I have gone from fighting being a “Doubting Thomas” to a desire to emulate “Courageous and Willing Thomas.”

So, what is doubt? Is it a sin?  Often my doubt has driven me to a consuming worry which always led to fear and anxiety.  It would affect my thoughts and behavior and ultimately tarnish my testimony. This is a sin. Thomas’ doubt led him to a search for truth that ultimately led him to the feet of Jesus.  In John chapter 20, Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection, and the only one absent is Thomas.  The Bible does not tell us where he was for a week but after watching his Teacher nailed to a cross and buried in a tomb, I imagine he took all of his pain and all of his questions and went into his room (Matthew 6:6) to seek the comfort and peace of his Father. We are not certain where Thomas was or what he did, but we do know it led him to gather again with fellow believers and ultimately to a personal encounter with Jesus: “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

So, is doubt a sin?  I thought so, but Thomas shows us that doubt or any other “negative” characteristic can be a vehicle of grace.  The very “sin” I sought forgiveness for, I now view as a blessing because it drives me to my knees and ultimately to an encounter with my Lord and my God.

The world sees “Doubting Thomas,” but I believe God sees His “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Believe | Who?

Believe | Devotion #1: Who?
Holly Wells | Assistant to Pastor Jim Combs

Do you have to “see it to believe it?” Are you so much of a skeptic that unless you witness something first-hand, there is no way you will accept it or maybe you trust quickly and believe a little too easily? Whether it is the best or the worse infomercials – you might remember the Ginsu Steak Knives, the Snuggie, spray-on hair (really?), the list goes on – somehow, we become captivated by these ideas in theory. With theories in mind, there are top conspiracy theories like JFK’s assassination, Elvis still lives, claims that the world is flat, the government controls the weather, the Beatles never existed, and my favorite, “Siri Can Predict the Apocalypse!” Wow, so Siri now trumps the Bible? (Hint: The answer is found in Matthew 24:36). All silliness aside, we need to consider the source when discerning truth from “junk.” What is your source of determining truth? Is it trusted friends and family, social media, a pastor, the news, and even the Bible? What if all these sources at various times reported a very specific account, something that was going to happen and then later, you found out it happened? The catch is, you were not there to experience it first-hand, so would you believe it?

Shortly after we read about Jesus’ resurrection, we learn about His appearance to one of His disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin) in John 20:24-29. To recount the story, this was not Jesus’ first appearance after His resurrection. In fact, Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Peter, and the Eleven on the first evening all saw and interacted with Jesus before Thomas (Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:13-34, John 20:19-25). However, Thomas would not believe their testimonies. He wanted a personal experience to “see it to believe it.” He wanted to touch Jesus’ wounds. He wanted to “place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe” (John 20:25b). Thomas was one of the twelve disciples, so why was it that he would not believe even them? What about the time he spent earlier with Jesus’ as He taught the disciples Old Testament Scriptures that foretold of His life, death, burial, and resurrection?

It was eight days later when Jesus appeared again to the disciples, including Thomas. I wonder how miserable that week of declared unbelief and determined constraints was for him? Jesus demonstrated His care and concern for Thomas and desired to strengthen his faith. After Jesus greeted them, He dealt with Thomas personally. Jesus heard Thomas’ conditions to the disciples earlier; no one had to tell Him. He told him to put his fingers in His wounds, to look at His hands, and to put his hand into His side. Though we may call him “Doubting Thomas,” Jesus did not rebuke him for his doubts but rather his unbelief (John 20:26-27). When Thomas saw Jesus, he no longer needed to touch his Lord’s wounds to believe, seeing Him was enough. Jesus met Thomas where he was and desires to come alongside of us equally. We can be assured we will go through seasons of doubt and struggle, but let us persistently press into our relationship with the Lord through His Word and prayer, by allowing sound teaching and mature believers to encourage us so that through these trials, it will be our faith and endurance that will grow.

Warren Wiersbe wisely observed that interestingly (and sadly), it was not doubt that held Thomas back from believing but rather unbelief itself. Simply defined, “Doubt is often an intellectual problem: We want to believe, but the faith is overwhelmed by problems and questions. Unbelief is a moral problem; we simply will not believe. Unbelief says, ‘I will not believe unless you give me the evidence I ask for!'” Unbelief is a reflection of a hardened heart, not of a searching mind. Finally, though we may wonder who Thomas’ twin was, more importantly, it is to allow the Word to be a mirror into our hearts, allowing it to search us for similar refusals to believe and demands for God to prove Himself to us. May we be honest enough to ask ourselves, “Am I the twin?”

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1, KJV

Recognize | How?

Recognize | Devotion #6: How?
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

“I still cannot believe what everyone did to Jesus!”
“I know, man; I wish we could have done something to help.”

Can you imagine what the two believers on the road to Emmaus were talking about as they traveled?  The conversation had to be heavy!  The Bible says that these two men were believers in Jesus, but the region had just witnessed Jesus being killed!  Think about it.  These believers just witnessed the crucifixion of the person they were putting all of their hope in to save them.  Their hero was dead!

As they were walking and talking, someone catches up to them and joins them in their travel and conversation.  The stranger asked them, “What are you guys talking about?”  With their faces downcast, they report to this stranger that their hero was just crucified and now they are confused as to where their hope lies.  Then the stranger starts to give them a motivational pep talk.  The Bible specifically says, “He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’ Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25).

Every time I read this pep talk, it serves as a reminder to me to not lose heart.  Like these two travelers, I will get depressed about my call in Jesus and wonder if it is true.  I know, but I do!  I cannot believe that I think that, but if I am telling the truth, I do.  It is as if I know that Jesus finished everything and I can wholeheartedly trust that, but I wonder where He is at sometimes.  Just when I find myself thinking this way, it is like Jesus disguises Himself as someone to slap me upside the head and kick my rear back in gear.

The best part of the story is that the two travelers invite the stranger to stay at their house and it is during dinner. The stranger reveals to them that He is Jesus!  Their hope is restored, and that toxic, depressive thinking dissipates.

I love it when Jesus does that for me.  He is the ultimate hope, and we can rely on Him.  When you start to think negatively, be open to a motivational pep talk from Jesus, even if it is disguised as something besides Him.

Recognize | Why?

Recognize | Devotion #5: Why?
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

All this week you have been reading from Luke chapter 24. The story of the two men walking to the city of Emmaus and Jesus closely following behind them is fascinating on many levels. The fact that the two men did not recognize Jesus is baffling. The fact that Jesus continued to walk with them getting the scuttlebutt of what was going on in Jerusalem is hilarious. Reading the Bible should produce a healthy amount of “whys,” and “whys” are okay. The entire time I read this story, the amount of “whys” that continued to pop out at me started making the whole story overwhelming. We have all been in a conversation with a child where they ask a “why question” only to follow it up with another “why question.” Amazingly, that is how God showed me an amazing truth on why Jesus decided to show up to these two men.

I have watched entirely too many movies, read too many comic books, and watched entirely too many cartoons. One of my favorite parts in any movie, comic, or cartoon is when the hero returns. The moment you think that the hero is done for and they are no more, then “BOOM” the legendary hero returns. If you have ever read or watched Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dragon Ball Z, Superman, Avengers, or even Ninja Turtles, you know how awesome those moments are! Now those are all fiction, those are all fantasy, but in the return of Jesus, this is one time when reality tells a better story than fiction. Jesus has risen from the dead and what was one of the things He loved doing, walking among men. When God first showed me this, the thought that Jesus was walking around for thirty-three years with man seems to make my finding rather lackluster. But I traced my “whys” back to the very beginning.

Back in Genesis chapter 3, after Adam and Eve broke God’s command, the Bible says in verse eight, “God was walking in the garden.” Now there are tons of thoughts on if this walking was a “spiritual walk” or a “physical walk,” but wherever you want to land on that, there are instances in the Bible where God appears tangibly and in a seemingly human form (Genesis chapters 16 and 18). Fancy word of the day, when God does show up in a tangible human sense, it is called a “theophany.” So with all of that information, we know God has always enjoyed walking among His creation.

Now back to Luke chapter 24, why was Jesus walking with those men? Simple, God loves walking with His creation. Only now Jesus got to enjoy something that He has not been able to enjoy in quite some time. Jesus was able to walk with man, knowing that sin was finally defeated, and man had an ability to embrace the full relationship with God. It was what God had originally intended. One thing I have enjoyed over the last few months is going on walks with my oldest son. He does not like being in a stroller anymore; he likes walking or riding his scooter. It is a feeling I cannot describe. I cannot fathom how it made Jesus feel to be walking among people knowing they could finally walk toward eternity with Him.

Recognize | When?

Recognize | Devotion #4: When?
Richie Henson | Production Director

During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, many of His disciples still followed the Jewish laws concerning food and work. One such law stated that no work could be done on the Sabbath, what we now call Saturday. This work would include going on a journey. So, as we look at Luke 24, we find two travelers, Cleopas and his wife Mary (John 19:25). They were followers of Jesus who had been present at the cross during the previous week, and due to the law, were unable to leave Jerusalem until this very Sunday, three days after the death of Jesus. Even though Mary had declared that Jesus was gone, Cleopas and Mary decide to leave town and head home. As the travelers are on their way, they are approached by the resurrected Jesus, but they are unable to see or perceive it to be Him. As they travel, Jesus begins to explain to them, using the Old Testament, that all of the travesties of the previous week, were part of a plan of salvation.

As the journey came to a close, it was dinner time, the perfect time for Cleopas and Mary to offer their companion a meal and a rest. It was during this meal that Jesus revealed Himself.

Cleopas and Mary were ready to move on from the seeming defeat of the previous week. They had spent their time in Jerusalem for Passover and witnessed the death of Jesus; however, on the third day, they were just ready to go home. Right at the moment where they should have been readiest to receive victory, they gave in to defeat. Thankfully, Jesus met them on the road and gave them understanding.

How often are we faced with overwhelming circumstances and difficulties, finding ourselves ready to give up? Life gets really hard, and we begin to question the plan of God, but if we will hold tight to faith and know God to be sovereign, at just the right time, God will come through in a way that is beyond comprehension. At just the right time, God will turn our devastation into rejoicing. My prayer for all of us today and this week is that we would push through our circumstances full of faith that God will come through at just the right time.

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