Devotions

A Job Well Done

Death #3  November 29 A Job Well Done

Often we wonder what was going on in someone’s head. I recently watched my son head-butt a wall, and I wondered, “What are you thinking?” I have watched teenagers do the most idiotic things, and I stare at them and ask, “What was going through your brain when you thought that was a good idea?” I also try to do this when reading the Bible. What was going through Enoch’s mind when God brought him to Heaven? What was going through David’s head when Goliath went down? What was going through Peter’s mind when he walked on water? Finally, what sort of thoughts were going through John the Baptist’s mind right before he was beheaded.

Take some time to read the story of John the Baptist’s beheading in Matthew 14. For the gruesomeness of this passage I do not want to go into great detail about this passage, and since anyone from 8- 80 could be reading this devotional, I will have to put a “parental advisory” on verses 8-12 as I continue. I always wondered what was going on in John’s mind. He is sitting in prison; he may or may not have been able to hear that his minutes are numbered. I wonder if John felt regret. He stayed committed to the calling God put on his life. John lived a rather odd life of eating insects and wearing uncomfortable clothes, all for God. He devoted his life to preparing the way of the Lord, and he was now in a place where he would not get to see the end result. Now, John was stuck in a room, where eventually a man would come in, murder him, and display his head.

We all have a tendency to look at how a situation ends and define the end as the result of the whole thing. Think of every team that loses in the championship game. The moment the clock hits 00:00 and a team loses, why does everyone throw their entire season out and considered them failures? Atlanta just lost the Super Bowl with a 95% probability of winning with five minutes left in the game. Now that was a great comeback, but Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), does not take anything away from Matt Ryan or Julio Jones. Just because something does not end in what we deem as a “win,” does not make it a loss.

Switching gears from football to John the Baptist. John lost his life in prison after faithfully serving God. John boldly preached repentance to a society that did not want to hear him. John stood up to self-righteous religious people that would murder anyone who stood in their way. John was willing to be an odd-ball, just because it was what God commanded him to do. Go back to Matthew 11. While John was in prison, he had doubts. John sent a servant to ask Jesus if he was truly Jesus. Jesus’ response was, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them”( Matthew 11:4-5). At that moment I think we can see what was going on in John’s mind. Yes, John’s life was about to end. However, the job that John was tasked with was just starting to take off. The job that John started was about to be finished by Jesus. The Kingdom of God was starting to roll, and God used John to start the momentum. The reality is all of our lives are but a vapor, and we never know when that last moment will be. But in John’s case, I feel he was able to move from this life to the next easily knowing that he did a job well done. He finished his race. He fought his fight. He left this world with no regrets. We can learn a lot about our walk with Christ in even the most brutal of stories. So let us take a page out of John the Baptist’s book, and go work for Christ. Let us all go live a life that is worthy of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Pastor Ryan Story

Student Pastor

Prompting

Death #2  November 28 Prompting

In Matthew 14 we find John the Baptist arrested and thrown in jail. Herod had arrested him because John had told Herod that it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife. The story only gets stranger from here as well. At Herod’s birthday party he decrees that whatever the daughter of Herodias (Philip’s wife) wants, she could have. We see in this next piece of Scripture that Herodias quickly takes advantage of this decree.

“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.” – Matthew 14:8-11

After being prompted by Herodias, her daughter demands the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The king had no choice but to honor the oath he made in front of all of his party guests, so he commanded the death of John the Baptist. The phrase “prompted by her mother” stood out to me in this section. Herodias’ daughter allowed her mom to influence her to do something horrible. I am sure most of us find this appalling, but the scary thing is so many of us let this happen in our lives. This story should serve as a warning to the negative influence people can have on our lives.

In my life, I have learned the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” I have seen it happen in my life, and I have witnessed it ruin the lives of many other people. It is so sad when you see someone who gets wrapped up with the wrong people, and you see their relationship with God slowly disintegrate. When we think of a situation like this, most of us probably think about a student being influenced by his friends at school. However, this issue is something that affects all people in all stages of life. No one, no matter their age, is impervious to the impact their friends have in their life.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20

We need to surround ourselves with those who are wise, and we need to seek out those people who love God with all their heart. Being around people who are truly on fire for Christ is contagious. This is one of the reasons it is so important to be involved in a gathering and attending a Growth Community. We need to constantly surround ourselves with godly people, allowing them to speak truth into our lives, stirring us up to be more like Christ. This does not mean hide from anyone who is not a Christian. It is essential that in our Christian life we are making friends with people who do not know Jesus. That is the primary way we will have opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must be diligent to make sure that we are the ones influencing our non-Christian friends and not the other way around.

Phil Piasecki

Worship Leader

Prophet vs Politician

Death #1  November 27 Prophet vs Politician

Our country has just gone through a political process that might be considered the most controversial in history.   Respectfully, our country has elected a man to the office of the presidency that simply did not fit the mold expected of a political leader.  We have a president that did not come through the ranks as one would expect to leave him open to criticism.  His legacy remains to be seen, but the uncertainty gives way to protesting, rioting, and confusion.  If this is happening in our world today what must it have been like when Jesus walked the earth professing to be “The Messiah?”

Was Jesus who He claimed to be?  He certainly did not fit the mold of what people thought He would be.  The Bible is filled with Scriptures and prophecies describing who Jesus is, His life and what He came to do. The Jews had expectations of what the “Messiah” would be, but they expected an earthly king.  Isaiah 9:6 (NASB) says, “And the government will rest on his shoulders and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” 

During His ministry on earth Jesus did not deny that He was the fulfillment of prophecy; He spoke very openly about who He was.  John 5:39-40 says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”  The signs and wonders that He performed were merely a testimony to who He was, but His message was salvation and eternal life.

Even today there is controversy about who Jesus was; was He a prophet? According to Scripture? “Yes.”  After Christ’s death and the establishment of the Church, the understanding was that Jesus was the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy. Peter explained that Jesus Christ was the One spoken of by Moses (Acts 3:22-23),Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.’”

We see this fulfilled in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus did not come to govern as a political king; He came to give His life that through His death and resurrection we have the opportunity to receive Him. In receiving Him, He will govern our hearts until His return when He rules the earth as King of King and Lord of Lords. 

Instead of skepticism and wonder go to Scripture. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Katrina Young 

Nursery & Pre-K Director

Blessed to be a Blessing

Imprisonment and Doubt #6  November 25      Blessed to be a Blessing

One of my first mission trips I ever went on, was to the streets of Atlanta. Our mission was to help clean at a homeless shelter, then to travel the streets in the afternoon to try and minister to the homeless. During our walks, we took backpacks with supplies such as clothing, food, Bibles, and essentials. We not only wanted to be able to help meet the people’s physical needs but also hoped to reach into their spiritual needs. Every person we came in contact with, we offered prayer. Instead of trying to thump them with the Bible, we simply wanted to love on them by meeting their needs and prayer. It was through this time of prayer that we, as a teenage group on a mission trip, were most blessed.

In Matthew 3:4-6, Matthew sheds some light into the physical attributes of John. It reads, “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” John was a simple man. He did not have much, nor was his appearance anything that caught one’s eye. However, it was through that simple and what some would consider “poor” appearance, that lives were changed.

When I was on the streets asking if I could pray for the homeless, they turned the tables on me. They asked me if they could pray for me! I was dumbfounded and speechless. Our whole goal on the trip was to pray for, be a blessing to, and reach the homeless; yet, they ended up blessing my life. I thought that I was the one who had something to offer. Yet, it was through those men and women on the streets – who had nothing more than the ripped, torn, and dirty clothing on their backs – that I was shown what the actual message of Christ was. John’s mission was not to gain followers to his cause. His mission was to spread the message of Christ, through the repentance of sins and baptizing them.

In the culture we live in, we often can let the outward appearance of people bring about a judgment of them. For me, I saw homeless men and women and never once thought that they would have anything to offer me; and I could not have been more wrong. God chose to use a simple man to change the lives of those throughout Jerusalem, Judea, and Jordan. So, as you move forward each day, remember that it is about the message inside; not what the deliverer looks like on the outside.

Noble Baird

Director of the Community Center

The Red Pill or The Blue One?

Imprisonment and Doubt #5  November 24 The Red Pill or The Blue One?

In 1999 a movie took the Box Office by storm. It spawned a franchise that grossed over 3 billion dollars in revenue worldwide. The basic premise is this: Thomas Anderson is a computer hacker who goes by the name Neo and is considered by Morpheus (the leader of the rebels) to be ‘the one,’ the one that will save them from ultimate destruction by the sentient machines of The Matrix.  As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that many people doubt whether Neo is the one. They have placed their hopes of a future without being controlled by the machines firmly on Neo’s shoulders and as time goes on, and he does not overthrow the machines in the time frame they have set in their minds, the question of Neo’s ability comes forward. The question of “are you the one?” starts to make it around the ship. They begin to doubt whether they were correct in placing their trust in Neo. They were correct by the way.

Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun and we see that here because this plot line was played out in reality over 2000 years ago. It is the early part of Jesus’ ministry, and John the Baptist has been imprisoned by King Herod for rebuking his sin. Like many people, John was probably confusing Jesus’ coming to establish a new kingdom to mean He would spearhead the overthrowing of the Roman government, thereby freeing the Jewish people from the oppression and tyranny of the harsh Romans. To the point, John the Baptist in Matthew 11:3 (NLT) sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Just as in the Matrix movie, they were asking “are you the one?”

Some commentators believe this is John asking the question to help clarify the doubt of his disciples. Others say this is John’s frustration of being imprisoned and not being able to do what he was called to do, coupled with the misunderstanding of Jesus’ purpose. Either way, we see some real-life doubt creep into the lives of some devoted followers. Have you ever been there? Have you ever started to doubt God? Maybe something you were told, or some promise you claimed but was taking too long to come true made you question whether or not you could trust what Jesus said to you. I know I have.

So, let me share from experience a few verses that can help in these situations. 

Isaiah 55:8 (NLT) says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’”

Doubt creeps in when expectations are unmet. We need to understand that we cannot fit God into our mold and try to make His plans conform to ours. We must work hard to fit into His plans. Not only are His thought higher than ours, but His timing is also perfect. 2 Peter 3:9a tells us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness…” and Philippians 1:6 (NLT) says that He is faithful to complete the work He started in us. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

So, when doubt and fear creep in, when frustration rears its head, when you begin to question whether or not God is hearing your cries and listening to your heart, when you think God’s plan for your life is never going to happen, be reassured. Please remember that His plans and purposes are high above ours, His timing is perfect, and the work He began in you will be completed. Stay close to Jesus and do not allow the toothless words of the enemy to cast a shadow of doubt on the greatness of the Word that comes from a Father who loves you dearly.

Ken Perry 

Assistant to the Reach Pastor



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