Devotions

 The Power of Forgiveness

Nurturing •  The Power of Forgiveness
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I worked in Head Start for a few years when I was going for my Associates Degree. Head Start is a program for low economic pre-school aged students that helps them get a “head start” when they start Kindergarten. Attending a few meetings, I heard several times that “education is the only thing that can break the cycle of poverty.” Head Start’s mission, so to speak, was to help kids out of poverty in their lives; they had to get through grade school and college to get a good job to not repeat the trend. I loved working with this program and loved working in the classrooms I had. Agree or disagree with their view, the idea that adding one element can stop a cycle of destruction is an amazing thought. If you look in your life, go back to a point when you added Jesus’ forgiveness into the cycle of life you were living. Did it change everything? Of course, adding Jesus to anyone’s life can change the way a person lives, but there is much power in us forgiving others.

Take some time this week to read about Joseph in Genesis chapters 38-50. With all of the stuff that Joseph had to endure because of his brothers, and slightly his pride, Joseph had an opportunity to destroy his brothers, but he chose to forgive them and embrace them. Even after Jacob had died the book of Genesis (chapter 50) says:

“Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you. And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’  But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (verses 17-21).

Joseph’s brothers knew they had done wrong, and were fearful of what would happen after Jacob’s death. God was able to move Joseph to a place where he realized that everything that happens is because of God, the good and the bad. Forgiveness in the family is hard because the hurt is closer. If you are struggling with forgiveness, think about the cycle you can break by forgiving the person who has hurt you. It becomes so easy for us to not move forward because “you do not know what that person did to me” or “you do not know how much that hurt.” But the cycles of bitterness, revenge, insecurities, hostility, and resentment must end so we can move closer to what God has for us. I understand that these words are easier to type than to live out, but from someone who has battled with forgiving those in my life who have hurt me, it is amazing what God has for us on the other side.

Thanks Mom

Nurturing • Thanks Mom
Debbie Kerr | Office Administrator

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV)

When I think of the word nurture regarding parenting my mind immediately thinks of mothers. Nurturing comes naturally to women and traditionally, mothers spend the most time with the children. My mom still nurtures me even in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. I am not sure she is even aware of it, but it is her nature as my mother. Growing up, my mom was the disciplinarian, and my dad was the fun parent. He would never allow my mom to “hold off” disciplining or say “wait until your father gets home!” He did not want his daughters to dread his homecoming. My mother was perfectly suited to be the disciplinarian and did it like a boss, but my dad knew how to nurture and admonish as well. He would step in when needed, but she pretty much got the job done! Regardless of who did the disciplining, they always made sure we knew we were intensely loved before we were dismissed. None of us rebelled because their discipline was wrapped in a huge soft blanket of unconditional love, with the addition of a godly teachable moment. Otherwise, it is known as nurture and admonition in perfect harmony.

By definition “to nurture” means many things. The Webster’s Dictionary’s list includes: To train, nourish, care for, educate, encourage, support, nurse, comfort and cultivate, just to name a few. God gives us eighteen plus years to accomplish this as parents. It is nurture that takes a baby completely dependent on us into independent adulthood.

So, what does nurturing in the Lord look like? In Deuteronomy 6:7-9 God described to Moses, the Patriarch, what it looks like to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He told Moses, “You shall teach them (the law and statutes of the Lord) diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between our eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” God wanted Moses and the Israelites to know that living a life of God’s principles is a 24/7 thing. It is not just reserved for an hour on Sunday morning; it must be consistent and a part of everything we say and do. What children learn and see modeled in the home will often outweigh all other influences. You cannot depend on the church solely to raise your children, but they will be a huge support and add to your efforts.

A great verse of encouragement given to parents is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” There is no such thing as a perfect parent, we fail and make mistakes. However, when we follow God’s blueprint for parenting, we will have a higher spiritual success rate. Parenting is one of the highest callings a person can receive. It is long, amazing, exhausting, exuberant, exhausting, blissful, exhausting; you get my point! Parents and grandparents, we have an amazing opportunity to help nurture and shape the next generation to the glory of God. It is a priceless investment that yields an eternal return!

Train Up a Child

Planting • Train Up a Child
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

If you are a Bible reading person who has ever raised a child, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this verse. Perhaps you have it memorized or painted on signs in your home. Some of you might quote it daily or if you are extreme maybe even have it tattooed on your arm so that you can be reminded of it at all times. Why? Because raising children is hard work. It is gut wrenchingly hard work. Sure, kids are amazing. The joys and rewards of raising them are pretty unbeatable. But it is hard! While being a parent is one of the greatest blessings God has given us, it is also one of our greatest responsibilities.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.” What does this mean? According to the dictionary, to train means “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior by discipline and instruction.” I think of Olympic level athletes and how they got to their level of success. They were not just born superstars, they had to go through years and even decades of hard work and training to reach their goals. Training is an important and necessary part of life, and it is more than just teaching. When we train our kids, we are molding and shaping their hearts into who we intend them to be, and we are called to start doing that from the very beginning. So how can and how should we train our children? I first should note that even when we are not intentionally training our children, they are still being trained. For example, by failing to discipline them, we teach them that they can get away with doing whatever they want. By failing to teach them God’s Word, they learn that what God says is not that important. That is not good training!

We need to actively and intentionally dedicate the time and care into training up our children in the “way” they should go. What is the way? Better yet, Who is the way? In John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Teaching our children about Jesus and showing them how to live godly lives is the best kind of training we can give our kids. Even Moses stressed the importance of teaching God’s commandments when he told the Israelites to “repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 NLT). If we want our children to follow God, we must live our lives with Him at the very center and as the focus. I encourage you to be in the Word with your children. Pray with them, talk about what God wants to do in their lives. God has given you an extremely important role and responsibility! Do not waste it!

The second half of the verse is probably the part that people want to cling to the most. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The second half of this verse is the part that makes a lot of people feel good and safe. But as much as I wish this were an absolute promise and perfect formula given by God, it is not a foolproof plan. Like the rest of the Proverbs, this is just another general truth written by a wise man. The fact is that while we will be held accountable to God for what we do or do not do in the early years of our children’s lives, eventually that responsibility shifts over to them. As a mom, I want nothing more than to see my kids become godly individuals who make great choices and do incredible things for God. We can train them, teach them, pray for them, and hope beyond hopes that they become these people, but we cannot make that happen. That is up to them. In the meantime, let us continue to be heart shapers, teaching and training our children in the way of the Lord and giving thanks to the Father for passionately pursuing them every single day.

Abide

Planting •  Abide
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I had to accept something awhile ago, “I am a family man.” By that I mean I have a wife and two sons. To those who knew me in my young adult phase you know this to be true, I never thought I was going to get married let alone have kids. I accepted my fate the moment I said “I do” and I have acted accordingly. From the moment my wife told me she was pregnant, I accepted my fate. In those moments, I knew I would not leave my family; I would remain even through the toughest of times. I would always abide with my family.

In John 15:1-11, Jesus explains that He is the True Vine. Repeatedly, Jesus says, “abide in me.” Simply put the word “abide” means “to stay with.” There are two major ways I look at this section of Scripture. The first is how our lives look when we abide with Jesus. To hear Jesus talk about us abiding in Him is comforting like a warm blanket on a cold day. Abiding with Jesus, staying with Jesus, is a decision that never comes back void. It amazes me that people honestly walk away from Him. Take a moment today to think of ways that you can abide more richly in Him.

There needs to be the mega application. When we abide in Jesus fully, we can abide better with those we love. I was able to come to a profound truth recently, if Jesus does not remain my Number One, everything else falls apart. I was told once to think of life like plate spinning. It takes time to get the big plate moving, but once it gets moving you can focus on other plates, and some are larger than others. So if abiding in Jesus is the big plate, then my wife is the next biggest plate, and my sons are the next biggest plate. I have to get the bigger ones going or else, the smaller ones will fall. If I am not focusing on the bigger plate, then I am not focusing on the correct order of plate. Everything will fall. Abiding in Jesus is great because when we fully commit to Him, He seems to help elevate every other area. Who knew making my wife #2 and Jesus my #1 would be the best thing for our marriage?

I truly enjoy my walk with God and enjoy the adventure I am on with my family. There are few things in my life that bring me genuine joy. Jesus and my family are the two at the top of my list. I mess up, and at times I feel like a sub-par husband and a below average father. But that does not stop me from figuring out what I need to do to change that. The issue always seems to be when I start walking away from God. Abiding with God for the sake of my family seems to be the one thing that always seems to fix the issues. What are the things that bring you true joy? If they are found in God, how can growing closer to God help you grow in your joy?

Unicycle Toward Him

Planting •  Unicycle Toward Him
Phil Piasecki | Worship Leader

I have always found it interesting how different families each have their own “thing.” What I mean by this is so many families can be identified by what their interests are. I think of families who all work in the same industry, are interested in sports, or are interested in music. Normally, what mom or dad like to do and enjoy gets passed down to their children, and so on and so forth. My dad learned how to ride a unicycle when he was growing up, and when I was old enough, he taught me how to ride it. I highly doubt I would have ever decided on my own to learn how to do that, but it was something that my dad (hilariously) passed down to me. This truth has been so much more evident to me since my wife and I had our first child. Between a year and fifteen months, she started to imitate everything that we did. She would raise her hands in worship when any song came on, and she would imitate our movements when we took her to the gym. The things that we abide in are what our lives reflect, which is why Jesus gives us this command in John 15.

John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus commands us to abide in Him and warns us that apart from Him we can do nothing. If you think of any fruit tree, when a branch is cut off from the tree it will no longer produce fruit. We are the same as that tree. When we bear fruit, it means that we are becoming more and more like Christ. A family that abides in Christ together will become more like Him. When I picture a family abiding in Christ, I see a family that reads their Bibles together, attends weekly church gatherings together, and serves Christ together. In twenty years, I do not want my family to be known as a sports family, a music family, or a unicycle riding family! I want us to be known as a Jesus family, a family that spent their time abiding in Christ and bore fruit because of it.

A branch abiding in a vine will bear fruit, there is no question about that. We can be confident that if our family is resting in Christ, we will become more like Him. We must constantly be connected to Christ; it cannot be an occasional thing. A branch cannot disconnect from the vine for a period of time, then reattach, and expect to be producing fruit. Christ needs to be the cornerstone of your family. When we abide in Him, we will become more like Christ.



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