Author Archives: Donna Fox

The Lord is My Banner

Raised Arms | Devotion 5: The Lord is My Banner
Donna Fox

When I became a grandmother for the first time, a dear friend at work gave me a “Grandmother Gift.” I had never heard of such a thing, but it was the sweetest thought. Enclosed in the gift bag was a book for Grandma to write all the memories she has with her grandchild. It suggested items like a favorite book read together or the first trip to the park or zoo, were to be written in the book as a forever memory (We need to admit as we get older, our memory is not as sharp as it once was).

Sometimes we take a picture or write it in a journal, but it is always important to remember special events or life occurrences and pass them along to the next generation.

There are different ways of preserving a memory. Another example is when my father passed away, friends at work got together and gave me a lawn decoration that would always remind me of my father each time I saw it. Memories are important – to remember our failures and to learn from them, but more importantly, to show future generations our successes and how God was in control.

Such was the case with Moses in Exodus chapter 17. God had commanded Moses to go to the top of the hill, raise his staff high, and He (God) would help Joshua and his army defeat the Amalek army. Moses’ arms grew tired.  As the staff dropped, the Amalekites prevailed. When the staff was raised again, Joshua and the Israelite’s prevailed. So Aaron and Hur each held up one of Moses’ arms until sunset, the Israelite’s prevailed, and the army was victorious. Moses was told by God to write this memory down on a scroll (Exodus 17:14) and as a way of remembrance. Moses obeyed, built an altar, and named it Jehovah Nissi, or “The Lord is My Banner” (Exodus 17:15). The name proclaims God’s leadership and protection of His people.

Joshua’s army had defeated the Amalek army, with the help of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, but more importantly, with God’s intervention. God told them what to do, and they would win. They obeyed, and they won. They wanted to leave a permanent marker of this event. The altar named, “The Lord is My Banner” would be for all to see, not to forget this event, and to remember God’s involvement. It was the first time God showed the Israelite nation that He fought for them, He led them into battle, and He protected them. He was their banner.

It is fun for me to look at that book with my grandson and share special memories together. However, it is more important that I share other memories – the times God protected me, guided me, and loved me through the many trials in my life. I want him, and all three of my grandchildren, to see God’s providence in my life and to see, “The Lord is My Banner.”

Don’t Look Back

Sequel | Devotion #5: Don’t Look Back
Donna Fox

“Flee for your lives!  Don’t look back… But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:17, 26 (NIV)

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had become evil. Terrible, unspeakable things were happening there, and God was going to destroy them and all the people there. An angel appeared to tell Lot to take his family and flee immediately. Lot, his wife, and daughters hesitated, so the angel had to grab their hands and force them to flee. Once out, Lot’s wife turned and looked back. She looked back at what she left behind. She fondly looked back at where her heart was. She disobeyed.  She died because of it.

Worldly things ensnare us. They tempt us day and night. If we give in to temptation, we sin. Sodom and Gomorrah had become very sinful cities. God had sent two angels to warn of destroying the cities and the evil people. But He chose to save Lot and his family. The angels said, “Go now, don’t look back.”

Lot’s wife disobeyed. She showed where her heart truly was, in the sinful city. She did not want to leave that behind. First, she had to be forced to leave, taken by the hand and forcefully removed. Then she turned around to look back in direct disobedience. She lost her life that day because of her disobedience.

I remember another story in Genesis 2:16-17, the story that started it all – sin, disobedience, and death. Adam and Eve were in the Garden. Everything was perfect. God had said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Enter Satan in the form of a serpent, to tempt them. Eve, and Adam, disobeyed. The consequence was death. Their demise was not immediate as was Lot’s wife, but nonetheless, it led to death which had not existed before.

God desires our obedience and will not tolerate any less. There are consequences for our behavior, for our disobedience.  Sin cannot be hidden and will lead to repercussions, if not in this lifetime then we will have to answer for them on the Judgment Day.

If you do not guard your heart now, each day, and flee from worldly, evil things, your heart becomes harder and harder, and obedience becomes harder and harder.

How can you guard your heart? Have a relationship with Jesus that is every minute of every day, not just Sunday morning for an hour. Be in the Word. Fellowship with other believers. Grow in the Word in a Growth Community. Pray. Immerse yourself in the love of Jesus, and He will help you flee from temptation and sin. Of course, you will still sin, no one is perfect but Jesus. But when you do sin, repent, ask Him for forgiveness, and the sin will be forgiven.  It is when your heart stays in Sodom that you will run into trouble!

Not Alone

Son, Mother | Devotion #4: Not Alone
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

Imagine if you will, Mary, the mother of Jesus, kneeling at the foot of the cross as Jesus is dying. She must have been heartbroken. She had friends nearby, but as she watched her son being crucified, and His painful, agonizing death, she must have wondered, “What will happen to me after He is gone?”

Joseph, Mary’s husband, is presumed to be dead. We do not know for sure, but he is never mentioned throughout Jesus’ three years of ministry, so likely he died before that time. Mary’s other sons did not believe in Jesus (John 7:5) and were not there. So as Jesus hangs on the cross, He sees His mother. Nearby He sees John, “One of His disciples, whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). Where were the other apostles? Scripture tells us they all “left him and fled” (Matthew 26:56 and Mark 14:50).

As Jesus hung there, some of His last words are recorded in John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” In the first statement, “Woman, behold your son,” He is speaking to His mother, Mary. He is telling Mary, this man (John) is now your son and will be responsible for you after my death. In the second, “Behold, your mother,” Jesus is speaking to John, telling him that now this woman is your mother, treat her accordingly.

There was a large crowd there that day, most in favor of the crucifixion of Jesus. The crowd was cheering Jesus’ death. Only a handful were followers of Jesus and were in disbelief of what was happening. Obviously, Mary and John were close enough to Jesus to hear Him speak, close enough for Jesus to look down and see them amongst the crowd. In Jesus’ last moments, His mind was on His mother and her care after His death.  It was such an unselfish act! 

These words would comfort Mary by letting her know she would not be alone. John would take her in as his own mother, and he would honor and respect her until her death.

These words would be a blessing to John. For Jesus to hand over the care of His mother to John would have been a great honor. John gladly obliged and cared for her as we see in Acts 1:14, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus.”

I could not even imagine what it must have been like for Mary to watch her son be crucified, but to know that John would be there for her and treat her as his mother must have eased the pain somewhat on that day. Jesus was gone, but she knew she would see Him again when she died! She was always by His side and believed in Him. A mother’s love is never-ending!

From the Heart

Gather | Devotion #4: From the Heart
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

I love to sing worship music and praise God! Every aspect of worship has a special meaning to me. I am honored to pray for people (that is why I manage the email prayer line). I give in obedience (it all belongs to Him anyway, right?). I love the sermons (all of our pastors are inspiring and good teachers). But probably my favorite, if I had to pick a favorite, is the worship music.

I get to the church building early, and the band is practicing. As soon as I walk in, I stop and listen to the song they are practicing. Quite often I find myself singing along or humming along as soon as I step into the building. I also sing along to worship music in the car all the time.

A special time between God and me is always when the band cuts out, and we sing a capella. I have always enjoyed a capella (just voices, no instruments). It is just me, and God. My eyes are closed. I am not worrying about what anyone else around me is singing, doing, or thinking of me. It does not matter. All that matters is that I am worshipping God!

Each Tuesday morning, our staff gathers for worship, devotions, and a meeting. We are in a smaller classroom, as opposed to a large auditorium. When we begin singing, especially a capella, I get goosebumps and tears stream down as I think of all of us lifting our voices together to the One True God who deserves all our praise and worship! It is the best part of the work week!

I have many great songs in mind that have special meaning. Many hymns come to mind, as well as contemporary music. But I guess my all-time favorite would be “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin.

“And darkness tries to hide, and trembles at His voice.” I am a visual person, so I am envisioning in my mind the devil cowering in the corner and shaking as God’s booming voice overpowers him. It gives me chills to think of God’s power over everything, especially evil. 

How great is our God

You’re the name above all names
You are worthy of our praise
And my heart will sing
How great is our God

We are worshipping God when we are singing from the heart. We can stand and read the music on the screen, mouth the words, or sing the words to make us look holy to the person sitting next to us, but that means nothing to God. What He is looking for is true worship from the heart. It does not matter if you cannot carry a tune, if you do not know the words, say a wrong word, are loud, or soft. All that matters is your heart. That is all God wants!

Ephesians 5:19 says, “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”  Next time you sing a worship song, make sure it is from the heart, and you truly mean it. If not, get your heart right!

Humbly Serving

Vision | Devotion #4: Humbly Serving
Donna Fox | Assistant to the Growth Pastor

You have likely heard the stories of Jesus serving. Whether you have been around church your whole life, or you are new to the church, you have heard the stories. Jesus healed the sick, He fed the hungry, He washed the disciples’ feet, and ultimately He died for our sins on the cross.

Consider 1 Samuel 12:24: “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” Did you catch that? “What great things he has done for you.” He served you and me by dying on the cross for our sins and making a way for our salvation! “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

As Christians, we are to be Christ-like, to look to the examples of Christ serving in the Bible and be like Him. If we are to be “Christ-like,” then we, too, are to serve. What does that look like?  

I think our church body does a pretty good job of being servants. We have greeters at the door, welcoming with a smile. We have wonderful volunteers in the nursery taking care of our precious babies. The list is without end.

We also have wonderful ministries that provide clothing and food for the community, visit those in the hospital or homebound, provide meals for those recently hospitalized, and have a prayer chain for those in need of prayer. The list can include everyone.

But why do we do it? Why do we volunteer, sign up, and commit to giving our time and resources to help others? We do it to follow Jesus’ example, to be “Christ-like.”  Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Serving others, humbly, was modeled by Jesus. Matthew 20:28 shows Jesus’ purpose, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  

Jesus’ life can be summarized in two words: humbly serving. Galatians 5:13 (NIV) says, “Serve one another humbly in love.”

It is by Jesus’ example that we humbly serve one another. Look around you today and in the days ahead and see where you can help someone out with a meal, babysitting, or an encouraging word. There are so many ways to humble ourselves and serve another, but we need to keep our eyes open and be aware. Opportunities are all around every day!

John 13:15 summarizes it beautifully: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

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