Devotions

Author Archives: Gareth Volz

Frivolous?

Ten Commandments | Devotion 2: Frivolous?
Pastor Gareth Volz

Exodus 20:7 says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” This is a familiar verse to most Christians, especially those who have been raised in a Christian family and attended church most of their lives.

When I first thought about writing a devotion on this commandment, I felt, “What an easy assignment – the Lord said do not take My name in vain, and if you do, I will hold you guilty for doing so. Swearing is wrong, so do not do it! Assignment completed.” At least that was my initial thought.

The Holy Spirit whispered that I needed to dig deeper into what God was saying in this verse. What does it mean to take the name of the Lord my God in vain? “Vain” in Hebrew means “empty or worthless of value.” It is used in Psalm 127:2 to describe worthless works, in Jonah 2:8 to describe worthless idols, and in Ezekiel 12:24 to describe false prophecy. So, in addition to being a warning not to curse or swear, it also means not to use the Lord’s name in an empty or worthless manner.

I began to think, have I ever used the Lord’s name in a worthless manner? What would that look like? Then it hit me! When I pray to the Lord, do I realize that I am talking to Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything? Is the focus of my conversation on the fact that He is omnipotent [all powerful] and omniscient [knows everything]? Do I really believe that He hears my prayers and will answer them in His perfect time and way? If not, then I am using His name in an empty, worthless manner.

When a family member or friend has a health issue or is going through a tough time, and I say I will pray for them, do I really pray for them? Is my prayer for them one that comes from a heart that yearns for God’s best for them, or do I just rattle off some phrase because I said I would? If that is the case, then I used His name in an empty and worthless manner.

When I am startled by something, do I ever utter the phrase, “Oh my God” or some similar phrase when I am not thinking of God at all? If so, I am using His name in a frivolous manner – an empty and worthless manner.

It is easy to sometimes be like the Pharisee’s prayer comparing himself to the tax collector in Luke 18:10, and say, “Lord I thank you that I am not like those other people that swear and take Your name in vain.” Any time I use the Lord’s name in a casual or trivial manner violates His command in Exodus 20:7. The Lord’s name is holy and powerful, and I need to hold it in reverence at all times.

As the Lord’s child, I never want to use His name in a disrespectful manner. He deserves always to be exalted by our use of His name.

Responding to God’s Call

Red Sea | Devotion 3: Responding to God’s Call
Pastor Gareth Volz

Have you ever felt God calling you to do something for Him? Maybe it was to work with high school or junior high school students or work for Him in the nursery. Maybe it was to lead a Growth Community or visit shut-ins. You know what God wants you to do, and you begin to serve Him, but then the unexpected occurs, and you run into a roadblock. You did not plan for it and see no way around the roadblock; you cry out to God in prayer.

Moses found himself in this situation in Exodus 14:15-20. God had sent him to Pharaoh to deliver this message: “Let My people go.” The nation of Israel was in bondage in Egypt and had cried out to God. God heard their prayer, and His answer was to send Moses to lead His people to the Promised Land. Pharaoh did not believe in the God of Israel and refused to free them. God then sent plague after plague upon the land and people of Egypt, but each time Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to follow God’s command.

After the tenth plague, the slaying of the first-born male in each household that did not have the blood of a sacrificial lamb smeared on the doorposts, Pharaoh relented, grieving over the death of his son, and ordered Moses to take the Israelites and leave Egypt.

God led the people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to the edge of the wilderness. Then God did something Moses did not expect. He told him to tell the people to turn back and to camp between Migdol and the Red Sea, facing the sea. God told Moses He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh’s army would pursue them, but God would defeat Pharaoh’s army and show the Egyptians that He was the true God.

When the Israelites saw Pharaoh’s army coming after them and the Red Sea before them, they cried out to God and complained to Moses. Moses cried out to God in prayer and got an answer I am sure he never expected. Exodus 14:15-18 says, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.’” Basically, He said, why are you praying? Do what I told you to do! I have got this.

When Christians serve God, Satan will always put obstacles in their way to keep them from following God’s commands. How many times have you and I known God has told us to do something for Him, but when we run into obstacles, we stop and cry to God about the obstacle rather than continuing doing what He said to do? There is an old saying I love: “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.”

In verses 19 and 20, God tells Moses how He will equip him to lead the people, “Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.” The angel of God and the cloud and pillar of fire that led them moved and went between the Israelites and the Egyptian army. In doing so, it provided light for the Israelites to see and darkness for the Egyptians, so that neither could see the other. Then as Moses followed God’s instructions, God used Moses’ simple wooden staff to part the Red Sea and allowed His people to cross it on dry ground.

The lesson we learn from this is that when God calls us to do something, we need to move in faith, believing God will remove any obstacle that is in our way, and that He will give us the tools to get the job done. After all, the Lord is the One who does it all; we simply get the privilege of being the instrument He uses to accomplish His purposes.

Go Again

Ten Plagues | Devotion 3: Go Again
Pastor Gareth Volz

God has something for each of His children to do to glorify Him. In Exodus chapter 3, Moses minded his own business, tending sheep for his father-in-law Jethro on the back side of the wilderness. God got Moses’ attention by speaking to him from a burning bush. He went on to tell Moses that He had heard the prayer of His people who were enslaved in Egypt, and He had chosen him to go to Pharaoh and tell him Jehovah Elohim (the holy, righteous, self-existing God) said, “Let My people go.”

The Lord God went on to tell Moses that Pharaoh would not listen to him because he had a hard heart and God would harden it further. Beginning in chapter 7, Moses went to Pharaoh and delivered God’s message, Pharaoh did not listen, and God sent the plague of blood on the Nile River, Egypt’s water source. In chapter 8, God sent Moses three more times to Pharaoh with the same message, “Let My people go,” and three more times Pharaoh refused. These refusals resulted in three more plagues upon the people and land of Egypt: the plague of frogs everywhere, inside and outside the homes in Egypt; the plague of gnats on the people and animals everywhere throughout the land; and the plague of flies everywhere inside and outside the homes of Egypt.

Finally, Pharaoh relented and said the people can go and offer sacrifices to God in the wilderness, but not to go far. I go crazy if just one fly gets in my house, so I can understand why Pharaoh finally agreed to do what God said. What I cannot understand is why as soon as the flies left, Pharaoh changed his mind and refused to do what God said. He had seen the power of God but refused to acknowledge Him as God.

So now we arrive at chapter 9, where God again sent Moses to Pharaoh and told him to let His people leave. Moses is further told to tell Pharaoh that if he refuses, He will send a plague on all the livestock of the Egyptians, but the livestock of the Israelite slaves will not be killed. The next day the Egyptian livestock died, but nothing happened to the livestock of the Israelites.

Still, Pharaoh refused to listen to God, and Moses was sent once again to Pharaoh with this message God gave to Moses and Aaron: “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land” (Exodus 9:8-9 NIV). Moses and Aaron did as God told them, and festering boils broke out on the people and animals of Egypt. However, once again, Pharaoh refused to do what God said. Pharaoh had a hard heart, and with each refusal to heed God, God made it harder.

Has God ever called you to tell someone about Jesus, and that person refused to listen to God’s words? Have you ever been led to share the Good News of the Gospel to hard-hearted people? If so, we can learn a lesson from God’s assignment to Moses: Do not quit! Do not give up and say, “What is the use; they will not listen?” God does not give up on us when we do not do what He says, so do not give up on others. Many will never listen, but some will.

God has extended grace upon grace to you and me, and He does not want any to perish. Moses could have been discouraged by Pharaoh’s hardening heart, but the Bible never records this. Moses continued to go to Pharaoh time and time again until finally in Exodus chapter 12, after ten plagues, Pharaoh does what God said and let God’s people leave.

God told Moses that the reason for all this was so that He would be glorified, and the Egyptians would know that He is God. Keep doing what God tells you to do, do not give up, and God will be glorified.

Answering Prayers

Burning Bush | Devotion 4: Answering Prayers
Pastor Gareth Volz

“Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’” Exodus 3:7-12

If someone were to ask you if you believe that God hears and answers our prayers, I am sure that just about everyone reading this devotional would say, “Amen.” However, have you ever stopped to consider the various ways God chooses to answer the prayers of His people? God’s people had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. They had been crying out to God to deliver them, and God heard their prayers. Yet, He answered them in His perfect time and in His perfect way.

Moses was tending his father-in-law, Jethro’s sheep on the west side of the wilderness around Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God (Exodus 3:1). It was there that Moses had a new encounter with God. Out of a burning bush, God spoke to Moses and told him to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people leave Egypt. This must have come as a shock to Moses because he had once been a powerful man in Egypt but fled to the wilderness because of a crime he had committed.

I heard a sermon a few years ago on God working upstream, and Moses is a prime example of this. As a baby, Moses was miraculously saved from a death sentence on all Hebrew male children age two and under and wound up being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in Pharaoh’s palace. However, as a young man, he saw one of Pharaoh’s commanders beating a Jewish slave, so Moses killed the Egyptian, and then fled into the desert. Here he met Jethro, married his daughter, and worked for him as a shepherd.

Out of the burning bush near Mt. Horeb, Moses heard something I am sure he never expected to hear from God – that he was going to be used by God to answer their prayers for deliverance from Egypt. Moses tried to tell God that he did not have the ability to do what God told him to do. However, God replied that He would be with Moses.

Have you ever considered that God might choose to use you to be part of the answer to someone else’s prayer? I love the quote, “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.” Are you walking with God, studying His Word, and talking with Him each day? He may be using the things in your life to prepare you for His answer to someone else’s prayer. When He calls you, do not question Him – just submit and see what amazing things He will do that will bless you and answer the prayer of another one of His children.

God-Man 

Thirst | Devotion #3: God-Man
Gareth Volz | Senior 55+ Director

In John 19:28 we read these words, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” The first two words of this verse indicate something that happened previously to Jesus saying this on the cross. What happened? 

  • Jesus had been betrayed by one of His disciples – Judas Iscariot.
  • Jesus was taken by a band of the temple guard and officers of the Pharisees and brought before the High Priest for intense questioning.
  • Jesus was then taken to Governor Pilate’s palace, where they demanded Jesus should be killed.
  • Finding no fault in Jesus, but wanting to please the Jews, Pilate had Jesus beaten by Roman soldiers and then sought to release Him.
  • The Jews demanded that Jesus be put to death, threatening to send word to Rome that Pilate was no friend of Caesar’s since Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews.
  • Pilate then had the Roman soldiers beat Jesus again, put a thorn of crowns on His head, and had Jesus carry His cross through the streets and up to Mount Calvary, the place where He would be crucified.
  • Jesus then hung on the cross (crucifixion was the most hideous and torturous form of execution) from 9am to 3pm.

Jesus was not only the Son of God, but He was also the Son of Man. John 1:1-4 says of Jesus “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This clearly states that Jesus was truly God. John goes on to say in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This clearly states that Jesus was truly a man. Jesus was truly the God-Man, and as both, He suffered greatly and thirsted.

As the Son of Man, Jesus had completed a hard task, suffered greatly while doing it, and in need of refreshment. As the Son of God, taking on the sin of the world had caused the Father to turn away from Him until He completed His task, and He thirsted for that relationship to be renewed.

There are a couple of great lessons for us as Jesus thirsted on the cross. Jesus never gave up on completing the assignment His Father had given Him of paying for the sins of the world so that man could have a renewed relationship with Him forever. We need to remember this when God gives us assignments in this world – do not give when things are difficult. If God called you to do something, He would equip you to do it. Do not give up; stay the course until you complete what God wants you to do.

Jesus also had a great thirst for the relationship He had with His Father. We need to have a great thirst for God. We need to long for His presence and desire to be with Him on a daily basis. We need daily to have conversations with Him. When we read His Word, He speaks to us. When we pray, we speak to Him. 

The fact that Jesus thirsted is not a sign of weakness. He did what His Father wanted and now desired refreshment. He is the source of life, and He was pouring out His life on the cross for us. We need to do what God desires of us and seek refreshment from Him.



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