Author Archives: Holly Boston

Gather • Devotion #3: A Matter of the Heart

About six years ago, I accepted this position on staff as Director of Women’s Ministry. At about that same time, our Church began defining our mission as Reach, Gather, Grow, and Back to Reach, taken from the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28. Since then, we have revisited this topic every September and January. These months are typically when believers reassess their priorities and set goals.

As I write, it is January 6th. I recently returned from vacation and set out to begin preparing for another year of study. I reached in the box and pulled out the new book: Reach, Gather, Grow. Full disclosure: I rolled my eyes and thought, “Not again.” To add to my weariness, I needed to write this devotion on gathering. I began seeking God’s guidance in writing about an “old” topic in a fresh way. God is so good and so very faithful. He managed to teach me a new truth.

Six years ago, I was frustrated. Our pastor was frequently preaching on “What the church is not.” He frequently reminded us that we are members of one body, each having a specific gift we are meant to use to grow His Church. Though these truths are very important, I found myself thinking, “This is not deep enough” or “I am not being fed.” I was not growing spiritually, but my attitude was growing worse. Through the teaching of our mission, God taught me that my Sunday gathering is not meant to be my time in the Word. My Growth Community and Bible study is the primary place to grow.

Several years later, I began to get frustrated again. This time I started to resent the interruptions during “my” gathering time to assist ladies with their needs. The Lord stepped in and pointed me to a second truth. We are called to “meet together,” “encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25), and “count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Ouch! It was difficult for this selfish believer to receive and yet another important truth.

The third truth is the icing on the cake. Over the last week, I have started revisiting our mission, and God faithfully brought me to a passage. Psalm 84:1-2 says, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” 

My commentary suggests this Psalm was written by a Jewish man who was unable to go to the temple (Church). In those days, Jews were expected to travel three times a year to the temple. It was not like today, where believers can enter the throne room of God any time, any place. The presence of God was believed to be only in the temple. Scripture teaches us that for some, this required months of travel by foot, through desert conditions while navigating dangerous animals and situations. This puts a lot in perspective. I have been convicted about those times when I did not want to leave my warm home to drive ten miles to the gathering time that fit my schedule. I am really hoping someone else can identify with this. As you read on, you realize this man views the temple as his home, like “the sparrow finds a home” (verse 3) and values this time greatly, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (verse 10). Clearly, the longing of this believer’s heart was to be in the house of God.

I realized I have a lot in common with this gentleman. My flight on Christmas Eve landed at 4:45, and my first concern was whether or not we would make it to the last gathering. Many of the people at church were strangers as friends were traveling, and I was surrounded by the unfamiliar faces of out of town guests. Honestly, I enjoyed my uninterrupted opportunity to worship my Savior, and it was so good to be home.

It is true that a word of encouragement on Sunday morning is important, but the gathering was not meant to be my sole opportunity to grow in His Word. It is true that we are called to gather with and encourage those around us, but not at the expense of our personal worship time with God. Hence, I needed to find balance.

Believer, what is the desire of your heart? Is gathering with the saints a priority? Do you fall in the category of believers who do not want to get up early on their one day off, do not want to battle the snow or fight the traffic, or would rather serve because you learn just as much online or have to get your child to travel sports? There are many excuses, but when all is said and done, we rob ourselves when we choose not to worship and fellowship with God.

Free Commercial: if you are racing (or floating) into gathering after prayer and worship, you have missed Him!

Lesson Seventeen • Devotion #6: The Cost

It was my parents’ divorce in 1995 that drew me to Christ. I was watching my father do things I knew were wrong. However, I did not remember him ever saying adultery and divorce were wrong. I began to question what I believed and knew my kids’ beliefs needed to be based on more than my flawed example. The next five years of my life were riddled with trials: two surgeries, career change, multiple job losses, loss of our home, a cancer scare, and autism. In 1999, I called my sister and said, “If this is what life is like with Christ, I’m done.” My brother-in-law said, “ You gave your life to Christ and now you’re ready to walk away and you don’t even know Him.” I will never forget his words. They sparked the beginning of me diving into the Bible and learning about the Jesus I serve.

I thought that when I accepted Christ as my Savior He would be with me (Hebrews 13:5), protect me (Isaiah 41:10), and provide for me (Philippians 4:19). What in the world did I sign up for? It did not take long for me to realize I was missing some important information. 

The first verse I remember learning was James1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

It is not “if” you have trials, but “when!” The Apostle Paul spent his life sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Rome making a way for countless gentiles to come to know Christ. I was stunned to read his resume of trials ranging from daily pressures to daily beatings and imprisonment (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). This man spent his life serving God in ways I never will and yet God allowed and even caused (2 Corinthians 12:6) strife throughout his ministry. With all that he had been through, he makes an amazing statement in 2 Corinthians 11:30, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that he is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.” Paul had learned the important truth I had been missing. He understood that in those difficult times when he is pressed beyond measure, he is forced to be fully dependent on the Lord. It is in our dependence on Him that we experience His power. When we read Scripture, we must be careful to understand it in its entirety. James 1:2 does state that there will be trials but we need to keep reading, “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”(James 1:3-4).

Believer, we must not overlook the cost of a life lived for Christ. He does not promise an easy life but He does promise to always be with us (Matthew 28:20), a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8) in the midst of it all. My parents’ divorce brought me to Christ and all the struggles since have helped me to know Him better and have transformed my life. Life with Christ is a rough road but this I know: The Rewards Far Outweigh The Cost! 

Lesson Eleven • Devotion #2: Everyday Miracles

Our church is studying the life of Moses so my son and I decided to watch “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston. I know what you are thinking. Yes, it is the longest movie ever and very dated. Yet, I never get tired of watching God’s miracles depicted on the big screen. God is awe-inspiring from the burning bush to the plagues (though Hollywood only included four to keep it short), to the parting of the Red Sea, and the writing of the commandments by His fiery hand. Those were the good old days when God’s presence and power were on display for all and unmistakable. For the first ten years of my walk with Christ, I would often think and occasionally say, “What I would give for a burning bush.” The closest I ever came was about twelve years ago. In a selfish, angry snit, I decided to go for a walk with God. I spent the majority of the time complaining to Him about my husband and explaining how I deserved to be treated better. I finally came to the point where I asked what I should do. I looked down and there was a perfect heart on the sidewalk. It had been raining and the only moisture left was a perfect heart and the still small voice said, “Love.”

I often hear people say God does not work like that anymore; we do not see miracles as they did in the Old Testament. However, the Bible says God does not change (Malachi 3:6); He is the same “Yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So why do we not experience the miraculous works of God today? During our Bible study this week, a precious lady shared a health scare she experienced. The doctors found spots on her liver and informed her that they would do more testing but they were sure it would confirm cirrhosis of the liver. In preparation for further testing, she and her church began to pray. When she went in for the test, there were no spots to be found! Her final statement caught my attention, “All the doctors had some logical reason for the disappearance of them. Only one said it was a miracle.” How could they miss God? How could they miss Him? Do we miss His everyday miracles?

In 2 Corinthians 6:16-17, Paul says, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord.” 

In the Old Testament, God’s presence was in the Tabernacle or the Temple. His voice was heard through a specific individual, a prophet, and His power was made manifest in natural phenomena and circumstances that defied logic. Today, when a person receives Christ through His sacrificial work on the cross, they immediately receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Believer, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and immediately receive the power to live differently. We now can live a righteous life in a broken world (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). 

Everyday miracles occur in the hearts and lives of believers, but we must recognize it and give Him the glory for what He accomplishes through us. It is a miracle when we choose to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, or put another ahead of ourselves. It is a miracle when a husband or a wife chooses to fight for their marriage over their right to be happy. It is a miracle when a teenager chooses to be concerned about what God thinks over others. It is also a miracle when an addict chooses sobriety over using. There are everyday miracles occurring around us and through us! Do not miss Him because you are busy looking for the burning bush or manna to fall from the sky.

Choose to see the miracle!

Choose to be the miracle!

Lesson Eight • Devotion #3: Fragile: In His Care

When my son left home to attend the Naval Academy, my life as Tyler’s mom changed overnight. As a Plebe, he was allowed minimal contact with us and I struggled. I decided that the Navy would not interfere with me blessing my son on his birthday. I went to Sam’s Club, bought him a birthday cake, and marched over to the UPS Store. One look from the clerk removed all confidence I had that Tyler would ever receive his cake in one piece. I realized a label reading: “Fragile: Handle with Care” would never be sufficient. Three days later, I received word that the cake arrived without a blemish and Tyler enjoyed a piece promptly after watching his superiors eat the rest.

If you have ever received an online purchase, you are acutely aware of the meticulous time and energy required to package your treasure. The perfectly molded pieces of Styrofoam that surrounded each piece of the arbor we ordered steadied each piece and prevented any breakage as it made its way to our home. Many young people earn a degree in the Science of Packaging every year to ensure that you receive your treasures unscathed.

As I prepared to write this devotion, I was reminded once again that God’s ways are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8). In 2 Corinthians 4:7, we read, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

While we choose the sturdiest box with the best bubble wrap and peanuts to protect against any rough handling, God uses the weakest container (vessel) for his Treasure and designs large bumps and potholes as part of the road home. Believer, the day God revealed to you your need of a Savior; and you invited Him into your weak heart, you received the Treasure. Within your weak body resides the Holy Spirit and the promise to deliver you safely home (2 Peter 3:13).

Why would God choose such a flimsy container for such a hard journey? Why would God entrust a vessel carried by the desires of our flesh, susceptible to temptations and attacks by an enemy, and subject to the beatings of this world? I discovered two truths. First, without our weak vessels, we would never experience the value of the Treasure we carry. When a spouse chooses to fight for their marriage instead of pursuing “happiness,” she experiences the power of her Treasure. When a businessman chooses not to compromise, he experiences divine prosperity. When an addict chooses sobriety, he experiences freedom in Christ. The humbling detours in our journey home are divinely designed to enable us to experience and appreciate all that our Treasure offers.

The second truth is found in this beautiful statement made by Warren Wiersbe, “Sometimes God permits our vessels to be jarred so that some of the treasure will spill out and enrich others.”

Our Treasure is not meant to be hidden. The strength, peace, joy, and provision we experience from a dependent walk with Christ is meant to be shared. We are called to comfort with the comfort we receive (2 Corinthians 1:3), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:1), and strengthen with the strength we receive (Proverbs 27:17). In short, it is our weakness that is the vehicle by which we experience our Treasure, the Holy Spirit, and build His Kingdom.

Last week, I received a late birthday card. It looked like it had been through a meat grinder. The short journey from the other side of Clarkston resulted in a filthy white envelope with a rip that exposed its contents. I opened it and found that though it had obviously been through a lot, the card was perfect and carried with it sweet words of love and encouragement. What a picture of our journey with Christ! Though the road is rough and our vessel is weak, the Postmaster promises to bring us home. We will arrive perfectly in Christ and our homecoming will be in His perfect time.

Our shipping label reads: “Fragile: In His (All-sufficient) Care”

Lesson Three • Devotion #3: Our Comfort

I have been addicted to some form of carbonated beverage since college (several decades now). If I had a dime for every time someone asked me, “How many of those do you drink a day?” or “Doesn’t that keep you awake?”, I would be a wealthy woman. Some have sent me articles describing the adverse effects on my health and its contribution to weight issues. Truth be told, I did not read them. Nothing had an impact on me until about 15 years ago. Circumstances were hard. I was dealing with financial issues, marital issues, and trying to navigate my son’s struggles with Autism. I went to the drive-through window at McDonald’s to get my morning Diet Coke. As the young lady handed it to me, I was shocked to “hear” my thoughts, “I have got my pop. It is a good day.” At that moment, I realized I depended on pop the way I should depend on God.

Dawson McAllister, with The Hope Line, states that between 60% and 70% of Americans have some form of addiction, costing 500 billion dollars a year. He cites four main reasons for addictions from his research. Number one on the list is to fill the void, satisfy, or comfort. Believer, what comforts you? For many, it is alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography. For some, it is a more socially acceptable addiction, such as caffeine, comfort food, retail therapy, or a relationship. Some Christians find comfort in more spiritual things like a thriving ministry, a successful church event, or a well-delivered sermon. The continuum is long, but they all have one thing in common: they are substitutes for God. 

In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul refers to our Lord as “God of all comfort.” It is not some, not most, but all comfort. The God we serve promises us eternal comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:16), through His ever-presence (Hebrews 13:5), His complete provision (Philippians 4:19), and His unconditional love (Romans 5:8). We settle for poor, temporary substitutes when complete comfort can be found in intimate conversations with Christ and time spent clinging to His promises of the Bible.

The second reason for addiction, according to McAllister, is the need to escape the struggles of this life. Believer, how do you escape? Some turn to the self-destructive options of alcohol and drugs, while others choose a more culturally acceptable means. When I come home and hear, “Don’t Look Back” by Boston(ironic) or “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beach Boys pouring through the windows, I know my husband has escaped. I am known to escape via an episode of “Andy Griffith” before going to bed. It offers simpler times and simpler problems that are solved in a half-hour (less without commercials). Others take a more spiritual approach; they pray and beg God to change their circumstances. We request relief or escape instead of comfort and strength as we persevere. 

Years ago, I had a mentor who was walking the agonizing road of end-stage breast cancer. I will never forget one of her posts on her blog, “I realized the very thing I was asking the Lord to remove was the very thing he was using to transform me into his likeness.” In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul continues to describe our God of all comfort as the One who “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.”

We all need to escape now and then. However, perpetual escape from God-ordained struggles robs us of experiencing complete comfort. We are meant to experience divine comfort so that we can then comfort others. My mentor grew spiritually from the battle of her life. Remembering her words and the truth God revealed to her has comforted me in my own struggles. I am reminded that there is purpose in our pain. Do not avoid it. Embrace it. Grow from it. Share it.

Full disclosure: Those who know me will tell you I continue to battle my addiction to (now) Diet Dr. Pepper. I can honestly say that I first reach for God when things get tough, but the bubbles are a close second. One day I will have complete victory! 

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