Author Archives: James Mann

The Resurrection • Devotion #6: Where is Our Hope?

One of the things that people begin to learn as they study the Bible more and more is that words that we commonly use today do not have the same meaning as they once had, or more specifically, still have in the biblical context. One of those words is the concept of “hope.” Today we use this term in reference to an outcome we desire to happen or not happen. We can think of situations like “I hope it does not rain today” or “I hope the Lions do not embarrass our state too much this season.” These are things that may or may not happen. Hope in the biblical context is a term in reference to the expectation of an outcome happening because God said it will. To a believer, this “hope” does not have a chance of failing, and there is something amazing about that.

There is something that is quite troublesome that occurs following the death of Jesus. It is as if all of His followers lose this hope and begin to just go on with life, as usual, mourning the loss of a loved one. This hope of His resurrection seems to be almost forgotten about. His followers watched Him die and then there was a period, the story was over, and they were ready to move on. We see this hope lost in Peter as he denies Jesus. Something that stands out to me the most is that the denial and doubting of Jesus follow Peter even after Jesus’ death. Upon hearing that Jesus has risen from the dead, Peter does not believe the words he is hearing and has to see them for himself.

Luke 24:11-12 records, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”

Why was it so difficult for Peter to just believe the words of these women? We often read this and think Peter is terrible for what he has done. He lost hope in Jesus at the first sign of failure. I like to think, “What would I have done in this situation?” I want to say I would stand stronger, but the reality is I probably would not. We have to remember that Peter did not know how the story ends yet. He does not have the same luxury that we do. We are lucky that we have seen the writings of His resurrection to know that this whole concept of Christianity was not lost at His death on the cross; but instead, it truly began. His death gave us the ability to have hope in Him in the past, the present, and the future. We must read His Word and have hope that what He says is going to come true will and not lose that hope at the first sign of struggle.

The Triumphal Entry • Devotion #6: The Peaceful and Humble Entry

The Triumphal Entry is such an exciting scene for many reasons, but one of the most significant points that stands out to me is the humility that is being shown during this entry. You might read through this passage and miss this concept since it is a celebration for the Son of God, and everyone is praising Him. The thing that we often overlook is His method of transportation. I often think back to the former presidents of the United States. These men would drive around in their top-of-the-line Lincolns and Cadillacs. Being that these men are some of the most powerful men in America, it makes complete and total sense to see them driving around in some of the most luxurious vehicles of this time. Now let us take a moment and read how Jesus decides to go through the town during a parade celebrating Him,

“Go into the village in front of you, where on entering, you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here” (Luke 19:30).

Often when we watch movies during the earlier time periods, we see royalty entering into a city on a large horse. It is always a powerful scene. So, the question becomes, why did Jesus ride in on a donkey or a colt? During this time, someone entering into a city on a large horse was to symbolize war. If a person in power entered into a city on a colt, a donkey, or a mule, it was a sign of peace. We can see another time this is shown in 1 Kings 1:33. We need to remember that Jesus’ entry into the city was not something that the government was excited about. The government was out to ruin Jesus because they believed He was a false prophet and was challenging the lifestyle that they were trying to encourage. Jesus could have easily gone into the city angry and looking for a fight, knowing that these men were out to get Him. Instead, He chose peace. Instead of riding in the front gates on a mighty steed, Jesus chose the peaceful approach of a colt.

The beauty behind this is the humility that it shows. When I read through passages like this, it makes me take a step back and evaluate my life and how I portray myself when entering the world. Am I trying to puff up my own ego and make myself look good or am I humbling myself and focusing on the wellbeing of others? Am I going after those who are wronging me with anger and waging war, or am I showing peace and love even in the face of torment? These are points we should be thinking about when we go into our daily lives.

Siblings • Devo #6 • “Reconciliation Modeled”

The dynamics behind sibling relationships are quite intriguing. At one moment, they can be attacking one another and the next, they are protecting one another. Working in children’s ministry, I have seen on multiple occasions one sibling making fun of the other. As soon as someone else joins in, the sibling that was just terrorizing the other snaps at the person making fun of their sibling. I have heard the response. “They’re my little brother; only I get to make fun of him” more times than I would like to admit. Sometimes these spats last for moments before they are embracing one another and making up. Other times, it creates a barrier between the two that lasts a lifetime. 

Jacob and Esau were brothers in the book of Genesis. During this time, Esau, being the older sibling, was to receive a birthright from their father, Isaac. Jacob decided he would deceive his father and trick him into giving the birthright to him instead of Esau. This birthright established the eldest as the head of the family and leaves everything to them in the passing of their father. This deception caused Jacob and Esau to be mortal enemies. In Genesis 27:41, Esau goes as far as to say, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” This causes Jacob to flee from his home and family for over twenty years. I know it is crazy for us to read stories like this and be amazed by how long this feud went on for but think of your own life and relationships with siblings, whether blood or siblings through Christ. Many of us can think of at least one relationship that we have fled from. Maybe for some, it has not quite been twenty years but for others, it may have well surpassed twenty years.

As we read on through the passages, we see Jacob go through many different scenarios. Eventually, in Genesis chapter 32, Jacob finds out that his brother, Esau, is coming to meet him. Jacob asks for God’s guidance and blessing in their reunion.

This raised a question in my mind; do we pray for those that we are feuding with? Are we asking for the Lord to guide us in our attempt to reconcile our relationship with our siblings? Often, the answer to those questions is no. Sometimes we just expect things to work out on their own, and for others, we completely write these people out of our lives. We need to remember God can do miraculous things. I have looked at many relationships thinking, “There is no way this relationship can be fixed.” In Genesis chapter 33, a brother who once wanted his brother’s head greeted his brother with an embrace, kisses, and tears. This all came from reliance on the Lord. The brothers and sisters that come into our lives are gifts from God and when hardships come in those relationships, we should turn to Him.

Siblings • Devo #2 • “Transformation Modeled”

It is intriguing to look at the list of disciples that the Bible gives to us. It is something that is often overlooked, but a couple of these disciples were actually brothers. One of these pairs is James and John. I first want to point out that they are known as the “Sons of Thunder,” which is hands down one of the coolest nicknames in the Bible. We also know that these two brothers were the second group of brothers that were brought into Jesus’ following.

Matthew 4:21 records, “And going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.”

When I think of Jesus’ disciples, I do not often think about their downfalls, other than Judas. In Luke 9:51-56, James and John actually get rebuked by the Lord. When a Samaritan village rejects the message of Jesus, we see these brothers basically saying that it is better to burn the entire village in a righteous fire than to let them live. Jesus points out their wrong ways and they move on to the next village, leaving the village intact.

As an only child, it has always been fascinating for me to watch siblings. When siblings are close, they can either do amazing things or become toxic. In this instance, we are seeing these two brothers bouncing their anger off of one another and wanting to end the existence of an entire village. Have you and your siblings or your brothers and sisters in Christ ever become a blockade in furthering the Kingdom of God?

The important thing for us to do is to check ourselves and our relationship. A sibling gives us the ability to have someone to grow with towards the Lord. It can be someone to hold us accountable and push us further than we can push ourselves. My church brothers have been a crucial group in my life to push me closer to God. The brothers we see here in Luke chapter 9 grow together. In Acts 12:2, we see James become the first martyr (someone to give their life because they professed their faith when they were told not to). John, James’ brother, became known throughout church history as the apostle of love. This shift from the “Sons of Thunder” to “The First Martyr” and “The Apostle of Love” did not just happen overnight. These two brothers were not only blood relatives, but they were brothers in arms for the Kingdom of God. I hope that we can all look at their example, see their growth, and be encouraged. It is a blessing to have someone you can run the race of life alongside. No matter where our relationship stands with our siblings, whether blood or in Christ, we can push towards Him and be used for amazing things together.

Parents • Devo #5 • “Scripture”

I want to start this off with a series of questions. Are you and your spouse the people who primarily disciple your children? Are you raising your child with a focus on teaching them how to grow in their relationship with the Lord? Do you find yourself taking the easy way out and not making your child’s spiritual growth a priority because there does not seem to be enough hours in the day? Do you expect your child’s time at church to be the main place where they learn about God?

There might be some of you that after reading this list of questions, are getting frustrated with the writer of this devotional. I am not a parent yet, but becoming a dad, God willing, is the aspect of life that I look forward to more than anything in this world. Sadly, many parents in this world look at their child as a job. Some days you may wish that you could clock out of this job for a few weeks and just get away. Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts from God and we should not look at it in any other light. 

Parents are called to raise their children to have a desire to learn about God and bring them closer to Him. It is all too common today that parents view that as the job of the church. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is the job that God gave you. We should feel blessed that God trusts us enough to give us children to raise. The concept of getting to raise a child and be the one that teaches them about God is such an exciting thing. I have heard the excuse so many times that parents just do not have the time to do that. I am going to be extremely blunt. If you have enough time for your child to be in sports, then you have enough time to train your child in the things of the Lord. If not, we need to check our priorities and reframe them to godly standards instead of worldly standards. Worldly standards breed worldly children, which then become worldly adults lacking a relationship with the Lord.

Ezra set his heart on the concept of learning the things of the Lord and teaching them to an entire nation. For us to effectively teach our children, we must do what Ezra is doing and first set our heart on learning the things of the Lord before we teach them. We must be equipping ourselves with the Scriptures to then equip our children. The enemy is going to attack our children. It is the terrifying truth. It is our job as their parents to give them every tool possible to fend off the attacks of the enemy and keep them standing strong in the Lord. 

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