Author Archives: Mark O'Connor

Strength• Devotion #1: Husband

Husband: ​a married man considered in relation to his spouse. 

That is the dictionary definition of the word husband. It is not quite that simple. Like many areas of our lives, there are good and bad. I have seen more than a few bad husbands in my time here on Earth. I have also had the blessing to see exceptional men who are tremendous husbands. I am fortunate to have come into a relationship with Christ before Jamie and I were married. It was my growing spiritual maturity and the examples that I saw in my exposure to the church world that steered me in the direction to be the very best husband I could possibly be. Now, please understand that I am not saying I am a perfect husband. I am far from it. However, learning how this whole marriage thing works made me want to be more Christlike in the entirety of my life. This is a natural thing that will bleed into our marriage. 

We see in Scripture multiple descriptions and directions for spousal relationships. In Ephesians, Paul pretty clearly tells us our responsibility to our spouses. We like to spout it out all the time. In chapter 5 verse 22, he says all we need, right? “Wives, submit to your own husbands.” We guys like that part. Our wives have to be subservient to their husbands. It is a gross twisting of context that is common throughout American Christianity. Read on and it says she is to submit as the church submits to Christ. This is a little different when you think of it that way. We could write chapters of books on this concept, which many people have. 

Husbands, let us fast forward a couple of verses. Let us take a look and see the massive responsibility we have. It is a responsibility that sadly, we have missed the boat on in a massive way. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Love your wife as Christ loved the church. Just to be clear, we all understand the love that Jesus has for us right? We have an idea of what Jesus did and endured for the church. Husband, you have a responsibility to your wife that is of the greatest measure.

We are not only to love, care for, and provide for our wives, but we are to put her ahead of all things. I love my children dearly, but not more than my bride. Are the needs of your wife more important than our own? Looking around our world and even our church, I will contend not in many cases. Do you support her, and do you support each other? I strive every day to be the picture that Paul lays out for our marriage. It is definitely a team effort.

Successful teams have a leader. Who is leading your family? If it is you husband, who are you allowing to lead you? If the answer to that question is not undeniably Jesus, you need to check yourself now. 

Paul closes chapter 5 with a quick verse to clarify the whole thing if there was any confusion, “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33 CSB).

Reset • Devotion #4: Preventing Infection

Have you ever had that wound that just would not heal? I once had a cut on my thumb that just would not totally heal. It would start to get better, then I wound hit it on something and the scab would come off. It would start bleeding and the whole process would start over again. I feel like it went on for weeks but it may have been shorter. I am proficient in being awful for remembering time frames. I can tell you for certain it was longer than average because I can remember a single cut. Band-Aids would not protect it for some reason. It got to a point where it started to get the red irritating ring around it. The wound began to be infected. It was time to break out the Neosporin. Why I did not use it in the first place, I do not know. Sure enough, as the Neosporin started working, the small infection started going away. A simple step that probably would have saved me days or weeks of pain and irritation, provided relief in a very short time.

Now have you ever experienced an injured heart? I am not referencing a heart attack or physical condition. I am talking about that time when someone hurt you. It could have been a parent, a sibling, or a friend. In those times, when those words are said or actions are taken, infections can set in quickly. Our relationships can be just like that infection. The initial injury happens and we do not think much of it. Life goes on and it festers. We do not feel it much, it is just an irritation. Life moves on and we think we forget about it, or maybe not. Maybe it stays there and that nerve keeps getting hit over and over again. At some point, the infection starts to grow and gets worse. Then, before we know it is toxic. It consumes us in a way we could never have imagined. We begin to react in ways that we never would have imagined and say things we never thought we would say. 

It does not have to be that way. Proverbs chapter 4 instructs us to guard our hearts: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways” (Proverbs 4:23-26 NIV).

In reading these words, we see how to prevent that infection from festering and also how to keep ourselves from injuring those around us. Jeremiah chapter 17 tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful. When we guard and protect our heart, when we fix our gaze on the Lord, past injuries will start to heal. Future injuries, while they still may sting will be easier to handle. We can be especially hard on our families in both attacking and healing. When those who we should be able to trust strike out at us, that hurt and pain can be immense. Looking to and leaning on the Lord is the most effective antibiotic we can use to begin the healing process and preventing the toxicity from developing.

Impact • Devotion #4: Seeing Red

If you know me now, you would never be able to picture me losing my temper. It just does not happen. You may see me a little irritated or annoyed, but you likely have never seen me angry. My wife has only seen me lose my cool less than a handful of times in over twenty years together. People get quite irritated with me that I am not super emotional and angry in certain situations. Yet, I remain a steady ship in the roughest of seas.

That was not always the case. Up until I was about 14, I had what was commonly referred to as an Irish temper. Like many boys, I did not have the coolest of heads. It was not unheard of for me to mouth off to my parents. Yet, I was not prone to fits of rage. Although there were more than a few times I would get angry enough to get into a physical altercation, I never started an actual fight. It is surprising looking back on it. There was one day, however, which I am far from proud of, that could have taken my life down a very different path.

We were playing soccer in the back yard. Being boys, we played a little rough. I was already angry at Donny for some stuff he said. Then he slide tackles me. It was not lightly, but quite roughly. It was at this time I saw red. Something snapped in me, and I chased him. As he ran, I picked up a rock and hurled it towards him. It barely missed his head. We are talking centimeters, not inches, and it most certainly would have seriously injured him. That was the exact moment I realized I needed to get control of myself. I was going to do something I could not take back.

From that day, I learned to walk away from those situations. Despite controlling my physical reaction, I still held on to grudges and anger. I did not let it show, but it was there. It took some time to work through it. Then I learned about Jesus and started following Him. Many verses in the Bible speak about anger, but two of them have burned into me. 

James 1:19-20 (NIV) says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

I was always quick to listen. Listening to other people’s problems helped distract me from my own. I have honed that skill to be a lot healthier now. It was the slow to anger part that was my challenge. I wanted to see the righteousness in my life that God desires. Over time, as I matured and longed to be more like Jesus and less like me, this just became a part of who I am. It does not mean I have no anger; I only understand how to handle it.

Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) adds, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

This is a practice in all areas of my life. I try so hard to give my anger to the Lord. I want Him to be the comfort He promises to be. I can honestly say that Jamie and I do not go to bed angry at each other. Has it happened? It may have happened once or twice. When it has, we did not have restful evenings. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. It will destroy relationships. It will quickly build walls that can take years to tear down. It will impact areas of your life you never could conceive possible. It can come to the point where you are the one intentionally hurting those around you. It happens both physically and mentally, and you have no idea how you got there.

Reach • Devotion #5: It is Not About Us

It is not about me. It is not about you. In my short time in ministry, I have had the opportunity to be a part of many baptisms. The natural next step after coming to understand Jesus as your Savior is to decide to let the world know that you are a new creation and your life is going to look different from here on out. While I am appreciative that I was able to be a part of that experience, it was in no way about me. Mark did not lead them to be baptized, it was the Holy Spirit. Mark did not have any part of their salvation; it was Jesus alone who gets the recognition and glory. My word had nothing to do with the process at all, it was the Holy Spirit that took care of everything. 

We see in 1 Corinthians chapter one that Paul is addressing the same issue in the church in Corinth. In verses 11-12, Paul mentions that he is hearing of factions in the church, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’” The church has lost sight of what is truly important and Paul calls them out on it. He questions in verse 13, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

Paul goes on to say that he was glad that he was not involved in more baptisms so that his name could not be lifted over the name of Jesus. Then he comes in with a haymaker. I am going to do something a little out of character for me. I want to give you the next verse in two different readings of this passage. One will be the ESV, which is the translation we use for most teaching. The second is called The Message. It is a highly paraphrased Bible translation that I rarely teach from but I like how it reflects this verse. The verse is 1 Corinthians 1:17. In the ESV, we read, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” The Message records, “God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center – Christ on the Cross – be trivialized into mere words.”

Paul was making it clear that it was not about him. As much as you want to make it about you, I am sorry, but it is not about you. We are not meant to make a following for ourselves. We are called to create a following for Him. It is for Jesus. If you still find your faith tied to a person outside of Jesus, it is time to stop looking in and start looking out or up.

We who know the Lord need to get the word out about Him. Our cliques and groups that are always showing the world our backs need to stand up and turn around. You need to show the world your face, your open arms welcoming those who need to hear the Gospel. It is not about our “Christianese” or fancy words. It is plain and simple about what Jesus did for us on the cross. Nothing less will suffice in our message and if our message is not about the need for Jesus that the world needs so desperately, we are missing the mark. 

1 John 5 • Devotion #4: Lifting up a Brother

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” 1 John 5:16-17

This has been a very difficult passage for me to break down. I like answers. Knowing exactly what something means is important to understand what to do with it fully. It is like working on a car and not having the right tool for the job. I like to tinker with working on a car in that if it is not an emergency and something that needs to be done immediately, I enjoy it. Say my main form of transportation breaks down and needs to be done today, I get stressed. You work quickly to get a job done, and when you do not have exactly the right tool, you make it work. I have done this, and so far, it has worked out okay. However, when I have the chance, a stop at Auto Zone is not far away, so I do not find myself in that position in the future.

I have studied commentaries and books looking for the answer to what John is referring to when he talks of a sin leading to death in verse 16. I have ideas, so do many scholars, but no one seems to want to say for sure. This assures me further that we will never be able to fully comprehend the magnitude of who God is and what the Bible says without the help of the Holy Spirit. One day, I will learn. 

In the meantime, I will look at this passage for the very clear part of what it says. I will pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, who everyday struggle with sin. Knowing that, I and we will always fall short of the perfect mark of Jesus. John lays out that we should be praying for those falling into sin. We should not pray in a gossipy prayer circle kind of way when we pray together, but on our knees behind a closed door where no one will see us kind of way. We should be petitioning God on behalf of that person that they are convicted by the Holy Spirit to repentance and restoration.

When was the last time you saw a fellow believer struggling and went home, or right then and there, prayed for them to be delivered from that sin? I believe the honest answer to that question would be sad if we surveyed the entire body of Christ.

Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 |

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.