Devotions

Author Archives: Max Sinclair

Gather • Devotion #1: Scrooge?

One of my favorite Christmas stories is a Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” The plot of the story follows an old man who is full of regret. He does not enjoy Christmas and is consumed with his own greed and self-importance. This man is Ebenezer Scrooge, and with that, we get the very term for any who do not have the Christmas spirit by referring to them as a scrooge. While watching the Disney version of this Christmas classic, I remarked to my wife how I totally understand why some become a scrooge during the holiday season. At one point in the original adaptation, Ebenezer loses the one whom he loves at Christmas. His father was abusive, his partner at the counting-house was corrupt, and all of these things had a profound effect on Scrooge. He was, at this time, all alone. 

How does this Victorian-era classic on the importance of selflessness have anything to do with gathering? Well, according to Hebrews 10:24-25, the author states, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” One can rightly assume that Scrooge was “neglected.” Scrooge was not welcomed; he was not given a “wellness check,” and no one cared about Scrooge because Scrooge did not care about anyone else. The importance of gathering is not about us. Instead, it is about God, it is about placing the Lord on His throne, and yet in those moments, we take the gathering and see what we can get out of it. In “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer was a miser who tried to swindle everything out of people to get what he wanted. Do we sometimes become a “scrooge” to God? 
As of late, I have really felt like a “scrooge” to the Lord. I cry out to Him asking for what I want: I want to grow closer to Him, I want to live by faith, and I want to be successful in my ministry. All of which are not bad things, yet my heart behind it is corrupted. I want to grow closer to Him so others can marvel at how my walk with Him is better than theirs. I want to live by faith so that I can be seen as this pillar of the community that does not struggle. I want to be successful in my ministry, so I can be a rock star preacher. All of those are me being greedy for the things of the Lord. Yet, when we gather, it is a good time for us to remember who it is that is in charge. The Apostle Paul states in his letter to the church of Rome, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Our job as Christians is to live sacrificially, not to live with a consumeristic mentality. After this season of Christmas, I urge you that while we gather not to be a “Scrooge” to the Lord, but yet be those who live in the constant sacrifice to His will.

Lesson Seven • Devotion #4: Veiled

When I went to college for one year, I took a Christian Worldviews Class. Our professor showed us a Vlog by Penn Jillett, the famous talking guy from the Penn and Teller magic performance. Mr. Jillett is a professed atheist, but he is a very non-combative atheist. In this Vlog, he talks about how a young man walked up to him in an airport to evangelize to him. Mr. Jillett speaks with him and politely disagrees and goes on his way. In this Vlog, he states a very earth-shattering comment, “If you have the secret to eternal life and do not share it with everyone, you are condemning everyone around you to death.” This devotion is going to get very real and very pointed. I am sorry, but I am not going to pull any punches with this one because the cost of what we do is too high. 

Our duty as Christians is to share the Gospel. No matter who we are or what we do,  our job is to share the love of Christ with everyone around us. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-5, Paul states, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Too often, we keep the Gospel to ourselves, to our Growth Communities, to our families, and to our church and do not allow the ones who are broken, who are literally dying a spiritual death, go without knowing the love of Christ. We are veiling ourselves off from the world because it is too broken, or we are too scared. I am not saying that we have to be a modern-day Billy Graham that leads thousands to salvation by preaching. I am not saying that you have to keep score of how many people you lead to Christ. I am just saying share it. 

For too long, Christians have taken an apathetic view to share the Gospel with the broken world. At the time of writing this devotion, my Growth Community of Young Adult men are reading the book, “Something Needs to Change” by David Platt. In the book, Platt goes on to talk about an urgent spiritual need that he runs into as he watches this village burn one of their dead on a funeral pyre to release their spirit to the next life. He watches as the literal flames engulf the dead individual and now knows that the individual is going to be burning in Hell for eternity. Hell is real; Hell is not a joke. Hell is not some fable we tell kids to shape up, or you will go there. It is a real place where those who do not profess and acknowledge Christ as Lord of their life will end up. 

One of the scariest and most overwhelming things to hear is that you or a loved one has cancer. It is a very scary time of uncertainty because there is no true cure to it. I have a few family members who either had or have Leukemia, and the looming thought that on any day it could come back is quite a scary thing. Yet, if you had the cure for all forms and types of cancer at any stage and yet you reserved to yourself, would you not be the most selfish and self-centered person on the planet? Millions of people in an instant could be cured of a terrible life-ending disease. Families could have peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are safe. 

Yet, we are so selfish about the Gospel. We keep it to ourselves and do not allow others to see its beauty and its perfection. We have the cure to eternal death and damnation, and yet we do not even share it with others. We sit and allow ourselves to be consumed by a consumeristic church structure where it only benefits the individual. We say things like Jesus is our “personal” Lord and Savior. I am sorry, but we are so wrong. Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He did not die for just you or me, he died for the sins of the world, and our job is to share that with others by serving others, by praying for others, and by loving others. 

I love our church and the congregants that make up the body of it, but I am sorry that what I have to say may offend you, but if you do not share the Gospel with others, do you believe that it has the ability to transform lives? Do you truly believe that it is the cure for a life without a relationship to Him? There should be a burning desire to share the Gospel with others, to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

Something needs to change in our walk with Christ. Something needs to take priority for us to truly grasp that it is our duty to proclaim the Gospel, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

Lesson Six • Devotion #4: Being Adequate

Have you ever felt like you were not enough? Have you ever felt not worthy of doing something or qualified enough? Almost every day that I walk into our offices, I feel an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, I feel a monster in the back of my head whisper that I am not good enough, or that I am not qualified enough. I will sit in my office and type away at devotions, or lesson plans. I will meet with this young adult or that young adult and try to push them to serve or get involved. Yet still, that voice says, “This is not enough, you are not enough.” If I am a betting man, I would argue that you yourself have had this moment, a sense of inadequacy, or incompetence to one thing or another. It is a terrible feeling sometimes; it just makes you want to quit or not even try in the first place. I get it, I feel it, and that is where I spend most of my days. I read books of epic adventures and high fantasies where noble knights battle greater evil for the sole purpose of protecting what they love, and I have a hard enough time getting my devotions turned in on time. Looking at our current culture, it is hard not to see anything but being above average. “Everyone” posts above-average looks, above-average style, and an above-average frame of mind. With all of that, we begin to fall short of what society places on ourselves.

Yet, this is okay. I was never meant to be a knight in shining armor or the President of the United States. I was never meant to go to the moon or to write an award-winning novel. I was never meant to be the best, and I never will be the best. However, I know who is. 

In this book, we see that the church of Corinth is still a mess. It is still fighting similar battles that it fought before, and one of those was the competency of the apostle Paul. Some were saying that Paul was not smart enough or talented enough to have the authority that he has. I mean, the guy who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament, has his authority being questioned. Yet, Paul does not go on a tirade on how he trained under the greatest Jewish lawyer ever giving him the equivalent of a Harvard law degree, nor does he state the number of churches he has founded, or leaders he has mentored. Instead, Paul states, “Such is the confidence we have through Christ before God. It is not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6 CSB). He states his own inadequacy but states God’s Supremacy. 

Our job as Christians is not to be good enough for God to use us. If that were so, we would never be used at all. Instead, our job as Christians is to go and share the Gospel of Christ no matter what. We are to go forth and do what is asked of us because of God’s adequacy. We can because He is able. He is enough. For too long, we fight the calling of God in our life because we want something more; we need something more. What more can He give you other than the death of His Son Jesus? We need nothing more than the passion for the Gospel and the love we have for our Lord and His Gospel. 

1 John 4 • Devotion #4: The Gospel Revisited

I have heard the story of Jesus countless times. I have heard others lead people down the “Romans Road.” I have seen the Gospel of Christ change a person’s heart. I am a church kid. I sat in a seat for years. I was in AWANA and student leadership. I could tell you that hearing the Gospel story or evangelism, in general, is nothing new to me. Yet, when I read passages like 1 John 4:13-16, I ask, “Why again?” I would not venture to doubt that you do the same. I have come to the conclusion that salvation and the magnitude of what Jesus did for us is not something to think about once. The Gospel is what motivates us, it is what moves us to action, it is what should propel us forward, and we need to be reminded about it.

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:13-16

This is what has happened to us. Because of God’s love, He sent His son Jesus to us to be the Savior of the world. His love reached down and rescued us from sin and from death. That love is something we can abide in if we only confess and testify that Jesus did come from His Father and died for our sins. 

As simple as we may look at the Gospel, it is the crux where everything falls. It is the most important part of our walk with the Lord. Knowing just simply that the Gospel is enough for us will aid us in moving forward. 

Personally, I find it refreshing. My wife and I are currently reading a book by J. D. Greear called Gospel. In this book, we have learned so much more about our faith, our life, and the Christian walk by just taking a look at the Good News of Jesus. I encourage you as a part of this church to do just that. Remember and revel in the Gospel. Know that what Jesus did for us is not just a story and is not just the first step, but it is the way we are to live now. 

He who intercedes 

Brazen Serpent | Devotion 3: He who intercedes
Max Sinclair

As we are wrapping up the story and life of Moses, we come to a strange story and interesting narrative. Here in Numbers chapter 21, we see the story of the bronze serpent and the children of Israel’s salvation from being killed by poisonous snakes due to their grumbling and complaining. In the ESV, it uses the word “pray” in verse number 7 when the Israelites ask Moses for help, but in the Christian Standard Bible, it uses the word “intercede.” This word struck me, as I read in preparation for this devotion, how important for us to have someone who intercedes for us. According to the Pulpit Commentary, this is the first and only time that is recorded that the Israelites asked Moses to intercede to God for them.

Now many of you, much like myself, probably did not know what that word “intercede” actually means. According to the dictionary, interceding is being the mediator between two parties, or to intervene on behalf of another. We can see why the Israelites cried out for help from Moses. Look at the rest of the book of Exodus and Numbers, and we can see time after time the Israelites complain. Time after time, God does provide, and time after time, they go back to complaining. They began to cry out to Moses and to God that their miserable lives would be so much better in bondage to the Egyptians than it would be wandering through the desert, and so God shows them His majesty and power by sending serpents into the camp. Soon enough the Israelites realize their folly and ask for someone to repent for them, they realize that at that moment they do not deserve to be forgiven, they have committed treason unto the Lord, and with that, the punishment should be death. Yet, Moses goes before the Lord and asks for His forgiveness.

This event will rattle through time to when Christ did the same for us. We sinned and have committed High Treason against the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We deserve punishment because of that, yet Christ pays the debt and intercedes for us to His Father. This can be seen in Hebrews 7:22-25, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Consistently, Christ is going and interceding on our behalf to His Father, showing Him that once we have come to know Him as our Savior, we are covered in His righteousness.



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