Devotions

Author Archives: Max Sinclair

Being the Second Chair

Raised Arms | Devotion 3: Being the Second Chair
Max Sinclair

Throughout middle school and my freshman year of high school, I was in the school’s band, and I played the trombone. I was not really good, to be honest, I had a hard time reading sheet music, but I knew how to fake it. I sat at the second chair and would be able to use the corner of my eye to see what the first chair player was playing, and I would mimic the slide placement for the instrument making the same note. Now I am not ashamed of my inability to play, but one time, I was promoted to the first chair by a fluke instance. This now brought my insecurity to light, and immediately I realized that I could not pretend to play anymore. I could no longer hide my inability and had to realize that I was not first chair material. I had to come to grips with the fact that I did not possess the skill or ability to be the first chair trombone player for my school’s band. I still do not know how to play the trombone, but the truth that hurts to say is sometimes I need to understand that I am not going to be number one.

Exodus 17:8-13 tells the infamous story about the defeat of the Amalekites by God’s power displayed through the Israelites. The story starts with Amalek raising an army and marching against the Israelites. Moses tells Joshua to choose men and go out and fight with Amalek, and while they fight, Moses will held the Staff of God in his hand while standing on a hill overlooking the battle. Joshua did as Moses instructed and went to battle. As Joshua went into battle, Moses, Aaron, and Hur headed up to the hill. As the battle raged down below, whenever Moses held the staff aloft, the Israelites would start to win, but as soon as he put the staff down, they would begin to lose. The battle went on for such a long time that Moses’ arms grew tired, and his arms would fall. Aaron and Hur went and hold up his arms and even put rocks under them so that the Israelites would win. Eventually, the Amalekites were defeated, and the children of Israel had victory over their enemies. This awesome event shows that it is ok to be the second chair, to not be the leader, and to not be the one in the spotlight.

Over the past few weeks, I feel as if God has really been working in me to reveal my pride and correct it. It has hindered me in the past and has brought me to some of the darkest places I have ever been, all because I thought I knew what was best. I tried to be the first chair of my life, I tried to be the star of the movie of my life, and I realize that it is not about me. In this story, we see that it was not Joshua’s supreme fighting prowess, Moses was not strong enough to hold up the staff for very long, and that Aaron and Hur were smart to find something to help Moses hold up his arms. However, they still did not win the battle. What we need to focus on and look to in this instance is that the battle is the Lord’s.

A few hundred years later, we will see a man, who would later become King of Israel, say the same thing to a giant who stood opposed to God at the Valley of Elah. In 1 Samuel 17:47, David shouted, “And that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” The battles that we face are already won. We do not win them. Often we sit back in fear and run. We retreat, falter, and fail, but the simple fact is we are not the hero of this story. Christ is the Hero of the story, He is the first chair, and He is the one who brings victory. It is not us nor our actions. In the start of Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

#NOTMYJESUS

Red Sea | Devotion 6: #NOTMYJESUS
Max Sinclair

“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” Exodus 14:30-31

With this study of Exodus, we get to see a lot of aspects of the Lord that we may not have wanted to see. We see His divine election of the people of Israel as His Holy Nation, we see the casting down of the gods of Egypt and the Lord’s divine authority through the plagues, and we see the Lord’s Power over His creation as He parts the Red Sea. All of this, however, some would argue, is not in character of the God in the New Testament who is rich in love and slow to anger, or even His Son the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, who did not come to condemn the world but to save it.

Now this Devotion is going to be very pointed, some might not like what I have to say or possibly agree with it, but I feel like it needs to be said. God does not care what you think of Him. As Hebrews 13:8 would say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We do not get to change that. We do not get to decide who our God is. If we do that, we are worshiping a false idol and an untrue god. Now I will not negate His love, grace, mercy, and amazing irresistibility but at the same time we can never forget that God is just, He is wrath, and He is to be feared.

At this point, the children of Israel feared the Lord. They have seen His just and awesome power displayed to all the world that He is the Lord, the divine authority, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Even though they see this power of the Lord displayed, in a manner of days, they decide to build a golden idol of a calf and worship that. Is that not what we do as Christians today? Do we not go through a moment of fear and uncertainty only to be reminded of the realness of God and His undeniable sovereignty and then completely forget Him?

When I returned back to civilian life after my four years of service in the United States Navy, I asked Pastor Ryan Story to mentor me. In our meeting, I asked the question, “How could the Israelites forget how awesome and how powerful our God is and worship false gods or idols?” Ryan turned in his chair and with a pen drew a line on his office wall, “In a few weeks you won’t remember that mark was even there. It has become a permanent part of this room.” To my surprise, he was right. The mark became commonplace, it became ever-present and permanent, and I paid it no mind. Now, I am not saying that I should fear the pen mark on a wall in some office at our Holly location, but I am saying that we should fear our complacency with the Lord. God is not some genie that gives us three wishes, nor is He the conveyor belt of Blessings. God, YHWH, Jehovah, Adonai, is the Architect of the Universe, the undeniable sovereign of all creation. With this title and His authority, fear should be given, a total submission should be observed, and praise will be His.

I love you, and I know that the Lord loves you as well, but it is time that we take a realistic approach to the God that we serve. Yes, He is love, and His divine love also has divine justice and wrath. Yes, He will bless you, but He will also punish you. In Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love,” he states, “I sometimes struggle with how to properly respond to God’s magnitude in a world bent on ignoring or merely tolerating Him. But know this: God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him.” That is the God whom we serve, and it is about time that we realize that.

Remember That Which Is the Lord’s

Passover | Devotion 6: Remember That Which Is the Lord’s
Max Sinclair

While growing up, I have had a deep love for history. I am not sure exactly why I have this love, but it is something that has shaped me and molded me into the person that I am. To look at a people group and understand their background, their stories, and their culture is something that fascinates me. My parents live next to a lady who grew up in Berlin toward the end of the Second World War. I remember asking her questions about what it was like, and her story was so riveting. I recall her crying at one point, and I said that we did not need to continue talking about it if she did not want to and her reply to me was so impactful. She said, “Max, it is good to remember the past so that we will never forget it.” We have heard this saying a lot from the infamous quote by George Santayana, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Yet, have we not already forgotten our past?

In this section of Exodus, we see the Lord instructing the Children of Israel on the feast of the unleavened bread. God went through and instructed all the Israelites on what to do, then He gave us the why in Exodus 13:8, “You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” God intentionally wanted the Israelites to remember that which He did for them. Before I worked at the River Church, I was being mentored by the former student Pastor, and now the Burton Location Pastor, Ryan Story. I do not remember how exactly we got to the subject, but I do remember saying to Ryan that I thought it was so dumb that the Israelites would totally forget what God had done for them, how He split the sea and led them through the desert by cloud and pillar of fire. At that moment in his office, he drew a line on the wall and said, in a few days, we will not see the line I drew, and to my surprise, he was right. After he drew that line, I did not recall seeing it, even when we shared an office while I was interning, I did not see the line he drew. I had totally forgotten the mark on the wall.

The whole purpose of the Feast of the Unleavened is to remember all that God had done for the Hebrew people to remember that through His actions, not anyone else’s actions, have they been rescued and so because of that He required an offering of the first born. This offering was to consecrate, or as Matt Chandler challenges, “To set aside exclusively for a Holy purpose.” We are that which is consecrated unto God at the onset of our redemption and atonement. As the Apostle Paul would say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This imputed righteousness allows us to share with Christ His firstborn position because as Romans 8:17 says, “And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” 

Now I am the son of a caterer, so I understand that it is the breakdown of leaven or yeast that allows the bread to rise. Through the decomposition, the bread becomes puffed up. This simple act shows us an invaluable lesson; that which leads to death, sin, is what puffs us up, but that which God has done for us has not allowed that to happen. Our duty as followers of Christ is to remember the Gospel, to remember His Life, His Death, and His Resurrection. Matt Chandler summarizes the reason well, “We belong to him. Our salvation was not cheap. God loved us while we were at our worst. It’s so easy to forget that.”

Who do you know?

Moses Challenges Pharaoh | Devotion 4: Who do you know?
Max Sinclair

Many times in our life we have moments of great clarity and then almost immediately followed by great confusion. Our faith will be rock solid in Christ, we will know that God’s will is prevailing, and we will follow it, but then just as we step out on faith and try to live by it, things around us begin to crumble. This has happened to my family and me. My wife and I stepped out on faith in what we thought was God’s will and we were quite abruptly reminded that we were following what we wanted and not what He wanted.

I see in this passage of Scripture the will of the Lord quite aggressively shown to Moses and his brother, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them” (Exodus 7:5). That verse shows how we as Christians can forget who God truly is. He is not Zeus who supposedly throws lightning bolts from the sky, or the Egyptian god, Ra who is believed by some to live in the sun. He is not the Mongolian’s Eternal Blue Sky that covers our head for us to run; God is not Mars with his mighty battle plate. He is not like the gods of the Aztec who require the still-beating hearts of their sacrifices. Our God is the Lord. Let that sink in; our God is the God who hung the stars in the sky and named them, the same God who put the hair on your head, or for some took it away. Our God is the God who gave us air to breathe, light to see, sounds to hear, and food to eat.

Over the years, I myself have forgotten those things. The simple fact that God is the Lord will elude me and I will think He is like a genie from a bottle to grant me my requests, or that He, like from the movie “Bruce Almighty,” is just a kid on an anthill with a magnifying glass trying to catch me on fire when I step out of line. No, our God is the Lord, He is and will always be the God, and there is no changing that. Think over His names today and see how they describe who He is.

YHWH-Niss’I – “The LORD Our Banner” (Exodus 17:8–15)

YHWH-Rapha – “The LORD that Heals” (Exodus 15:26)

YHWH-Ro’i – “The LORD My Shepherd” (Psalms 23:1)

YHWH-Shalom – “The LORD Our Peace” (Judges 6:24)

YHWH-Shammah – “The LORD Is Present” (Ezekiel 48:35)

YHWH-Tsidkenu – “The LORD Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6)

YHWH-Yireh (Adonai-Jireh) – “The LORD Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14)

Rock Bottom

Burning Bush | Devotion 1: Rock Bottom
Max Sinclair

The story portrayed in Exodus is the story of God redeeming His children to have a relationship with Him. As Pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church put it, “The story of Exodus is the story of us. It’s the story of God drawing us out to draw us in.” As we look at the story thus far, Moses had been run out of Egypt where he met a man named Jethro who was a priest of Midian. Through Moses’ time there in Midian, he married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah. To be a man and to take care of his wife, Moses became a shepherd for his father-in-law. While out with the sheep he came to the side of Mount Horeb, also known as the Mountain of God. As he walked around this mountain he noticed, “[That] the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).

While reading this story, I could not help but think about where Moses came from to where he is now. Some of us might have gone through similar massive world changes. I mean, Moses was a prince of Egypt, he lived in palaces and had servants and personal attendants. Moses knew Pharaoh as his grandfather. Moses was living the life that we would envy, yet he saw something wrong and acted out on impulse and was forced from his luxurious life and into one of hardship as a nomadic shepherd of Midian. I do not know about you, but if I am really honest, I would be a little bitter, I would feel a little guilty from my sin, and I would have a large chip on my shoulder. Moses’ life had just been turned upside down, and now he had to work and take care of that which he had responsibility for now. In our own lives, this could cause us to become blind to things around us. Personally, I know this all too well. I came from a life of being deeply enrooted in the Bible and the church. I grew up at our Waterford location, and I thought I understood who Christ was. My life was good, and I knew it, but when it got hard, I became blind to the will of God in my life. I became paranoid that I had angered God in such a way that He had sent His plagues to hurt me. When I would turn back, I would not feel His presence, and I would not be able to see His will. I was blind to Him because I wanted that which I wanted and not what He had planned for my life.

In this story in Exodus, Moses saw this Angel of the Lord appearing to him as a fire on a bush, yet the bush was not being consumed by the flames. This extraordinary sight grabs Moses’ attention, and so began his conversation with the Lord. This is Moses’ rise from rock bottom.

In my life, my rock bottom was a lot different; depression and anxiety plagued my mind and drove me away from others. Being all alone in the Navy was one of the hardest things, and it was even harder when I did not know where God was. Yet, as I said before, I was not looking for Him where he was. I ignored my Burning Bush for a while, trying to find it in relationships, in books or fantasy, and even in law school, but it was right in front of me the entire time. God is trying to get your attention and trying for you to follow His will. When you have hit rock bottom there is only one way to go from there, so stop trying to dig deeper.



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