Author Archives: Michael Fox

Mercy • Devotion #4: We are a Team

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Reading through Jesus’ teachings, and thinking about those that had to have been listening to this, I cannot help but wonder what they thought. How foreign of a concept was this? Most, it seems, are taught if you want something you have to take it, not give it away.

I, at times, have a struggle I am sure most can relate to. I want things. This shows itself often in marriage. I have an emotional need, or I have a physical need. I want time alone. I want to be served. Can anyone else relate?

A friend recently reminded me of a concept in marriage – we are a team. It is not new, but a great reminder that I frequently need. She is not out to get me, and I am not out to get her. I am reminded of this passage in Ephesians chapter 5.

Ephesians 5:28-30 says, In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

Reading Luke 6:38, God reminded me of this passage in Ephesians and I could not help but think of the relationship with my wife. I have been told by many to succeed in marriage you have to stop thinking about yourself and what you want, and focus on what she wants or needs. Love my wife, provide for her, and in doing so, God will bless. I can tell you, that every time I have done this, and done so with the right heart with love toward my wife and toward Christ, it has been given back to me. God has an amazing way of providing what I need when I first put my focus in the right place.

“Give, and it will be given to you” seems a little odd maybe to some, but it is actually fun to follow Jesus’ teachings and watch His promises come to life.

Hebrews 6:10 adds, For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”

Lesson Thirteen • Devotion #6: The Heart of Giving

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

As I read through 2 Corinthians chapter 8, I reflected on giving and was convicted back to a time when I was younger and the true heart of my giving. 

I did not grow up in church my entire life; however, between the ages of 10 and 12, I began attending with my family and accepted Christ during Vacation Bible School in the summer. I remember growing in the youth group through high school and began to have a desire to serve, or give my time. As soon as I turned 18, I remember the strong desire to drive a bus for the youth group and got a CDL license. It was a joy (verse 2) and was well within my means (verse 3). I can honestly say that I loved doing it and it was a great way for me to serve at that time. 

There are two truths in this passage that I feel like I had a good grasp on then, but I can also say I do not always have a good grasp. They are great reminders for me.

  1. Give myself to God first.
  2. Give out of grace.

I am reminded to enter into giving with the right heart. If we cannot give ourselves to God first, often we can do things for the wrong reasons. Then, I am reminded of the grace God has given me, which I definitely do not deserve. That love is very hard to comprehend. However, if we strive to give from that grace, I believe God will bless our efforts and it will be pleasing to Him.

“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 

Lesson Three • Devotion #4: Comfort Food

I love comfort food. It is usually my go-to when I am stressed or overwhelmed. Food calms me down and makes me feel better. A lot of people know that I get “hangry,” and often, my mood will change drastically for the better after I eat. I get made fun of often for this, but I choose to embrace it as much as possible as part of who I am.

Food is comfortable, but it is always temporary. Reading through some of these verses is a great reminder to me that God is our everlasting comfort when many earthly things are all very temporary.

Psalm 146:3-8 says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.”Here we see our hope is in the Lord, who is forever.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Paul talks a lot about God being our comforter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

One of the awesome pictures I get reading through this is our purpose in life, and why God sometimes allows us to go through things. He ultimately will give us the comfort that we need, and He provides us a promise that He will help us through our hard times. However, one of the greatest things we can do is be there for others. What we learn both through our experiences and then receiving God’s comfort, we can ultimately use to help others.

Another awesome promise in 2 Corinthians chapter 1 is the power of prayer. Here we see an awesome picture that God blesses because of the prayers of many. A great takeaway today for me as we navigate through each of our own challenges is to give thanks to the Lord for getting us through it, using those experiences to help those around us, and remember those in need around us and pray for them often.

1 John 2 • Devotion #2: Blinded

Do you ever feel blinded? Maybe not literally, but often I am blinded and lose sight of what is important. This can show in many ways: poor decisions, anger, fear, behavior, and selfishness. I want to know where I am going in life, and as Christians, we should know where we are going. We are warned of the darkness often, and also of being blinded.

John writes, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).

Looking at a larger part of this passage, 1 John 2:7-10 says, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”

We see one of the commandments here and a promise against darkness and being blind. In verse 10,“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” A simple act of loving one another can directly help from the side effects of being blinded, but it also has a greater purpose.

John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In John 13:35, he tells us, “By this all people will know.” By loving others, they will see the love of Christ through us and can be one of the greatest ways to witness to others.

Loving our brother is a common theme throughout the Bible; try thinking of one way you can love someone else today.

John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”Romans 12:10 adds, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Back to Reach • Devotion #3: Nudge

When I was 18, our youth group needed a bus driver. For some reason, it was something I felt like I could do, so I studied, took the test, and received my CDL license. I am really thankful for the Holy Spirit’s leading and the “nudge” I probably received to begin serving. Over the years, it has become a small joke where I try to hide the fact that I have this license, so I do not get asked to drive. However, I actually do enjoy doing it, and looking back it has been a great way for me to serve over the years.

I began my journey as a Christian when I was twelve, and as I began to learn about God, study the Bible, and listen to those around me with wisdom, a common theme began to surface: Serve. In middle school, a friend of mine invited me to church. I was reached. Then I began to attend church, I gathered. As time went on, I attended Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and youth group. I began to grow. Here at The River, we talk a lot about the vision of the church which is Reach, Gather, and Grow. I can look back and see my journey and the path through this process, and I am thankful for those people in my life that helped shape me.

As believers, we are also called to go “Back to Reach.” That is what I believe I did when I went and tested for my bus license and began to serve in that ministry. Over the years, I have served in many different areas. There are many to choose from for you as well. A natural response after salvation is serving God, furthering His kingdom, and finding ways to carry out His will for us. John 12:26 reminds us that God calls us to serve Him, and He will honor us for it: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

In 1 Samuel 12:24, we are reminded to be faithful in serving, and remember what God has done for each of us: “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” 

Finally, Joshua 22:5 says, “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

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