Author Archives: Philip Piasecki

Lesson Eighteen • Devotion #3: Positive Gossip

It is natural for us to want to praise something. Unfortunately, most of the time this desire to praise something causes us to praise ourselves; we lift ourselves up while putting others down. This praise instead needs to be directed to Jesus, making Him great and making less of ourselves. However, we can also use this desire to praise to lift up and encourage our fellow believers. Paul understood the dangers of boasting about himself when speaking in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. Now I am going to be honest, the first couple of verses in this chapter are pretty confusing. I think it would take much more than a 500-word devotion to unpack all that is being said.

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-5, we read, “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast.”

As I said, there is a lot to understand here, we can all agree though that it sounds like a pretty incredible experience that this man has. I want to focus on what Paul says in verse 5, “On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast.” This is the mindset that I want us all to start having. We can do so much good for the Kingdom of God if we started boasting about what other believers are doing. Now, I do not mean worshipping people or putting a pastor on the same level as the Lord. There is extreme danger in having that perspective. What I mean is talking positively about people. Instead of gossiping about how someone is struggling, share the good things that you have heard. 

There are so many believers trying to do incredible things for the Lord and they need our encouragement. Also, when I hear about something another believer is doing for the Lord, it encourages me to seek even more after the Lord. When we boast in another believer, we ultimately are glorifying the Lord by telling people how God has been using one of His disciples! We need to talk less about ourselves and more about what the Lord is doing through His people.

Lesson Eleven • Devotion #1: Endurance in Hardship

I do not know about you, but I hate running. If I am going to run, I better have a basketball in my hands, be running around the bases, or be about to catch a touchdown. However, even in team sports there are always the dreaded conditioning days. I have so many memories burned into my brain of running until I literally thought I could not take one more step. It always felt pointless at first; however, halfway through the season I would realize our team had the best endurance out of everyone we were playing. There is no better feeling of accomplishment when your opponent is out of gas, and you just keep going. Endurance is also a common theme in the Bible. In the same way, physical endurance is important for athletics, spiritual endurance is essential in our walk with Christ as we see in this Scripture.

In 2 Corinthians 6:1-5, we read, “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.’”

This chapter is a fascinating piece of Scripture. Honestly, I feel like I could write a whole book on it. There is so much to unpack just in this one chapter. One of the things we can learn through this Scripture is that our lives can either help or hinder people on their path to having faith in Christ. We know this because Paul takes time to focus on how he and his ministry had “put no obstacle in anyone’s way,” and then he lays out how the example of their lives actually pointed to Christ.

His first example is their great endurance in times of trouble. Take a moment to read over verse 5 again. If we are being honest, I am not sure many of us would have the spiritual endurance to deal with everything that Paul had to encounter. Still we must strive to do our best to follow this example laid out for us in Scripture. It is likely that in our life we are going to face some of the things that Paul lays out here, and our response to those hardships is going to speak volumes to our spiritual maturity. When people know that we are believers, we are put under a microscope. If we lose all faith in Jesus the moment we are faced with hardship, it sends the message to those who do not believe that our God is not able to sustain us. However, when we confidently and calmly face our challenges with strength only found from Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit, we show others how truly faithful our God is. The endurance in faith by a believer in the midst of horrendous circumstances is one of the most powerful witnesses that exist. It opens eyes, turns heads, and causes people to ask questions which gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel.

I Am: The Way, Truth, Life • Devotion #3: Directions

My wife and I had the amazing privilege of going on a vacation to Italy a couple of years ago. My wife still has a close family in Germany, so we figured while we were in Europe this would probably be the best time to go see her family for the weekend. We booked our tickets to take the short hour and a half plane ride over to Germany from Italy. All we had to do first was take a train from our town to Pisa, and from there we would be good to go. The only issue was the train trip involved two transfers where we had to get off our train and get on a new one, everything is in Italian, and neither of us speaks or can read Italian. Still, I was confident in my navigating ability, so off we went. Everything was going great until this ancient Italian lady started telling us through hand gestures and broken English that we were going the wrong way. We heeded her advice, got off the train, only to realize she had no idea what she was talking about. We were going the right way the whole time. The ensuing hours were extremely stressful but we ended up finding the right way to go and by the grace of God we did not miss our flight to Germany.

This is just a dumb example to show how important it is to know the right way. In this Scripture, Jesus takes this idea of knowing “the right way” to a whole other level by calling Himself “the Way.”

In John 14:6, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

The question for all of existence has been and will continue to be, “How do I get to God?” Some ask it as a question of eternity, or some ask meaning currently on this earth. Yet, everyone is looking to get to God, and Jesus gives them their answer clear as day. He tells us that He is “the Way,” and doubles down saying that nobody will come to the Father except through Him. 

Just as that day on the train there was only one way we were getting to our destination, there is only one way to God, and it is through Jesus. The sad thing is the prevailing thought in society is that there are many ways to God and many ways to eternity. Countless times I have heard people say, “As long as we all just follow our religion well, and be a good person, we are all going to make it.” 

If you are reading this and are not a Christian, I hope you will understand that all other “ways” of getting to God are just poor reflections of what true Christianity really is. Every other religion misses out on the most essential part of true salvation, they miss out on Jesus. In some way or another, they do not hold Jesus in the position of “the way, the truth, and the life.”

For those of you who are believers, you may have people come into your life and try and tell you that you are going the wrong way. However, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ then you can confidently know that you are going the right way. As you are reading this, I hope you are not putting your faith in “the way” of false religions, self-help, or thinking you can just be “good enough.” My prayer is that you are confidently putting your hope in the only true “Way” that is Jesus Christ. 

I Am: The Resurrection and the Life • Devotion #4: Life of Joy

Expectations are a tough thing. I know we all have had a situation in a job, family relationship, or friendship where we expected something from them and in our eyes, they let us down. This is the situation we find Martha in with Jesus when it comes to her sick brother Lazarus. Martha expected Jesus to heal her brother. When Jesus did not show up on her timing, her expectations led to disappointment. However, Jesus knew it was more important for Him to wait so that a greater truth could be taught to everyone who was there because of Lazarus’ death.

John 11:21-26 says, “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’”

Jesus uses this moment to teach the crowd an incredible spiritual truth. It is not long from this moment that Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead, fully displaying the power that He has over death. Showing the crowd this miracle solidified what He had told them when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What does that actually practically mean to us in our walk with Christ day to day? Jesus is “the Life.” He is the life inside our veins that keeps us moving day by day. Many Christians have wrong expectations about their walk with Christ that it should be easy and breezy each and every day. This is not what Scripture teaches, what it does teach is that even through the troubles of this life, we can still live a joy-filled life because of our belief in the One who is “the resurrection and the life.”

In 1 Peter 1:8-9, we read, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Christians should be the most joy-filled people in the world, unfortunately, most of the time we are some of the most miserable. We tend to be constantly focusing on our failures and our shortcomings instead of focusing on who Jesus is and the salvation of our souls. Peter says in his first letter that we should rejoice with joy that is inexpressible! That is how you can have an incredible life here on this Earth, by being filled with the joy of Christ that comes from understanding that He is our resurrection and our life! 

One of the most powerful witnesses to our fallen world is a Christian who still rejoices through their darkest trials. Jesus is not just our life for eternity, He is our life right now on this Earth. Honor God through your life, and enjoy the life that the Lord has given you. Use the tools He has given you to share His gospel, and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible for the ways that He has blessed you and your family. I promise your whole countenance will be lifted when you find yourself recognizing that the Lord is our life. We were dead, and yet now we are alive through Him. Live joyfully in the Lord to show the world this incredible truth.

I Am: The Bread of Life • Devotion #5: Food Analogy

If there is one thing in this world that everyone can agree on, it is that we love food. I feel Christians will use any excuse we can think of to have an event where food is present. I once saw a parody article online that said something like, “Scientists confirm: food consumed at church potluck does not count towards the daily caloric intake.” I am sure there are many of us that wish that was the case. If you have been around the River Church for a while, you will know we have a couple of Pastors on staff who cannot make it through a single sermon without making a food analogy! One of the reasons for that though is that they learned from the best preacher of all time, Jesus. Throughout Scripture, Jesus used parables and examples involving food. He knew how to get people’s attention. 

John 6:32-35 records, “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”

In John 6:48-51, Jesus continues, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

I absolutely love these scriptures, particularly because of the context surrounding them. Essentially the context is the crowd Jesus is speaking to had been searching for Him because He has fed them food before, and they wanted another free meal. Since these people are looking for food, Jesus takes the opportunity to give them the Gospel and explain that He is the Bread of Life. When I think of food I think of something that sustains me and gives me the energy to live my life. This is what Jesus is saying He can do for us spiritually! Obviously, we all know that if you believe in Jesus you will still become physically hungry. What Jesus is saying in this chapter is spiritual, you will never hunger or thirst again if you believe in Him. Jesus is the Bread of Life, He will sustain us spiritually. He gives us what we need daily to live our lives for Him. Instead of putting our time and energy into things that only satisfy us for a short time, we can invest our efforts into our relationship with Christ and reap spiritual contentment. 

Next time you find yourself chasing anything and everything except for Jesus, remember that He is the Bread of Life; He is the only one that can satisfy you.

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