Devotions

Author Archives: Roger Allen

Gather • Devotion #1: Fast Food

Flying into Tel Aviv for the first time is an exciting experience. For a less than a seasoned traveler, the glide on the flight path is one of awe and wonder. I am never disappointed at how different a destination looks when I see it for the first time. Not looking like I had imagined it, Tel Aviv is a very clean and neat place compared to many. Boundaries are well marked and delineated. The biggest surprise for me was all the seemingly endless agriculture within the city limits. Each city block had large gardens and greenhouses in the back yards of many homes and businesses. It did not take long to realize how this would influence how we would eat for the next ten days. Only the freshest produce was offered and prepared in the healthiest way. If there is one thing I can say about food in Israel, “It is very consistent.” From one establishment to the next, food always was prepared the same way: Falafel, Hummus, Shwarma, Lentil Soup, along with tomato and cucumber salad, white cheese, and of course, olives. Excited to try all the new foods, I could not wait until dinner. Trying every new dish I could find, it was not long before I found my favorites. Yet, after about the eighth day, my excitement was starting to dim, and I began to yearn for what I knew best. It is funny to think about what I would have done for some over-processed, chemically infused fast food.

Exodus 16:2 says, “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.”

Times become tough for a leader when the excitement of those that they lead becomes dim. Insubordination and even insurrection are possible when people believe they have been let down or led astray. For Moses, experiencing the power and glory of God, it must have been a tough pill to swallow when the people began to complain. Witnessing the very same wonders and miracles as he did, you would think that they would have the same faith. Yet, because their expectations were of another nature, they became disillusioned. Moses could probably assume that they may mutiny or even worse, remove him and Aaron from the leadership in any way possible. Once again, the Lord lifts his hand and sustains the people of Israel. So, Moses and Aaron begin to instruct the people that they will see the glory of the Lord and be prepared. Yet, they continue to complain about their unmet expectations. I realize I am taking a leap here, but by chapter nine I believe he has had as much as he can handle and basically tells his brother, “You deal with them, because I am fed up with their constant complaining!”

Luke 6:28 says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

How often have you tried to do the right thing only to find you are not appreciated? You feel you have sacrificed your hard-earned time, money, and resources only to be rebuffed. Imagine Moses trying so hard to help his people, and time and time again to find that their trust in him and ultimately, the Lord, was short-lived. However, even with the abuse Moses would receive, we see him intervening in prayer for his people. He is constantly urging the Lord to show grace and mercy even when it was not warranted. That is what good leadership is all about, standing in the gap and taking it on the chin for those you lead. It is a servant who is willing to give more than they receive for those that are entrusted to them.

Philippians 2:3 adds, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

For those of us in leadership roles, we should realize that we too are capable of becoming disillusioned by our own desires. Even visiting a place of “milk and honey” where the food is good, we can find a reason to complain. It does not take long to realize, like the Hebrew people of Moses’ time, we too can return to enslavement. Because we do not always recognize the ways of the Lord or have faith in Him, we can easily return to what we know best, whether it is good for us or not. That is why godly leadership is so important. 

When we gather together as a Church, we can strengthen, direct, and encourage each other. It is a great time to worship and be recharged together. We need each other and the reminders of how blessed we are. When left to ourselves or with harmful voices, we can become discouraged and complainers.

By the way, can I have two Crunch Wrap Supremes, two Crunchy Tacos and a large Baja Blast to go?

Lift Your Eyes

Brazen Serpent | Devotion 6: Lift Your Eyes
Roger Allen

We have all seen the video where a person on their phone walks into the signpost, right? Remember when you first learned to dribble a basketball? Concentrating on the ball, we kept our head down as we dribbled down the court, failing to see our wide-open teammate under the rim. So often in life, we proceed in a similar manner. We have distractions in our everyday life. We tend to keep our eye off the important things. We allow errands, travel sports, and “chasing the dream,” to become the focus of our attention. Failing to look up, we lose out on so many things.

In the book of John, we find just such a scenario. Chapter 3 starts with the story of Nicodemus. Considered a “ruler of the Jews,” Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He would have been religious, pious, and observed all the Jewish laws. To most, he would have appeared to have it together. He was considered as a man that surely had his eternity secured. We see him come under cover of darkness to question Jesus about who He claims to be. This is where things get interesting, and we see Nicodemus for who he truly is. When questioned about spiritual matters, he fails to understand what Jesus is saying. Sarcastically, Jesus asks him as a teacher why he can not understand what He has said. Because his religiosity had blinded him, he almost failed to see who Jesus truly was.

Right at the end of this interview, John 3:14-15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

So often, like Nicodemus, the lost world tends to look at the physical instead of the spiritual. Blinded by the religious experience and worldly desires, they miss the most important aspect of their lives. Making a list and marking it off gives them a sense of security. When we read John 3:14-15, we may be confused by what we find. We might even read right past what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus. Why does Jesus compare Himself with a serpent? It seems odd; does it not? The serpent, the representation of evil in the world, lifted up for all to see, for whoever looks on it will live (Numbers 21:4-9). Is this actually the foreshadow of who Jesus is? Are we to look upon the embodiment of evil for our salvation? It is not until we read this next verse that it becomes apparent to us what Jesus meant, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

High and lifted up, unblemished, sinless, perfect in every way, Jesus becomes sin for us so that we may have an eternal relationship with God. When we look on the cross, we see our past, present, and future sin, rendered dead and buried. As the representation of the serpent, our transgressions have been cast out, and we are found righteous by the act of our Savior. God furnished the “perfect lamb” for our atonement; we are now free from the penalty of our sin. Yet, there will be those that believe they have lived a righteous and holy life, only to find they will be cast out. Others have heard the call and completely turned their back on God. The religious men and women, that through the theology of works, keep their eyes to the ground, only to miss out on the salvation of their souls. All they had to do was “look up” and see what Jesus did for them. The gift of grace is free, and all we have to do is trust and believe in Him. “For God so loved the world” He sent His only Son to pay our price in full. Look to Him that beat death, Hell, and the grave.

John 3:16 promises, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

Identify the Need

Tabernacle | Devotion 3: Identify the Need
Roger Allen

With the explosion of non-profits over the last thirty years, grant writing has become a sought after skill. Because of this, many colleges now offer certificate programs in this very employment field. Each year billions of dollars are given out to successful grant writers. In order to be approved, there are few absolutes that must be accomplished. First, identify the need and then build your proposal from there. However, what should be the first consideration typically gets overlooked. Paying special attention to the grants specific requests is paramount to being successful. Following them would seem to be the logical step, but for whatever reason, many writers seem to fail, and billions are left at the table. For such a relatively easy task like following the rules, many seem to drop the ball.

Exodus 40:16 says, “This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did.”   

In the making of the Ark of the Covenant, Moses was given a specific set of instructions to follow. From the wood to the overlay, everything used in the making of the Ark was asked for by God. Even the decorative work on the lampstand was done to perfection by craftsman that were handpicked by the Lord Himself. As we see, Bezalel was called by name, in Exodus 35:30, to be the lead builder for the construction of the Tabernacle. Moses attended to each minute detail as the Lord had instructed. As we read about Moses, it becomes abundantly clear he is obedient. Through the whole story of his life, we find him following God’s leading. When he was called to shepherd the people out of Egypt, he obeyed. Through all the griping, hardship, and lack of faith on the peoples part, Moses continued in obedience. When we study the life of Moses, we see in him as a prophet, one who through obedience, intercedes for the people. While not perfect, we see him as a foreshadow of Jesus. He was the giver of the law that the people should follow. He was a man worthy of being heard and obeyed. He was a prophet who would be a liaison between the people and the Lord. He led by example as a servant and a leader. Yet, in one swift act of disobedience, he was denied entrance to the promised land.

Numbers 20:12 (NCV) adds, “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe me, and because you did not honor me as holy before the people, you will not lead them into the land I will give them.’”

How has an act of disobedience cost you? What was the penalty for your breaking of the covenant between God and yourself? As we see in Moses’ life, one act cost him dearly. Imagine now, you have lived a good and upright life, yet in the end, you fail and falter, what will be the outcome? You see, as much as we may try, we will never be able to fulfill the Law completely. Just like Moses before us, at some point, we will fail the Lord miserably. The Good News is, if you have received Jesus as your Lord and have repented, you will receive forgiveness. With Him, we have a picture of grace so freely given to us by the Father. He gave us the perfect sacrifice in His Son, and by doing so, the Law was fulfilled completely. We are found guiltless, without condemnation, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and this should produce in us a desire to live a righteous life by grace alone.

Finally, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Deserved Respect

Ten Commandments | Devotion 4: Deserved Respect
Roger Allen

Imagine finding out you were born under a death sentence because of your ethnicity and gender. Your parents were hiding you for as long as possible from the authorities. Finally, realizing that they could no longer keep you safe, your mother took action. She swaddled you and put you into a small basket made of bullrushes, you floated on the Nile River. That is how Moses’ life began (Read Exodus 2:1-10).

We know very little about Moses’ parents. Assuming they are like most, we can imagine that they were protective of their children. Their goal was raising them in their ways, customs, and instilling in them the faith they had in God. Yet for Moses, he never got to experience the nurturing of his birth parents. His connection with his family is at best, viewed from the outside. Still, Moses came to know who he truly was. Possibly from his mother, sister, or by God himself, Moses knew he was a Hebrew. In Exodus 2:1, we find that both parents are from the house of Levi. Unnamed, it will not be until Exodus 6:20, that his parents’ names are finally revealed to us, “Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years.”

As we can see from the text, Amram took his aunt Jochebed, as his wife. A short while later in Leviticus 18:12 and 16, we find that this is strictly forbidden. What is actually happening here? If we read the whole story of Moses, we quickly realize that his destiny is not determined by his birthright. God’s plan for his life would supersede any detrimental effects of being born a slave. Eventually, he would lead his people out of bondage and would introduce the commandment that the father and mother shall be honored, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

Considered the first commandment of the second tablet, the fifth commandment brings together the conduct towards our familial relations. It is telling us to do more than obey but to adore those who give us life. This is for the people who have looked after us (even if it was just a short time) with reverence and respect. They are the ones who have kept us safe and have given us instruction so that we may prosper. It is to those that sacrificed so we may have life. What greater love is there? Just as Amram and Jochebed, protected their son Moses, we see the reason why we must honor them. They put it all on the line for him.

As our parents age, we owe them the honor and respect they deserve. It may be taking time out of our day to check on their well being, taking them to lunch, or just conversation. We should not consider this as a chore, but a celebration. God has not commanded that “if” our parents should be honored, but “how” they should be honored. Even if they struggled in the parenting role, we should find the grace and the love that God has commanded. There is a promise that is attached to this, and we would do well to listen to it.

Good, Better, Best

Burning Bush | Devotion 3: Good, Better, Best
Roger Allen

 “Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.’” Exodus 3:7

In the time of Joseph, a famine pushed Jacob (Israel) and his sons to the land of Egypt. It was a land where there was food and shelter. It was a place where they could feel secure from the famine around them. As they became comfortable with their new surroundings, the Hebrews grew and prospered. One day this would change abruptly when a new and fearful Pharaoh ascended to the throne. Life changed dramatically for them. Enslaved, they toiled under a new taskmaster. Yet, the Lord saw their affliction and heard their cry.

We often think of an oppressor as a person, political system, or structure that puts undue hardship on us. It comes across as unfairly treating us in a manner that keeps us from prospering and growing. Weighted, we desperately seek solutions to our position in life. Our afflictions come in many forms. Searching for acceptance, relationships, or feelings of inadequacy, we search for ways to fill that void within us. In our spiritual famine, we will retreat to our Egypt. It may be food, drugs, the lust of the flesh, or even our jobs, but we will feed our oppression. Our oppressor will eventually require all from us. We will sacrifice all in an attempt to fill the emptiness. For a brief time, we may even believe we have achieved the desired result. The Israelites felt and did the same thing.

In all our folly, the Lord sees our suffering. Whether by our hands or others, we need to be delivered from our bondage. As with the Israelites, God has sent One who will rescue us. He will intercede on our behalf as our deliverer, rescuer, and our salvation. In our brokenness, we will leave the “Land of Goshen” for the “Land of Milk and Honey.” His plans are designed to bring us out of oppression into life. He is Jesus.

Goshen met the need for a time. It was good, but good was not good enough. God offers better and even best.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”



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