Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Roy Townsend

Mercy • Devotion #5: Do Be A Good Boy!

When I was first taught to be a good boy and share my toys with others, it was really hard because in my sinful nature I did not want anyone else to play with my toys. My natural disposition was to be selfish. When I was taught to speak kindly to my brother and sisters, I was angry and wanted to hurt them because I was hurt. When I was taught to be generous and to give money to help others, it did not make sense to me. Why did they need my money? They should go get their own money. Thankfully, I grew up in a home that reinforced being kind, speaking well, and giving generously, but these teachings went against the natural fallen disposition of my sinful nature.

Then when I became a young man that accepted Christ as my Savior, I was warned about being countercultural. I was given reasons why being countercultural was wrong. We were to do the right things because culture demanded the right things from us. My family, pastors, and teacher reinforced that I needed to be a good boy. However, as I matured in my faith, the teachings of Christ did not really get any easier. Today, the more I study and mature in Christ, I realize that Christ’s teachings are now very countercultural. They do not make sense anymore when they are compared to culture or the natural fallen disposition of mankind.

Matthew 5:7 reads, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Now, wait for a second, happy are the people who give mercy because they will receive mercy. This seems very counterintuitive and countercultural. This almost seems like a riddle, and I am not a fan of riddles. I was taught that this verse means that you should be actively compassionate, withhold punishment from people who deserve it. No! No! No! What happened to justice? What happened to holding people accountable? What happened to “you get what you deserve?”

Again, as I studied and matured. I am so glad that I did not get what I deserved many times in my life. God showed mercy in my life and eternal life by not “giving me what I deserved.” I am so thankful for this blessing. The teaching goes on to say that when you are merciful, you shall obtain mercy. God and others have been very merciful to me many times in my life. Now, I am glad to extend mercy to others because there will be another day that I am going to need mercy. I want to be an imitator of Christ, and that means that I must extend mercy and compassion to others. When I stand before Christ, I want Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). It makes me think as if He is saying, “Love Me, love others, and do be a good boy!”

Lesson Seventeen • Devotion #4: Why Do I Value The Wrong Things?

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I value the wrong things?” It is a big question that I ask myself over and over as I try to grow as a child of God. It seems to be a big question for a lot of people. The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” resonates with people because we often fall into that habit or trap. When I look at a cover on a book, when I look at a yard, when I look at how people are dressed, when I look at what car they drive, I am looking at the outward appearance. It is a difficult trap that we have to overcome.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, we read, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” Here we have the Lord’s prophet Samuel going to Jesse’s home to anoint the next King of Israel. However, we see that the Lord reminds Samuel not to “judge a book by its cover.” King David was a man after God’s own heart, but he was not the biggest, best, or most handsome of his brothers.

In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, we read that the Corinthian church had fallen into this trap. They had been led away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ by false teachers. They were valuing the wrong things, and it was leading them to the wrong place. This section of Scripture is very interesting where the Apostle Paul was trying to bring them back to the Lord, but since they were judging the false teachers to be greater than Paul in doing God’s work, he gives what he calls is a “foolish” defense of all that Paul has done for God. The Corinthians were valuing the wrong things, so Paul gives quite a list of his accomplishments and sufferings on behalf of Jesus Christ.

In verse 22, he gives a defense of his pedigree. The false teachers claimed to come from a great Jewish line of descent. Paul reveals that he is a Hebrew, Israelite, and descendent of Abraham. Basically, he is saying that nobody could have a better Jewish pedigree. We find ourselves in the same predicament today. We value people who have the right background, went to the right schools, or have special people in their lineage. We continue to judge the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

In verse 23, Paul compares this line of reasoning to that of a madman, but since the Corinthians value the wrong things, Paul makes an argument that he is a better servant of Christ and will boast about his “labors, imprisonments, and beatings.”  

  • Five times receiving 39 lashes
  • Three times beaten with rods
  • One time stoned and dragged out of the city
  • Three times shipwrecked and adrift at sea

In verse 26, Paul lists some generalized dangers that he faced as he went out to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was in danger from rivers, robbers, the Jews, the Gentiles, the city, the wilderness, and the false teachers. In addition, he had sleepless nights, was without food and water, and lived through cold and extreme temperatures. What Paul went through was very difficult compared to most of our experiences. Most of us have not been hunted, whipped, or shipwrecked for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ironsides wrote, “Because his (Paul’s) own converts were being distressed and upset by such things, that he found it necessary to direct attention to the marks of his apostleship. He seeks to show that God Himself has put His stamp on his ministry by permitting him to suffer for Christ’s sake.”  We must guard ourselves against valuing others that have a better testimony, better pedigree, or a better story. We need to be led to be more like Christ in valuing a person’s heart. Matthew 7:16-20 reads, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” These words in Matthew make the teaching clear that we will recognize good teaching through the fruits of their ministry. 

Lesson Thirteen • Devotion #5: He Gave Till It Hurt

I would think that we have all heard the saying, “Give till it hurts.” I have seen posters in the local gyms or athletic complexes at schools reflecting that we should “give till it hurts” to become better athletes or more fit. Mother Teresa was quoted as saying at that National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, “Give, but give till it hurts.” This is a hard concept to understand. Whether we are giving of our time, talents, or resources, giving till it hurts just does not seem to connect with most people. Maybe you are like me, and I do not like anything that hurts. If there is a way for it not to hurt, I am in!

In 2 Corinthians 8:9, it states, “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.” Jesus as part of the God-head was rich. He had all the glory due to Him in Heaven. He had all the power to have whatever He needed. In truth, He had everything; even things that we cannot imagine. However, for us, He became poor. Philippians 2:6-7 further explains this, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Jesus emptied became poor by being born as a human baby, but he was not born as a human baby with all the privileges of a king or royalty. He was born to a very poor Jewish family. Then the verses explain that we become “rich” through His “poverty.” All of us can accept Jesus as our Savior and be in a relationship with Him because He came to this world as a baby and then paid the price for our sin with His death on the cross.

This is the example of “giving till it hurts.” So, why is this description of what Christ gave to us part of 2 Corinthians chapter eight? Paul was explaining the concept of being generous. The Macedonian churches had given a great gift even though they were in extreme poverty. They were generous in the middle of the most “severe trial.” There was an overflowing joy in their rich generosity. Paul goes on to say that the Macedonian churches “pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” They were not commanded, urged, or prodded to give, but they wanted to give just like Christ wanted to provide a way for us to be in relationship with Him.

Many people are stuck in difficult spots in their lives because of decisions, job loss, pandemics, or social unrest. However, we can see from the life of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Apostle Paul that giving is an important aspect of our relationship with God. We are called to give generously and sacrificially the time, talents, and resources that we have been given by God. If my giving does not cause me to rely on Christ more, or my giving does not cause me joy, I may need to reconsider how and why I am giving. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

As you finish reading this devotional, please ask the Lord, “Am I following the example of Christ in giving? Am I giving for the right reasons? Do I have joy over my giving?”

Lesson Two • Devotion #4: Blessings of a Cheerful Giver

I have a long-time friend who was involved in a ministry position for more than 40 years. I was asking him how he had made it financially over all these years. He said that he earnestly believes that God has blessed him in that many of the “big bills” that a household would typically have, he had not experienced them. He said that he had not had many medical bills, furnace, refrigerator, or car repairs. “God has allowed me to live better on 90% than on 100% of my income.” He was able to own a home, drive a car, and raise a family of two children on a small income. However, he did not claim that it was his abilities, but God’s blessings. He is a servant of God who was able to give generously.

In a survey of the book of 2 Corinthians, a reader will find a lengthy discussion from the Apostle Paul on giving. Paul was collecting funds for the needy followers of Christ that remained in Jerusalem. The Corinthians had promised to give a large amount, but because of some false teachers trying to turn the Corinthians away from Paul’s instructions, the Corinthians had not sent the promised gifts. Paul, in chapters 8 and 9, appeals to the Corinthian Church to keep their promise. Moreover, in his appeal, we receive a divine principle in giving.

 In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, he writes, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

God is not concerned with how much you and I can give back to His work, but He is concerned with the attitude that we have toward giving. He reveals the principle that if you give “sparingly,” then we receive “sparingly.” However, the principle works in both directions. If we give “bountifully,” then we can receive “bountifully.” Again, sparingly and bountifully are more of our attitudes toward giving. In today’s culture, we are taught to try to get as much as we can. On the other hand, I love the teaching that each one of us can give cheerfully, “Having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

I Am: The Light of the World • Devotion #6: Can You Get Me the Light

A couple of years ago, I needed the serial numbers off the back of my television. I got up and stuck my head behind the television, but I could not see the tag. I asked my wife for a light to stick behind the television so that I could see the numbers. Okay, so now I could see the tag, but I could not make out the numbers again. Just then I remembered a friend of mine saying the older you get, the more light you will need to see. I always thought that his saying was just an old tale, but now I realize that I need more light to see. I need light to see lots of things.

John 8:12 reads, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” This is one of Jesus’ statements where He is letting the audience know that He is God. The metaphor used here is that He is the “Light of the World.” It begs the question, so the world is currently in darkness, and He is that light. We need the light so that we can understand where we stand. Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. He is shedding light on our current condition as humans. We need to understand that all humans are born sinners and need Christ to save them from their sins.

John Piper stated, “Jesus being ‘the light of the world’ means the world has no other light than him. If there is going to be a light for the world, it will be Jesus. It is Jesus or darkness. There is no third alternative. No other light. It means, therefore, that all the world and everyone in it needs Jesus as their light.” When you see the light you will realize that we are all sinners in need of Jesus.

The verse goes on to say, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John further writes in chapter 12 verse 46 (NIV), “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.” If we decide to have this relationship with Christ we will not have to walk through this physical life in darkness.

Just like I needed the light to be able to see behind my television, we need the light of the world to realize that we are in darkness. If you choose to be in a relationship with Him, we will never stumble because we have the light. 



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