Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Tommy Youngquist

Strength • Devotion #5: Children

There are three young boys, of whom I currently disciple, that have recently experienced what it feels like to have their parents divorce each other. That is definitely a fracture in the family unit. All three of these boys really do not understand why, they are all angry, and they are wondering how a supposedly good God would allow this to happen to their family. Now, there are few things more detrimental to the psyche and emotions of a child than divorce. How do you tell a child that is going through this that everything will be okay? After this break, how do you tell them to be strong? How do you explain that God is good all of the time no matter what happens? 

In order to answer these questions, it is good to go to a very common verse in Scripture. In Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT), the Word of God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”

Now, this verse is printed on t-shirts, etched on coffee mugs, and stamped on greeting cards. It is so popular! However, it is also one of the most misused Scriptures in all of the Bible. You might find yourself using this verse to temporarily encourage someone going through a time. One might use this verse to say that God only has good plans for you here on Earth. You know, the stuff that we think is good would be money, power, health, and parents that are still together. While God is the giver of all things hopeful, we have to understand the context of this cherished verse.

Jeremiah was a prophet from God that prophesied in the southern kingdom of Judah right before the Israelites were taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In Jeremiah chapter 27, he prophesied that the Israelites would serve Nebuchadnezzar and his next four generations. Life would be hard and they would be under the control of a foreign king.

In the next chapter, a guy named Hananiah prophesies that God would free the Israelites not long after their captivity and God would restore every material thing that He had taken away from him. That sounds awesome, right? There is just one problem. Jeremiah challenges Hananiah by calling him a false prophet. Jeremiah tells everyone Hananiah will die because of his lies and two months later, he was dead!

In chapter 29, Jeremiah is encouraging the people to continue living their lives even though they are going through a really tough time in exile. He tells them this tough time will last for 70 years! Does this sound like plans for hope and a future for God’s chosen people? They wanted everything to go back to normal and go home while God said to wait and deal with it. The hardest part of dealing with it was that the older generation would never return to their home. They would die in Babylon.

So, here is the key; it is the “Ah-Ha” moment. We need to understand the difference between our idea of a bright and hopeful future, and God’s idea of that. Humans are so short-sighted and earthly-minded. God’s ways are so much better than our ways. When He says “our future,” He is talking about eternity with Him in Heaven. He is talking about Romans 10:9-1Lol0 NLT, which says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

That is our hope and our future. That is the plan for good and not disaster. That is how you can answer those boys’ questions of why. That is how they can gain strength. That is how you can tell them everything will be okay. That is how the fracture can get stronger. You do not try to explain “why,” you point them to “Who!”

You explain the Gospel to them, over and over and over again. You show them the goodness of God in the creation of our being and the salvation of our souls. You show them Jesus’ finished work on the cross. You do this by guiding them in the repetitive reading of Scripture; that is how. Instead of tethering our minds to this temporary world and all of the things we think we want for it, we fasten our minds to the promises and truths in the Word of God. We fix our sights on eternity. It all begins with the Gospel. 

God has only plans for good, and not for disaster for His chosen people because nothing about Heaven will be disastrous. I would like to encourage you to read Jeremiah chapters 27-29, so you can get a biblical and broad view of everything we just discussed. 

Relapse • Devotion #2: Doubt

When I was twenty-two years old, I caved the right side of my face while tubing behind a boat. What a way to start a devotion, huh? After the accident, I was taken to the ER only to discover that I had shattered the orbital around my right eye and right cheekbone. Also, I had fractures in my jaw and skull. It was not the kind of news you want to hear, but I decided to deal with it none the less. After all, it is my face. I had reconstructive facial surgery at what used to be Pontiac General Hospital a week later. When I woke up, after the anesthesia wore off, the doctor was standing over me. He tried telling me all of the details about the surgery, but the only thing I remember is him telling me that he pulled 56 splinters of bone out of my right sinus, putting them back in place.

After the surgery, an excruciating three-month physical recovery process took place. 

There were many things I wanted to do that I could not. I remember thinking to myself, “Are you kidding me, God?” I found myself wondering where He was. Have you experienced this? Maybe you are sitting at home wondering that right now. I would say things to myself like, “God, what in the world? You there? Asleep? What’s up?” It is like I sent Him a text just to check-in and see how things were going, I saw the read-receipt, and I even saw the ellipsis bubble pop up, but then nothing. Right? “Come on God, respond!” 

Sometimes, my relationship with Him feels very one-sided. Does it ever feel that way with you? I mean, you are reading the Bible, praying (occasionally), trying to follow all of these rules and commands, and you are doing your best. You try to be a good spouse, parent, or child. So, you are doing your part, but then, waiting on God.  

During seasons of waiting, I tend to doubt God. Do you? Abram doubted God. In Genesis 15:2 (NLT), it says, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” It is almost like he is saying, “Come on God, where are you? What in the world? Why are You not coming through for me? I am doing my part, now do Yours.” 

Most of us, in seasons of waiting, tend to believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs.  So why not catch yourself and flip that saying around. We forget that waiting is a normal part of following God. When things are not happening the way that we want them to happen, we wonder if God even has our best interest in mind. We fixate on the doubts that creep into our minds and hearts. We get caught up in what we are doing instead of who we are running to. In moments of doubt, hold fast to your beliefs in God, His promises, and the Bible. Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts. If you do, you give God the opportunity to say what He said about Abram, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6 NLT).

Be counted as righteous because of your faith today! Even when you have to wait, believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts.

Impact • Devotion #2: Change Your Preposition

“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NLT)

On February 26, 2014, as I was heading into class to finish my senior year of college, I received a phone call from my dad. He proceeded to say that my mom was being sent to the hospital, that I should drop what I was doing and head to Lapeer General. I did. My mind wondered the whole way there.

I vividly remember walking into the family waiting area, giving my dad and three sisters a hug, and then asking what happened. My mom’s friend, Mrs. Kaiser was also there and she told me. She had gone into septic shock. 

You see, my mom was in the process of figuring out why she was having trouble going to the bathroom and why she was losing so much weight. She had gone to the doctor’s office that morning for an enema so she could have a colonoscopy. As we stood there waiting, my mind speculated even more. Finally, the doctor walked into the room. The doctor, with a confused look on her face, told us that my mom had died. The enema she had received earlier that day broke her colon and she died from septic poison.

I stood in silence as tears started to well up in my eyes. My sisters wailed in disbelief. My dad did everything he could to try and comfort his children. I walked into the room where my mom’s body was lying and held her hand for the last time.  I thought and felt so many emotions. Death had rocked our family. It devastated us. As my time with her was wrapping up, I remember thinking to myself, “How on Earth am I going to move on without her?”

If you have experienced death in your family, has anyone ever told you that it is time to move on from the deceased? Whether it is six months, a year, or five years after they have passed, it is not easy. This bit of advice is pretty common in our world. I have heard quite a lot of people advise my dad that it is time he moves on from my mom. Maybe someone has said this to you. They have said that you just need to “move on.” Even though their intentions might be pure, that bit of advice is garbage. We should not move on “from” the ones we love, but we should move on “with” the ones we love. You need to change the preposition!

Whoever you have lost, that person is still present in your mind. That person helped shape exactly who you are and continues to do so. Do not arbitrarily try to leave all of those memories in the past. Continue to move on “with” them. Allow everything that they taught you to continue to make your life better. Finally, be encouraged in this hope:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NLT)

When Things Spoil

Leftovers | Devotion #1: When Things Spoil
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

“Do you think this is bad?” my wife said to me as I started to watch the first inning of the Tigers’ game. She was prepping lunches for the week and had some left-over chicken from a previous lunch. “Give it the smell test!” I exclaimed. “I’m not smelling this; you smell it.” I reluctantly got up from my comfortable spot on the couch, walked over to the fridge, and cracked the lid. “Yep, it’s bad!”

When food spoils, it smells really bad. You know it, I know it. When family relationships spoil though, it is not so easily detectable. There is this feeling of awkwardness, all of the time. There is a sense of obligation because after all, they are family. There is sensitivity that develops into bitterness. That bitterness develops into anger and hate. Then that hate develops into malice! Before you know it, you actually wish bad on the people you are supposed to love the most. When is enough, enough? When do you cut the cord?

The answer to those questions is never! Need I remind you of two principles found in God’s Word. First, nothing anyone has done to you is worse than what you did to God, and God forgave you.

Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” 

You cannot miss the word “must” in verse 13. We do not have another option besides forgiveness. Why? It is because the Lord has forgiven you. Second, no matter how many times someone offends you, you still find it in your heart to forgive them.

Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”

You should read the parable after these verses. It is pretty incredible. Here is the point: Enough is never enough when it comes to forgiveness. God also gave you common sense for a reason. If a family relationship has spoiled to the point of continual emotional, psychological, or physical abuse, maybe it is time to distance yourself from that family member. Forgive them, but remove that sin from your life. Pray to God for opportunities to fix it and wait patiently. Pray that God humbles them and brings them back to you. Always be eager to receive them back.

Baby Napping

More Than Baby Food | Devotion #6: Baby Napping
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

I will never forget the second night I spent with our daughter, Heidi. Ashley was a new, 24-hour old mother and she was exhausted. I, being an incredible husband and father (yeah right), offered to take Heidi out of the room so Ashley could get some uninterrupted sleep. After all, how hard could this whole dad thing be, right? I proceeded to take Heidi to the NICU waiting room on the 5th floor of St. Joseph Hospital. Everything was great! The Pistons replay was on Fox Sports Detroit. Heidi was quiet. However, then it happened. Heidi started to cry. Her cry eventually became a wail. She was inconsolable. Nurses would pass by the waiting room, feel sorry for me, and offer help, but nothing worked. Her incessant crying continued for four hours. It was horrible. I will never forget the feelings of frustration, anxiety, and utter panic.

Despite the crying, that moment bonded my daughter and me. I remember thinking to myself that no matter how frustrated I was with her, my love for her would always outweigh any negative feelings I have toward her. I felt a change happening in my mind. The change was so deep that I started to feel it in my soul. This little girl could never do anything that would weaken the love I had for her. She eventually learned how to sleep. Before too long, she was sleeping through the night. She was, how the old saying goes, sleeping like a baby.

You can sleep like a baby too. You can be at peace. Nothing you do separates you from the love of God. So many times, we live our lives substantiated by this formula: Who I Am = What I Do.

This formula is false. It is a lie straight from the mouth of Satan and the pit of Hell. The Bible says in John 13:34, “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.”

So how has Christ loved you? He values you for your inherent worth and offers grace freely to you without exception. God knows the real truth about you – that you were created in His image – and that truth allows Him to separate your person from your performance. He loves despite the things you do. I do not know about you, but that motivates me to want to love Him more and more. It motivates me enough to “put off childish ways” and love people as He does. How about you? Will you respond the same way? 



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