Author Archives: Wes McCullough

I Am: The Good Shepherd • Devotion #3: The Shepherd

I watched a video years ago of a flock of sheep that had been covered with lights at night. Shepherds then used their sheepdogs to move the sheep. The sheep were moved back and forth, creating a scene from the classic Pong game. Next, the sheep were moved in an up and out pattern giving the appearance of exploding fireworks. My conclusion from this video is that sheep are easy to manipulate. 

Sheep are not the smartest creatures. They do not the have greatest eyesight so they tend to follow the sheep in front of them. Sheep can get stuck in a bog, rescued, and then get stuck in the same way the next day. They are also prone to wandering off and getting lost and are utterly defenseless. It is humbling then to consider all the times humans are referred to as sheep in the Bible. We really need a loving, caring, thoughtful, protective leader to guide us. 

How awesome is it that Jesus is the perfect complement to our problematic selves? We are prone to get lost in life but Jesus is “the Way” (John 14:6). When we find ourselves without answers we can find counsel in the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We tend to get stuck on the same problem and hung up on our individual vices but the grace of God is abundant (Lamentations 3:22-23). We are constantly being attacked by an enemy that wants to devour us, but Jesus, the Good Shepherd, sacrificed Himself so we could live (John 3:16). When we feel timid or alone we are assured that Jesus is with us, comforting us (Psalm chapter 23).

Ezekiel 34:11-16 is a wonderful passage. In this passage, we read that life will be tough. We will get lost and scared in the storms of life but Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is coming for us. He will carry us out of the storm and into a peaceful place where we will be tended to, comforted, and fed.

Jesus is not “a” shepherd, He is “the” shepherd. I hope you know the voice of your shepherd and are always listening for it. 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

1 John 3 • Devotion #6: Opportunity is Knocking

I am not good at stepping out of my comfort zone. In too many instances, I have passed on an opportunity to bless someone in some way. Many times I tell myself, “it is not convenient for my schedule” or “if they are still there on my way back,” I will approach them. I like to help people, but my quiet nature wants to avoid awkwardness. Every time I pass on one of these opportunities, my heart feels heavy. God had blessed me with the means to be a helper to someone in need, but I chose to go around what God had put in front of me.

In 1 John 3:19-24, John includes a reference to Jesus’ teaching in John 15:5-6, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” This is a sobering passage. It really condenses the cause and effect of a true relationship with the Savior. Jesus said it plainly, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). 

If you ever feel guilty for missing an opportunity from God, 1 John 3:20 offers some encouraging words, “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” It is great that we are loved by such a powerful God. He knows our every failure, but His grace abounds. Thankfully for us all, our salvation is not based on works. 

I encourage you not to bypass any opportunity God puts in front of you.

Church • Devotion #3: Martin Luther

I hope everyone who reads this and everyone everywhere can say confidently that their church organization does not have dictatorial or dominating leadership. The Bible provides rules and guidelines for pastors and informs us that they will face stricter judgment from God. Sadly, church organizations have not always held an honorable position in this regard. 

In the early 1500’s, Martin Luther rocked the religious world by challenging the Roman Catholic Church on doctrine and theology. Luther argued that eternal life is the free gift of God and cannot be earned with good behavior. He challenged the authority of the Pope by teaching the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge. Luther translated the Bible from Latin to the German vernacular making it more accessible to the common man. His work influenced Tyndale’s translation to English, the Gutenberg Bible, which is amongst the first mass-produced books.

The Bible paints a picture of the role of church leaders and it has been missed by many. The shepherd and sheep is the analogy the Bible uses many times. Shepherds (pastors) are supposed to let sheep do their own thing – eat, play, sleep. Pastors do not insert themselves into the lives of others unless their sheep are threatened to require them to become aggressive and defend their sheep. When a sheep wanders off they pursue it and lovingly bring it back. 

Church leaders have the important job of teaching the Word of God. A good leader should welcome feedback, constructive criticism, and varying opinions. If you feel a church leader is prideful, hypocritical, or manipulative you should, for the sake of the entire church, lovingly confront them. Pastors have their biblical mandates and everyone else has the mandate to challenge each other to live in godliness (Hebrews 3:12-13), confront one another when necessary (Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3), carry one another’s burdens, and pick each other up when we fall (Galatians 6:1-2).

We are all tasked with supporting and improving each other. We should all strive to make each other better examples of Christ to the world. 

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Government • Devotion #5: Honor

Being honorable and respectable is very important to me. I like it when my reputation goes before me and carries weight. I like to be known as reliable. My yes means yes and my no means no. 

The Bible has much to say about honor. We are instructed to honor those in authority over us because they are placed there by God (Romans 13:1), but we can frequently find them not deserving of it. Parents make mistakes but must still be honored. Bosses can seem like they do not care about your life but you must still honor them. We may have a major disagreement with state and federal authorities, but still, we are instructed to behave honorably towards them.

Romans 13:7 can be hard to live out sometimes, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” 

Pastor Craig Groeschel has encouraging advice for those who struggle to give honor, “If you’re a married woman, but you don’t particularly like your husband – maybe he’s not the leader that you want him to be – honor him. If you treat him as ordinary and common, he won’t feel empowered to lead your family. But if you honor him, give him the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to become honorable. Treat him like he’s the man you want him to be; with grace and honor, help him envision himself as a better man.”

Pastor Groeschel also applies this approach to church leaders and I believe it can be applied in most cases. If you are unhappy with those in authority over you, rather than tear them down and out of that position, build them up and encourage them to be the kind of leader you want them to be. Honoring those in authority is good practice in humility.

Romans 12:10 adds, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” 

“Maybe you’d like to be the boss someday. 

Before you can learn to be over, 

you have to learn to be under. 

Practice being under 

by showing honor to those people

 whom God has put over you.” 

Craig Groeschel

Gather • Devotion #2: “I Choose to Praise”

I count on one thing

The same God that never fails

Will not fail me now

You won’t fail me now

In the waiting

The same God who’s never late

Is working all things out

Is working all things out

Yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley

Yes I will, bless Your name

Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy

For all my days, oh yes I will

I choose to praise…

“Yes I Will” by Vertical Church

As I write this, the summer of 2019, it has been more than four months since my wife went to Heaven. Our seventh anniversary is five days from now. I met and married her knowing her medical prognosis was pessimistic, and our time together could be much shorter than a lifetime. After years of waiting and looking, it was clear to me that God was telling me to marry her. I never second-guessed God’s plan.

Five years into our marriage, cancer showed up again. It had spread significantly. We were told most patients in this situation have two to five years left. I had to say goodbye less than two years later. 

I am thankful that I had several months to prepare for the possibility of losing Heather. While my hope stayed high, I could see the decline in her condition. I knew God could miraculously heal her, but He might not. My understanding has always been that life does not always go the way we want it, but God is in control. He has a plan that is beyond our understanding and perspective. This understanding has really helped me through my heartbreak. It has protected me from anger towards God. I have submitted to His will.

If you are facing or dealing with the loss of a loved one, I can testify that there is peace and freedom in surrendering it all to God. 

“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalms 27:5

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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