Devotions

Author Archives: Wes McCullough

Back to Reach • Devotion #2: Scheduled for Success

The River Church is very active in its ministries. Gatherings, Community Center, Growth Communities, and prison ministry are a few of them. God keeps opening doors for us as a church, and we are called to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) and to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Everyone within the River Church community has ample opportunities to be used by God. 

My first involvement in ministry was as a 14-year-old in the church band. I played every week until I left for college. During my college years, because of the pool of instrumentalists and my quiet nature, I was very inactive in ministry. After graduation, I went home, and I have been involved in church practically every weekend for the last eleven years. 

My experience with the ministry has taught me this principle: if you want to attend church consistently, have some responsibilities. Get involved with the nursery, become a greeter or volunteer with children or students. Get scheduled regularly and take on the responsibility of serving your church family and guests visiting the church. 

God has a plan to use you. If you open yourself to be the hands and feet of Jesus, you may be the answer to someone’s prayers. It may seem a trivial deed to you, but it could be monumental to someone else. Chances are you will be blessed as well.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” Ephesians 6:7 (NIV)
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

Lesson Six • Devotion #2: Chiseled Stone?

“Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (MSG)

In the early years of the church, there was a struggle between the “old covenant” people and the “new covenant” people. The old covenant, simply put, was the written Scripture which contained hundreds of laws and guidelines for God’s people. When Jesus came as the fulfillment of Scripture and died for our sins, the status quo changed. When the new covenant was enacted by the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Spirit of God progressed from being found only in the written Scripture to living inside every believer. I like how Paul describes the old covenant as “obsolete.”

This Scripture describes an interesting concept. Human nature is to make a decision based on proof. You may know unbelievers who say, “If God would do” a certain thing, then they say they would believe He is real. They have said, “If He would give me a definitive sign, then I would accept Him.” That is not how it works in the spiritual realm. Paul describes a veil that is removed after we turn to God, and once removed, we have a realization that God is alive, and we can personally experience Him. He is not stuck in “chiseled stone” (the Ten Commandments). We are free of the old laws. Instead, we desire to live lives obedient to Jesus and reflect His glory. 

God is always ready for a relationship with the unbeliever. He pursues us, and when we open our hearts to Him, “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18 The Message).

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Lesson Five • Devotion #1: As the Lord has Forgiven You

As expected, the Bible covers the topic of forgiveness a good deal. Most Bible readers would be familiar with God’s continued forgiveness of the Old Testament Israelites. They would cling to God for a number of years but then slowly fall away from Him. Through forgiveness and discipline, they would return to obedience. God’s grace was always more than abundant for them.

Here is an obvious statement: The human race does not forgive as easily as God. We are prone to grudges, pride, ignorance, and spite. Jesus taught about forgiveness and forgave sins within His ministry. The New Testament writers recorded and continued Jesus’ teaching on the subject. In 2 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul gave instructions on forgiveness, and part of it stuck out to me. Verses 7-8 say, “So you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.” I was struck by the attitude Paul expects us to have towards those who have wronged us. According to Paul, we should have such compassion towards our fellow man that we would rush to forgiveness so the offender would not suffer in their grief from having sinned against us. Taking it one step further, we are then supposed to comfort them!

This can feel like a punch to the gut for many of us. In our selfish human nature, we can feel the offender does not deserve our forgiveness, but it would be unbiblical to withhold forgiveness of someone seeking it. In fact, the Bible says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Whoa! The stakes are high! I hope this one passage impresses upon you the absolute criticalness of forgiving your fellow man.

Colossians 3:12-14 can sum up our approach to forgiveness, “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. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Who do you need to forgive?

Who do you need to seek forgiveness from?

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.



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