Devotions

Category Archives: Hometown

Capernaum • Devotion #6: Arrival Announced

There are over 330 prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah that are only fulfilled in Jesus. As if that was not enough, God told them He would send someone ahead of the Messiah to announce His arrival.

Malachi 4:5-6 says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Every year during the Passover, the Seder meal is celebrated. Typically, a cup of wine is set on the table as an invitation for Elijah to join the family. They were waiting for one to come in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for “the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

Matthew 11:13-14 boldly speaks of John the Baptist as being the Elijah who was told would come, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” John opened the door for the Messiah (Jesus).

In Mark 9:11-13, the people are told that John came as Elijah and was not received well, “And they asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?’ And he said to them, ‘Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.’” Mark acknowledged that they knew Elijah would come and that they ignored him.

Luke 1:17 speaks about John the Baptist by saying, “And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” He later adds, “This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:27-28). 

After 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testament, God sent a prophet to pave the way for His Son. John came in the spirit of Elijah. He pointed all who would listen to Jesus. We should do the same.

Capernaum • Devotion #5: Prioritize and Execute

Over the last few years, I have begun to add leadership books to my reading list. One of my favorite statements used in one of those books is “prioritize and execute.” This idea comes from a Navy SEAL concept that, in the heat of conflict, a leader must be able to assess the situation properly, make the call, and move forward to complete a mission. This idea is something that I feel many Christ-followers should put in their walks with God. The reality is most every follower of Christ is going to say that they want to be in God’s will for their life. Most every Christian is well-meaning enough that they know sin is not acceptable, and serving Jesus with all they have is essential to growing in their walks with God and being used to further the Kingdom of God. However, we struggle with two simple concepts, prioritizing and executing.

Psalm 40:7-8 reads, “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” David is able to say these words only because God is guiding his heart to where we should all be. Every Christ-follower should be at a place where they are delighted to do the will of God. While a study on the will of God is vast, I believe the best way to narrow down what applicably the will of God looks like is believing what the Bible says and living out what the Bible tells us to do. Too often, we get in arguments about what is most important in the Bible. Should we grow or serve? Should we focus on young people or older people? Should we focus on purity or prayer? Should we evangelize to many, or should we disciple a few? The reality is, if we believe what the Bible tells us, we should do it all. 

The example that Jesus leaves us is infinitely vast in the ways we should apply it to our lives. Jesus was the perfect example of what taking delight in doing God’s will entails. Even in a state of blood-soaked sweat, Jesus was still focused on being obedient to the Father’s will. Matthew 26:38-39 reads, “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” Jesus is the fulfillment of David’s words that even in the worst situation, He was able to be obedient and delight in what God instructed Him to do. Jesus was showing His humanity, both physically and emotionally, in a state of fear. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus was looking to the cross with “joy that was set before him.” 

In moments of peril, in moments where Jesus only had the trust in His Father to hang on to, in moments where Jesus Himself asked if there was another solution, Jesus did not waiver in what had to be done. “Your will be done” is one of the statements that every follower of Christ should declare during every situation. Jesus was perfectly obedient, despite not being thrilled about the plan. Jesus understood the next step that was necessary to defeat the sin that plagued humanity. Jesus’ priority was to stay obedient to the Father, die on a cross for humanity’s sin, and to reconcile our relationship to God. There was a mission to complete, and Jesus took delight in what was before Him. He knew the pain, He knew what was to come, and He knew the Father would have to look away from Him when He bore the sins of all of humanity. Yet, He executed God’s plan perfectly.

Capernaum • Devotion #4: Miracle Man

I like how John MacArthur speaks about miracles, “A miracle is an extraordinary event wrought by God through human agency, an event that cannot be explained by natural forces. Miracles are always designed to authenticate the human instrument God has chosen to declare a specific revelation to those who witness the miracle.”

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be a miracle worker. Isaiah 29:18 says, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” He adds in Isaiah 35:4-6, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.”

In Matthew chapter 11, John the Baptist is in prison. In verses 2-3, he has one specific question, “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” He wanted to know if Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus’ answer shows He is the miracle man, “And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me’” (Matthew 11:4-6). Jesus knew that John the Baptist knew the Messiah would perform miracles. His actions spoke as loud as any words.

Jesus healing someone is recorded about 40 times in Scripture. Matthew 9:30, “And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about it.’” Matthew 12:22 adds, “Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.” Mark 7:37 says, “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” John 9:39 continues the list of healings performed by Jesus, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’”

One characteristic of the Messiah was that He would perform miracles. Jesus fulfilled that prophecy time and time again.

C.S. Lewis gives another reason Jesus performed miracles, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

God loved us so much that He sent His only son to die for us. The chasm that was created by our sin was bridged by the work of Jesus. His miracles showed His love. His life showed His love. His death showed His love. 

Capernaum • Devotion #3: I will Take the Tab

I love food. I feel after just three words, I got a resounding praiseworthy “amen.” However, I still have a 497-word quota to meet. I love Thai food. The thing I love about Thai food is it hits all five major tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and hot) all in one bite. A few years ago, my wife and I were on a date (totally off-topic, but dudes go on dates with your wife!), and we were at our favorite Thai spot in Grand Blanc, enjoying each other’s company. We saw a friend of ours who attends The River Church. We waved, smiled, and told each other that we would “see each other Sunday.” He left, and my wife and I continued our night. When it was time to get our bill, our waitress just told us, “that man told us he would take your tab.” I was beyond blessed at his generosity, and I gave him a big hug the next time I saw him.    

Humanity has a major issue. We have this thing called sin. Because of sin, we all are owed God’s wrath to be poured out on us. An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy, and perfectly just creator of the universe does not take kindly to His creation’s rebellion. Thankfully, this all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy, and perfectly just creator of the universe loves us more than we can comprehend. The only means of totally fulfilling the price of this rebellion is that God Himself had to take this punishment. Isaiah 53:12 says, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” God sent His Son to be the one who would bear the weight and shame of our sin.

Luke 23:34 records the moment when Jesus paid the price for mankind’s sin. It reads, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.” Even in the last moments of Jesus’ life, the people leading in His crucifixion were gambling off His clothes. At this pivotal moment for all of humanity, while sin and darkness seemed to be victorious, God’s perfect Son sacrificed Himself and interceded for our sins. Intercession means to intervene on behalf of someone else. Jesus intervened for all of humanity. Jesus bore the punishment for every sin ever committed by every person who ever walked on this Earth. That is the ultimate, “I will pick up their tab.”  

Love is purposeful. You cannot love accidentally. Love is a choice. You cannot force love. Jesus loves you, regardless if you reject that notion or not. He proved how much He loved humanity when He bore our sins on that cross. It is such a mind-boggling feeling to know that Jesus chose to pick up my tab. I have done so many horrible things in my life. 

Luckily for me, the guy who paid for my Thai food was a friend. I can grasp that concept of him loving me enough to bless me. However, Jesus took my tab when I was an enemy of God, lived a rebellious life of sin, and my only focus was on myself. Prophecy can be a hard thing to understand, but amazingly God picking up our tab was His plan from the very beginning. Take some time to thank God for paying the debt you could not pay, and be gracious to the truth that His love was purposeful. Jesus paid your tab to bring you back to Him. Let us never forget that.

Capernaum •Devotion #2: Chief Shepherd

Some things are hard for me to understand. It is well documented that there are over one billion sheep in the world today. That seems like a lot. I have also read that sheep are not the brightest creatures. Hence, rises my question, “Why is that the animal science chose to clone?”

Due to the popularity of sheep, I am not surprised they are referred to often in Scripture (198 times). Sheep are a good representation of mankind, and shepherds portray the heart and work of the Chief Shepherd (Jesus).

The word shepherd is listed about 111 times in the Bible. It can even be seen in prophecy about the Messiah. Isaiah 40:10-11 says, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” The Messiah will come in the full power of God but will be gentle, caring, and loving. 

In Micah 5:2, we saw that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Two verses later, we read, “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”God chose the concept of a shepherd to describe the Savior of the world.

Jesus accepted the call as the shepherd. In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of the coming Messiah, which included being a shepherd. As the shepherd, He did lay down His life for us. He died so we could live. 

Hebrews 13:20 adds, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant.” Jesus died for our sins, but He is alive. He offers an eternal covenant for those who place their faith in Him.

Peter also referred to Jesus as a shepherd. He said, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Jesus is the “Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls. He later wrote, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). The Chief Shepherd loves us and is coming back for us.

In the fourth century, Jerome wrote, “I am like the sick sheep that strays from the rest of the flock. Unless the Good Shepherd takes me on His shoulders and carries me back to His fold, my steps will falter, and in the very effort of rising, my feet will give way.”

Jesus welcomed the prophetic calling of being the shepherd. When His sheep wander, He directs them back on track. When they fall, He reaches out to help them up. When they are too weak to walk, He carries them.

He is the Chief Shepherd. His job is to lead; our job is to follow.



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