Divine Platforms: “Caregivers” by Christian Williams

All devotionals have been edited by Sarah Stiles. 

Read John 20

“Who will roll the stone away for us?” three women ask in Mark 16:3.

I am sure Salome and Mary had to be thinking about their boys. Salome was the mother of the Sons of Zebedee, James and John, who are two of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Mary was the mother of James, another of the twelve disciples. These two women share between themselves three sons who became apostles. And at the time of Mark 16, their sons are hiding, fearful for their own arrests and executions following the death of Jesus.

I know my own mother is proud of me. I love Christ deeply, and I have a strong and sure-footed desire to glorify our Father who is in Heaven and to be led by the Spirit of God. I have a strong passion to serve the body of Christ by being part of a local church and living out the way God has made me by using the tools, talents, skills, and gifts He has given me to share the Gospel and build up my local church. And the Church is made up of billions of people across the world of different races and ethnicities from a multitude of different socioeconomic statuses, who speak a multitude of languages and love God and His church just the same. And God so chooses to use us in the Church to roll stones away in the lives of people who do not know Him. I am sure many of these people have mothers who are proud of them, too.

Not all of us have families like this, though. Some of us are children who do not have loving and proud mothers. And some of us have children whom we love but are not proud of. That is why the two mothers at the tomb are so incredibly beautiful. Through His death and resurrection, Christ conquered the power of sin and death. Christ’s perfect sacrifice is enough to pay the price of humankind’s sin. And we now can be reconciled to God. We now can have a relationship that was once broken be restored.

God used mothers who raised little boys, who grew into fierce disciples. God also uses mothers who raised children who are hiding in upper rooms, closets, bars, bedrooms, and college dorm rooms. God has the power to restore broken relationships between mothers and children. Not only does He have the power, but He has the desire to do so.

 

Divine Platforms: “A Focused Platform” by Sher LaDieu

All devotionals have been edited by Sarah Stiles. 

Read 2 Cor. 6:6-10; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:1-3

I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike (Acts 26:22-23).

What comes to mind when someone says the name, “Apostle Paul”? Maybe the image of an older boisterous man gallivanting around the outskirts of the Mediterranean? Or perhaps you think more along the lines of his accomplishments, such as authoring thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books?

Examining his life, we can conclude that Paul was not an easily-distracted person. He endured betrayal, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, snake bites, imprisonments, and consistent harassments. Yet nothing could throw him off course (see 2 Cor. 11:23-28). He was determined to reach the known world with the Gospel.

Take, for example, the final minute of Paul’s appeal to King Agrippa. In this appeal for his release from prison, he turns to make an appeal for belief in Christ! Though he had been asked to give a defense for himself, he argues more for the Messiah. Could nothing deter him from speaking about the Christ? In true Pauline fashion, he seizes the opportunity to witness to the influential king and those listening: “But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike” (Acts 26:22-23 NLT). At this point in the appeal, Festus yells that Paul is insane. Paul denies this and then Agrippa chimes in: “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Agrippa felt the push Paul was making—not one towards his own personal freedom, but one towards Christ. Interrupted and slanderously accused, Paul doesn’t miss a beat: “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains” (v. 29). How different would our world look if people focused on the goal that matters: to know Christ and to make Him known?

Where is your focus? When life and lies from the enemy knock you off the course of following the Messiah, do you remain off track, or do you find that Christ is soon back at the forefront of your decisions? Like a car whose steering wheel pulls to the right due to faulty wheel alignment, so is the distracted believer whose thoughts pull towards self. Where does your mind veer? Distraction is a modern-day tool of the enemy. People, problems, and expectations will consume our thoughts, but we must make sure we filter all through the lens of the resurrected Christ. Paul did.

Is your time being spent for the cause of the resurrected Christ or for the cause of having an empty email inbox, a couple thousands Instagram followers, a polished car, a polished family? Track this currency of time for a week and see when and where the resurrected Christ appears.

Neither distraction nor bitterness nor disappointed expectations dragged Paul from his goal to “teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:22-23).

Let’s focus on reaching the end of each day with peace and the knowledge that today we made Him known and got to know Him a little better ourselves. The author of Hebrews says it well: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NLT).

Others need to hear what you already know—that there is hope and life in this messy world, and it’s found in the resurrected Christ. Stand on your platform and rid it of unnecessary distractions with fixed eyes on Jesus.

Are your eyes fixed on the resurrected Jesus?  

Divine Platforms: “Accused and Imprisoned” by Sher LaDieu

All devotionals have been edited by Sarah Stiles. 

Read Acts 21-22; James 1

When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul (Acts 23:12 ESV).

In the book of Acts, the author Luke writes a detailed account of the struggles and victories of those faithfully carrying out the Gospel, especially highlighting the Christian named Paul. A converted Pharisee, Paul devoted himself to the dangerous preaching of the Gospel, daily placing his life on the line. There were many, especially his own countrymen, the Jews, who wanted his message about the Christ to end.

As his reputation of preaching to the Gentiles and befriending them grew, so did the number of Jews against Paul. Associating with non-Jews was vile and detestable, viewed as sinful by many. Therefore, a certain group of Jews became united in purpose and pursuit to falsely accuse and kill Paul. They were so determined to kill Paul that they refused themselves drink and food until their desire for Paul’s death would be fulfilled (23:12).

Before this oath was made, Paul had entered Jerusalem. In Acts 21, Paul goes up to the temple where the Jews in the temple falsely accuse him of bringing a Gentile into the temple, igniting a riot (see 21:27-32). (It was against Jewish law to allow a Gentile into the inner courts of the temple; death was the penalty of any Jew who did.) This temple-based riot quickly spread to citywide chaos. Soldiers intervened, and the beating of Paul ceased, but when a source of the violence could not be made due to the ruckus and screaming, the faithful Paul is thrown in prison, without evidence.

Have you ever been falsely accused? You may not have been accused of bringing a Gentile to church, but have you been in a situation you did not deserve? A false accusation is often sourced in a person with suppressed fear and jealousy. Known as the “accuser of the brethren” (see Rev. 12:10), Satan uses these false accusations as a weapon to demoralize the victim. And sadly, our enemy often succeeds. These allegations may arise from a co-worker, an angry spouse or family member, or even a jealous acquaintance. There is no sting like this attack on your character, although betrayal is a close cousin. The attack leaves you feeling frustrated, alarmed, helpless, wronged, and weak.

What do you do when you find yourself falsely accused? Be faithful, and be found in a lifestyle of truth and character of integrity. Truth fights for itself, so you only need to remain a vessel for voicing God’s Gospel, which is His message of inclusive love and acceptance to outsiders. God will use your difficult experience to minister to others who will later find themselves similarly struggling.

This imprisonment for Paul lasted two years. Yet, as he sat every day in a bed of false accusations, he continued to encourage those God sovereignly placed around that prison with the truth of Jesus. The location and situation often changed during Paul’s ministry, but the Gospel stayed the same.

Paul had already been imprisoned, stoned, and persecuted before this ruckus at the temple; however, the uncomfortable chains of prison did not derail his zeal to preach the Word. Not long before this two-year imprisonment, Paul wrote in Romans: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink’” (Rom. 12:19-20). Paul had enemies who wanted him dead, and he chose to show them love.

Revenge becomes messy in the hands of sinful people. Only a holy God is to handle revenge. Our response, as difficult as it sounds, is to meet the needs of those who hurt us. It might help to consider that we ourselves are sinners a blameless Christ met the needs of on Calvary (see Rom. 5:8). May we be people who courageously live lives of integrity and love towards all, even towards those who hurt us.

 

 

Divine Platforms: “One Step” by Rachel Windley

Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant” (2 Kings 5:15).

Read 2 Kings 5:8-15; Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 8:28-29

Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how God was going to wrap the story up as we are going through something? Often, as we take seemingly-unrelated steps toward a hopeful resolution, we pray, “Thy will be done” or “Lord, let this bring you glory (somehow).” Thankfully, we can trust that God always makes a way full of His redemptive grace when He has a plan. We are only revealed as much of the story as we need to know step by step, and even moment by moment.

Naaman expected Elisha to heal him through great production and fanfare. However, the whole process of his miraculous healing was an experience that lacked the decorum he desired and was sourced in the most unlikely character. The servant girl, who had been taken captive and become the servant of Naaman’s wife, initiated a journey of healing with a small comment regarding a prophet she remembered from home. When Elisha heard of the message, the LORD’s prophet recognized this opportunity for God and answered the call to heal. When Elisha gave instructions for healing, and they didn’t live up to Naaman’s expectations, his servants reminded him of the purpose of their journey—healing, no matter where the path of healing led.

In my own story of redemption, I have known the Lord almost all my life. But there were several years I was not truly walking with Him dependently and wholeheartedly. I distinctly remember how He called me back to fellowship with Him through a series of people who are not even aware of their instrumental relationship to my redemption story. God used conversations and invitations into the community of God, as well as individual prayers and encouragement sent my way. He also drew me to Himself through shared stories of redemption in others’ lives in the church, in the young adult’s group, and in my small group. God had a plan, and He made a way to win me back for good and for His glory. He accomplished it through His people. I am forever grateful for His unwavering and eternal love.

God has a plan for each of us, and He promises to help show us the way. He doesn’t ask us to know all the steps. He doesn’t ask us to take all the steps at once. He asks us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and then to love our neighbor (see Matthew 22:34-30). He asks us to trust Him and have faith that He is in the details and will work everything out for our good and His glory (see Romans 8:28). Pray for faith to trust Him when the process seems confusing. And ask for overflowing joy to give Him glory with the outcome.

 

 

Divine Platforms: “A Flexible Agenda” by Janie Hoy

Pick up your sermon series guide in the worship center foyer or download your guide online here.

Read Acts 18:18-23; Psalm 62:5-8, 63:3-8, 84:11

“Paul, after staying many more days in Corinth, said farewell to the brothers and sailed away to Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila . . . When they reached Ephesus, Paul left Priscilla and Aquila behind there . . .” (Acts 18:18-19).

Concentration is required when reading Acts. Miss a verse, and Paul and his friends find themselves ministering in another location! In Acts 18:18, Paul leaves Corinth, taking the loyal Priscilla and Aquila with him. After spending some time in Ephesus, Paul continues his travels, but Priscilla and Aquila stay behind to continue the work there (see 18:19). Later, it seems the couple is allowed to move back home to Rome, evidenced by Paul’s greeting to the couple in Romans 16:3: “Greet Prisca and Aquila.” (“Prisca” is another way of saying “Pricilla.”) I am struck by their flexibility to move yet again, and although we have few details of their thoughts and deeds, Paul’s mention of them in Romans shows them to be a devout couple, who followed the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Flexibility looks a lot like surrendering to the Lord’s plans, rather than pushing our own agenda. Reflecting back on life, I see more than a few times when I was not flexible to His leading. I thought things had to be a certain way, including the specific locations I thought my home should be. It’s truly humbling to think that I really thought I knew best. Flexibility and trust go together in a relationship with God. Do I really trust that God is for my good? If His Word says He is, then why does “Trust God” always make it to the list of spiritual goals each New Year? There are no easy answers here, just the lessons that continue to surface and point to trusting the only One who remains faithful and true to His Word. God is completely good, therefore, His plans for us are completely good. Even in our failures, one truth is for certain: God can use your mess for good. (If there is doubt in that, read the story of any major biblical character.) Because He never leaves or forsakes us, we can know that where God has us is where Jesus is.

Lord, thank you for your goodness. Because of who you are, I know you are worthy of my trust in any situation. It’s often difficult to hold my plans and expectations loosely. Please give me sensitivity to your leading so my plans will remain flexible. With hands open, I surrender all my ways to you, Lord.

 

 

Divine Platforms – Acts 18

Pick up your sermon series guide in the worship center foyer or download your guide online here.

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.