Make a Difference

Col 3 23

Lois and Eunice show us how God can use people wherever they are at in life to make a big difference. In today’s story, one small boy teaches us to give what we can in service of God, no matter how little we may think it is.

In the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (found in all four Gospels) a little boy offers his lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, for Jesus’ disciples to feed the crowd. I wish we knew more about this boy, who he was, who he grew up to be. All we know is that this boy heard that Jesus needed food. I can’t imagine the disciples ransacking everyone’s bags looking for food. I think they must have been asking around, searching the crowd for anyone with food and this boy heard them. He saw a need, spoke up, and offered what he could. He was willing to do what needed to be done and it’s this willingness I want to focus on today.

In Colossians Paul writes “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (3:23). As we go throughout our day to day lives, we need to be willing to contribute what we can to further God’s kingdom. We already know from Lois and Eunice that seemingly small acts can make a difference. The little boy from today’s story reminds us that we first must be willing to let God use us.

-Emilee Ross

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What You Have in Common with Lois

Luke 9 48 a

For some of you, dropping everything and going on an adventure like Abram is not possible. You may already be settled in your life, married, with kids. Maybe you’ve got a steady job that you can’t leave. Many of you may feel stuck trapped by your responsibilities. It’s when we get stuck in this rut that we start to believe the lie that we’re useless to God.

Today, we are looking at two important women of the New Testament: Lois and Eunice. We don’t know much about their everyday lives, but what we do know is that they were responsible for introducing Timothy to the word of God. Timothy, the author of 1 and 2 Timothy, is Paul’s young apprentice. From the time Paul met Timothy, he took a special interest in cultivating the church leadership skills within the young man. Paul eventually came to think of Timothy as a son. But, there would be no Timothy if there was no Eunice, and there would be no Eunice if there was no Lois.

Lois first taught the scriptures to her daughter, Eunice. Eunice in turn taught the scriptures to her son, Timothy. Timothy, with Paul’s mentoring, brought many people to Christ and eventually wrote two books of the Bible. Those two books of the Bible have encouraged generations of people in their faith. It’s a domino effect, but it would not have started were it not for Lois and Eunice.

Maybe you can’t move to Africa to be a missionary. Maybe you aren’t called to lead a church. Lois and Eunice may have also been missionaries or great leaders, but that is not why they are remembered. What was important in their story was that they took the time to share their faith with the children in their lives. That is something that you can do today.

Listen, you are not stuck. Wherever you are in life, God wants to use you. Let him.

P.S. Go listen to the song “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson while you get ready for the rest of your day today!

-Emilee Ross

Unknown Endgame

Gen 12 1

“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1). This is what the LORD said to a man called Abram, later known as Abraham. He was promised to be the father of many nations, while also told to adventure out unto the great unknown to a land that God would show him. Not tell him. In this verse, the word used is raah which in Hebrew means “to show”. It’s important to note here that God would not tell Abram where to go, but show. This means that at the time Abram decided to leave, he didn’t have an endgame. Only God did, and God promised to reveal it to him at the correct time.

Abram was not the first and most certainly not the last to be called by God to travel to unknown territory. I can testify to this.

In January of this year, at a college gathering for a Christian group, I was extremely convicted by the speaker’s message to reexamine my life, specifically my future plans. At the time, I had narrowed down three graduate school fellowships I was going to apply. Eventually, the goal was to settle down somewhere as a college professor and teach Literature. This had been my plan for a couple of years now, though in the back of my mind, something always felt a bit unsettling. As important as I thought Shakespeare may be, I wanted to do more with my life then teach Hamlet. Deep down, ever since I was a young girl, I knew I would end up going to Atlanta Bible College. As I sat in that seat during the sermon, it became clear to me that the time was now. While he was still speaking, I pulled out my phone and applied right then and there. I knew that if I waited till I got back to my dorm, I would have chickened out. That night was the start of my unknown.

I did a lot of praying, a lot of back and forth with God, but all along, I knew the answer was to move to Georgia and attend ABC. I don’t have an endgame, only possibilities, but I’m trusting God that he will show me my path when I get there.

When I started to tell people about my decision, I got more support than I thought I would. I was worried about the stigma that came with going to a Bible College, but as it turned out, many of my peers and professors respected and were excited about my decision. Not all of them, though. I won’t ever forget the way one of my English professor’s face fell in disappointment when he asked about my future plans. It was right after I presented my honors project and he was encouraging me to pursue graduate school. He looked at me as if I was wasting my potential.

My mother and step-father were not supportive and are still getting used to the idea. I know that deep down, their concern is out of love, but it still hurts and strains our relationship. Their biggest issue is that I don’t have an end goal. They want to know why I’m going down to ABC, what it is exactly I hope to gain from another bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately for them, and for many others in the world, “God will show me when I get there” doesn’t work. But right here with Abram, we’ve got proof that it does. We know the end of his story. We know that God did follow through, that God did show him the way. As a result, when we are called out unto the great unknown, because we know Abram’s story, we know the end of our stories, too.

-Emilee Ross

Bitterness

Ruth 1 5

Happy Tuesday and thanks for sticking with me this far!

I’m leading a Bible Study this summer on the book of Ruth using the study guide Ruth: Discovering Your Place in God’s Story by Eugene H. Peterson. One of the reoccurring themes that has come up during our discussions has been Naomi’s role in the story. If you are not familiar with her story, I encourage you to go ahead and pick up a Bible and read at least the first chapter of Ruth before finishing this post.

There are different ways one can read Naomi’s character. Some people within my group thought of her as sympathetic, down on her luck, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Others, like myself, view her as more selfish, bitter, and self-centered. Regardless as to how one chooses to read her, there is no denying the fact that in the first chapter, she is a complainer.

She complains:

“Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.  I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my     back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined       me.” Ruth 1:20 & 21 MSG.

Bad things happened to Naomi. She lost her husband and then both her sons. But there are lots of people in the Bible who had bad things happen to them, yet, they did not turn on God, nor were they led to believe God had turned on them. Take Joseph, Jacob’s son, for example. His whole story was one whole roller coaster ride of ups and downs, trials and triumphs, yet he never stopped trusting that God had a plan.

Naomi’s story presents us with a different sort of Biblical character. She believes God no longer cares for her. All the while, right in front of her, God has left her with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Eventually, because of Ruth and the kindness of a man named Boaz, Naomi’s faith in God is once again restored. In the second chapter she declares: “God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” (2:20 MSG).

Here are the two takeaway lessons from Naomi. One, Naomi is an example of how our bitterness can keep us from seeing God’s blessings – even when they are directly in front of us. God never forgot or abandoned Naomi. He had a plan. He gave her a loyal daughter-in-law and orchestrated events for her to meet Boaz. The second lesson we can learn is that even when we complain and are bitter, God doesn’t give up on us. Even when we are fickle and only trust God when things are going well, like Naomi appears to be doing, it doesn’t make us tarnished. God’s grace covers us, liked it covered Naomi.

-Emilee Ross

 

The Underdogs

used by God

Moses is one of the most real people in the Bible. What I mean by this, is that in reading his interactions with God, often times, his responses are not ultra-spiritual, but rather down to earth and matter of fact. For example, when God tells him he has been chosen to free his people from Egypt, Moses tells God “nope, sorry! You’ve got the wrong guy! I don’t do public speaking, I’m shy…find someone else.” (paraphrasing Exodus 3). Moses does this time and time again throughout his story . What’s so great, is that God puts up with Moses. In fact, he made him one of the most famous people in scripture. That knowledge reassures me that God can handle whatever sass I may throw at him. That when I am angry and fed up with him, that I can be just as real as Moses was. That when I pray and talk to God, I don’t have to act like I’ve got it all together and sound super spiritual. I can just be me. God will not reject me when I doubt or complain. He may be a bit annoyed with me, but he won’t abandon me. I’ll never be too much for him. That’s the first lesson we can learn from Moses.

The second thing that Moses teaches us is that our weakness does not limit us in our ability to serve the LORD. Several years ago, a bunch of contemporary Christian artists got together to make an album called The Story with songs designated for each major Bible story. Bart Miller, the lead singer for MercyMe sings “It Must Be You” a song for Moses. Right now, go open up a new tab in your browser and type in “It Must Be You the story” click on the first video that pops up and listen to that song.

Moses’ life in itself is a miracle. He was supposed to die as a baby – murdered by the pharaoh, not taken in to be his ward. Moses was a stutterer and afraid. He wasn’t supposed to lead an entire nation – and yet, through God’s power, he did. God sees something in each and every one of us. Potential to do great things for him and through him.

I know this because I see God at work in my own life. You see the chorus to that song “It Must Be You” is my life’s anthem. I wasn’t supposed to succeed. In second grade I was diagnosed with ADHD and tourettes. In fifth grade, I was diagnosed with OCD. My OCD and tourettes were so bad, I was taken out of public school and homeschooled. I could hardly go into public places without freaking out. I was scared of germs and scared of soap. It was completely debilitating.

But somehow by the grace of God, I recovered. I defeated tourettes, I learned how not to let it control me. I graduated high school seventeenth in my class of 586. I went to college on a full tuition scholarship. I picked up a minor in speech communication and found how much I enjoy and how good I am at public speaking. I recently graduated with high honors. Now the little girl who would freak when a stranger touched her arm has plans to attend the Bible College this coming August.

The story of Moses teaches us that with God there are no limitations. In fact, we serve a God that invites the challenge. When we succeed, he wants to ensure that people know it was because of him. That’s why he picks the underdogs, the Moseses. It’s why he’s chosen you.

-Emilee Ross

 

 

Timeless Faith

hebrews 12 1

A couple of weeks ago while reading my devotions, from the book 100 Days to be Brave by Annie F. Downs, I was struck by something she wrote about reading our Bibles. She explains “The Bible isn’t boring. It isn’t just lists, or just rules, or just a bunch of stories that are hard to understand. It’s a record of who God is and the story of His great love for His people – and that’s us” (40). It got me thinking about how the Bible is our story too. As the author of Hebrews writes in chapter twelve we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (verse 1). This comes right after the famous “Faith Chapter” where the author lists out some of the greatest acts of faith recorded in scripture.

As people living in the 21st century it can be very hard to pick up the Bible and relate to characters who walked on dirt roads instead of driving cars, or who wrote long letters to each other instead of shooting a quick text. Time can make us feel distant from the people in the Bible. This distance can lead us to believe the lie that Bible stories no longer have relevance to us. That God doesn’t work that way anymore. We start to convince ourselves that the level of faith achieved by those in the Bible is an impossible standard to reach, so we simply stop trying. Oh, how wrong we are.

Listen. You are not the first to feel sick, hurt, and broken. You are not the first to be called out unto the great unknown. You are not the first believer to argue with God, to yell at him, to disobey. You are not the first to be afraid of speaking out, of leading others to God. You are not the first to doubt Him, to deny your belief in Him.

The path you walk is one that had been trailed many times over. You do not walk it alone, but rather surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Their stories are your stories, because the journey is the same. You run the same race for the same prize as they did so many centuries ago.

We are not all that different from them. We have hopes and dreams just like they did, and we cower under our failures just like they did. We have victories and triumphs, moments of complete despair. Our faith is tested and challenged by the world around us. The same enemy they fought is still stalking us today. The same weapons they had available are the same ones we have. The Bible is filled with stories of people just like us. It is not meant to simply be a book full of instruction but also full of examples of what can happen when a person trusts in God.

For the rest of this week, we’re going to examine some of these biblical stories. My hope is that each day, you will come to view these often thought of as ancient characters in a different light. That you will come to see how the Bible does relate directly to you and that time does not change its value.

-Emilee Ross

God’s Timing: God’s Patience: God’s Love

2 Peter

2 Peter 3 9 (1)

I normally like to focus these devotions on verses we sometimes don’t pay too much attention to. 2 Peter sure has a lot of those verses. But today, I want to focus on a verse we have read a dozen thousand times.
The verse is, of course, 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
The Lord does not delay His promise. The promise of God is that the Kingdom will be restored to Israel and that sin will be eradicated on the earth. God is not slow in bringing that about. He is not delaying it just because he is putting it off. He is not waiting till the last minute by divine fiat alone. Instead, God is patient with US. With each and everyone one of us. He is waiting for us to come to him. He is waiting for us to repent, but he is also waiting for those who are far off. He is waiting for repentance to be found the world over. Why is he so patient, even now, 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth, 2000 years of church history and many hundreds of years of corruption and war and poverty and hate and greed and problems and sin even after the death of Jesus on a cross?
Because God doesn’t want any to perish. He does not want a single person to miss out on the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom, the gift given through Jesus. He doesn’t want any to perish, but he wants them all to come to repentance. Will they? No, this verse doesn’t say all will come to God. He does say that any who come to repentance, any who turn from the ways of sin to do righteousness, will not perish, but will experience true life.
I don’t have much more to add to that. If we remember this verse, lock it away, hide it in our hearts, it reminds us that God is love. That God cares about every person. That every person is a step away from salvation. That the time we have waited for Jesus is the patience of God made evident to a waiting world.
May we remember this verse and come to repentance to have life.
-Jake Ballard