Stone Oak Church

Devotionals

Posted on July 15, 2019 10:10 PM by Laura McCroskey
Categories: The Love of God
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 
                                                                                 1 John 3:1
 
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
                                                                                1 John 4:8-9
 
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father.”
                                                                                Galatians 4:6
 
 
I went to see the movie Steel Magnolias with Irene, a friend from work, when it first came out in 1989. It was a fast favorite of mine, because although it moved me to ugly tears in the movie theater near the end, the storyline and cast kept me captivated throughout. Sally Field’s character M’Lynn was married to Tom Skerrit’s character Drum, and their daughter Shelby was played by Julia Roberts. The start of the movie centered around Shelby’s wedding day, and the interaction among M’Lynn and Shelby’s group of friends, especially between Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine) and Drum, as Drum was tasked with getting rid of the birds that were in the trees in their shared yard, quite to Ouiser’s dismay.
 
After the movie, as we were talking about the movie, Irene commented on how uncomfortable she felt about the interaction between M’Lynn and Drum, and how they seemed to be destined for a divorce. I stared at her, wondering if we had seen the same movie, as I did not get that impression at all. Sure, Drum’s character was less strict and serious as M’Lynn’s, and they didn’t share a lot of screen time together, but that’s because the focus was on M’Lynn and the other ladies—those strong Southern women whose resilience and friendship was celebrated. I simply did not see any sense of unhappiness in their marriage, implied or otherwise. As Irene and I talked a little bit more about it, and politely agreed to disagree about our take on their marriage, Irene shared that her parents were in the process of getting a divorce and how, despite her being in her late twenties, it was still upsetting to her. It was at that point that I realized that the emotional baggage she carried about her parents’ situation had skewered her assessment of M’Lynn's and Drum’s marriage.
 
Emotional baggage can also cloud the lens through which we view our heavenly Father, too. If the relationship with our earthly father or parents was fraught with abuse or neglect, or marred because of drug-or alcohol abuse or divorce, or even something less egregious like a lack of involvement or laughter, it’s difficult at times to grasp the concept of perfect love that our perfect Father has for us. If fear of disappointing your parents was a motivator for you to stay out of trouble growing up, it may be burdensome to carry that same yearning as our inevitable humanness pulls us into sin. If your earthly father or mother (or both) was distant and incapable of loving you, you may have grown up internalizing the blame, thinking you were unlovable, when in fact it was your parent who was incapable of showing you love. The fault was theirs, not yours.
 
Because we are human, and vulnerable, it is logical and psychologically understandable when we initially view things through our own lens and perspective. The lies and traps the enemy perpetrates increase the chasm in our understanding of God’s goodness. Many times it’s easier to believe those lies than to fathom the depth of the love He has for us.
If you are feeling like that, I command you to stop. I’m even stomping my foot so that you’ll snap to attention and listen. Dear one, the One who hung the sun, moon and the googolplex of stars loves you more than your little pumpkin head can grasp. Go back and read that statement again. You—yes—you, are lovable. You—yes—you are loved. The God of all the ages wants to spend eternity with you, and He sent His Son to take the punishment for your sin so that you could have eternal life. Like a good earthly father, God does discipline His children, but it’s because He loves us and wants us to become like Jesus.
 
Will you accept His love? Will you accept His Son into your heart? Will you open yourself up to the affirming, comforting warmth of all He has to offer you? 
 
Prayer Requests
·      For those in our immediate church family who have lost loved ones and are in shock and grief  
·      For formal and informal church leaders
·      For people in authority of all levels of government
·      For us to be instruments of His love and hope
 
May the Holy Spirit give us clear vision and open hearts to receive the love that the Father has for us. Know that I am praying this for you, dear one.
 
Quotes
 
“Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I hope and pray to God that I will have the courage to stand up for the real Jesus of the New Testament, regardless of whom I offend.” – A.W. Tozer
                                              
“The great concern of the New Testament epistles is not about the size of the Church; it is about the purity of the Church.”
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Posted on June 30, 2019 8:50 PM by Laura McCroskey
Categories: Evangelism

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

                                             Matthew 28:18-20

 

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

                                             Romans 10:14-15

This past week has been a tough week. No, didn’t deal with any health issues, breakdowns (car or otherwise J) work stress, family fights—nothing like that. No, I lost a dear friend on Monday.

My first thoughts of Randy are similar to those I have of people who are quite the extrovert to my introvert—“my goodness gracious is he loud and kind of overbearing!” As I’ve come to know over the years, though, my gut isn’t always right about folks (sometimes for the better, in Randy’s case; sometimes for the worse), and I got used to Randy’s gregariousness, especially when we became managers of sister teams. Because we worked evenings, weekends, and holidays, Randy, a few other managers and I bonded in a shared sense making the best of the challenging schedule we had and because we were there for our frontline member service representatives who were there for our members. Randy’s outgoing personality and easy laugh made work bearable.

Randy’s dimpled smile was a source of constancy for us back then, and a source of warmth, light, and nostalgia when we would run into him years later when we left that shift and that department. Though life threw him challenges, as it is wont to do, he handled them all with dignity and poise. He was always genuinely glad to see me (and others from the old work crew), and we always left feeling more upbeat and positive than when we first ran into him.

So when I got the email Monday morning, forwarded to me from one of the former managers from our old team, telling of Randy’s passing in his sleep at age 59, I burst into tears at my desk. I shared the horrific news with my boss whom Randy and I had actually interviewed for the weekend shift, and the anguished sound of grief that he made has been forever burned into my mind. 

I immediately went to see if my friend Cathy had read the email, and I cried a little in her office. We asked ourselves if Randy was a believer, and we racked our brains to recall if we had ever talked to him about Christ. When we found out the plans for the visitation and funeral services, it still was not 100% clear, as you know that those services often times reflect the belief system of the family and friends, not necessarily that of the departed. We found out, however, during the eulogy that his brother-in-law gave that Randy was indeed a believer. He may not have been active in his church, but his brother-in-law did witness and talk to him about Christ.

It’s what we need to do, friends, to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers—everyone. We need to talk to folks about Christ--not because if we don’t, they won’t be saved and will spend eternity in Hell. That’s not how that works. We need to talk to people about Christ because it’s what Jesus commanded us to do and it is an opportunity for us to partner with the Lord to do His work of salvation. Only God can turn a man’s heart to Himself, but we are blessed to be able to share our testimony with others. The quote “Evangelism (or Christianity) is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread” is attributed to mid-20th century pastor and theologian D.T. Niles, and it rings true yet today. We have received the bread of life; why wouldn’t we want others to do the same?

Know that as I write this, I’m using the proverbial pastor’s pointing—one fingers pointing out at y’all, and three pointing back at me. I know that I don’t witness like I am supposed to. It’s easy for me to talk to believers about the greatness of my God and King, and what He means to me; I just haven’t disciplined or challenged myself to talk to others. Some of y’all do, and I am in awe. I crave your prayers for me to be emboldened to do this. Please.

Dear ones, we don’t know when the Lord is going to call us home. We don’t know when He will call our loved ones home. What we do know is that we don’t have gobs and gobs of time; we do know that God is glorified when we are obedient; we do know that people need to know about Jesus and the ramifications of what will happen to them when they die if they don’t know Jesus. We have an important message that we need to share, and we don’t know when it might be too late to share it with someone.

Prayer Requests

  • For those mourning the loss of loved ones, whether sudden or drawn out
  • For His plan for His church and for us to be obedient and committed  
  • For Pastor Ray, Pastor Wayne, and church leaders
  • For our government leaders at all levels

A secondary, and fairly obvious lesson and message from Randy’s passing: hug your loved ones…tell them you love them…forgive those who have hurt you, more for your sake than for theirs…let go of grudges…be Jesus to people.

 Quotes

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”  --Max Lucado

 

“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”           

  --Charles Spurgeon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on June 24, 2019 10:17 PM by Laura McCroskey
Categories: The Love of God

 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

 

 

                                             Ephesians 2:1-5; 13-16

Before he read the devotional in our Sunday School class this past Sunday, my brother-in-Christ Juan shared a comment that his father had said to him about Juan’s salvation. He said something to the effect of that only the Lord could have brought about the change he saw in Juan, because he was such a changed man.

Now mind you, I don’t know Juan all that well, but I can tell you that he is one of the most humble men I have ever met. His humility and his words bring glory the Lord Almighty, and his gentle demeanor belies the strength of his love for Jesus Christ. It is odd to me to hear that his father references another Juan—one so opposite of the little bit I know of him.

But that’s pretty much our story, too, right? We each have different backgrounds and experiences, but I’m sure that we each have things in our past that make us shake our heads with embarrassment, shame, or regret. I, for one, have committed sins in my past that I am certain few would believe (please understand that the statement is not coming from a place of pretentiousness—I don’t mean to come across as holier than thou. I just know the things that I’ve done, in what seems like a hundred lifetimes ago). I know I’ll never run for public office, for fear that my past would be dredged up for all to see.

I couldn’t keep my past from Him, though. Yet despite my past, and because of His eternal love, the Lord decided that He wanted me to be His daughter. The only way that relationship could occur was for someone to take the punishment for my sins—MY SINS…the ones I committed, the ones I take fully accountability and responsibility for. My Lord, my King, the second Person of the Godhead, willingly gave up His life to redeem me, so that I could be reconciled to my loving heavenly Father, the creator and sustainer of life. Grace—that totally unmerited favor—was poured out on me from on high. There isn’t anything I could have done to receive it; there isn’t anything I can do to lose it. It is mine—He is mine, and I am His. Nothing will ever change that.

And so it is with you, dear reader. If you’ve been feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit inviting you to explore the possibility of adoption as a child of God, but you feel as if your past would disqualify you from said adoption, I don’t mind telling you that you are so very wrong. God knows all of your faults, and loves you anyway. He wants a relationship with you, and is faithful to finish the good work He has begun in you. If you want to know more about that good work, or how you can accept His grace, or how you can let said grace transform you on your spiritual journey, I invite you to reach out to Pastor Ray or Wayne, or any elder, as they are charged with the spiritual health of the church body.

 

Prayer Requests

  • For those dealing with health issues, and for their caregivers, family, and friends
  • For boldness in obedience and in declaring and sharing His love for His children  
  • For unity and commitment to His plan for His church
  • For us to be instruments of His love and hope

 

There’s a saying I’ve found on Pinterest, and I do believe I’ve even included it in the Quotes section of a previous devotional. It just is quite apropos here: “Satan calls you by your sin and reminds you of your past. God calls you by your name and reminds you of the future He longs to give you.”

 Quotes

“When you finally learn that a person’s behavior has more to do with their internal struggle than it ever did with you… you learn grace.”

                                              

“My entire theology can be condensed into four words: “Jesus died for me.”               Charles Spurgeon

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