Weekly Devotions

Christ: Is Not His Last Name

First name.  Gregory.  Last name.   Morris.  In our Western society, we are accustomed to this way of writing someone’s name. As we approach Christmas, it’s important to be aware that Jesus’ parents were not Joseph and Mary Christ.  Much to the chagrin of some who have asked, Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  Christ is an equally important part of his name—a name that is unique to him. Jesus was fully man—a person with emotions, appetites, and needs, just like you and me.  If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to relate to God, just know that he went to great lengths to relate to you.  Jesus of Nazareth was and is God’s most empathetic offering. Christ, though, is just as important.  The word “Christ” comes from the Greek term “Christos,” which means “chosen one” or “anointed one.”  Over and over again in the Old Testament, there were hints of a coming Messiah or a coming Christ who would not be anointed by an earthly king.  Instead, this one who was to come would be anointed by the heavenly King and, therefore, would be the Christ. As you read in 1 Chronicles 17:11–14, this prophesied Christ would come from God to “establish his kingdom” and would “establish his throne forever.” According to Isaiah 7:14, he would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Though he didn’t come like we thought he would, he did come.  In love, wrapped in swaddling clothes, he showed up. When he became a man, he began inviting others to follow him.  And he invites us as well. In John 1:41, Andrew, one of his earliest followers, said it so well to his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). As we wait for Christmas, remember that we are not merely waiting for the celebration of a baby who was born.  We are celebrating the Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise, the assurance that God’s Word is good, and the certainty that He can still be trusted.  Thank God today for Jesus, the man, and Christ, the rescuer sent from God.  After all, just as Andrew had, we have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ)!  He is our “anointed one.”
 
  ~ Pastor Greg

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Standing-On-Your-Tiptoes Anticipation

Before we were married, Reba and I knew we wanted children.  After a few years of marriage, we were ready. But for the next three years, we could not conceive.  Every month, for 36 months, we were reminded of our struggle with infertility.  We went to the Greenblatt Clinic in Augusta, Georgia who specializes in infertility.  It appeared that we may not have a child.   During a revival service in the new year of 1986, Reba went to pray specifically about being a mother.  She felt warmth come over her, and then shortly thereafter she conceived.  We found out that Reba was expecting.   Since we had waited three years for this, you might assume that only having to wait nine more months would’ve been easy. Wrong! It seemed like forever.  We could not wait to meet this little child we’d dreamed about and that God was gifting us with.  (The name Sean is a Gaelic spelling that means, “God’s gift.”)  He came on October 28th, 1986.   Have you ever felt this type of anticipation?  You were on the edge of your seat.  You couldn’t sit still.  It’s all you could talk about.  The prophet Isaiah caused people to experience this kind of expectancy.  He talked about a Savior who would come one day.  He called him “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace.” And he said, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).  Talk about good news for everyone.  Talk about standing-on-your-tiptoes anticipation!  This is what the Advent season is supposed to feel like.  We’re celebrating the birth of the person who can do for us what no one else can:  bring us from darkness to light, from death to life.   The days leading up to Christmas are supposed to be filled with standing-on-your-tiptoes anticipation.  Maybe you are anticipating something good this Christmas—that gift you really want, the get-together with friends or family, or that special Christmas tradition.  Or maybe you are anticipating something less-than-good: a packed calendar, a painful memory of a lost relationship, or that awkward family member.   What if this Christmas were different?  What if you could spend this Advent season anticipating something that would leave you feeling happy, satisfied, fulfilled, and loved? You can.   You can do so by turning your anticipation to Jesus—our rescuer, our hope, our Savior, our physician, our eternal salvation, God with us. Jesus was born!  For you!  For me!  Let’s stand on our tiptoes and anticipate Jesus together.   I can’t wait to see what God is going to do for us.  I hope you’re standing on your tiptoes in anticipation too!   Pastor Greg


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Christmas Happiness

Well here we are beginning another Advent Season.  Christmas Day will be here quickly.  Sometimes happiness will allude us, especially during this season.  So many emotions arise from Christmas’ past.  So how do we experience the joy of the season? Happiness requires letting go and learning to forget. Worry won’t change the past, so forget what can’t be changed and focus on the future. Philippians 3:13-14 says, “I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (NLT) You only have a limited amount of energy. That’s why you get tired. That’s why you get weary. That’s why you get worn out. Since you only have a limited supply of energy, I highly recommend you not waste any of it on the past.  Every day choose to focus your energy on what is in front of you and what lies ahead. This habit is so important to your happiness, there are three traps you have to be aware of. The trap of regret. You’ve got to let go of regrets. Are there things I wish I had done differently in life?  Of course.  But I can’t dwell on them because I can’t change them.  Don’t waste any emotion on regrets. The trap of resentment.  Holding on to resentment doesn’t hurt anybody but you.  Let it go! For your own sake, you must forgive.  Do they deserve it?  No. But do you deserve forgiveness from God?  No.  Those who experience grace are gracious. The trap of tradition.  Everything is constantly changing, and you cannot stop it. You have to decide whether to resist and resent those changes or to be happy. Happiness is a choice. (Abraham Lincoln said that!) How you handle the changes that come with life reveals spiritual maturity.  When you’re guided by and anchored to eternity, change can take place all around you and you can choose to be happy. Let’s make this Christmas a happy one!  Think of the wonderful, glorious, eternity that awaits us.                                                                   ~Pastor Greg

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Your Arsenal Against Anxiety

Thankfulness is one of the most powerful tools in making our hearts both soft to the seed of God’s word and filled with abundant joy.  Thanksgiving aligns our thoughts and emotions with the reality of God’s goodness in a world wrought with lies about the character of God.  It breeds joy and trust rather than entitlement and negativity. With each declaration of thankfulness you dig a shovel into the hard, rocky soil of your heart and churn it over until it becomes receptive to the fullness of God and filled with the fruit of the Spirit. The Bible is laden with commands to be thankful. Ephesians 5:20 tells us to be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  But my favorite command on thankfulness is Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” You see, it’s important to understand that the Bible doesn’t suggest that we give thanks, but rather commands us to always be thankful.  And in God’s command He reveals His heart.  We learn in Psalm 107 that our thankfulness is meant to be a response to the steadfast love of our heavenly Father.  Thankfulness is meant to be the overflow of remembering, encountering, and mulling over how our God is abundantly faithful and filled with unconditional love for us. I used to read Scripture commanding me to be thankful and think, “Sorry God, I know I need to be more thankful.  I know I’m so provided for and loved.  I’m sorry for not thanking you more.”  But after meditating on Psalm 107:1, I realized that my lack of thankfulness is a symptom of not spending enough time encountering God’s wonderful character rather than a core issue in and of itself.  Tilling the soil of my heart through thankfulness requires that I set aside time to simply experience God’s goodness and love.  Because everything He does is by grace, my natural response to His character will always be one of thanksgiving. Take time today to reflect on the faithful and loving character of your heavenly Father. Allow His goodness to cause thankfulness to well up within you.  May your time in guided prayer be filled with a transformational encounter with God and cultivate good soil that bears the fruit of an abundant life. Gratitude is a powerful weapon in the arsenal against anxiety.  Treat each anxious thought with a grateful one, and prepare yourself for a new day of joy.                                                                               ~Pastor Greg

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Spiraling Upward

Too often we hear the term “spiraling downward,” or someone is in a “downward spiral”!  It’s not a good thing!  And if that is the case, how  can we turn things around?  How can we get an uptick in our circumstances?  What can we do to stop spiraling downward and start spiraling upward? A Thankful attitude opens the windows of heaven.  Sound familiar.  It was found on Day 29 of your 40 Days with Jesus devotional book.  Spiritual blessings flow freely upon you when you address heaven with a grateful heart.  We can experience glimpses of God’s glory when we lift our hearts with thanksgiving unto our gracious God.  Think of that!  We are reminded over and over again regarding this mind-set: “Continue in prayer, and be watchful with thanksgiving. ~Colossians 4:2, MEV “Let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving . . .” ~Psalm 107:22, MEV “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving . . .” ~Psalm 147:7, MEV How should we approach God?  “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2)  and “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving  . . . (Psalm 100:4).  Ultimately we know the will of God is THANKSGIVING.  “In the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:18 When you develop the spirit of “thankfulness” you get a foretaste of glory divine (song quote) . . . heaven rushes in with hope!  You are revived!  Renewed!  Your path becomes an upward spiral with ever-increasing gladness.  Thankfulness is not a magic formula.  (Another quote from your 40 Days with Jesus devotional!)  It is a language of love that creates an intimacy with your Heavenly Father.  You experience the vast tenderness of His ever-expanding love and grace. To be thankful in spite of the difficulties is not denying the reality of your pain; instead, it tells the enemy of your soul that it is in God wherein you rejoice.  God is your refuge in times of trouble.  God is your strength and your shield from the frustrations of life.  Instead of taking a downward turn why not experience an upward spiral?  Think thanksgiving!                                                                                                                         ~Pastor Morris

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Friendship Is Practicing the Power of Presence

“John, how are you?” “Fine!” (Classic response when you are absolutely not fine.) “How are you?” John continued. More small talk and then I hung up with my friend. Ten minutes later, there I was at his door, knocking.  When he opened the door and saw me standing there, he collapsed in a heap on the floor, and let out everything he had been bottling up inside.  I didn’t even say a word. He sat down next to me, and I listened.  Presence is so powerful. Without advice, solutions, or next steps, I just sat with John in his pain, and for the first time in a long time, he believed that he was no longer alone.  Now I’m a pastor.  People expect me to show up.  But that day John wasn’t expecting his friend to travel a great distance to follow up with him.  There is power in presence.  In the same way that God is with us, we demonstrate His character and nature when we choose to be with others.  Presence provides comfort, care, and a sense of security. There’s humility in presence.  We usually don’t have the answer to life’s problems, and we don’t have to act like we do.  We can just show up and be with people, as they process life, and look to God for His help. When we practice the ministry of presence, people find relief from misery and pain.  And most importantly God shows up. Friendship is crucial as we navigate life. Doing our daily life alone really is the pits. We’re all hungry for meaningful connection and the kind of relationship where we can raid each other’s fridge and keep no thing hidden.  We want to be received as we are now and encouraged to grow into who God created us to be.  We find God as we love each other.  Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” ~ John 15:11-12, NLT It’s the practice of presence that releases the power of God to bring healing and help.  Do you need a friend?  It is my desire that the Parkway Church become the kind of place where friendships are embellished and gratifying.  Moving toward the holiday season let’s practice presence.  Let’s be there for one another like we never have before.  Let’s be friends!                                                                                 ~Pastor Greg


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