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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Providing the Lamb: A Holy Week Devotion

As a kid growing up in Sunday School, I was taught a lot of Bible stories. The teachers did their best to keep our attention on the application of the stories, but if I am being honest, the majority of the stuff I remember are just the stories themselves. One of them is the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar.

If you are unfamiliar with this story I would encourage you to read it in Genesis 22.

In verse 7, Isaac asked his dad while they were walking up Mt. Moriah, where the sacrifice was.
They had the wood and the supplies to make a fire, there were plenty of stones for the altar, there was rope... but... Where's the sacrifice?

Abraham replied that God would provide the Lamb.
But God didn't provide the Lamb.
Not on that day.
What does the story say?

'But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” ' -Genesis 22:11-14 NIV

A ram. A ram stuck in a thicket... or a thorn bush.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Look at the Cross!

Look at the cross: The world arranged around greed, blame, and violent power did that! And it still does. (Brian Zahnd)

All one would have to do is read the few chapters of Matthew from the triumphal entry on Sunday to the moment Jesus is arrested and you would be faced with the condition of the human heart versus the work of God in Christ.

What do you mean?

Look at the cross: we did that.

The gospel writers, specifically Matthew and Luke in my opinion set up their readers with a dichotomy.

The gospel reading contrasts the efforts of the Pharisees to trick and discredit Jesus, with the forceful resistance which Christ mounts against their evil.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

I was going to write a post for today, being that it is Palm Sunday. However, when I woke up today I saw a tweet that accurately summed up anything I wanted to say and succinctly wrote it much better than I could have:

"Palm Sunday is a good reminder of how fast our hearts can move from “Crown Him!” to “Kill Him” when we don’t get our way."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Daily Fight

Today, as you are faced again with your weakness, remember that the Holy Spirit lives within you with powerful, enabling grace.

What does that mean?
What does that look like?

It means because of what Jesus did, we have power to to overcome the things we struggle with.
I'm not just talking about sin.
I'm talking about the things in this life that hold us back from our fullest potential. The things that consume our minds, that make us feel inadequate or unworthy of living differently.

The Gospel attacks feelings of inadequacies, hurts, doubts, insecurities... Oh they may still be around, but their power is cut. Their stranglehold on how I live is loosened. The pit they try to force me into has been filled.

The Gospel says, it doesn't matter how terrible life may make me feel. Because, in Jesus, that isn't reality any longer.

Friends, today, when you wake up again with the same feeling of worthlessness, when you feel underappreciated at work, when you feel too stupid to accomplish the task at school, when you are confused, when you are hurt, when someone violently attacks you whether physically or verbally... When you think all hope of anything good is all lost...
Remember the Gospel that undercuts everything in this life and reminds us that this is not our home.

I'm with you in this today. I'm living this right here. Right now. I'm attacking my own feelings of inadequacy. I'm wrestling with my own thoughts of, "Now what?!"

I'm attacking by using the message of Jesus. I'm looking forward to that glorious day. I'm looking for extra opportunities to actively love my neighbor.

Because I know how the story ends.


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: Worship

I watched "Whiplash" this past weekend. The movie is about 2 equally obsessive men. One is a music teacher, a man who emotionally abuses his students in horrific ways because he is so consumed with perfection. This obsession is matched only by Andrew, an aspiring drummer who will do anything to acheive perfection as well.

It was during this film that I was reminded of this fundamental truth: 
We will sacrifice anything to get what we want.

That's the way we were made. We have been created as "want creatures." We always go after whatever we want most, sacrificing anything that gets in the way. When God holds this place in our lives, we live without fear of man or death. When any created thing replaces the Creator, we continue the cycle of sin and brokenness, hurting others and ourselves.

In the movie, Andrew alienates any potential friends, refuses to keep a relationship with the only girl who has ever liked him, and even goes to a performance after being blindsided by an 18-wheeler. All this because he wants to be the best drummer in the world. And he wants it more than anything else in his life.

Think about your life. What is it that you're sacrificing? Whatever we're sacrificing is a good indication of what it is that we are worshiping above all else. 

And if you're like me, you often don't like what you find.

So how do we change? 

I think it begins with acknowledging what (or WHO) we should be "wanting above all else." After that, the first step is simply...worship.

So slow down...set a timer for AT LEAST 10 minutes, and pray through this Psalm. I've also included 3 questions at the end to help you reflect on where your worship is right now.

Prayer - Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, 
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, 
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.  He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. 
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What are you stressed/worried about right now?
  2. How did you see God move yesterday?
  3. What are you thankful for today?


Evan Smith

is a Pastor currently living in Phoenix, AZ. He majored in New Testament Studies at Ozark Christian College. Born and raised in Texas, he grew up the third-born of 7 kids and loved (almost) every minute of it! He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Breanna, and has two wonderful kids, Hannah Joy and Peter. More than anything, Evan wants to be a man who is marked by a hunger for God.

The God who came, still comes. The God who spoke, still speaks.”

Evan's Website

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday Word: John 3:30

"He must increase, but I must decrease."

Maybe you've seen the stickers, the t-shirts, maybe you have heard many sermons on the verse... but there are seven words found in the Gospel of John that have become one of the most looked up, favorited, memorized verses in all of scripture.

Sure, I don't think it will replace John 3:16 any time soon, but John 3:30 is perhaps one of the hardest verses to truly put into action. What does it look like to take the words of John the Baptizer so seriously that it becomes our life motto, our driving force, even our goal for all of life?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: An Orthodox Prayer

In the midst of all our uncertainties, all our stress, all the schedule changes and work stagnation, there is one unshakeable truth:
We belong to God.
No matter what today holds for you, you are a child of God. And your Father loves to unleash blessing in your life when you seek Him.


"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
       nor stands in the way of sinners, 
               nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,  
       and on his law he meditates day and night. 

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,  
       and its leaf does not wither. 
In all that he does, he prospers.  
       The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
        nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;  
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,  
       but the way of the wicked will perish."
Psalm 1

Prayer from St. Philaret of Moscow

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things to rely upon Your Holy will.
In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me with
peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.
Grant me strength in unforeseen events. Let me not forget that all are sent by You.
Teach me to act lovingly, firmly, and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others.
Grant me strength to bear the fatigues of the coming day with all that it shall bring.

Direct my will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray You Yourself in me.



Evan Smith

is a Pastor currently living in Phoenix, AZ. He majored in New Testament Studies at Ozark Christian College. Born and raised in Texas, he grew up the third-born of 7 kids and loved (almost) every minute of it! He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Breanna, and has two wonderful kids, Hannah Joy and Peter. More than anything, Evan wants to be a man who is marked by a hunger for God.

The God who came, still comes. The God who spoke, still speaks.”

Evan's Website

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Simple Sunday: The Authority of Scripture

"The authority of Scripture seemed to me all the more revered and worthy of devout belief because, although it was visible for all to read, it reserved the full majesty of its secret wisdom within its spiritual profundity. While it stooped to all in the great plainness of its language and simplicity of style, it yet required the closest attention of the most serious-minded--so that it might receive all into its common bosom, and direct some few through its narrow passages toward Thee, yet many more than would have been the case had there not been in it such a lofty authority, which nevertheless alluded multitudes to its bosom by its holy humility." - St. Augustine, Confessions 

Wordy, I know, but this is what I am meditating through this weekend...unpacking what the authority of Scripture means to me.

I know that I submit to it, I know that I believe it is the final word on matters. I know that it is God inspired... But what does it practically look like to say, "My authority is the benchmark of Holy Scripture"?

For Augustine, it seems clear that as he searched for truth about God he was unable to get past these key characteristics of the Bible. This book, and the church's teachings continued to draw him in ever more and more. It was simple yet hard, easy to comprehend, yet deep enough to require days on end to process.

What about you? What are your core convictions about Scripture? What passages have you read and they have just stuck with you ever since? 


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website

Saturday, March 7, 2015



When we hear that word a million things can come to mind.


Those are just a few.

Grace can mean something so spectacular to some… and for others, no emotion is shown.

Luke Wright, a youth pastor from Phoenix once talked about grace being like porches to him.

He’s had so many memories of porches in his life.

Memories that bring the idea of being gracious or receiving grace.

On his porch he has memories of selling lemonade on hot summer days, he has memories of his first kiss, he also had memories of where he had to receive grace… injuring his friends, his brother, lies he’s told… porches to him are where everything went down.


Memories of good things, memories of things we regret.
Memories that we love to relive, memories that we want erased… gone forever.

And so grace to you may mean so many different things... to me grace is sometimes pictured as a car.

I have so many memories of good things and bad things that have been in or around cars.
Like having to ask for rides all the time from others because I couldn't drive, and then later on being able to provide rides to places for my friends.
Trips I have taken.
Conversations that have taken place.
Things I've learned. Seen. Spoken. Felt.

I had my first kiss in a driveway, next to my car.
I was broken up with the girl I thought I would marry... sitting in her car.
When I hear the word grace… I think about memories such as those. I had to learn how to receive grace. I had to learn how to give grace.

Maybe you don’t have a place or a thing that you associate grace to… but we can all associate grace to God, our pasts, our presents, our relationships...

Our sin.

How could a God so just and holy give grace to me… to you… to them… to us?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Formation Friday: John Wesley

                John was born the 15th of 19 children to Samuel and Susannah Wesley. Susannah bore all 19, and she was the epitome of loving, faithful mother. Every week she spent time with each child, teaching them the Bible and the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
                When John was 5 years old, a house fire nearly took his life. He was on the 2nd floor, trapped between the flaming stairs and a roof that was about to collapse. Providence intervened that day when a neighbor, standing on the shoulders of another, grabbed John from the window and saved his life. From then on, John referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the fire,” sensing that God had saved him for something special.
                And he worked hard to be special. John attended Oxford, spending a great amount of time reading the early church fathers. When his brother Charles assembled a small band of students to take their faith seriously, John quickly became the leader. He directed the group with a plan of study and rules for prayer. As the group grew, and became the target of ridicule at the University, John took pride in his first experience of persecution.
                But even in this season of constantly trying to make his life conform to the Bible, John was restless. He had a profound lack of peace. He felt he needed something more.
                And that was what brought him to this voyage. General James Oglethorpe invited Charles to be his secretary and John to be the chaplain to the new colony of Savannah, Georgia. The two brothers quickly accepted and were soon aboard the Simmonds in October of 1735.
                However, just a few short days before they were to land in America, the ship ran into a violent storm. Suddenly, this 32 year-old Anglican Priest, this man who had worked so hard to serve God all his life, was filled with terror at the prospect of death.  

It was in that moment of crisis, when the only thing that John could see was death, that he looked across the deck and saw a group of men and women singing calmly. Some sang with their eyes closed, some looked out upon the waves, some looked up into the sky. In each face, John saw something. He saw… peace.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to Make an Impact on America...Right Where You Are

Everything started that night. Everything began that night, on that hill.

The crowd stood, jeering. Mary knelt, weeping. John held her close. Peter hid alone. The hope of the world, breathed His last.

But everything changed within just 3 short days.

See, while Peter was still engulfed with shame, and the rest of the 11 were immobilized by fear, locked up in some room, Jesus suddenly stood before them! When they last saw him, he was dead on a cross. Here, death had lost its grip!

Though this small group of 11 likely didn’t realize it at that moment, this event completely altered the course of history.

For thousands of years, men had searched for some kind of salvation, some way to please God. For the first time in the history of the world, Salvation himself…stood before them.

For the first time in history, the Good News was finally clear: Jesus Christ is Lord.

Jesus. Yeshua. His very name means: God SAVES.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wednesday Word: The One Truth that will Change Your Life

The infamous journey of 18 inches.

What am I talking about? You've heard it before. The journey of truth from the head to the heart. Getting things we KNOW to become things that affect the way we FEEL.

It is perhaps one of the most difficult things we ever try to do. I have so much that I know in my head, but I have never had it change the way I live. Why?

Exactly how do we make this journey happen?

It happens when we slow down enough to come face to face with the reality of truth. It happens when we allow ourselves to think about what it is we know, to mull over the implications of it.

The journey from the head to the heart happens when the heart is allowed to catch up with the head. 

So we come to our Wednesday Word. We can keep going with exegesis. Exegesis is incredibly helpful. However, I want us to take this week allow our hearts to catch up with our heads.

The Gospel is the most weighty truth in all of Scripture. The Gospel is the one truth that will truly change your life. If you let it.

So we collected 10 excerpts from Scripture to help us out. Take the time to read through each one of these. The repetition of truth will help you slow down to recognize the awe-inspiring reality of what Jesus has done for you.

Are you ready? Let's take that 18-inch journey.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: Light a Fire

Have you ever built a fire from scratch?
If you have, you know how it goes. It's a pretty simple process. You forage through the woods for dry, dead wood. Once you collect all the wood you need, you stack it up in the fire pit and get ready for the fire. But with all the wood-stacking, all the pit digging, the fire will never start without a spark.

It's much the same with us. Our life in Christ can look a lot like building a fire. We gather the wood, we stack it up in the fire pit. But a fire will never start in our hearts without a spark from the Spirit of God.

You can stack all the kindling you want, but it's God who gives the fire. It's His presence, His Spirit, that lights our hearts with the flame of passion.

Most mornings when I wake up, I feel some kind of deadness. I often am spiritually dry, cold, unfeeling. But it's the most dead wood that burns the hottest.

When you come to the Word, as you approach your time of prayer, as you stack up that kindling around your heart, look to One who brings awakening to dead hearts.

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence? 
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast."
Psalm 139:7-10


"Weak. Dry. Hungry. Afraid. Nervous. Overwhelmed. Anxious.

          I cast these fears on You, my God.
How I need You, O God, to breathe life into this dry spirit of mine!

Awaken me, O Spirit. Let me hunger for You today.

          Capture me, Sweet Jesus. Show me Your glory.

                    Draw me, Father. Keep me running after You.

Shine the light of Your face.
          May each glimpse of You draw forth new praise from my heart.
Draw me near. Keep me close.

You are:

Faithful. Merciful. Glorious. Eternal. Love. Hope. True. Good. Holy. Kind. Awesome. Steadfast. Wise. Infinite. Ever-present.

You are...here.

Light a fire in my heart. Let me burn for You.