Something to Believe
“This is the work of God...” —John 6:29 (Read John 6)
We live in a world that values productivity, perhaps above all else. This mindset seeps into the culture of the church as well, as the American prosperity gospel tells us that health and wealth reflect salvation. We often feel a need to fill our days with work, to be productive, to do something.
But doing something isn’t always to what God calls us.
I only have a few months left in the CCO Fellowship Program, and I’ve been worrying about what’s next for me. I asked the Lord what I needed to do before He would reveal my next steps, and He drew me to John 6. This passage convicted my heart.
For some context, Jesus just performed the miracle of feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Those who had witnessed this miracle wanted more, so they followed Jesus. This was their interaction:
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” —John 6:25-28
The people following Jesus wanted to know what they needed to do to get what they wanted, just like me. Jesus answered them, as He always does:
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” —John 6:29
This is the work of God? To believe? I realized after reading this passage that I wanted to control my situation and future, and I didn’t believe that God would give me the answer in time. When I came across this passage, I knew that God isn’t calling me to do, but to believe that He cares about my future. He will provide me with what I truly need—even if this looks different than I anticipate.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord reveals this truth to His people:
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
—Isaiah 30:15 (Read Isaiah 30)
Your salvation, your defense and your deliverance is in returning to your God and resting and trusting in Him.
Jesus promises in John 16:33 that we will have trouble, but He also reminds us that faith in the work He has already done is the work to which we are called. So, whether you’re facing a big future decision or imminent problems, remember that sometimes the only “work” you are called to is rest and confidence in the God who desires to care for you.
—Essence Suggs is a CCO Fellow ministering to University students at Bellefield Presbyterian Church.
Light in the Darkness
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. —Deuteronomy 31:6 (Read Deuteronomy 31)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? —Psalm 27:1 (Read Psalm 27)
Worship music brings peace to my busy days, so I often put it on when I study. One time, “Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective came on. The lyrics of the chorus caught me off guard: “The joy of the Lord is my strength. In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing. The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
What came to mind was the unmistakable dread of walking alone down a dark alley. This feeling is not cause for joyful dancing and singing. But, usually, it’s not a literal dark room or shadowy alley that causes us to fear; the fabric of our lives—the past, the present, the future and the general unknown—is scary enough.
Maybe you are studying for a test and feel the anxiety rising. I didn’t study enough, I’m going to fail. Is it too late to drop out? Maybe you are applying for a job. What if I mess up the interview. What if I’m not qualified? Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by all your responsibilities. If I don’t get this done now, I’ll never get back on track. And maybe, from there, you start to spiral, and things get even darker.
What if I told you this isn’t God’s desire for your life?
How would you feel if you knew that there was a Light at the end of the tunnel, an everlasting Hope that is always there even in our darkest hour?
Deuteronomy is the last of the first five books of the Old Testament, a series called the Pentateuch. These books describe the covenant that God made with His people. They show, time and time again, examples of God leading the Israelites from evil to goodness and from darkness to light. The Israelites still had fear in their hearts from their past and the uncertainty of the future; however, even when they didn’t know it or feel it, God was with them, God was protecting them, God was leading them, and God loved them.
Although God promised His favor several millennia ago, it still holds true for His children today.
You may have residual fear or anxiety from your past that affects your hope for the future, but God has never left and will never leave you, for His love for you has no end. It is so powerful that there is nothing of this Earth or beyond that can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
Let this be a reassurance that God is with you, God is protecting you, God is leading you, and God loves you.
The next time you find yourself in a dark place, turn to the Lord and ask for the strength, courage, joy and peace that he offers. Knowing that God, who is the Everlasting Light, is always with me is more than enough reason to dance and sing through the darkness.
—Joel Hinkle serves as a part of Wednesday Night Team on Cornerstone Leadership.
Cry for Justice
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
—Luke 18:1-8 (Read Luke 18)
This passage speaks to me twofold. First, it makes me question that if even humans with hard hearts will give in to persistent cries for justice, how much more willing must God be to listen to our calls for said justice? Second, it reminds me that we must continue to pressure the people in power to bring about justice in our country. Even those with the hardest hearts will let justice prevail when they are pressured enough.
This summer, the events following George Floyd’s death reminded me that the world is still very broken and unjust. I had come to believe the narrative that the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s marked the end of systemic racism in this country, but that narrative is false.
God opened my eyes to the grave disservice that has continued to be done to people of color and other marginalized groups in this country.
Often throughout history, the church has been on the wrong side of that oppression, too. The Forgive Us book study over the summer made it clear to me where the church has wound up on the wrong side of justice in the past and where it continues to do so, even today. Early American Christians misused their roles and did things against their core beliefs to maintain power. Many stories have been lost through the years and continue to be lost through the silence of white Christians, but that narrative does not have to continue.
There is still much work to be done to achieve justice in this world, both in general society and in the church. Our current culture is saturated with this message, but that does not make it any less potent. We, as Christians, cannot stand back and wait for others to enact justice around us.
We must call to God and to our world leaders for liberty and justice for all; and even when our world leaders fail, our call for justice will set an example. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
We must be careful to approach justice with the right mindset, however. Much as this judge enacted justice despite neither fearing God nor respecting man, God is capable of enacting justice through us when we do not have the right mindset. Justice is still right no matter how it happens, but if we seek justice because it’s the cool thing to do or because it makes us look and feel “woke,” we have done ourselves a disservice.
God calls us to enact justice, and we should do just that out of love and reverence for God and His creation.
Lord God, please forgive the church for the wrongs it has done against underrepresented communities in the past. Take the community that has taken part in oppression, and transform it into one that seeks justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with you, God. Work in our hearts that we may call for justice out of love for You and for Your Kingdom. Bless those who have been persecuted, and bring justice to them on this earth. Amen.
--Josh Young serves as a member of Cornerstone’s Worship Team.
Unafraid: Trusting the Lord
By Lauren Burnette
“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’
And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
--Luke 1:30-38 (Read Luke 1)
Recently, I decided to read both the Gospels of Luke and John, focusing on the foundational teachings of Jesus and the Good News that they offer us today. When I started reading the first chapter of Luke, I was blown away by what God was already teaching me, and I was specifically amazed by Mary’s acceptance of Gabriel’s message from God.
It was crazy to me that Mary did not hesitate to trust God’s plan for her. The angel told her she would mother the Son of God, yet she was young, unwed and a virgin. A pregnancy would change everything; this pregnancy could hurt the view others had of her and her relationship (and upcoming marriage) with Joseph.
However, despite all of these potential negative consequences, Mary automatically proclaimed herself a servant of the Lord.
She acknowledged God’s sovereignty and goodness in her situation. This level of trust that she had in God and in His plan for her was deeper—is deeper—than any we are able to have in other people. And when I read this passage, God put a desire in my heart for a trust that deep.
The season of life I am in right now has not been easy. The medical school application process has been draining, emotionally taxing, and at times, has left me feeling completely helpless. Medical school admissions committees are currently making decisions about my future. Decisions that I have no control over will determine where I spend the next four years and whether I will have to find a new church and a new community. I am terrified and have been struggling to trust God, to remember that he knows what’s best for me, even if what’s best is not at all what I want.
It is by reading this passage in Luke that I am once again reminded that God is a part of those decisions, and God has a beautiful purpose for me regardless of the outcome. I am trying my best, yet still often failing, to follow Mary’s example: to fully trust God in all of His decisions for my life and to truly submit my life to being a servant of the Lord.
God continues to grow my trust in Him and remind me that I am able--and that He is calling me--to give Him control.
Today, I encourage you to meditate on Mary’s courage and her steadfast trust in God. In what areas of your life do you need to fully submit yourself to God and trust Him more? How can Mary’s submission to and trust in God be a model for you in your own life?
—Lauren Burnette serves on Cornerstone Leadership as member of Discipleship Team.
Acts of Obedience: Loving the Law
By Savanna Lattanzi
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
--James 4:11-12 (Read James 4)
When I became a Christian early in high school, my strategy was to play defense. I focused my energy on forming arguments which would not only validate my faith to others, but also those which would defend my opinions against other Christians. I sought out arguments to back up conclusions I had already come to before I knew the Lord. I had, and still have, a lot of pride. I didn’t yet understand that faith often means saying, “I don’t know, but I know God does”.
Because of this, I had a bad habit of judging if others around me were ‘real Christians,’ and at my worst, I even vocalized that feeling. I failed at loving Christians and non-Christians alike, and I had very little capacity for grace. Mistakes were lethal in my mind. I pondered the state of salvation of everyone around me and determined that the outlook was not good.
Luckily, the compulsive need to defend myself and effectively debate propelled me towards scripture. I surrendered more and more of my life to the Lord, knowing everything mattered less.
I asked the Lord to break my heart and make my will like His.
And when I did that, two things happened.
First, the Lord convicted me. In the midst of knowing that none of us measure up, I learned to love the law. Every day I spend time with the Lord, I feel like I understand more about His justice and goodness. I’ve become more sensitive to the evil that has emanated from the Fall and have begun to sincerely ask the Lord what I should do about it. If I’m honest, at first my flesh didn’t like a lot of things in scripture. The Bible is often countercultural, and sometimes I felt like God couldn’t possibly mean what was written. I still struggle to submit fully to the Lord in a lot of areas, but making an effort to give my feeble convictions to Him has made all the difference.
Internalizing the truth that the Lord holds me in the palm of His hand--even when I end up being wrong--has been game-changing.
Second, the Lord equipped me to love others a million times better. My heart has been softened by drawing closer to Him. He has taught me about His love for humanity, causing my compassion to grow immensely. The ability to recognize evil in the actions of others and nevertheless offer grace, frankly, is not a natural gift of mine. Chances are, it might not be yours either. Learning the ways of the Lord through scripture and prayer is the best way to start working on that.
So today, let’s take a small step together towards growth. Read the first chapter of Romans or John or Proverbs—or really anything. Pray over the scripture when you’re finished. Such simple acts of obedience will make all the difference.
—Savanna Lattanzi serves on Discipleship Team and is a Small Group Leader on Cornerstone Leadership.
By Morgan Crane
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught about him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitudes of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
--Ephesians 4:17-24 (Read Ephesians 4)
It is a new year, a new semester, and a new day. With all of this “new” comes, for each of us, the opportunity to live a life that looks more like God than it did in the years, semesters, and even days prior.
This passage from Ephesians 4 invites us to reflect on our relationships with God and others. We must ask ourselves, to whom and to what is my heart hard? What does it mean, in my life, to unlearn the world?
What does it mean to learn God and His ever-holy attributes?
My heart is hard to a lot of people, namely my parents, and my heart is hard to the God who calls me to see them first as His children. My mom and dad are not Christians, and since I became one in high school, I’ve resented my somewhat isolated faith. I had the church, of course, and the Spirit at all times, but I always wanted my home to be a sanctuary and parents who were spiritual leaders, who would pray with and for me and seek the Lord’s wisdom in how to love and discipline me. Mom and Dad never met my expectations for godly parents, but this does not justify the disrespect and impatience I’ve shown them.
I believe that unlearning the world, in my case, means putting aside passive aggression and resentment. It means choosing to be an example of God instead of greed and entitlement. It means not responding to situations with the world’s reflexes. It means refusing the notion that my parents’ words are empty without knowledge of God. I am the closest Christian to my parents, and my relationships with them matter. My attitude toward them not only affects our relationships with each other, but each of our personal relationships with God.
Learning God and His attributes means being a vessel for God’s love and instilling a culture of prayer and sacrifice in our home.
It means valuing my parents’ experiences and illuminating how God was and is present in them. It means being willing to take on the role of humble teacher when God calls for it.
I want to hope that my parents will know the Lord and that they will be with me in paradise; I am still in the refining furnace that will make this hope possible. Tomorrow is a new day.
I hope that you, too, will dwell on this passage and ask yourself what it truly demands of you. To whom and to what is your heart hard? What does it mean, in your life, to unlearn the world? What does it mean to learn God and His ever-holy attributes?
—Morgan Crane serves on Cornerstone Leadership as member of the Cross-Cultural Ministry Team (CCM).
Cornerstone Leadership members will write a weekly devotional during Spring 2021.