Devotions

Jesus in Disguise

Back to Reach | Devotion #2: Jesus in Disguise
Gareth Volz | Senior 55+ Director

In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus tells us how He values service. We are told in this passage that when Jesus comes to earth again as King of kings and Lord of lords in glory with all His angels, He will sit on His glorious throne and reign forever. He will gather all the nations before Him and separate those who put their faith in Him from those who rejected Him. He will judge both groups. Those who rejected Him will be banished from His presence. Those who accepted His grace by faith and became His children will be judged for the works they did for Him after their salvation.

Jesus said in these verses that when we serve others, we serve Him. He says in verse 35:

“I was hungry, and you gave me food;
I was thirsty, and you gave me drink;
I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” 

He goes on to say in verse 36:

“I was naked, and you clothed me;
I was sick, and you visited me;
I was in prison, and you came to me.”

In verses 37-39, the righteous asked:
When did we see you hungry and gave you food?
When did we see you thirsty and gave you drink?
When were you a stranger and we welcomed you?
When did we see you naked and clothe you?
When were you sick and we visited you?
When were you in prison and we came to you?

Jesus responded in verse 40 that when we did it to these the least of His brothers, we did it to Him.

So, let me ask you, how are you serving Jesus today? There are many opportunities to serve our Lord both within and outside the church. Here are some various ministry opportunities within the church:

  • You can serve Jesus as a greeter at the door on Sunday, sharing a smile and letting them know how glad we are that they came to worship with us.
  • You can serve Jesus as an usher, assisting folks in finding a seat and in the worship of giving.
  • You can serve Jesus as part of the worship team, leading God’s people in praise and worship.
  • You can serve Jesus in the nursery taking care of little ones so parents can focus on worshipping Him.
  • You can serve Jesus by teaching God’s Word, whether to children, teens, young adults, couples, or senior saints.
  • You can serve Jesus by being part of the prison ministry.
  • You can serve Jesus by being part of the recovery ministry.
  • You can serve Jesus by visiting the sick, whether in the hospital, a nursing facility, or their home.
  • You can serve Jesus by leading or hosting a Growth Community.
  • You can serve Jesus by helping in special outreach events like Sunday at the Fair, the Passion Play, Men’s or Ladies’ Retreats, and Wednesdays at the Park.
  • You can serve Jesus by praying for others.

Outside the church we can serve Jesus in para-church ministries like Bible Study Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, serving meals to the homeless at places like Grace Centers of Hope, and sharing God’s love with your neighbors, fellow workers, friends, and family.

What we need to remember is that when we share God’s love with others by serving them, Jesus says we are serving Him. In that final judgment, when Jesus is on His throne in all His glory, He wants to honor you for what you did for and to Him. If you are already serving, keep pushing forward. If you are not serving, ask Jesus to show you where He wants you to serve Him. 

There is great joy in serving Jesus – and great reward. What an honor it will be to hear Jesus say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21).

Service Organization

Back to Reach | Devotion #1: Service Organization
Manning Brown | Operations Pastor

When I was a young lieutenant in the Air Force, I was instilled with a set of core values by which the Air Force sought to operate from at every level in any environment. They were excellence, integrity, and service. To serve by its very nature is about performing or living selflessly. It implies humility. In John 12:1-17, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet to teach them what it means to serve. Peter balked, then which Christ rebuked him, saying, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).  

As squadron commander in the Air Force, my role was to lead. That means to put the needs of the unit above my own, and since the unit operates because of its people, that meant ensuring that those under my command had what they needed to do their job to get the mission done. We read that Christ “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). The God of the universe took on the shackles of humanity so that He might serve them because through Him alone, they can be saved. 

To serve first takes love. John 3:16 captures the very essence of God’s love for us, in the form of a servant, His Son. We cannot possibly be effective in sharing Christ and proclaiming the Gospel if we do not first love, and thereby serve. The Church, in many ways, is a “service organization.” 

Secondly, to serve requires compassion. Luke 10:29-37 is the great parable of the Good Samaritan. It tells that the lengths of selflessness (to serve) is going beyond the bare minimums. True compassion is the reflection of a heart that loves and seeks to serve.

Lastly, to serve requires sacrifice. Often, when the Medal of Honor has been awarded posthumously, it is because the individual laid his life down for his fellow brothers-in-arms. Philippians 2:8 reminds us that Christ, taking on the form of a servant, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

To truly serve means to put the needs of others above your own. Furthermore, the need for a lost world to hear of its need for Christ is paramount.   

“Only God can give us a selfless love for others,
as the Holy Spirit changes us from within.
This is one reason we must receive Christ,
for apart from His spirit,
we can never be freed from the chains of
selfishness, jealousy, and indifference.”

Billy Graham

Changes

Grow | Devotion #6: Changes
Larry Gabbara | Financial Bookkeeper

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Psalm 73:28

Are you growing in the Lord? As we mature in our walk with God, we should be growing. There should be a noticeable change in our character, our relationships, in our personal lives, and our work life. The changes should be able to be seen in all aspects of who we are.

Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” 

Now, this is not the easiest thing to do. The devil is always attacking us where we are the weakest. He knows where we are the most vulnerable. We have to put on the whole armor of God every day to be protected. 

Growth in the Lord should be a natural progression in our Christian life. However, we will always have to deal with the obstacles of the world. 

Our experiences can draw us closer to the Lord. The Lord used the prison ministry, a place I was not familiar or comfortable with, to stretch my faith and trust in Him.

In September 2017, I was asked to go with the men on a prison trip to Lorain and Grafton Correctional in Ohio. I was extremely nervous; I had not done anything like that before. What made me most nervous was knowing I would have to talk one-on-one to guys in prison about Jesus. I felt like I was not qualified to do that, but through spending time in prayer talking to Jesus, I got up the nerve to approach a guy. When I started to speak to him, I almost started to cry because I was so moved. Remembering that I was in a prison yard in Ohio with around 200-300 inmates, I caught myself and regained my composure. I was then able to tell him about how the Lord changed me from a sinner going down a wicked path to a child of God. That God could do the same for him.  

That experience was a huge part of my growing in the Lord. I want to resemble a man that is drawing closer to God daily. It is never too late to seek the Lord and ask Him to help you make changes in your life.

In 2 Peter 3:18, we read, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Whether you have been a Christian for a short time or most of your life, you must choose to grow with the Lord. Change of any kind requires the repetition of forming habits to make a change in our ways. Change can come in our prayer life, through Bible study, keeping our mind and heart directed towards God, fellowship with like-minded people, and attending Church gatherings. Building an intimate relationship with Jesus is important to all of us. Our growth should be a reflection of what God is doing in our lives and draw us nearer to Him.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Measuring Your Faith

Grow | Devotion #5: Measuring Your Faith
John Rigg | Assistant to the Reach Pastor

Many of us have traditions in our family that get passed down from generation to generation. One tradition that my family practiced was “the measuring of the children.” Every visit to grandpa’s house included a time in which we would stand each child at the kitchen doorway, back them up to the opening, and place a small pencil mark on the door casing at the top of their head which included the current date. It would be rare that grandpa would allow a visit to his house without an opportunity to see just how much each of the grandchildren had grown. 

The Bible says that when someone first comes to know God and trust Him with their life, they are considered “babes” spiritually because they are infants in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). However, unlike natural babies that inevitably grow into adults, spiritual babes can remain infants (Hebrews 5:12-14). 

Just as my father would periodically measure his grandchildren to see how much they had grown, it is a good idea that believers check their spiritual growth from time to time as well. One of the best ways to measure if we are growing or not is to evaluate the manner in which we interact with people. After all, Jesus taught that after loving God, people were to be our next priority (Matthew 22:37-39). 

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

The apostle Paul taught that we are to do nothing without first checking our motives. Is our ambition a selfish one or do we have the good of another in mind? Paul says everything should be run through the filter of “Am I doing this for my gain or am I doing it for the betterment of someone else?” 

So, how do we measure up? If our heavenly Father were to stand us in the doorway and place a pencil mark on the casing of our faith, where would the mark lie? Would it be above the mark that was placed there on the day of our salvation? Would we notice little or no increase in where the mark is placed? 

If we find that we could use some growth in this area, Paul has the answer for us, humility. Humility displays itself when you measure the needs of others and conclude that they are of more importance than your own. Growth is realized when we then set our desires aside to tend to the needs of another. Notice, Paul does not say that our interests are of no importance, but he teaches us that as we walk through this world, we can measure our spiritual growth by the way in which we look after people, and tend to their interests as well as our own.

When enough is not enough!

Grow | Devotion #4: When enough is not enough!
John Carter

I have been attending the River Church for over six years now. I have heard the vision of Reach, Gather, Grow, and Back to Reach consistently twice a year; then more once I joined as staff. When I was asked to write a devotion for Grow, I honestly thought, “What else is there to say that has not already been said!” If this is your first time going through Reach, Gather, and Grow, this is all new and exciting. Maybe you are like me, and you feel like the subject has been exhausted. I know I have found myself there before, and you may be thinking this is a good topic to skip. Let me show you what the Lord showed me regarding this mindset.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-2 we see Paul give Timothy some warnings. These instructions are also for us. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” 

Pay attention to the phrases of caution in this passage. It says, “Some will depart,” and they are lead to “devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” I ask myself, how is the follower of Christ so easily turned away? How does one choose to devote (commit, submit, allocate, give) themselves to the teachings of demons? Think of those words used to describe “devote.” It indicates a complete giving over of oneself to the false teachings. How does this happen? These passages are very troubling to me and hopefully to you.  

Later in verses 6-9, he says, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” To my question, “How is one so easily lead to follow false teachings?” Well, Paul’s answer is because they have not been “trained in the words of faith” and “good doctrine.” In case you missed it, that is the Grow part of our church mission. My initial heart of complaining kind of goes away after reading this. Why do we cover these topics so frequently? Well, Paul says, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.I am so thankful that we have leaders in the church who are willing to remind us of the importance of growing in the Word. It is an important aspect of the believer to grow. As Paul continued to teach Timothy and us about the importance of growing, he gives us a life application, “Train yourself for godliness.” We all know training the body has its benefits, whether we train our muscles in exercise or our brains in knowledge, the earthly benefit is clear. We intuitively know that training will help us in accomplishing our goals. The training we get through Grow is the stuff that helps us in not only this life but also the life to come. I love how Paul wraps it, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.”  It is worthy of full devotion. It is worthy of our commitment. He says this for your own good so that when we are presented with the silly myths and irreverent teachings of liars, we are able to show ourselves approved workers. 

In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul instructs again. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” You may have heard this many times before, and more than likely it will not be the last time you hear these kinds of instructions. How confident are you in handling the Word of Truth? Growing is not just a brain knowledge of the Bible, it is the ability to handle the truth and share it with others. I hope, as I was challenged, that today you also would be challenged to train, study, and commit to growing as a believer in Christ. 



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