Devotions

Author Archives: Gareth Volz

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).

From the Start

The Gift of Eternal Life | Devotion #5: From the Start\
Gareth Volz | Seniors 55+ Director

If you are like me, and I think most people are, you love to receive gifts. I will gladly take a gift from almost anyone, but especially from those who love me. That is because those who love me will give me gifts that are tailored to my needs and desires. 

Romans 6:23 talks about the gift of God being eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. What is this gift we are given and how does it meet my needs and desires? In Genesis 1:26, we are privy to a discussion amongst the members of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We read there, “Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” Why did God create us? The following verses give us the answer:

Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul adds, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Psalms 16:11 continues, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

We were created to have fellowship with God, to honor Him, and serve Him. But sin got between God and us. Satan tempted and deceived the first humans God created (Adam and Eve). From that point on, mankind has chosen sin over God.  In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is doing what God commanded us not to do. If we are honest, we have to admit that we are guilty of this. Ecclesiastes 7:20 sums it up, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

Since God is holy, sin separates us from Him and must be punished. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Spiritual death separates us from life with God (Ephesians 2:1). Eternal death separates a person, body and soul, from God forever in Hell (Revelation 20:15). 

Our situation was hopeless, but God loved us and gave us the perfect gift – the greatest gift ever given – eternal life with Him, courtesy of His Son Jesus Christ. God solved the problem that kept us from having a relationship with Him by sending His only begotten Son to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we read, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

What a perfect gift designed just for each of us by the God who loves us. If you have not already done so, accept your gift. If you have, enjoy it. God gave it just for you.

Best Holiday, Best Gift

The Gift of Blessings | Devotion #6: Best Holiday, Best Gift
Gareth Volz | Seniors 55+ Director

If you ask people what their favorite holiday is, most people will answer “Christmas” without hesitation. Christmas is a time when we exchange gifts with the ones we love. We know what our loved ones need or desire, and we buy or make gifts that will be a blessing to them. It brings us joy when our loved ones open our gifts and are surprised, excited, and thankful. Their joy blesses us.

If we are honest, we also hope our loved ones will bless us with gifts that we need or desire. As we share in the exchanging of gifts, we show each other our love. However, most of the gifts we give at Christmas satisfy for only a short amount of time. New needs and desires enter our life, and the gifts we were given a few weeks or months ago are not as important and maybe even forgotten.

However, Christmas is not about the gifts we give others or the gifts they give us, but rather God’s gift to all mankind. In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul said, “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift.” God’s inexpressible gift that first Christmas was His Son, Jesus, the Christ (the Messiah).

God’s creation was perfect, and man was created to walk with God and have a beautiful relationship with Him. But man sinned, and God cannot have fellowship with sinners. Therefore, because God loved us so much, He created a perfect plan to restore man’s fellowship with Him. Since the penalty for sin is death, God sent His perfect, holy, Son to take on human form, live a perfect life on this earth, and die in our place. Jesus took on Himself the penalty for our sin and paid it, that we could have His righteousness and a restored relationship with God. That is God’s inexpressible gift.

James 1:17 tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God’s gift of Jesus our Savior never loses its importance in our lives. It never becomes old or forgotten, and no new gift can ever take its place. We are loved by God, and nothing is better than that.

Forget the Past

Forget It • Devotion #2: Forget the Past
Gareth Volz | 55+ Ministry Director

What do you think of when you hear the term, “Skeletons in the Closet?” For me, that term speaks of things in my past that are hidden away, things I am not proud of, and things that remind me of scary and ugly times in the past. It is those things that still trouble me, and I do not want others to know about them.

In John chapter 4, we read of a divine encounter a woman of Samaria had with Jesus. While Jews routinely went around Samaria to get to and from Jerusalem because Samaritans were half-breeds and considered unclean, John tells us Jesus had to go through Samaria. He waited by the city well for her to come and draw water. She did not come first thing in the morning with the rest of the women because she had a bad reputation, and she was ashamed of her past. However, Jesus knew all about her life and still wanted to meet with her and reveal to her who He was, and what He could do for her to overcome her past life. After meeting with Jesus her life was changed, and she could not wait to share with others that He was the promised Messiah and tell what He had done for her.

God used a woman who was married and divorced five times, and she was now living with a man. This showed me that in spite of my past and some of the ugly, sinful things I have done, God still loves me and can use me if I surrender my life to Him. Even though I have been a Christian for over six decades, I still struggle at times to do what I know is right. I am encouraged by what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Paul forgot his ugly, sinful past, and surrendered his life to Christ and committed himself to do what God wanted him to do. He forgot his past and strained to do what God had for him in the future so that he could realize the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” If he had not done this, he would not have been able to do the work Christ had for him.

Paul is not the only one. Consider the failure of Peter and the other disciples who abandoned Jesus in the garden when the crowd came to arrest Him and demand His death. They had to forget this failure in order to do what Jesus commanded them to do after His resurrection – to take the Gospel everywhere (Matthew 28:16-20).

In the Old Testament we read over and over again how those who loved God, fell into temptation and sinned, and when they repented were used greatly by God to fulfill His purposes – Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, and Jonah.

I am reminded of the chorus I learned as a child:
You ask me why I’m happy, well I’ll just tell you why,
It’s because my sins are gone.
And when I meet the scoffers who ask me where they are,
I say my sins are gone.
They’re underneath the blood on the cross of Calvary,
As far removed as darkness is from dawn.
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness that’s good enough for me,
Praise God-my sins are gone!

Like the Apostle Paul, forget the skeletons in your closet and strain forward for what God has for you to do. When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. We have victory in Jesus, our Savior forever.

Growth Community

Grow | Devotion #5: Growth Community
Gareth Volz | Seniors 55+ Director

Verse 1
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Verse 2
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Verse 3
Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Verse 4
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Verse 5

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

As I reflected on the words of this hymn, I was reminded why it is important that I take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of a Growth Community again this year. Growth Communities provide us with the opportunity to gather with fellow believers and study the Bible – God’s Holy Word. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Since the Bible is God-breathed, it is inerrant. If I know God’s promises and stand on them, I cannot fail. If I am God taught, God trained, and God equipped, I will be able to prevail when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail. Proverbs 30:5 says, Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

The River Church has Growth Communities for senior adults, married couples, men, women, students, and children at all locations. They meet on different days of the week and at different times to try and meet each believer’s needs and schedule. The Growth Communities are opportunities for us to study God’s Word throughout the week, and then come together to study what God has taught us. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  As we study God’s Word together, we help each other to stand in the liberty where Christ makes us free, to overcome daily with the Spirit’s Sword (the Bible), and to rest in Jesus as our all in all.

We have to know the promises of God in order to be “standing on the promises of God.”



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