Devotions

Author Archives: James Clouse

Thanks

The Gift of Blessings | Devotion #2: Thanks
James Clouse

When I think of a gift, I think of good and bad gifts. Bad gifts would include a full-size pink bunny outfit. A good gift would include an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle (Shout-out to The Christmas Story). If you have ever seen this movie, then you understand the disappointment that Ralphie felt when he did not get his toy gun Christmas morning. But then, to his excitement, there behind the tree was one more wrapped gift. You could see the inexpressible joy in his face.  

I get excited when it gets close to the Christmas season. I love everything about Christmas time: the cocoa, snow, and famous radio Christmas songs sung by the great Bing Crosby. But all of these things are not the main reason I get so excited around Christmas. The main reason I get so excited is that Christ has come to save me from my sins. 

The God of Heaven sent His Son, the Christ, to die for us on the cross. I know that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Christ came to offer up that salvation we need and cleansed us before His Father. 

2 Corinthians 9:15 says, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

Inexpressible means a feeling too strong to describe in words. God did not have to say in words how much He loves us because He sent that love down in the form of His Son. There are no better ways to describe God’s love for us than just seeing the amazing sacrifice it took for this to happen. 

I get so excited on Christmas morning to open my gifts. I am like a little child every Christmas morning. When I was a kid my brother and I would get up super early in the morning, separate our gifts into piles, shake them, smell them, and try to tell what they were. My parents would wake up and have their coffee in hand, and we would start opening up gifts as savages tear into a piece of meat. I would take my favorite gift of the morning and what do you think I did? Did I toss it aside and not give it any more thought? Did I take it to my room, hide it under my bed, and never use it? Of course not! My parents would have been shocked and in disbelief. I would proclaim loudly the gift I had just received. I would use it every chance I got just as Ralphie did the moment he opened his gun.

As Christians, we take advantage of the inexpressible gift that God has given us. I believe that God is often shocked and in awe of how little we care about the gift that He has given us. Christians, it is time to recognize the importance of what God has given. Show God this Christmas how thankful you are for His inexpressible gift.

Running the Race

Stand On It | Devotion #4: Running the Race
James Clouse

I have a confession to make. Growing up in the youth group at the River Church was an amazing journey. I gave my life to the Lord in the Summer of 1995 after hearing Pastor Jim speak on salvation. This was new to my ears. I had never heard of salvation before or about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So when it came time to pray, and we bowed our heads and closed our eyes, I peeked. Why? Well, there was this cute girl who was putting her hand up to pray, so I did, too. Yes, I was one of those kids. I have even called my Youth Pastor from my middle school and high school years to apologize for being one of those kids because as a Student Pastor now I understand his pain. But when it came down to the time to talk and pray with a leader, I meant every word of what I said to God. 

I went on from there to live a life for Christ. I served in AWANA, went to the camps, joined the leadership group, and did all the things I thought was right. One day on a missions trip in Mexico my 10th-grade year, I was sitting in the van on the way back after a hard day and told God that whatever I did in life I would do it for Him. I dedicated my life to Him right there in the van. Was this salvation? No, I had already done that. But the Christian life is not just a one thing, one prayer deal. It is an ongoing race or journey.  

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

I understood then in that van that I did not want to run my life aimlessly. I knew that my life was God’s and that I wanted Him to use me in any way He saw fit. I stand on that foundation that Christ continues to work on me every single day. 

Church, how is Christ working on you today? Has Christ shown you through this book that while you may be a Christian, you are not running the race but rather standing and watching? How is God telling you to condition your soul more to serve Him better?

“People Teaching”

Vision | Devotion #5: “People Teaching”
James Clouse

As I used to walk down the streets of Savannah, I would look around and recognize the beauty of everything that God had made. Savannah was a beautiful city, and our family would go on a regular basis when we lived in Georgia. I would walk and look around and also see God’s beautiful creation in people. We love to people watch. I would get my favorite ice cream, Moose Tracks, and sit down and watch people. There is beauty in the creation of people. To be able to see all the different skin colors, tall and short, dark hair or light hair is inspiring. As I recognize the beauty of God’s creation, I have to remember that God gave me a mission. 

As I have grown in my relationship with Jesus Christ, I recognize that it can not stop there. I am always learning and always looking for ways to get closer to the Lord. But as much as we all think that is important, it is still not our mission. 

Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

I want to point out a very specific phrase that Jesus uses in this conversation with those around him, “make disciples.” What does it mean to make disciples? To be a disciple literally means to be “a learner.” This means that you have learned and grown in your relationship with Jesus or became a disciple, and now you need to go out and make more learners, or disciples. The cycle of Reach, Gather, and Grow does not stop at Grow. This cycle does not say that we have now made it and we can now stop, stand still, or even coast by with what we know.

So what does this look like in our ordinary life? This means that we have to stop “people watching” and instead go and do some “people teaching.” Now do not get scared. I know I used a word that many do not like, teaching. This does not mean you actually have to teach a class. This means that you are making learners around you. It means you are teaching other people around you what it means to love Jesus, what it means for Jesus to love you. This can be done through our words, actions, and efforts. This means we make an effort to reach out to people and invite them to gatherings so that they can re-start the cycle of Reach, Gather, and Grow.

Twelve Tribes 

Leah & Rachel • Devotion #6: Twelve Tribes
James Clouse | Student Pastor

Have you ever been put in a position where God was able to use your own sinful behavior for His good? God has to remind me all the time that my own sin can cause disastrous consequences, but it is also amazing to see the ways that God has used my past sins and the sins of those around me to help me grow.

Genesis 35:22-26 says, “While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.”

God did not intend for Jacob to sin against his family and run away. God did not intend for Jacob to work for Laban and have his father-in-law trick him to sleep with the wrong daughter. Jacob’s past is full of sin, as is all of ours. But we see an amazing thing happen with all the children that Jacob had with both Leah and Rachel. Yet, we see the birth of the twelve tribes of Israel. 

The first three children will not receive their own tribe because of the sin in their lives, but the rest of Jacob’s, or Israel’s, children will see flourishing tribes come forth. Here we see the amazing power of redemption. God has used the sin of Jacob, the sins of those around him, and the sins of his children to create twelve tribes that will go on to create kingdoms. God has redeemed Jacob and his family to create and to fulfill His promises. 

In our own lives, we see this amazing redemption through the power of Jesus Christ. Christ has redeemed us with His blood. So when we come before our Father with our sins, we are sanctified through the amazing power of Christ’s redeeming blood. This does not mean that we will not be punished or see the consequences of the sins in our lives, but rather God can use those sins to either help us grow or to help others around us. 

The next time that you sin, which will happen, come before the Father and ask for forgiveness. Ask God to have Him use that sin to help you grow in your walk with Him. Ask the Father how you can now move on with your life to help others away from that sin. If you have dealt with alcohol abuse, come before God and ask for forgiveness and let Him use that sin to help others. The same goes for other sins that others around us struggle.

Esau Sells Birthright 

Jacob & Esau • Devotion #3: Esau Sells Birthright
James Clouse | Student Pastor

Do you live for the here and now? Is it important to satisfy the immediate needs in your life? In life, I feel that we often live life for the here and now. We often live life for what can satisfy the immediate need placed before us. When we are hungry, we live in the land of fast food, or the here and now. When we want coffee, there are numerous places whether it be Starbucks or Tim Hortons. When we need stuff, there is usually a mall or shopping center no further than 20 minutes away. While satisfying these needs is not wrong, or a sin, we need to ask ourselves as a church if we live more for the here and now or more for the eternity of our future. 

Esau was one who lived for the here and now. Genesis 25:29-34 says, “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

More people tend to focus on Jacob in this story when realizing that he forced the hand of his brother. But think on Esau for a bit. We first need to understand the importance of the birthright at this time.  

God uses the divine birthright to bring the birth of His son Jesus Christ. What an amazing blessing to be used in such a way. So a birthright was not only the inheritance and leadership of his family, but he was in the direct line to Jesus! How can Esau give away such a blessing? Esau gives this all up for a bowl of soup. We do not know if Esau was exaggerating here or if he was truly near death. However, John Calvin writes, “It would have been his true wisdom rather to undergo a thousand deaths than to renounce his birthright; which, so far from being confined within the narrow limits of one age alone, was capable of transmitting the perpetuity of a heavenly life to his posterity also.”

Esau missed out on a true blessing to fulfill the here and now. In our own lives, we need to look to the reality of our future instead of the here and now. What is important to me? Is the most important thing about money or success? Is the best choice to climb the corporate ladder? Could it be better to miss a day or two of work to serve the Lord and lead people for eternity to Christ? 



Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.