Devotions

Author Archives: James Mann

Washing your Hands  

Radioactive | Devotion #3: Washing your Hands
James Mann | Children’s Director

In a household, if one person is sick, everyone is likely to get sick. You are near everyone and unless you quarantine yourself, you may spread the illness. Most of the time, sin is brought into the household by one of the family members. Once it is brought in to the home, it is likely to spread to everyone, and before you know it, your household is infected. I may not be a parent or a head of a household, but I have been in a household long enough to see this happen first hand.

 As a God-loving household, we are constantly under attack from the enemy. The devil is using everything in his arsenal to tear down our walls and take control. Often, he tries to make it seem like the grass may be greener on the other side. When in reality, the grass is not any greener at all. In fact, the grass is dead and infectious. In 1 Peter 5:8-9, it says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” We live in a world that temptation is around every single corner. You can barely drive to work and back without seeing or hearing something trying to tempt you. As believers, we must be checking ourselves constantly. All it takes is to be exposed to the tiniest amount of the infection before we become infected ourselves. Once we get infected by the world, we then go home and expose our families to it. The scariest thought to me is that babies have lower immune systems. If we carry the infection, and they grow up within the infected radius, they will contract this disease and not even know it, because it is how they grew up. 

God has called every single one of His followers to not be of this world. Instead, we must rise and fight against this infection that the enemy is trying so hard to get us. We cannot afford to take this thought lightly. Our families and their lives are way too important to expose them to this. Unfortunately, it only takes a father to be unfaithful to his wife one time, a wife to try something to numb the pain one time, a child to try and “fit in” one time, and then the whole family is destroyed. It is not easy to avoid the enemy and his temptations. If it were easy, we would not see families everywhere completely engulfed in this disease. We could easily be the single vessel to bring this into our family. We need to remain strong during our lives. We need to ask God daily to provide us with the tools to go through this world that is trying so hard to bring us down.

“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Reviling for Reviling 

Combustion | Devotion #2: Reviling for Reviling
James Mann | Children’s Director

Dictionary.com defines revile: “to assail with contemptuous or opprobrious language; address or speak abusively.” The sad truth about our society is that we live in a world where verbal abuse is everywhere. It is at school, work, and even at home. Studies tell us that for many children, their first bully was one of their parents. This is the honest to God sad truth. I see this all the time in my position. Then, once they get older, parents get mad at their children for doing this to other children, that the parent was doing to their child just the previous night. God created parents to guide and love their children. The family is like a team. We are supposed to be working together. The Bible even goes far enough to say, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).  

I see parents demanding respect from their children, but they are saying such harsh and uncalled for things. Children look to their parents for spiritual guidance. If a parent is talking about how amazing God is in one sentence and the following sentence tells their child how worthless they are, do you think they will want to follow Christ when they get older? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I truly believe that part of the reason we see a huge drop off rate in people following Jesus right after high school comes down to the parenting that was done before that point. If we are showing our children the true love of God through our speech, that child will want to grow closer to God in years to come.

“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but the words of the pure are pleasant words” Proverbs 15:26. As believers, everything we say should be pointing directly to our Lord. I believe that there is no such thing as a list of “bad words.” That is a general list created by society throughout time to try and guide children verbally. The truth is that anything we say that is not pleasant to God is a “bad word.” If we cannot say these things to God directly, then we should not be saying them to anyone at all, especially our family. If we do not stay strong together as a family, our household will crumble to the enemy. All our enemy needs is one crack in the foundation to take control. The things we say to one another out of anger creates these tiny cracks. They keep building up and building up until there is a hole large enough to take down the entire house. I urge families to consider what they are saying to their children and to think about the impact they are creating in their lives. Make sure the impact is positive and points your children towards a life of loving and honoring God.

With Us is God

Immanuel | Devotion #4: With Us is God
James Mann | Children’s Director

Immanuel is a symbolic name meaning “with us is God.” This is one of the most beautiful names that we can call Jesus, because it is showing Him actually with us. He is not portrayed as this unattainable figure that we can never get to, but instead as someone who we can enjoy as we spend time with Him. Something that I always found interesting is that people are always waiting for Jesus to come back, but if you are truly a follower of Jesus, you know that He has never left us. Isaiah 8:10 says, “Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” Most religions praise and worship a god that they cannot even reach. They are trying to obtain something that is not even possible. Our amazing God has made it possible to reach Him and be with Him. 

Something interesting about the name Immanuel is that in the Old Testament (before the birth of Jesus) we first hear the name, Immanuel. Then we hear this name again in Matthew 1:23., “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Many biblical scholars search the Bible for moments like this when the Old Testament is showing us something that will later occur in the New Testament. I like to view the name Immanuel less of a name and more of a promise. The name is brought up in the Old Testament, but then the promise is fulfilled in the New Testament. We receive Immanuel (Jesus) here in Matthew. No longer is God this figure that we cannot see or hear, but He becomes a baby that is born into the world, takes on the sin of the world, and dies for our sins. 

Starting Strong

Grow | Devotion #6: Starting Strong
James Mann | Children’s Director

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

As the Children’s Director at our Goodrich location, I am constantly working on building a firm spiritual foundation for our children to ensure their walk with God is the best that it can be. Many people begin their walk with God but never go anywhere with it. They are starting a race, and barely crossing the starting line. God commands us to dive into His Word and pray to Him for understanding. This is a key starting point in our growth. Many people, like myself, struggle with this. We have so much going on in our day to day, that focusing on our growth is pushed to the back burner. We are all guilty of this to some degree.

After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided it was time to take my spiritual growth seriously. I was noticing that my plateaued growth was no longer just affecting me, but my students as well. I was not setting a good example for them. I decided that I was going to begin my master’s degree, in pastoral studies, to get my growth back on track. Now, I am not saying that everyone should go out and get a Bible degree, but this is what made the most sense in my life. Since starting this journey, I have noticed a change in my walk. I am enjoying my time with God, and I am getting more from my studies. Growing with God has become less of a chore and more of an enjoyable thing to do. Like it says in Colossians, if we have truly received Christ Jesus, then we should be walking in Him and have our roots be established in Him. We are not following God’s will for us if we are not taking the time to grow. Sometimes we need to go out of our way and prioritize our time. God desires for us to draw closer to Him through reading His Word and talking with Him. As believers, we should have the same desire.

Joseph

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #1: Joseph
James Mann | Children’s Director

Who is Joseph?

There are more than 12 different Josephs in the Bible. Some of them have remarkable stories, and some of them have one verse about them. The Joseph we are going to be spending some time with is Jesus’ father. Not much has been documented about Joseph, and the information we do have on him sometimes contradicts one another. For example, we are not sure who his father is. In Matthew, we read that his father is Jacob. This is what most people know. Then when you read the genealogy in Luke, we learn that his father is Heli. Is one a stepfather and another his birth father? Is one of them an uncle? Does Luke’s genealogy through Mary’s family line making Heil his father-in-law? This is a completely different topic for another time.

For someone who raised Jesus, it is shocking how little we know about him. For this devotional, I would like to take some time and discuss what we do know about Joseph. For the sake of all our sanity, I am going to be working out of Matthew instead of hopping around between all the Gospels. Joseph was a carpenter who was married to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Through a divine action, Mary became pregnant with Jesus. Imagine coming home to find out your wife is pregnant and you are not the father. It is interesting to see what actions follow.

In Matthew 1:19 we read, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Divorce is a difficult subject to discuss, so often we avoid this topic. Since I am a single male, I should not be the one to talk about divorce and the difficulties of marriage, but I was around for my parents’ divorce and remarriage. Sadly, I do know a thing or two about divorce. Joseph is a world changer for multiple reasons. Could you imagine how different things would be if Joseph did not listen to the angel of the Lord? The childhood of Jesus would be very different if He had to spend one week with Mary and one week with Joseph. As someone who lived a year in a divorce environment, I had the opportunity to learn just how difficult it can be for a child in this situation.

We all know what the Bible says about divorce, and if for some reason you do not I will leave a couple of verses for you to read.

Mark 10:2-9 says, “And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

If Joseph had ignored the angel, he would have changed the world in a negative way. Instead, he fought the fight of marriage. Divorce is a straightforward way to resolve an issue in a marriage, but it creates problems, too. Sure, for the next couple of years things may be difficult. However, in the end, things get easier. The difficult path is to fight for your marriage even when things get tough and even when things happen that are unexplainable. Marriage is an oath to not only your spouse but to the Lord. If Joseph can make a marriage work, even after his wife gets unexplainably pregnant, then we have very little excuse to go through a divorce. By choosing divorce, we become negative world changers.



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

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.