Author Archives: Max Sinclair

Only Belief

Commit | Devotion #1: Only Belief
Max and Jenny Sinclair | Guest Services & Young Adults Director

Professing faith in Jesus Christ is such a beautiful thing. It is all bold commitments and embracing promises. The presence of God is within you; how could you ever want? Therefore, you do all the things you believe God has called you to do. You play “Oceans” on repeat in your car, with the volume all the way up high. Maybe you decide to read your Bible every day. Possibly, you meet with a Pastor and go over all your big ideas about serving. Whatever it is, you have decided you are striving to be committed.

Then some time passed, you wanted to start serving, but your boss moved up the deadline on a project, and you needed to work late. That new worship song has a great beat, but you stop thinking about the meaning. Your baby has been up all night with an ear infection (or better yet, that Netflix original just came out and even though you said you were only going to watch one episode, you binge watch the whole first season), so you put off reading your Bible until the next day. Before you know it, you start telling yourself things like, “I still see God working in the small things,” as though you are too busy to see God working in the big things.

It seems no matter the commitment we make; we can never follow through with some action. No matter how many times we feel inspired, we still end up distracted. It appears not to matter what steps we take to do things differently. No matter what, we do not feel the way we did the first time we sang “Oceans” during worship. We seem like we cannot get back to how we felt when that sermon spoke directly to us.

Luke 23:46 says, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.”

When will we realize our promises will never save us? When will we admit that our inspiration is nothing but a deflated balloon, weeks after the party is over?

Jesus called out in a loud voice, not a whisper, and not a small thing. This was the biggest thing of all. Jesus made a sweeping promise to God with His last breath. It is the only commitment which could save souls, transform lives, and heal the broken.

There is no promise from us which can compare. For every time we decide we are all in, there is an equal time in which we have doubted. In all our efforts to be better, to reach the next level, we know there will be a day we decide to go our own way. There is no plan on how we can fix it. There is only belief. It is the belief that the commitment of Christ is enough.

Knowing Not What We Do

Forgive | Devotion #5: Knowing Not What We Do
Max Sinclair | Guest Services & Young Adults Director

My biggest pet peeve is “know-it-alls.” I know that is a shocker, from the guy who most people would say is one. I just hate the idea of someone always commenting after something someone else has said just to be the smartest person in the room. It becomes even more fun when you discover that the supposed know-it-all actually does not know anything about the subject at all. When stationed out in Whidbey Island Washington, there was this guy who was just that. He always had a point to prove and always wanted to play the “I am smarter than you because I use big words card.” While debating on a social issue I watched as this guy plummeted out of the sky into smoking wreckage of incoherent nonsense, I felt that I had won. Score one for me. However, did I really win at all?

I had no idea how my argument would shape out. I had no idea what damage I caused our relationship. I had no idea that what I was doing was not helping him to see Jesus. 

That is a big problem. We do things and not realize how other people are affected by it. This is a product of our selfish desire. We see something, we want that, and we do not care about who else this will affect. A great biblical example of this is found in 2 Samuel chapter 11. Here we see that King David is now king of all of Israel. One day when he was at home he looked out and saw a woman bathing, not caring that she was married. He then slept with her. Being that is how children are made, it came as a surprise when he found out that she was pregnant. Through trickery and deception, he then had her husband killed so that he and others would not find out about David’s sin.

Do you see the humor in this? We do this all the time: we cut people off, we take the last cookie in the office, we get mad that our wife wants a mini-van instead of the totally impractical SUV that we want, all because we are selfish. Now am I the least selfish person? By heaven sakes no, but I see just how truly depraved we are when Jesus shouts from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 CSB). We have no idea what we are doing, but the whole time we pretend. We try to come up with systems, governments, programs, and procedures that give us control. 

Once we submit ourselves to Christ, there is no more of us doing what we want. What we do is for Him and His Kingdom. Yes, we do not know what we are doing at that point either, but we have given it to Almighty God, and I think He knows what He is doing. 

Growing Through Bitterness

Grow | Devotion #2: Growing Through Bitterness
Max Sinclair | Young Adult’s and Guest Services Director

Recently in my life, I have hit a wall. It was not a physical wall, although it may feel like it, but a wall nonetheless. I could feel a well of bitterness pooling in my life, a feeling that I did not wish to feel. I can pinpoint to exactly where it stemmed from: it was the fact that I was not getting poured into and growing in the Word. Now, this is not a call or cry for help but more of a call of concern to many others. I have found help, and I can now see that this bitterness was important for me to learn some lessons. 

In our Christian walk, we must grow because that is how we reach others. It is a principle that we at The River Church keep to heart. Yet, the question that I ran into while going through this trying time was, “How do I keep growing in the Word when I am bitter, when I am angry, and when I feel that growing is useless and not important because others do not value my growth?” I turned to the book of Job.

The book of Job is nestled between Esther and Psalms, and it tells the story of a man who God saw as, “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8b). This man was blessed with many things, a healthy large family, a large estate, many servants, and was even said to be the greatest of all the people of the east. Yet one day, all of that was stripped from him when God and Satan made a wager. Satan was told by God to take all of his blessings away, with the condition that Satan could not kill Job. This was meant to prove that Job was a loyal and faithful servant. So, Satan took away his riches and his children, destroyed his house, and killed his servants. Job was torn, broken, destroyed, and beaten. Honestly, I know of no adjective to describe his pain. In his grief, Job wrenched his clothes off, shaved his head, and began to call out to God, but Job 1:22 says, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” When I read that I was blown away. Here is this man, who had everything taken from him and had every right to curse God, and say, “Why did you do this to me?” Job had every reason to stop worshipping the Lord, yet instead of cursing Him, he cursed the day that he was born. He cursed his life and that if he had never been brought into the world, none of this suffering would have happened to him. Through conversations with friends, and then concealed in a whirlwind, the Lord confronted Job’s anger and bitterness. 

In our own lives, we run into bitterness. Some experience it to the extreme of Job and others to the not so extreme. Yet, we all cry out to God seeking to understand why the world is not fair or just. This bitterness can define us and ruin our relationship with God. So how do we move forward? How did Job move forward? In the Bible, God met Job in his bitterness and taught Job that God alone is God, not Job. Through some heavy Hebrew poetry, God told Job that He is the Creator of all, that what God had done and what God was doing was not for Job to command. With that, we grow through our bitterness by being reminded that God is God and that we are not. We grow when we put ourselves last and begin to see the world and all of creation as that which belongs to God. At the end of the book (Job 42:2-6), Job replies to God and says:

“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job denied himself, became humble, and put away his bitterness to see the glory that is God. He saw the majesty of God and His complexities and recognized that all is as God wills it. We cannot change the Lord’s will, but we can adapt to His will and learn that our bitterness is a self-justified grumble of pride that we need to come to comprehend. Our lives are not our own, and sometimes everything needs to be taken away for us to see and understand that.

I pray that this devotion motivates you to believe that God has a plan. In our lives, we forget to see that God is the “Author and finisher of our faith.” He is in control, and when our pride dictates our actions to put ourselves first, we begin to feel bitter about the things of God. Only through realizing that God has a plan and that we need to live within that plan and not our own, do we get to grow through our bitterness. 

God’s Plan

The Gift of Family | Devotion #3: God’s Plan
Max Sinclair | Young Adults & Guest Services Director

For some of my adult life, I have struggled with depression. It truly was at its worst when I was in the Navy and stationed in Washington. I was stranded with two thousand miles of distance between my family and me, and I was truly lost and trying to understand the Lord’s will for my life. I remember trying to reach out and find some help for this crippling depression, but it was to no avail. Depression became so heavy in my life that I began to question why I was even here. Through an act of God and His divine providence, I am able to write this devotion, but the catalyst of my depression was rooted in my loneliness. I finished my enlistment, headed home to Michigan, and began to serve, and that is when God placed my wife in my life. She and I met and began our courtship and then married in September of the following year. Soon after our marriage, in January of 2018, we were given the news that she was pregnant with our first child. Nine months later on September 11, 2018, I met my daughter, Eleonora Rose. At that moment, I saw what God had planned for my life, and I saw His divine hand on my life and my family. 

Psalm 127:3 states, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” While doing research for this topic, I came across the Matthew Henry Commentary on this section of verses. It states, “For raising a family. If God be not acknowledged, we have no reason to expect his blessing; and the best-laid plans fail, unless he crowns them with success.” Our family is a gift from the Almighty Himself. This gift is meant to be a show of good faith and blessing upon our house. This especially rings true to me due to my loneliness and depression. Without acknowledging that the Lord had a plan for my life and trying to go through life on my own, I would not be where I am today. Without God’s love and my submission to Him, my depression would have won. Now I stand as a conqueror over that depression, with my loneliness casted aside and His banner flying over me. 

Let us never forget the blessing of family. Let us look at our family as something to cherish and by which to feel blessed. There will be times of frustration, anger, miscommunication, and hardship, but it is up to us to ensure that we continue to cherish the times of blessing. With the short time I have spent with my daughter and wife, I have learned so much not only of myself but of how amazing God is. God will bless the family that submits to His will and over whose house His banner flies. I stand as the victor over my depression not because of who I am or what I have done, but because of who God is. He has blessed my life ten thousand times over. 

Psalm 86

Acts • Devotion #3: Psalm 86
Max Sinclair | Young Adults and Guest Services Director

Prayer has always been something to me with which I have had trouble. I can remember saying my prayers before bed as a young child, and before meals. I recall my mom saying that I was her little prayer warrior and that I would talk to God as if I was talking to a friend. As this became a routine in my life, it lost its meaning and importance; it just became a thing that I did. While this became a more distant thing, so did my relationship with God. Instead of this intensely personal relationship, it felt more like an obligation, this nagging thing that I had to do instead of me wanting to do it. Because of that outlook, I began to feel my relationship with the Lord evaporate to nothing. I can say with some certainty that at points in my life I looked down on people who were praying because why would the God of the universe have any inclination to hear my wants, desires, pains, and problems? Is He not busy with other issues in the world? This mindset caused me to doubt my relationship to Him and cemented my distance from Him. In this time, I became a wreck of depression, anxiety, anger, and selfish. I drew ever closer to myself, and because of that I saw nothing but darkness and anger, and I did not know how I was going to get out; I thought there was no escape for me.

My story continues to the point where I contemplated suicide and even tried to do so. I saw no end to my suffering and my distance from God. At that moment, while laying on the bathroom floor of my barracks room, I cried out. I cried out in prayer for God to restore my heart, to help rebuild the broken relationship we once had. It was as if He picked me up and restored my soul. I felt that kindle of a great passion in my soul, I heard His voice, I saw His glory, and I felt His presence.

I am still trying to restore that relationship since that day three years ago. It is not something that was healed instantly, it was difficult, and from time to time I still feel unworthy to come before the Lord’s throne. Recently, while studying for this devotion, I found a Psalm by David that is also a prayer and it something of a wake-up call for me. Psalm 86 says,

“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save your servant, who trusts in you – you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come.

and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

 This prayer has been my rock that I cling to when all else seems dark, and the storms of life prove to be never-ceasing. In this, the truth of our sinfulness is revealed, and still, God loves us and calls for us to come before Him, to let our requests be known to Him. When we enter His presence with prayer, God does not see our sinful nature, but according to Ephesians 1:4 He sees us pure,“…that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

God does not want perfect people to come and say fancy words to tickle His ears; He wants broken people who put their faith entirely in Christ.

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