Devotions

Author Archives: Richie Henson

The Search

Easter • Devotion #1: The Search
Richie Henson | Production Director

I hate when something is missing. I mean, I really hate it, loathe it to my core. One of the worst things to go missing is a cell phone. I rarely misplace my phone, but my wife, on the other hand, makes it a regular habit to set her phone down somewhere in the house and forget about it. Then sometime later, she inevitably asks me, “Have you seen my phone?” Being that I am the most dramatic man in the world, I immediately burst into a fit of anxiety and rage, “What do you mean? You do not know where your phone is?” It then becomes my only focus in life to find this missing phone that often is simply on the dresser or stuck in a couch cushion.

This feeling of great anxiety and stress over something being missing only becomes magnified as the missing item grows in value. If you misplace a pencil, you may not panic, but when it comes to your phone or wallet, that is a different story. So, I can only imagine the anxiety the followers of Jesus felt when they first realized Jesus’ body was missing.

John chapter 20 gives a wonderful account of the resurrection of Jesus. At the start of the chapter, we see Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb only to find the stone removed. She immediately panics and runs to the disciples to tell them the body of Jesus has been taken. That is a horrible way to start the week. The reality of the death of Jesus was still fresh, and now the body of the Lord was taken. The stress Mary must have felt is unimaginable. If I would be concerned at a lost wallet, something of seeming importance and value, how much more deeply would Mary have felt as the body of her Lord was missing. The story continues in verse 11.

John 20:11-16 (NIV) says, “Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).”

As bad as it feels to have something of value go missing, it feels even better to find it. How spectacular to know that Jesus’ body went missing not because of hatred, but because He conquered death and the grave by rising again. 

Praying Through Anxiety

Acts • Devotion #1: Praying Through Anxiety
Richie Henson | Production Director

Anxiety is a crippling reality. When things begin to go wrong, our mind has a unique ability to find the worst possible outcome and make it the most likely outcome. In moments like this, when it seems there is no hope, anxiety takes advantage and makes the rain seem like a hurricane. It is easy for us to see our circumstances as a tempest running wild in our lives.

As we meet circumstances and deal with the anxiety of difficulty and the unknown, there is one verse that stands out as a battle cry.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

As Jesus followers, we must continually focus our attention on the Gospel. Part of this is to be diligent in remembering that we are now God’s children and our Father cares so deeply for us. Whenever we encounter trouble that feels too overwhelming to face, we must refuse anxiety and replace it with a conversation with our Father. Taking our troubles to God reminds us that He is in control. Being full of faith that God is not surprised by, or afraid of, life’s greatest hurdles is so comforting.

I will acknowledge that running to God in prayer is difficult when times are hard. Going to God can make us feel like we are not able to work in our circumstance. It can make us feel like we are helpless. I think though, that is the point. I do not deny we must be responsible with our decisions, but we must be responsible with a perspective that God is sovereign and is able to do exceedingly more than our responsibility ever could. With this understanding, we can move beyond the struggles of life and live in true victory in Jesus.

Grace Received and Given

Confession • Devotion #3: Grace Received and Given
Richie Henson | Production Director

I love when things go my way. It makes my life so easy. For instance, when I catch all the green lights on my way to work or when a new checkout stand opens at the store and they call me over. However, I was confronted with a reality that does not sit well with me. For every green light I catch, there is another sitting at a red light, and for every check stand to which I get called, there is another who continues to wait in a long line. It dawned on me that I am way more self-absorbed than I care to admit.

Although the examples I gave may seem trivial, I think the way we think and respond in the mundane is a great indicator of what is in our hearts. For example, looking deeper into my life, I realized that I love for God to give grace to me. I love it when I mess up, and I run to God asking for Him to forgive me, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am forgiven by the blood of Jesus. On the other hand, I struggle to give grace to those who offend me. I much prefer to hold grudges and withhold trust from individuals who have sinned against me.

This way of living is challenged in Matthew 6:12 where Jesus says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that just as we are forgiven our debt of sin by the grace of God through salvation in the sacrifice of Jesus, we must also make room for grace in forgiving those who owe us a “debt” as they have wronged us. It must be our intention every day to show the love of God to the world. A big part of that is to live a life full of grace. That is, grace received from Heaven and grace distributed on Earth are equally important.

My prayer is that we would not think too highly of ourselves, but we would live in awareness of the grace given us and in turn, would spread that grace throughout our world. I know that if we commit ourselves to this prayer each day, the Holy Spirit will guide us to live in grace from God and it will be easier for grace to be given to others.

What Are We Even Saying?

God’s Will • Devotion #1: What Are We Even Saying?
Richie Henson | Production Director

The church world loves to speak Christianese. We love to speak in code that makes sense to other believers but does not mean a whole lot to the world at large. Before I offend too many, let me give some examples of what I mean. Have you ever said or heard someone say, “I just have to let go and let God,” or “God will never give you more than you can handle?” My favorite, and one I have heard many times in my life is, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

I am not saying that any of these terms or phrases are inherently bad, but what I hope to draw attention to is that many times as Jesus followers, we can get caught up in sayings and fail to grasp the underlying truths they are trying to express.

At The River Church, we believe that God has called us to accomplish His will in many ways. We choose to sum up our work as a church through three simple words; Reach, Gather and Grow. I think it is awesome that we keep these words at the forefront of all we do because it helps us to stay focused on what is important. However, it can be easy to see them simply as words and to miss the truth they represent.

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus teaches us to pray for the Kingdom of God to come, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

As I was thinking of this simple phrase, I struggled to wrap my mind around it. It is easy to say this is a reference to the eventual return of Jesus to rule on the Earth, but I think it is important that we not get so heavenly minded we are no earthly good (another classic Christianese phrase from my childhood). What I mean is this, it is easy to think of God’s Kingdom as something distant, but in what ways is the Kingdom of God currently being manifested on the Earth? I think we need to look no further than the Church’s purpose. God’s kingdom comes to the Earth as people are reached with the Gospel, as we gather as a Church to praise God and encourage one another, and as we all grow to be more like Jesus.

So, as we pray, may we pray that God’s Kingdom of salvation, praise and growth be present now on the Earth just as it is forever present in Heaven.  Let us pray that as a church and as individuals, we would strive to live with purpose to see the realities of Heaven be present now on the Earth.

Anticipation

Immanuel | Devotion #1: Anticipation
Richie Henson | Production Director

As a child, Christmas is all about waiting. After Thanksgiving is over, you wait to visit Santa in the mall. Then, you wait for Christmas vacation at school. Finally, you wait for Christmas morning, just hoping that the event can live up to the hype. Often, the anticipation or expectation of the morning arriving became heavy and burdensome. It felt that it would never come. 

This Christmas season, I have been looking at the Christmas story from the perspective of a child waiting for Christmas. In Matthew 1:22-23, Mary is told by an angel that she will bear a son: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jews had been waiting in expectation for hundreds of years. The Old Testament prophets promised that Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, would come as their Savior. However, as the decades passed, and the Roman captivity began, there is no doubt that their expectations for God to be with them became a point of anxiety. 

Although we live after the times of Jesus, I think it can be just as easy for us to feel loaded down with the need for the presence of Jesus. We can feel in our struggles and difficulties that we are waiting around for God to show up. However, we must always remember that the names of Jesus are references to His perfect character. So, Immanuel does not just mean God is with us when we feel Him, or that God is with us when Jesus returns. Instead, we can know that God is with us always because it is in His character and nature to be present with His people.  

Life is rarely ever easy, but we can live with ease knowing that Jesus is always with us. He is Immanuel.



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