Devotions

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The River Church Celebrates Halloween?!

One of our Church family’s biggest events happens tonight…TRUNK OR TREAT!  Out of all of the annual events we do, Trunk or Treat is my favorite.  In my four short years here at The River Church, I have been asked these questions multiple times when October hits, “Why does the River Church celebrate Halloween? Don’t you know that holiday is for the devil? Can’t you have a Harvest party instead of a Halloween party?”  Well, after four years, I think I have an answer; the River Church does not celebrate Halloween.  Now some of you might be confused by that answer, so let me explain.

First, let’s look at the history of the holiday we call Halloween.  It originated because the ancient Celts celebrated their new year on November 1.  So naturally, they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth the night before, October 31.  After that, the Romans, who conquered the Celts, adapted it as a day to commemorate the passing of their dead and to celebrate their goddess Pomona.  (Fun fact: Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit and trees often symbolized by an apple. This is where bobbing for apples during the Fall originated.)  From there, Catholicism morphed this holiday into a day that celebrated the passing of saints and martyrs called ‘All Saints Day.’  Finally, Halloween moves to America as a day to celebrate the harvest, tell ghost stories, brag about each other’s fortunes, dance, and sing. (history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween)

Halloween has now become a day for people to dress up in costumes, have parties with friends, pass out candy, and simply have fun.  Like the Apostle Paul, the River Church has decided to “become all things to all people, that by all means we might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) The River Church does not celebrate Halloween.  We use the cultural norm of Halloween to get as many people the Gospel as we can.  We participate in decorating a trunk, passing out candy, and having a big event that is a lot of fun to get people into the kingdom of God.  We forget about our personal preferences and inconvenience ourselves to show the LOVE of Jesus to those who do not know about it.  And we “do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that we may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:23)

Please understand my heart; I am not condemning those who choose not to participate in Halloween at all.  Who am I to determine what the Spirit has convicted your heart to do?  I am simply conveying my convictions.

I grew up in a world that “didn’t do the Halloween thing” because of the demonic connotations that surround the history of the holiday.  However, the history of it is not the way it is now.  Halloween is an incredible opportunity for you to share the story of Jesus with someone you just cannot seem to get to go to church with you.  Maybe they will bring their kids to get candy at Trunk or Treat.  Guess what, if they bring their kids to Trunk or Treat to get candy, they are going to hear the Gospel.  I guarantee you!  Remember this, River family, what man means for evil, God means for good (Genesis 50:20).  Often, it is not what we do, but why we do what we do.  What are your motives behind participating, or not participating in the holiday known as Halloween?  Is your mentality Biblical?  Is it driven by a preconceived notion based on how you were raised or what someone told you?  I want to challenge you today to go to Scripture to formulate your opinions about EVERYTHING.  Make the cause of Christ the center of all of your motives!  Make JESUS the reason behind why you do what you do.

May 30

The Priority of the Gospel

1 Corinthians 2:1-2

“And I, when I came to you brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

I have never been overly involved in politics.  However, I do find myself getting caught up in many of the presidential debates.  I get intrigued and end up watching for a good amount of time as each candidate banters back and forth about his or her political convictions.  As interesting as it may seem, I often find myself asking, “What are they even talking about?” The moderator asks a question, and then after several minutes of responses filled with political jargon, arguments, and attacks, I am even more confused than I was before the debate began. What is the point of all of this?

I think believers in Christ often do a similar thing.  We can get caught up in intriguing conversations of Theology, Eschatology, Hermeneutics, Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and many other fancy words. Although there may be a time and place for those conversations, I am just not convinced that it should be the focus, and one step further, it may be distracting some people from what really matters.

As Paul addresses the church in Corinth here in chapter 2, he wanted to let them know what was important.  When he first came to them (recorded in Acts 18), he was not concerned with impressing them with his own wisdom.  He did not want to confuse them by explaining everything he knew about who God was. It would not have done him any good to debate deep issues of Theology with these people. He was centered on making sure that they understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was his aim to make sure the people understood that they were sinners in need of a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ alone.

We as believers have a desire to see lost souls come to know Jesus. When we speak with our neighbors, our friends, and our family members who do not have a relationship with Jesus, we must be careful not to get caught up in lofty words and our own intellect (however limited or extensive that may be). We need to be sure that the saving power of Jesus Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection is what is being heard.

 

Scott Johnson
Connections Pastor

May 28

1 Corinthians 1
There is a “You” in Unity

I really have struggled with writing this devotion. Unity. God calls us to be united in this cause for Christ. It seems simple enough. I wanted to write…unity, just do it. How hard is it to be united with everyone who claims to be a Christ follower?

1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.”

Have you ever met a bunch of people who love to disagree as much as the church body? Sheesh, you have people leave churches because of paint colors, they do not like the music, they do not like the children’s program, it is too big, it is too small, the Pastor does not preach exactly how they like, some want pews, some want chairs, blah blah blah. You name it, and I have probably heard the excuses to why people argue or leave a church. We do not like this one, so we are just going to leave and start another one. How ungodly is that? God does not receive glory in our quarreling or separating. For the greater good of the Gospel, we need to lay preferences and hurt down.

What does God call us to be united over? His doctrine. God puts into place Pastoral leadership in our local church bodies. These men are called by God and held responsible for teach us God’s Word. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” As long as a Pastor is preaching God’s Word faithfully and is living their lives in accordance with the qualifications of a pastor in 1 Timothy, we have got to put the rest aside and be united in the Scripture. We may not prefer the methods they use or like decisions they have made. However, if they do not go against Scripture, we are to remain unified.

Over the last few months, The River Church and The Point Church unified. This was not an easy decision to make.  What if they do not do things how we do them, what if they spend money differently than we do, what if I do not get to make decisions how I want them, what if they run their programs differently, what if, what if, what if.  However, all of the pastors involved in making this decision put aside their preferences in order for us to collectively reach and minister to more people with the Gospel.  This year we had record amounts of people hear about Jesus in our Easter gatherings at all of our locations.  We came together to have an egg hunt and thousands of people came and heard about the Resurrection. Jesus is glorified in unity. Jesus is blessing us in this unification. Maybe you need to ask forgiveness today for being a part of the quarreling in God’s family.  Maybe you need to ask someone forgiveness for being a part of a church split. I pray for us as a church, regardless of how difficult it is always to be unified in God’s Word.

 

Jen Combs
(Wife of Lead Pastor Josh Combs)

May 27

1 Corinthians 1
What is your Calling?

1 Corinthians 1:26-29, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were born of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

Consider your calling. What do you do for a living? Are you a teacher, plumber, police officer, nurse, stay at home mom, in sales, a banker, or whatever your calling?  Consider it; Scripture says that most of us are not super wise according to the world standards, we are not super powerful on a worldwide scale, and I do not think I know anyone of noble birth. However, God chose you; He chose the unexpected. He chose the unlikely candidate. He chose the underdog. He chose you to be His ambassador on Earth. I do not know about you, but in a world that chews you up and spits you out so often, I find extreme comfort in knowing that I am chosen by the King. However, what am I chosen for?

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says, “…entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors of Christ.” The actual definition of an ambassador is an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country. God chose you to be His official representative to this lost world. Once you gave your life to Christ, you became a citizen of heaven, no longer a citizen of this world. You are His ambassador to this foreign country. You are sent by Him as a representative of His to the lost to share His message of reconciliation, which is just a big word for salvation. When was the last time you shared the Gospel with anyone?  Are you serving in a ministry to help the Gospel go forward? Matthew 28 talks about how we are to make disciples, teach them the Word. Are you discipling anyone? Trust me you do not have to know it all to teach someone. You do not have to have eloquent words. You do not even have to be sure of yourself, just be sure of the Bible. Trust that God will give you the words and you just simply teach them what you know. Even if that is not a lot, keep learning and keep teaching.  If you do not have anyone to disciple and are ready for that, we will happily connect you with someone. So please do not hesitate to ask.

 

Jen Combs
(Wife of Lead Pastor Josh Combs)

May 26

1 Corinthians 1
“For the Bible tells me so”

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The Word of God is folly to those who are not believers (those perishing). The Word of God is silly, stupid, and ridiculous to unbelievers. It makes no sense.  It holds no weight in their lives; it is meaningless. When I looked up the definition for folly, it said madness and lunacy.  Ever have someone who does not believe in Christ look at you as if you have gone mad? Well, apparently that is biblical.    Read the second half of that verse… “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  To us who are being saved, the Word of God is everything. At least is should be.

Does the Word of God hold that much weight in your life?

Is it your final authority?

Does it get the last say when you are stating your beliefs?

Sometimes when I talk to believers, they will tell me that they follow Christ but then have some crazy idea of say what marriage looks like.  They will tell me what their belief on drinking is, how they feel about suffering, and what they think about blessing. In my Bible, I have a statement I heard once written down, “Am I defending a position or seeking the truth of God’s Word.” Is how I think a family should operate based on my feelings and how I think it should operate?  Do I look at God’s Word and say, “Ok God, teach me what a family should look like.” God’s Word is my filter for everything (or, at least, I try to make it that way). What I think about drinking, what I think about divorce, what I think about money, and parenting, I run it through the filter of His Word. What does the Bible say about that?  Even doctrine. Some people are tangled up in poor doctrine, and they believe it just because their grandma taught it to them or a pastor years ago said it was so.  What does God’s Word say on the matter?

Here is a hot topic for you, what does the Bible say I should think about government? Paying taxes? What does the Bible say about how the earth was created? How to handle a disagreement? What does the Bible say about aliens? I am talking EVERYTHING here folks! The Bible should be your filter for everything.  Make sure your opinion mirrors what God’s Word says.

 

Jen Combs
(Wife of Lead Pastor Josh Combs)



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