Devotions

Monthly Archives: February, 2015

Warnings: Laziness

Proverbs 6:6
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

I have never considered myself to be lazy, but I do have a tendency to procrastinate. In fact, I turned this blog in several weeks late! It is easy for me to make excuses for putting something off whether it is for a “good” reason or not. For instance, I will help someone do their work or project even if it means that something I need to accomplish gets put off. After all, I am doing “good” by helping others, right? Another excuse is that I work better under pressure or against the clock. One result of putting things off to the last minute is you have to settle for what you have instead of having the time to make it better, or worse yet, correct. More often than not, after I finish the task, I am relieved that it is done but admit to myself that I should have done it earlier. The worry that I caused myself and others is not an acceptable result of my laziness.

Ants can teach us many things. How to be self-motivated: No one carries a whip behind the ant to ensure the work gets done. Why? Their work is for their own good! Look ahead: In the summer and in the harvest, food is plentiful. Yet the ant refuses to take it easy—instead they work harder, storing up food for the coming time of hardship. The value of hard work: Laziness will lead to poverty, with few exceptions. Ants are not lazy, but laziness is a lifestyle for some people, and a temptation for all of us.

The Bible is clear that, because the Lord ordained work for man, laziness is sin. Knowing who you are serving should make all the difference. The ant works for the queen, but Colossians 3:23-24 says this, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” How better to serve Jesus than to obey his commands.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the father and son and the Holy Spirit.” If you have accepted Jesus as Lord of your life then it is your responsibility to spread the gospel. This is not a suggestion or an idea, this is His command.There are many excuses people use or reasons why they don’t spread the gospel like “I don’t know how”, “I’m not smart enough”, or “I’ll do it next time”, but these are all forms of laziness. We must overcome our excuses and when the opportunity comes, be prepared to share what Jesus has done for us.

If you are a Christian, talk to a family member or friend who is not saved and explain to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Start by explaining to them the need for salvation then go on to how to be saved. Discussions with people who think they are saved can also bring about surprising results. In the last year, I know of several people who thought they were saved but in fact were not. Their reasoning ranged from them saying a repeat after me prayer, they grew up in church and were taught about Jesus, or they were a “good” person. I cannot express the joy and happiness I have of knowing people who thought they were saved but are now truly saved. If you are reading this and have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or if you have doubts if you are really saved, talk to me, any of our staff or someone who has accepted Jesus Christ. I would consider it an honor to talk to you about Jesus so you can understand the two options for you after life on earth. Heaven or Hell. There are no other choices. The Rolling Stones recorded a song that says that time is on your side but that is a lie. Do not be lazy or procrastinate… now is the time!

CHALLENGE
Write out your personal testimony of how you were saved in as much detail as you can. Comparing your experience to the Romans Road is a great self-check. Share it with family and make sure it is available for future generations to have so they may have the complete assurance and comfort of the fact that you are saved!

Warnings: Guard Your Way

We believe at The River Church talking about all matters of life is important but sometimes certain topics are for specific audiences only. Keeping this in mind, the following blog is appropriate for ages 13 and over. If you have a child around this age, please use your discretion on sharing this with them.

Proverbs 5:8
Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house

Proverbs 7:25
Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths

Proverbs 6:22-23
When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life

The book of Proverbs is a beautiful and at times startling series of warnings, reminders, and in general pieces of wisdom from a father to his son. As a father I can see the heart of Solomon as he writes, longing to keep his son from both errors that Solomon had seen men commit and errors that he himself had made. In stunning poetic style, Solomon personifies wisdom, cautioning his son to “…not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.” (Proverbs 4:6) Solomon is not speaking about a woman, but about wisdom. Wisdom guards and keeps us from error, danger, and ultimate destruction. Consistently throughout Proverbs, Solomon teaches his son and us, that wisdom will guard him from danger, specifically the danger of sexual sin. (Proverbs 2:11, 3:26) I want to focus quickly on three areas of our lives that the book of Proverbs encourages us to guard… the heart, our way, and our eyes.

In Proverbs 4:23, the scripture says, “Keep [or guard] your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Then once again in Proverbs 7:25, the bible warns, “let not your heart turn aside to her ways…” When the scripture speaks of the heart, it speaks of the mind, the desires, and the control center of a person. The bible warns of sexual sin and, in Proverbs, particularly of adultery. God is warning us of the dangers of sexual sin, but also helping us by offering wisdom to guard us. To stay away from the destruction of sexual sin, we must first guard our hearts. We must be vigilant to conform our desires to godly things, rather than what our flesh desires. Satan is the god of this world (2nd Corinthians 4:4). He has orchestrated a world that offers fulfillment of every perverse and evil desire that enters the heart of mankind. When these ungodly and twisted desires enter our hearts, we must guard against them, by “…taking[ing] every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2nd Corinthians 10:5) Guard your heart, because when our heart is taken captive by the wickedness of our flesh, a life of grotesque sexual sin will soon follow.

Secondly, we must guard our way. Solomon writes, “Keep [or guard] your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house….” Then just a few short verses later, the warning is repeated, but the safety of wisdom is offered. The scripture says, “…the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” (Proverbs 6:23-24) To avoid the utter ruin of sexual sin, we must not only watch what we desire, but where we go. Satan, again the god of this world, has orchestrated a culture where seedy places of sexual gratification exist. Obviously we can speak of the depravity of a strip club, a porn store, or a brothel. However, we must, as men and women, be equally guarded against the restaurants and bars we eat at, the bookstores we go to and the malls we shop at. If you have been defeated by sexual sin at a specific place, don’t go back! Guard your way. If there is a particular man or woman who you lust after, don’t go near them. Guard your way. If there are websites that you frequent that stir sinful desires in your heart, block them from your computer. Guard your way. If there are television channels that get your heart racing, cancel cable or block those specific channels. Guard your way! Of course I cannot begin to list all the destructive, sinful places around us, but simply must say, with Solomon, stay in “…the way of life…” rather than detouring to the “places” of sexual sin. On several occasions my family has been offered tickets to the Pistons game. I love basketball, but I won’t go myself nor take my kids. The inclusion of provocative “dancers” and cheerleaders is a primer for strip clubs and pornography (so is the restaurant Hooters and Victoria Secret catalogues). I must guard my way.

Lastly, guard your eyes. Solomon writes, “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27)

As my children have grown, I am utterly amazed at the openly displayed sexual depravity of our world. Billboards, commercials, movie trailers, print advertisement, mall displays, etc. are incredibly provocative and sexually illicit. As a man I must guard my eyes, because the world is offering what my sinful heart desires. Specifically with my children, we have a running command that when I say, “Eyeballs” all of my children (including Ruby sometimes) immediately close their eyes until the all clear is given. This may seem extreme and strange to you, but I want to guard my children’s eyes for as long as I can. In doing so, my hope is to train them to do the same for each other and to guard their own eyes throughout their life. My son does not need to develop an unrealistic expectation of what a woman looks like, nor do my daughters need an overly sexualized standard of beauty placed on them. This idea of guarding their eyes and mine and my wives, extends into our movie watching, our magazine subscriptions, our television viewing, and so on. My wife will often give me the “eyeballs” command. Yes, it’s a bit humbling and very contrary to our modern culture, but my desire for me, my family, and you, my church, is that we guard what we see and allow into our minds.

Just as Solomon warned his son, so too our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:15) warns us. Our Father longs to guard us, so he offers the wisdom of the Word of God. Sexual sin is destroying families and many before they even begin. Young men and young women are not being warned or guarded by their parents or older, wiser Christians. We have failed to train ourselves to guard our hearts, ways, and eyes and therefore are incapable of training others. We must make a commitment to guard our hearts, our way, and our eyes. But also, we must help guard others, through faithful accountability and love.

Final note:
If you are struggling with sexual sin, please know that you are not alone. You are loved and God can set you free from your guilt, your addiction, and your struggle. Christ can heal the wounds of pornography and adultery. If you would like help, please contact us today.

CHALLENGE
As a family and an individual begin to construct boundaries and accountability when it comes to internet, TV, movies, and places you go.

Warnings: Marriage

We believe at The River Church talking about all matters of life is important but sometimes topics are for certain audiences only. Keeping this in mind, the following blog is appropriate for ages 13 and over. If you have a child around this age, please use your discretion on sharing this with them.

Proverbs 5:15-20
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

Sex is beautiful, wonderful, and pleasurable. Pretty bold and audacious way to begin a blog, I know. God created sex and said, “It was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) But something disastrous has happened. Sex has been hijacked. As with all of God’s creation, humanity has perverted and attempted to completely destroy God’s original design. Specifically in the area of sex, the array of perversions of this beautiful gift from God, are abominable. Adultery, fornication (sex before marriage), homosexuality, bestiality, and others have tainted and clouded the beauty and joy of God’s plan for wonderful sex within a biblical marriage. Sex was designed by God to give a man and woman pleasure and joy within and only within the context of marriage. Children are also a blessed result. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. He wrote the book of Proverbs as a message to his sons. He wrote the following about sex within a marriage:

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Proverbs 5:15-19

First, let’s be reminded that sex is created by God. Sex is a great thing. Sex is so great that Satan has desired to ruin it from the time of Adam and Eve. God’s Word is given to us to reclaim and redeem what was lost in the garden. So the scripture here, and many other places, encourages healthy, regular sex within a marriage.

Secondly, sex is best (because God is being honored) when a man and woman are committed to “drink from [their] own cistern.” This means no form of sex occurs outside of the context of marriage. Pornography, adultery, fornication, lust, mental fantasies about someone other than your spouse, etc. are other “cisterns.” These sexually immoral acts rob from someone else and undermine and often destroy the joy of “drinking from your own cistern.” Solomon rightly advises his son to “…let them be for yourself alone.” The Bible teaches that a man belongs physically, emotionally, and mentally to the wife to sexually enjoy. A wife keeps herself mentally, physically, and emotionally reserved for her husband. (1st Corinthians 7:3-5) What destroys the joy, beauty, and sanctity of sex is when the marriage bed is not protected. The use of pornography, multiple sexual partners, and other perversions erode and ultimately destroy the beauty and purity that God designed.

Thirdly, get married. Marriage has become trivial in our society. In many cultural circles marriage has become an outdated, antiquated institution. But God created marriage (Genesis 1 & 2) and has put His blessing upon it. The prophet Malachi writes “let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15) Sex is a joy reserved for marriage; a joy reserved for one man and one woman.

Lastly, when you are married have sex a lot and make it “intoxicating” sex. This may seem a bit crass or rude, but I believe that this is God’s gift and in many ways will prevent men and woman from being intoxicated with the forbidden (Proverbs 5:20, 1st Corinthians 7:2). Many couples will counsel with me and my wife and question why their sex life is boring or non-existent. Nearly every time, some level of perversion (another cistern) has been introduced into the marriage (either specifically by the husband or unique to the wife) which completely disrupts the joy of God’s gift. When you are married, “drink from your own cistern.” Husbands focus on treasuring, protecting, and being both physically and mentally faithful to your wife. Wives do the same. I believe over time that your sex life will become “intoxicating” and everything that God so graciously designed it to be.

CHALLENGE
Write cards/letters to family members, letting them know how much you love them and that you are praying for them.

Warnings: The Dangers

We believe at The River Church talking about all matters of life is important but sometimes topics are for certain audiences only. Keeping this in mind, the following blog is appropriate for ages 13 and over. If you have a child around this age, please use your discretion on sharing this with them.

Proverbs 5, 7, 6:20-35
Not too long ago I was working with a couple whose marriage had ended. Like many other marriages, this marriage fell apart because of adultery. Before long the couple was in the courtroom, disputing all parts and things in their marriage. The whole of the scene was painful and disheartening, but one tongue-in-cheek comment by an attorney involved still stands out in my memory. In reference to pornography use that had effectively destroyed the marriage, the attorney said, “Well just because he was viewing pornography doesn’t mean he was addicted to it.” What makes this statement so alarming is the portrait of a larger societal take on sexual immorality that it encapsulates.

You do not have to be a Christian to recognize that the extreme ends of sexual immorality are problematic and dangerous. Rape, incest, pedophilia, along with a few other buzz words, are so universally frowned upon that even the sound of them makes us uncomfortable. However, many Christians and non-Christians alike have been deceived into believing that immodest dress, pornographic images, crude joking, or many other things along the same lines does not produce the same type of sexual immorality that destroys our relationship with God. Consider what Jesus claims to be the root of sexual immorality: Matthew 5:28 – I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus would not allow the crowds to think that adultery was only wrong once it reached a certain level of intensity. The very root of sexual immorality is where sin begins: lust.

As a culture we are being sucked into a trap of accepting things to be normal that would have once been taboo. We have a tendency to focus on the present situation and discount the movement or trends in an area like sexual immorality over time. The problem with such a philosophy is things that we know to be wrong and immoral now might very well be considered status quo in fifty years from now. If you are hesitant to believe that, consider what would be thought crude fifty years ago. Television scenes with a husband and wife in the same bed was edgy and two piece bathing suits were outrageous in the 1960’s. Before long things that we now consider lewd, immoral and unacceptable may just be the norm.

While these thoughts on sexual immorality encompass a larger social reality, we may be tempted to think this doesn’t concern us on an individual level. You may struggle with lust or pornography. You may spend time reading graphic romance novels or fantasizing on occasion. This doesn’t mean you would ever take it to “the next level” though. It would be crazy to think that a little porn would lead you to cheat on your wife, or a romance novel would cause you to find your sexual gratification outside of your husband. Before you accept this as true, consider that our individual levels of acceptance tend to behave similarly to those of society, only quicker. What was not acceptable to you at one time becomes acceptable over time. For example, studies show that individuals who view pornography are likely to progress to more explicit and more “hard-core” images over time. Societal acceptance of immorality is simply a reflection of the progression of  individuals in immorality. Sexual immorality is sin, it’s cancerous, and it continues to grow if it’s not pulled out at its root. The effects are devastating. Paul notes in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the deeds of flesh are evident which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality… just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” While Paul includes other things in the deeds of the flesh, it is noteworthy that the first three are sexual sin. This is because Paul puts a premium on sexual sin. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 he notes, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” He goes on to note that our body doesn’t belong to us, but Christ in us.

Sexual immorality plagues our culture. Perhaps even more alarming, it plagues the church. The most alarming thing is how intensely and actively scripture speaks out against immorality. Let us be a church that is done ignoring the problem. Let us be a church that is done making the issue taboo and hiding the problem. Let us get real with one another and talk about it. Studies show that one out of every six women struggle with pornography, and more than half of all men in the United States frequently view pornography. The church is not immune to such a problem. If you read this and know you are in the midst of this battle of sexual immorality, know you are not alone. Then choose to not fight it alone. Talk to someone about. The church is meant to encourage one another and hold one another accountable. Let us be what the church is meant to be and pull one another out of sin.

CHALLENGE
Take time to pray as a family and as individuals this week and make deliberate choices to take what you’ve learned this past month and apply it in your life. Take a moment and let us know what this past month has meant to you and your family!

Warnings: The Importance

Proverbs 5:1
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding

Warning. Warning. Warning. A red siren begins flashing from what appears to be every direction, drawing the attention of everyone around. Warning. Warning. Warning. A loud mechanical voice over a PA system begins repeating that same word over and over again, the volume continuously rising. Warning. Warning. Warning.

What would you do in this situation? Do you heed the warnings and get out? Do you continue forward determined to find out what is going on?

As I read over the Bible readings for this week I envision the above scenario. In some situations I’ve heeded that warning and gotten out. In other situations, I didn’t listen and had to learn that lesson the hard way. In other words I chose the road that led to sin.

Why? I’m not sure. Curiosity. I thought I knew better. I was unwilling to listen to others. I didn’t want to wait. The list is endless. And often times small choices are made. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely those moments where I outright choose sin. But then there are those moments that I end up in sin because of a series of choices that aren’t in and of themselves sinful but lead me down a path that ends in choosing sin.

The Bible is full of warnings and advice on how we should live. Warnings and advice that are meant to help us. Warnings and advice that when heeded stop us from sinning and bring us closer to God. Why then do we struggle so much with taking into account these warnings and continually choosing sin?

The obvious answer… our sinful nature. The problem with this though is that we tend to excuse our sin. The Bible clearly tells us that all have sinned (Romans 6:23) and that we are born sinners (Genesis 8:21, Psalm 51:5). Yes, we all have a sinful nature. We’re not perfect. We are going to mess up. We will sin. That doesn’t however, make our sin acceptable or take away our ability to stop sin. While it is true that we are all sinners, we are also all called to be imitators of Christ, to be like Him (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Peter 2:21). So what’s causing you to choose sin over Christ?

While I’m sure that there’s a whole list of reasons you could come up with, I’d like to focus on one: instant gratification. Instant gratification is an immediate satisfaction or pleasure which focuses on the present. It’s choosing now over tomorrow. If you look at your sin and the reasons why you choose it, my guess is you’ll find this reason at the core of much of it.

We run away from our problems.

We choose divorce over putting effort into marriage.

We choose sex over purity.

We choose unhealthy lifestyles over treating our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

We choose affairs over honoring our marriage commitment.

We choose entertainment over time in God’s word.

We choose medication over dealing with our emotions.

We choose talking to others over talking to God.

Why? I deserve to be happy. It feels good. It’s what I want. That’s too hard. It’s the only thing that helps. No one else understands. I’ve earned this. I shouldn’t have to do that.

We want it. We get it. We feel like it. We do it (or don’t do it). And yet, where does that get you? Where has that gotten you? Alone. Ruined. Insecure. Unfullfilled. Relationships destroyed. Unhappy. Empty. So what’s the solution? Think beyond the moment…

2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Our troubles are small. They last only for a short time. But they are earning for us a glory that will last forever. It is greater than all our troubles.18 So we don’t spend all our time looking at what we can see. Instead, we look at what we can’t see. What can be seen lasts only a short time. But what can’t be seen will last forever.

The instant gratification that comes with decisions we make is here for a moment and leaves. If you’re willing to tough it out in the moment though, the delayed gratification that comes from obeying God’s word and taking his advice last for eternity.

The Bible is full of warnings and advice on how we should live. Warnings and advice that are meant to help us. Warnings and advice that when heeded stop us from sinning and bring us closer to God.

Search God’s Word. Know Him. Think beyond the moment. Follow His warnings and advice. Hold tight to His truth…

Know that with God’s help you can get through it. (Isaiah 41:10, Proverbs 3:5-6)

You might not always be happy but you can have joy. (Romans 15:13)

It might be hard, but you can have peace (Philippians 4:7)

You are never alone. (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6)

He is your strength (Isaiah 40:31)

You are His child (John 1:12)

Instant Gratification and Parenting:

Working with kids, instant gratification is something I see more and more prominent with each passing year. Kids want something, they get it. Most have no idea what it means to wait or earn anything. Or in some cases what it looks like to be told no. I have a whole soapbox I could get on with this one. However, I just want to give you something to think about. Instant gratification is something that is learned at a very young age. Delayed gratification, however has to be taught… continually.

At 2, 3, and 4 years old, it’s the little things. “Pick up your toys and then you can watch that.” “ Listen and obey, then we can do that.” “You can ask for that for your birthday.”

At 7, 8 and 9 years old it gets a little bigger. “You can save up your money for that.” “You didn’t do what you were told, you can’t go there.” “ Finish your homework and then you can do that.”

Here’s where it gets fun. At 15, 16 and 17 (and unfortunately even younger in many cases), it’s the big things. “Don’t have sex, wait until marriage.” “Don’t drink, it’s illegal.”

Have you ever considered that as you’re parenting your 2,3, and 4 year olds you’re giving them the tools to succeed at purity at 15, 16, and 17? I’ve often heard parents ask how to teach their teens and young adults the importance of purity. Here’s a couple of things to think about:

1. Instant gratification versus delayed gratification. Why would they wait for anything, if they haven’t had to wait for anything up until this point? Teach your young kids what it means to wait for something, to earn something. Allow them to experience the reward that comes when they succeed at that As well as the consequences that come when they don’t follow through. It’s a life lesson that starts young but that equips them to succeed later on.

2. What’s the purpose of waiting? Share with your kids the big picture. More than just telling them no, explain why. Give them something to hope for, a reason to wait. If they are a child of God, He has a plan for them. If they can grasp beyond the moment, they’ll have a reason to wait beyond the moment.

CHALLENGE
Choose something (a trip, a toy, a family thing) that you and/or your family can save up for or earn. While you wait to save up have conversations about waiting and what that means beyond that moment and that thing.



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