Devotions

Monthly Archives: October, 2016

October 31st

I accepted Jesus when I was 12 years old; however I did not grow up in church. I began attending church when a friend invited me to a children’s event around age 10. Looking back now, I can see this was the start of God beginning a great work within my family. I remember going to church off and on with my friend, and eventually my mom began attending as well. The church we were attending went through a transition, bringing a new Pastor, which eventually led to my mom, sister, and I beginning to attend regularly.

Over a period of time, I began attending Sunday gatherings as well as Sunday School and midweek children’s program where I began to learn about Jesus. Eventually during Vacation Bible School, I accepted Jesus as my savior. I now watch my son, who is six, beginning to learn through AWANA and other programs, and cannot help but think about how vital it was for me to learn and memorize the Bible when I was young. I was blessed with parents who even though were not saved at the time, raised my sister and I well. This proved to be a great foundation to build on once we started learning the Bible and following Jesus.

My dad did not initially attend church with us, and I remember him not wanting anything to do with it. However, God did a great work there, and it did not take long for him to begin attending with us and eventually accept Jesus as well, with my entire immediate family. This was one of the coolest transformations I have seen, as we watched God change my dad and my entire family. I look back and am thankful for the simple invitation from a friend (and his family supporting him to encourage his friends to come to church), as well as the volunteers at church who eventually helped lead me to Jesus.

I did not graduate High School planning to be in ministry; however, God had a bigger plan. I am able to serve God as a Production Director every day, and it is awesome being a part of God moving here at The River. God allows me to take my skills in technology and use them to help further the Gospel, and I pray that I can continue to keep my focus on Him through serving. It has been a blessing to watch my parents and sister serve over the years, and watch God change those around us. My parents have created a great legacy to follow; all pointed towards Christ. I have not seen anyone work harder than my parents, which has helped point me in the right direction over the years. I am now blessed with a family of my own, a wife who loves to serve, and a son who is eager to learn about Jesus.

One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.” This simple but powerful verse reminds me whom my strength comes from each day as I strive to serve Him.

 

Michael Fox
Production Director

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.

October 29th

When my mother married my father, she was raised Baptist, and he was raised Catholic. They decided that they would meet in the middle and become Lutherans. We were baptized as infants at Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica Michigan, and my two older brothers and I went to the Lutheran school. I attended until seventh grade when we moved to Richmond, Michigan. I was given the choice at that time to go to a Lutheran school again or to the public school. I decided on the public school on the condition that I would complete the confirmation class at the local Lutheran Church. Looking back on those years it was great to be a part of a school where I could learn about the Bible, all the Bible stories, and Jesus. Once I completed the confirmation class, I felt like I had done all I needed to do and now it was time to live my life. After all, I believed that Jesus died and rose again three days later, and I most certainly believed that God had created everything as the Bible states.
The next 20 or so years were tied up with me trying to climb the corporate ladder, get ahead in the world, and be the man I thought I was supposed to be to provide for my family.

When Donna, my wife, started going to church it bothered me because I did not think I needed to go to church and I was afraid that she would drag me back in there.  I would go on occasion and then a little more frequently to satisfy my wife and children but I was still convinced that I could be a Christian without going to church.

When I started going a little more regularly, I started listening to the sermons and was amazed how the Gospel was presented. I soon realized that I was not living as I should be and doubted my salvation.  I decided to come forward one week after I was convinced that I was not saved. The relief that I felt was just incredible. I knew that I was finally doing the right thing. I was baptized a few weeks later on Father’s Day 1999.

I found out that there was a group of ladies (Donna included) that had been praying continuously for a few of us men to come to the realization that we needed to be saved.

I knew at that time that just being saved is not the end of the story. Growing in the Word and reaching out to the lost is our mission.

I am just so glad that God did not give up on me back then and is giving me another chance to live for His glory.

Bryan Fox
Deacon of Facilities

October 28th

I accepted Jesus at a young age. My parents always made me go to church when I was younger (which I’m now grateful for), where my Sunday school teachers and small group leaders would tell us about heaven, hell, and Jesus coming to die for our sins. As a child, I knew that I was a sinner, that I had disobeyed God, and that I was going to hell because of my sin. My response to that understanding was to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins so I would not have to go to hell and face the punishment that I fully deserved.  I remember being ten years old and praying alongside my Sunday school teacher for God to forgive me of my sins and to save me from hell. The years went on and I never really wanted to go to church, I never cared nor knew what it meant to further Gospel, I never lived life with an eternal perspective, but I still called myself a Christian. I knew who Jesus was, I knew that God sent Him to die on the cross for my sin, and I knew I needed to believe that and trust in that to be saved… but where was the passion? Where was the yearning to live my life entirely for the Cause of Christ? I knew Jesus but did I really know what it meant to LIVE my life for Him?!?!

Winter camp, when I was sixteen years of age was a huge turning point in my walk with Jesus. Spending time in prayer, listening to preaching and teaching, and being in God’s Word during that weekend and the weeks to follow became a forming point in my life. I felt the conviction to take God’s Word to all the earth, a passion to not waste my life, and live sold out for Him began to grow inside of me like never before.  Reading the Bible and listening to God’s Word became the center of EVERYTHING that I pursued in life!

That moment/time in my life was like many others that followed to help shape and mold me into the follower of Christ that I am today. The good experiences in my life as well as the most horrific of moments, God has used to sanctify and build me into the man that He wants me to be!

Every one of us is different, and each has his or her own story. Christ saved me in my youth; I give Him all the glory! No matter your background, good, bad, or ugly, our lives are now God’s. The stories we have written, and the ones that we have yet to write should be told with Jesus at the center!

1 Corinthians 10:31says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

 

Matthew Hatton
Student Ministries Director

October 27th

My Conversion Experience

I was raised in church all my life. I remember as a child when there were Sundays I did not want to go to church, and I would try to fake being sick. My folks would say, “Unless you are throwing up, you are going to church.” Of course, I was never that committed to my ruse. I grew up assuming that I was Christian because my parents were. One time I accepted Jesus at a Five Day Club so that I would get a lollipop, other than that, I was the classic church kid who rode the spiritual coattails of my parents.

About the time I was twelve, I got to that age where the preacher no longer sounded like the ambiguous adults on a Charlie Brown cartoon but said actual words. I found myself frustrated as I realized I had no real opinions about what I believed. I only mimicked the beliefs of my parents. I also discovered I had never really made any decision or commitment, so I began reading the Bible. I remember shadowing my Pastor when I was in seventh grade and badgering him with questions about how he prepared his sermons every week. I wanted to know how to study the Bible. Looking back, I see that he taught me some basic hermeneutics that day that unlocked the Scriptures for me.

The Church I grew up in was very small and did not have a youth group, so that same year I told my parents that I wanted to go to a youth group. My parents found another church that was the same denomination in the next town, and I went there. I did not know anyone there but I craved a Bible Study, and I wanted to meet other kids like me, who craved the things of God. This youth group was a wonderful place for me, but I think the real growth came from my ride to youth group with a man named Brad Pebble. It was hard for my folks to make the half hour drive to the church, so my mom called the church to find someone who lived in our area. Brad would pick me up, and I would sit in the front seat while his wife and two kids sat in the back, and Brad and I would talk. I do not know if this was his intent, but Brad became my first real mentor, and we spent the drive time every Wednesday talking about God, life, and girls.

The following summer I went to summer camp with my newfound youth group. I went for fun and girls, but God had other plans. I never had trouble listening when the preacher was talking because I was always genuinely interested in what he was teaching, but for some reason during that morning chapel I could not hear what the preacher was saying, I was distracted, but not by a disruption or another kid, it was the Holy Spirit. God was calling me. It was an experience I will never forget because it was the first time I experienced God. I did not know what was happening as my eyes began to well up with tears so I put my head in my lap, wept, and gave my life to the Lord. Sitting next to me was a senior higher that had taken me under his wing, and I remember him placing his hand on my back and quietly praying for me. I have no idea what was taught during that chapel, but I met Jesus Christ that day.

My Calling

God called me to ministry when I was 18 years old and a counselor at an elementary kids’ camp. It was the last chapel of the week, and the preacher brought the staff in early to pray that God would change lives that night, and He did. I was sitting in the front row that night with my young campers and I could tell that something was happening in my heart. The preacher was describing a courtroom drama with God as the Judge and called me up to play the defendant. He read my charge, “Chris, you have been charged with every sin under the sun. How do you plead?”  “Guilty.” I said.  “Then I sentence you to eternal suffering in Hell.”

The preacher then began to describe, using one of my campers to represent Jesus, how just as the gavel is about to echo it’s decree of finality, Jesus Christ bursts into the courtroom and says He will take my punishment for me. Standing before all, the preacher expounding on the atonement of Christ, something happened inside of me. It was the first time I experienced God’s immense greatness, and my unworthiness.  All I wanted to do was to fall on the floor and hide my face in the presence of the Lord of Hosts. The preacher, seeing me lose my countenance, allowed me to sit down. A storm began to rage outside, lightning split the sky, and the thunder shook the floor beneath. The lights went out in the chapel leaving only the faint light from the windows. I sat bent over in my seat with my entire cabin of boys looking at me in shock as I wept like a man who has truly know grace and mercy, and was filled with gratitude for what Jesus had done for me. It was then that I realized that I could do nothing else with my life but serve Him alone and devote my life to the proclamation of the Gospel and the building up of His Kingdom.

That day changed the entire course of my life, and I have not wavered from the call to further the kingdom.

 

Chris Knuth



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

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