Monthly Archives: September, 2018

Starting Strong

Grow | Devotion #6: Starting Strong
James Mann | Children’s Director

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

As the Children’s Director at our Goodrich location, I am constantly working on building a firm spiritual foundation for our children to ensure their walk with God is the best that it can be. Many people begin their walk with God but never go anywhere with it. They are starting a race, and barely crossing the starting line. God commands us to dive into His Word and pray to Him for understanding. This is a key starting point in our growth. Many people, like myself, struggle with this. We have so much going on in our day to day, that focusing on our growth is pushed to the back burner. We are all guilty of this to some degree.

After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided it was time to take my spiritual growth seriously. I was noticing that my plateaued growth was no longer just affecting me, but my students as well. I was not setting a good example for them. I decided that I was going to begin my master’s degree, in pastoral studies, to get my growth back on track. Now, I am not saying that everyone should go out and get a Bible degree, but this is what made the most sense in my life. Since starting this journey, I have noticed a change in my walk. I am enjoying my time with God, and I am getting more from my studies. Growing with God has become less of a chore and more of an enjoyable thing to do. Like it says in Colossians, if we have truly received Christ Jesus, then we should be walking in Him and have our roots be established in Him. We are not following God’s will for us if we are not taking the time to grow. Sometimes we need to go out of our way and prioritize our time. God desires for us to draw closer to Him through reading His Word and talking with Him. As believers, we should have the same desire.

Spiritual Growth

Grow | Devotion #5: Spiritual Growth
Holly Wells | Assistant to Lead Pastor Jim Combs

Running a marathon was on my bucket list years ago, and it was completed by the time I was twenty years old. I got “the bug” and went on to run my second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and now I think I have done somewhere around ten marathons over the years (I stopped counting). I remember those I have run well and certainly remember those I could have done better. All have been completed. I did most having trained well, maintaining discipline and diet, mostly injury-free, leaving all that I had out on those courses, and while having a good time! Then, there have been those that I was a little too lax in being diligent to put in the work, the time, the effort, the right fuel, and to no surprise, it was a fight to get through those 26.2 miles (and yes, the .2 matters!). 

Race days have included a variety of weather, though mostly the dry heat of Southern California, but my favorite was running in a torrential downpour through the flooded streets of Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier. I did not set a personal record that day, but man it was fun! I have finished strong with miles that flew by and crossed the finish line “on time” according to how I trained. But there was one race in particular when I realized that how I felt at a mere six miles should have come much later, like at mile markers 20-22. This would be my worse marathon to-date. I fought for every step and battled with my aching, blistered feet, sore knees, and burning hip joints just to keep moving forward. I fought to hold myself up because my back went out in those earlier miles and I tried not to be overtaken by my increasing irritation. I was completely fatigued, but quitting was never an option (and never will be). Although I finished that day, nothing about it was done well including the days leading up to it. I got out what I put in.

The same applies to our spiritual growth. The depth, the strength, and the maturity reflected in our relationships with God start with us. Someone once told me they were in a backslidden state, and I quickly countered with, “Well, you can front-slide, too!” It is true! We decide if we are moving forward with the Lord, or not. We determine if we are going to or not going to know Him more deeply. We are in control of our dedication to follow, seek, listen, obey, and love Him more. Just as we choose to invest in a new friendship or a relationship and decide how much attention we give our time to learn about that person, the same applies to our pursuit of the Lord. But know this: we are either moving forward or backward with God; we choose. Sure, we can go to church on Sundays, attend a weekly Growth Community, serve in a ministry, event, or gathering, hold a fancy title, and throw out some “Christianese lingo,” but it is the position of our heart that God sees which matters the most (1 Samuel 16:7). 

What are we pursuing in our quiet time or when no one is looking? (See Matthew 6:21). How are we applying His Word when someone is rude or hurts us, gossips, or passes judgment about us, when someone interrupts and inconveniences our day, or when we are met with a mean-spirited or unforgiving heart (or are we harboring the hardened heart and unforgiveness?)? (See Matthew 7:4-5; 18:21-35; Colossians 3:12-15; 1 Peter 3:8-12). What about giving someone what they do not deserve? (See Jude 1:22-23). Do we have a growing burden for the lost, the broken, and the forgotten, the “less thans?” (See Matthew 25:34-40; James 1:27). Do our words and conduct build others up or tear people down? (See Luke 6:45; Proverbs 13:12; Colossians 3:8-10; Hebrews 10:24-25). Do we seek, experience, and respond to God’s conviction in our lives? (See Romans 3:10; Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 John 1:9). Do we ask Him how to pray, do we pray according to our agendas, or is it some repeated script to simply check off a box? (See Matthew 6:5-13; Philippians 4:6-8; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Do our lives increasingly reflect His working and refining? (See Matthew 7:15-20; Jeremiah 17:7-8; James 3:17-18). Can we see proof that though we are not sinless, we are sinning less? (See Ephesians 4:17-32). You know what it is for you.

The bottom line is we are either going to choose to grow in the world, or we will choose to grow in the Lord. No matter how young or old we are in the Lord, none of us have “arrived.” None of us have learned and applied the entire Word of God flawlessly. We all need to seek Him more than we did the day before. We all need to be more intentional rather than on cruise-control. Will we choose to pursue Him more than we pursue the latest fashion, reality T.V. show, the newest video game, relationship, food, hobby, social media, or the time it takes to get ready in the morning? We have no valid excuses. There are tons of resources if you do not know where to start (if you have a Bible, start in the book of John). Holiness does not happen through osmosis; you have to apply yourself. I dare you to invite God into “all” that you do including your quiet time, Bible study, conversations, relationships, driving, fishing, shopping, and running. It is exciting to see what will happen. You have to work; you have to train. What you put into your relationship with God will be reflected by what comes out of it.

“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, NLT


Grow | Devotion #4: Intentional
Ken Perry

“Growth,” think about that word for a moment. What images does it bring up in your mind? If you are like me, pictures of your childhood come flooding into memory. I remember my dad taking the training wheels off of my bike and the exhilaration of finally being able to ride with the big boys. I remember moving from tee ball to swinging at a pitch thrown by an adult. I am brought back to milestone school graduations like fifth grade, eighth grade and what seemed like an eternity for most of us, twelfth grade (Thankfully, the pictures are locked away somewhere).

Each passing year brought that “joy-filled” trip for new school clothes because you just did not fit the old ones anymore. Thankfully, I am built differently than my brother, so hand-me-downs was not an option. I would be willing to bet you that your memories included snapshots of different times in your life also. Day by day and week by week we grew until one day we stopped. Our physical growth process has a natural ending designed in each of us by God as we are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

There is, however, another kind of growth that should have no end. In 2 Peter 3:18, the Apostle exhorts the beloved, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Our spiritual growth as Christians is not a suggestion; it is a necessity. 1 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) says, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly.” There is discipline involved. It will not happen on its own.

The Apostle Paul wrote this in Philippians 3:12-13 (NLT), “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Think about this for a moment. When Paul wrote these words, he is in a Roman prison toward the end of his life. He is a very mature Christian, yet he tells them he has not arrived. We are to grow, we are to train, and we are to press on no matter what stage of life we find ourselves. 

If spiritual maturity is the goal of every Christian, then with all humility, we must be teachable people. We must be willing to ask the hard questions that demand honest answers. Am I in the same spot spiritually as I was last year? How have I grown since becoming a believer? If asked, would others say they see growth in me? If the answers are less than you would want, then by all means, decide to become proactive in your growth. Maybe you can join a Growth Community where you are exposed to more mature believers. Perhaps you can download a reading plan that takes you through the Bible in a year. Whatever it is, decide to intentionally pursue knowledge of God and a stronger relationship with Him. It is a lifelong endeavor that bears much fruit. Make spiritual growth a priority in your life and be able to say, like Paul, I have pressed on and attained the Heavenly prize. 

The Path to the Prize

Grow | Devotion #3: The Path to the Prize
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14

We spend our lives setting goals to improve or grow.  As a student growing up, my goal was straight A’s, a 4.0.  As an athlete, I tried to score as many goals as possible during my soccer games. In track, my goal was to have the fastest time in the 100-yard dash.  It is hard to believe that I, “Smalls,” had the high school record for the 100-yard dash.  I would tell you my time if I could remember.  As an employee, annual reviews assess my success in achieving last year’s goals and establish new ones.  As a mother of a child with Autism, every year I attend an IEP to help teachers assess his progress and establish achievable goals.

As I prepared for my growth community this fall, I began to think about my goals for the year with the ladies.  It occurred to me that we are good at asking for prayer for spouses, children, family, friends, and even situations.  But rarely do I see prayer for personal spiritual growth.  Do we have spiritual goals?  If not, how do we know we are growing in Christ?

On the first night, I told the ladies that my desire for them this year was not merely knowledge of the Bible, but spiritual growth.  Most of them looked like deer caught in headlights.  Immediately, I saw our need and began to list some practical steps for growth.  As with all areas of life, we need to know our long-term goal.  Matthew chapter 28 defines our goal as Christians to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (verse 19).   We are to do this as “ambassadors of Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20). To be effective messengers for Christ, we must hear the Word of God, know the Word of God, and do the Word of God (James 1:22). To that end, I have found five necessary steps to grow in Christ:

Determination:  Growth in any area of life begins with determination. There are some commands in God’s Word I have found very difficult to swallow.  If I had waited until I felt like submitting, humbling myself, forgiving the one who hurt me or loving my enemy, it would never have happened.  It always begins with a choice: choosing to obey God regardless of how I feel. Joshua 24:15 says: “…chose this day whom you will serve…” The choices are usually Jesus or self.

Devotion:  Psalm 37:4 says: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” To delight in the Lord means to experience His goodness.  This can only occur by spending time in prayer, study, and obedience.

Desire:  At first glance, one might think that Psalm 37:4 is saying if we spend time with God, He will give us what we want.  It is interesting though, when you spend time with God, in prayer and study, He begins to rearrange your heart.  Suddenly, you find your priorities and desires lining up with His.  The desire to spend time with God becomes #1 on the “To do list.”

Discernment:  When Paul prayed for the Christians of Philippi, he prayed for “…knowledge and discernment…” so that they would know what is best and right.  Paul knew such understanding could only come from Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:9-11). It is the Holy Spirit within that teaches and guides us.  Praying before studying the Word or deciding how to respond to situations is crucial.

Display:  All the knowledge and understanding in the world is useless if we do not apply it to our lives.  We are called to “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10). We are to reflect the light of Christ to draw others to Him. Lord, may they see more of you and less of us.

So, how is your spiritual growth?  Are you determined to grow in Christ?  Do you devote time to the Lord; cultivating a desire to live for Christ?  If you are waiting for life to settle down, for the time to fit it in your schedule, the time will never come.  Put Him first, and the rest will fall into place.  In the words of Nike: Just Do It!

Growth Takes Time

Grow | Devotion #2: Growth Takes Time
Michael Fox | Creative Director

Growth takes time. I was reminded of this recently through my son’s school project, and I remember the same project from when I was a child. He brought home a white Styrofoam cup full of soil, with grass seed planted in it. The instructions were to regularly add water and place in the sunlight. After some time, grass would grow. I have always been amazed watching things grow from almost nothing. A little seed can transform into some really neat and different things, but it always takes time. 

Recently, I was reflecting on my spiritual growth over time. I know in my life there have been many high times of growth and also many low times of growth. I wondered why we are called to grow. I began to read an article from which pointed me to 2 Peter 1:3-8.  

2 Peter 1:3-8 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The article goes on to summarize that spiritual growth is becoming more like Jesus Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

I know that one of my goals in serving Jesus with my life is to share His love for others and what Jesus did for them by dying on the cross and saving them. The best way I know to do this is to imitate Him, and others will see Christ through me. This is a large task, one that I will work towards for the rest of my life. 2 Peter chapter 1 mentions knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and godliness; these are all qualities I hope to develop in my daily life. We are called to study God’s Word to gain knowledge. The passage also states, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective.” I want to be effective in serving God, and I need knowledge in Him to be effective.

I desire to increase in His knowledge. Practically, for me, this looks like surrounding myself with other believers in a Growth Community, who will help point me towards God’s Word and continue growing. Growing takes time.

Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 |

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.