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Ministry #6 | Status No
Noble Baird | Community Center Director

When I came on staff here at The River in January of 2014, I was given the opportunity to serve one day a week in our community center. From my first “Maintenance Monday” as it was called, I was amazed at everything that went on in the building. At the time, I was working alongside John Rigg who was in charge of our community center. That first day, he walked me around the building and showed me all the different items we had available for the community. From winter jackets and boots, to kitchen appliances and food, it was so awesome to see the donations we had received from those in the church and surrounding area.

In Luke 3, we continue to dive deeper into the life of John and more specifically, into his ministry. Luke writes in Luke 3:10-14, “And the crowds asked him. ‘What then shall we do?’ And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’ Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’” In this passage, John is teaching the people about what it means to really love the community. John was challenging the status quo of the people. He was challenging them not for his personal gain, but so that those who were in need would be loved and comforted. 

Fast forward three years and I now have the opportunity to be the Director of the Community Center. It is truly a blessing to be able to reach out into the community and bless them in any way possible. Whether it is by providing some kids with new shoes, a family with food for the week, or simply praying with someone who is struggling; we have been given an incredible opportunity to reach our community. John understood what it meant to love the community and all who lived in it. Not only did he love and want to help the poor, but he also reached out to the rich, the corrupt, and the sick. He did this so that they would understand the love of Christ; who was coming.

You see, John challenged the status quo of his time. He told those who had an abundance to give to those in need; those who were corrupt, to not take more; and those who were in authority, to not abuse it. As followers of Christ, we have been given the opportunity to do the same. Like John, we have been called to love the community we live in and to show Christ’s message of love. We cannot simply say give to the community and not do it ourselves. So, will you challenge the status quo as John did? If doing the right thing was easy, everyone would be doing it. Would they not?

Winnowing Fork

Ministry #5  November 17 Winnowing Fork

Let me set the stage.  Hundreds of people are gathered at the shore of the Jordan River.  Imagine: you are meandering through the crowd of people, and John the Baptist calls you to repent of your sins and turn to the Messiah.  You find yourself believing what he is telling you, and John baptizes you in the river.  Excitement comes over you.  The feeling is great!  You make your way back to the shore and right after you get done drying off, the same guy utters these words:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  Matthew 3:11-12

Then you think to yourself: Winnowing fork? Threshing floor? Chaff? Unquenchable fire?!?  What in the world is this guy saying?  Did I not just get baptized?  But now he is telling me someone is going to baptize me with the Holy Spirit and fire??

I asked myself those questions while reading this portion of Scripture.  Let us start with what we do know.  The Bible is very clear on how to be saved.  John 3:16 covers that.  After you have truly believed that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again to pay for your sins, the Bible is clear that your next step is to be baptized.  It is a step of obedience.  This step tells other people you are now associated with the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The word ‘baptism’ means ‘immersion by water.’  Jesus Himself was baptized by going under water, and we are all supposed to imitate Jesus. So, what does John mean when he said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire?”

John uses this powerful analogy to prove a point.  He is simply saying that he only has the ability to baptize you with water.  But the Messiah (who is Jesus) is coming after him and has the actual power to incorporate your soul with the Holy Spirit.  When you believe in Jesus, the belief baptizes you in that fire.  You take on the Holy Spirit who helps guide you through life so you can live it more abundantly.  Then, and only then, when Jesus separates (with his winnowing fork), those who have believed (wheat) from those who have not (chaff), will you be able to withstand the fire that separates the wheat from the chaff.  Wheat stays in Heaven and chaff is burnt up with unquenchable fire.

Water baptism is symbolic of being baptized with the Spirit.  It is an outward expression of an inward connection to Jesus.  So how about it?  When life is over, and you stand before God Almighty, is He going to take his winnowing fork and sift you like chaff?  Or is he going to gather you like wheat?

Tommy Youngquist

Children’s Pastor

A Brood of Vipers

Ministry #4  November 16 A Brood of Vipers

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 3:7-10

If there were only one word to describe John the Baptist’s look, it would probably be “peculiar.” And likewise, if we were to choose one word to describe the message he brought, it would most likely be ‘”repentance.” The message of repentance is not well received in the world these days, nor was it welcome to a particular set of Jewish leaders. The Sadducees and the Pharisees were the authority spiritually and doctrinally for the Jews and those following Judaism. These men had no problem calling others to repentance, but it seems as John the Baptist pointed out in the passage it was not something they needed or desired. John’s call to repentance implied that they were doing wrong, and they needed to stop doing it, and as a brood of vipers they only were concerned with their kingdom, not The Kingdom.

John’s message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Does this message imply that those who heard it were doing something wrong? Yes, it does. However, it was being announced as an opportunity. John is saying that God is about to do something wonderful, and God did not want them to be heading in the wrong direction when it came. The coming of Christ and the ushering in of the new Kingdom was what was coming for Jews and Gentiles alike. John’s message was a call of preparation because things were about to change and repentance is a call to change. The announcement that the Kingdom of Heaven is near was, by implication, to announce that God is near. John was announcing that the long awaited establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth is coming and that death shall give way to life, sin shall give way to righteousness, and justice shall prevail.

The Greek word for repentance is μετάνοια (metanoia). It means to change the mind or perception. It is a transformative reorientation of the heart where one turns away from sin and heads in the other direction. Repentance allows us to turn away from sin and move toward God and a right relationship with Him. Repentance is an opportunity. Repentance is part of the Good News message, and there is nothing bad about it at all. Individual righteousness is a requirement of the Kingdom, making repentance a necessary preparation for participation in the Kingdom. Repentance affords one the opportunity to be part of the Kingdom.

In ministry, people put you on a particular pedestal where they feel they need to explain their spiritual status with God to me. The most common thing I hear is “yeah, I believe in God” and “yes, I believe in Jesus” or simply “I am a believer.” Like I am the one who is going to judge that when the last day comes. I cannot judge their heart, but I can see with confidence whether or not a person’s faith is deep or superficial. Because let us be honest Satan “believes.” I say that because to see a person’s true salvation is to see a repentant heart, not just a statement. Repentance is the other half of the salvation experience. A profession of faith is made (Romans 10:9-10) that is our declaration to God and to the world we are professors of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The other half of the salvation experience is repentance. There is a renewing or changing of the mind (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:2). Without this change in the direction of thinking there cannot be a true salvation experience. Now does this mean we will never struggle with sin? Hardly, Paul the finest example of salvation and repentance struggled mightily (Romans 7:14-22) with these things, but he did not view repentance as a stumbling block but rather a gift God affords to followers as a resource to regenerate the mind.

Repentance is the opportunity for anyone to turn away from sin and head in the opposite direction of destruction. Repentance allows believers to renew the mind and alter the ways of thinking to move toward God and a right relationship with Him. In Mark 2:27 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees again as they distort the divine purpose of the Sabbath day. The man was made “first,” and then the Sabbath was appointed for him. The Pharisees and Sadducees had again poisoned its intent like a brood of vipers. Repentance was made for people, just like the Sabbath. It is another way God made for us to know the righteousness of our heart and to be able to discern the faith and hearts of others who claim righteousness in Christ. Repentance is an opportunity, not a stumbling block and is part of the Good News message, and there is nothing bad about it at all.

Eric Jeffrey

Prep Work

Ministry #3  November 15       Prep Work


John the Baptist had very clear orders for his life.  Matthew 3:3 says, “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare
the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” John’s entire life mission was to prepare hearts and minds for the moment when Jesus would start His ministry. John dedicated his life to preparing the way for Jesus. That kind of dedication is admirable. John was bold, John was an outcast, and John never gave up because he knew what he was preparing.

While I write this my son who is a year and a half, and my five-day-old son are both asleep. While I am still called to model and live out what Jesus told me to do in The Great Commission, I feel compelled to make sure that I am preparing the way for my sons’ lives similar to what John did for Jesus. Now when John was preparing the way he was announcing that the Kingdom of God had come. While I do not plan on preparing my sons for any sort of Messianic complex, I do plan on doing everything in my ability to make their path is as clear and straight as possible, so they walk the way the Lord wants them to. The way I look at how I should be preparing the way is similar to John. John was willing to live a life of sacrifice, discomfort, and complete devotion to the task of developing the way. 

Every Christian has a person in their life that they should be working to help make their paths straight. No Christ follower is ever going to say they want to be a stumbling block in someone’s life. So we should all take a moment and pray to find out what things we need to start doing to help straighten someone’s path for them to get to God. Imagine how John felt as the Jesus movement started taking off. Imagine all the toil, all the work that John put in would have been well worth it the moment John started seeing people being healed, people being taught, people starting to draw around the One that John was sent to prepare His ministry.


My hope and prayer in my life is that I can pave the way to God so well for my sons that my ceiling will be their floor. I want to help remove every sin I struggle with if it means my sons have a better shot at serving Jesus. I plan on living a life that opens up a path for my boys. Now clearly every parent is going to say that. But as Christians, how often do we focus on making sure we are living our lives to clear the path for our co-workers, friends, or even the random person you walked passed in the grocery store. Take some time today and think about the things you need to start doing to open a path up for those around you. 

Pastor Ryan Story

Student Pastor

Repent

Ministry #2  November 14 Repent

The ministry of John the Baptist is fascinating to examine. He was chosen by God to go before Jesus, minister about Christ, while always pointing people towards the coming Messiah and away from himself. Everything John the Baptist preached was to pave the way for the message that Christ Himself was going to proclaim when His earthly ministry began. First and foremost, John announced the need for the people to repent from their sins. 

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 3:2

“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” – Matthew 3:8

Here in Matthew 3, we see two clear examples of John the Baptist telling the crowd and the Pharisees that they need to repent. He understood that true salvation could not be had unless they were willing to repent from their sins. If someone cannot admit that they have a problem they need to be saved from, then they cannot be saved. Just one chapter later in the book of Matthew Jesus Himself would proclaim the same need for repentance to the world.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” – Matthew 4:17

Unfortunately, it seems like today many people forget repentance when they talk about giving their life to Christ. Some people think because they have gone to church for a couple of years or were baptized as a child, that it means they are going to Heaven when they die. Many people “give” their life to Christ, but never actually repent of the sins in their life. Repenting involves clearly turning away from your old sinful desires, and begin to walk in the direction of Christ. If someone gives their life to Christ and their actions, desires, and reactions all stay the same, I would guess that true repentance has not taken place. Naturally, when someone gives their life to Christ they do not become perfect; sanctification is a process that takes our entire Christian life. Every day I know I am going to fail, but every day I know I am going to desire to be more like Christ. That desire to be more like Christ is the true fruit of repentance. When someone turns away from their former life and starts their walk with Christ, there will be noticeable differences.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

When someone is “in” Christ, they are brand new. That is the beauty of true repentance and giving your life over to Christ. Your old self passes away, and the new you begins to live. Without true repentance, this new creation cannot be born. John the Baptist boldly proclaimed true repentance, and we need to make sure we have honestly heard that proclamation and have properly responded.

Phil Piasecki

Worship Leader



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

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