Devotions

Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!

Christ #4 – Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!
Debbie Gabbara | Community Center Director

I have always LOVED Easter!  When I was a little girl, my family all went to church together, and Easter was a very special day!  Yep, Easter was the day I got to wear my new dress, hat, and shoes to church.  What girl doesn’t love new clothes!  I loved church, and I loved Jesus, yet as a little girl, I did not really understand all that God had done for me.

Luke 24:46 (NKJV)
“Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.”

For several years my husband, Larry, and I helped with the Passion Play at Faith Church (now known as the River Church, Waterford location).  Together we took care of all of the props for the play.  He worked the back of the stage, and I worked the front of the stage.  Sitting for weeks in the audience watching every move of the cast it was incredible to see the love of Jesus come to life. 

As they worked through the scenes, I watched everything making sure the audience would see and not see things the way they were supposed to.  At the end of each night, the props had to be placed where they would need to be for the next performance. As I walked around the stage placing everything, my mind would walk through the play.  I often thought about the significance of the cross that had been carried to the back as I gathered up the whip they would beat Jesus with, and the hammer and nails, spikes really, that they would use to show how my Jesus was put on that cross. 

What no one ever saw were the tears I cried in the dark during all those rehearsals and performances as I watched them portray the beating Jesus suffered and listened to the hammer striking the cross.  No, the whip and the blood were not real for our play, but my heart would become so filled with gratitude to think of all that Jesus, the Son of God, my Lord, went through for me. The Bible says that He willingly lay down His life for each one of us.  Nails were put into His hands and feet.  Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  However, death on a cross was not the end for Jesus, and I always knew that my favorite scene was coming…

The darkness would be taken over by the bright light in the tomb, the stone was rolled back, and the Angel would sing, and then, there He is, CHRIST IS RISEN! 

1 Corinthians 15:20a (NKJV)
“But now Christ is risen from the dead…”    

John 11:25-26 (NKJV)
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’”  

Who do you say that I am?

Christ #3 – Who do you say that I am?
Ryan Story | 
Student Pastor

When I first started working with high school students, I was given the opportunity to teach a Bible Study. I was a little bit geeked and prepared extensively for about a week. I had my illustrations all planned, I had my questions all ready to go, and I was so excited to see God do something great. We started the night with a game, some icebreaker questions, and then we jumped into the Bible. We all jumped into reading Matthew 16 and looking at how Peter declares Jesus as the Christ.  After reading it, I asked the first question of the night. I asked the group of high school students Jesus’ question that he asked His disciples, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” I was so excited to hear their answers. I was on the edge of my seat ready to hear them glorify our Lord with their uniquely personal answers. After about ten minutes of what I thought was deep thinking, all I got was silence and blank faces.  Baffled, I asked if they understood the question.  One brave high school boy spoke up and said, “Other than Christ what else should our answer be?” All the bravado that I went into this lesson with slowly began to dissipate.

I will admit as an unsaved teenager that I always thought that Jesus’ last name was Christ. I remember one of the first times I admitted it to a group of Christians they all started laughing thinking I was joking. I played it off as if I was but the word Christ was confusing when I first became a Christian. Christ is a title. The word Christ is the Greek word that is the same as the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means, “Anointed one.”  Now, the reason why that is so important is that Jesus has several names and titles. I often go through different seasons in my life where His name has a different meaning. In the story of Matthew 16 where Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am,” I have always been curious what Jesus thought the disciples were going to say. If Peter did not speak so fast would Simon the Zealot say the same thing as Andrew?

We all have those unique names that we give to our friends and loved ones.  Those names have so much meaning behind them. For instance, my son’s name is Broly, I will call him Bro Bro, while my wife calls him Turtle. Now that may seem odd, but it is because his wardrobe is full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle clothing, thanks to me of course.

Now since we cannot play “what if” with the Bible, I think the next best thing is to look at our lives and ask that question, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  We all come from different families, with different stories, different struggles, and different victories, but our Jesus is the same. We live in areas such as Grand Blanc, Holly, Goodrich, and Waterford, but our Jesus is still the same. However, the conversation that is amazing to have with believers, and non-believers, is “Who do you say that Jesus is?” Now a few months later, I taught this exact lesson to the same group of High School students. Their answers were amazing.

He is my Rock.
He is my Shield.
He is my King.
Jesus is my Friend.
He is the One who keeps me from falling.
Jesus is a Warrior.
Jesus is my Strength.
Jesus is my Shepherd.
Jesus is my Everything.
Jesus is my Protector.
Jesus is my Lookout.
He is my Peace and Joy.
Jesus is my First Love.

Take some time today, and answer this question for yourself. If Jesus looked at you and said, “Who do you say that I am,” what would your response be?

Christ, Not a Last Name

Christ #2 – Christ, Not a Last Name
Phil Piasecki | Worship Leader

In our society, names and titles hold a lot of importance. If you see someone with the title Dr. in their name, you know that they have gone through years and years of grueling training to earn that title. I am sure that you are more likely to trust someone with your medical care knowing that they hold the label Doctor compared to if they did not. If you meet a woman that has the title Mrs. or Miss. you know if she is married or not. When a couple gets married, traditionally the woman will take the man’s last name. That change in the last name shows that a new life has officially begun together. If we have an issue with a company we will ask to speak to a manager; we know that the title of “manager” (hopefully) gives that person the power to fix our problem. In our work lives, someone may hold the title of “boss” over us that seriously affects the way we interact with that person. All of these examples show how significant titles are in our society. Titles were as important back in Bible times. Throughout Scripture, we see Jesus hold many different titles. One of the most common titles we see given to Jesus is “Christ.”

Matthew 1:16 says, “And Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”

Matthew 16:15-16 continues, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

John 4:25-26 adds, “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but it is a title that describes who He is. Christ is a title that means anointed or messiah. When He is referred to as Jesus Christ, it is the same as calling him Jesus the Messiah or Jesus the Anointed One. With the title of Christ, the Jews knew that He was claiming to be the promised Messiah that had been prophesied about in the Old Testament. Jesus is the Christ, He is the King, and He should be the King in our lives as well.

When we give our lives to Him, He needs to be Lord over every inch of our lives. We cannot hold anything back. It is so easy to go through life and try to keep parts of your life for yourself. I have found myself doing this, and yet I still wonder why life is so hard sometimes! It is because I am not making Him Lord over everything. As we remember, what Jesus Christ did for us on that cross, my challenge is that you start letting Him be Lord over everything in your life. I promise if you do this each and every day, your life will never be the same.

Enquiring Minds

Christ #1 – Enquiring Minds
Chris Cain | Women’s Ministry Director

I frequently get stares while waiting in the checkout line. Why, you ask? I am usually laughing aloud as I am reading headlines of the most recent alien cover-up at Area 51, or reports of another Elvis sighting, or JFK’s lone gunmen story.   Our world is filled with unproven conspiracy theories and cover-ups. Everything from assassinations, new world order, wars, extraterrestrial, apocalyptic prophesies, government, and much more.  Some I find comical, and many are downright intriguing and cause myself and others to think, “Hmm, I wonder. . .”

The topic of the Resurrection of Christ makes that checkout line list every Easter, because you know, enquiring minds want to know.  Let us check out Matthew 28:11-15 and see why the “empty tomb” gets some press and makes the cover.

While they were going, behold, some of the guards went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.  And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’  And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.”

Cover-Up: a planned effort to hide a dishonest, immoral, or illegal act, situation, or a way of behaving that is meant to prevent people from knowing about something.

Conspiracy Theory: a theory that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups (Merriam-Webster).

Yup! I smell a rat. There was a definite cover-up of Truth.  Sadly, that cover-up continues today.  The Resurrection, Easter, is being covered up with candy, colored eggs, trips to warm climates, and bunnies, which are not bad things, but I think we need to ask ourselves, “Am I covering up what Easter IS really all about?” If you are covering up the Resurrection, you might just as well be rejecting it, and doing so, would be committing eternal suicide.

I was moved at Sunday’s gathering when we all sang loudly in unison, “Our God’s Not Dead He’s Surely Alive.”  Are we living this way?  The Resurrection.  Do you believe the magnitude of this event?  Do you believe that the Resurrection proved that it revealed Christ’s power over death, that it proved Christ’s power to forgive sin, that it defeated God’s enemy, and that it is the most pivotal significant event in history? Do you believe it is personal? It is for each and every one of us!  Since He is alive, we can know Him today! Since He is alive, then He was who He said He was! Since God raised Him from the dead, then we have the hope of a resurrection!

Enquiring minds need to know, JESUS IS THE CHRIST.

More Than a Man

Son of God #6 – More Than a Man
Roger Allen | Facilities Director

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘some say that John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’” Matthew 16: 13-14

To this day confusion remains on who Jesus is. Muslims, Buddhists, and others believe He is no more than a prophet. They only credit Him as a wise man that obtained a state of balance in His life. His deity is taken away, and Jesus becomes just another person in history. He would be a man that gave His life in vain. For if He were only a man, then His death would mean nothing to us. Our faith would be in vain!

“And if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:14

The proof of His deity abounds in the Bible, from the fiery furnace in Daniel to the resurrection in the Gospels. The New Testament is filled with many miracles and wonders performed by Jesus. The new wine at the wedding feast, the feeding of the five thousand, the multiple healings, and the raising of Lazarus come by the Son of God.

Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you.” John 14:26

How many times do we allow the rigors of life to bring doubt and anxiety? Do we quench the Holy Spirit so that we forget the “promise?” On our bad days do we embrace the “Truth?” When things are going well, do we remember that Jesus is who He says He is? Do we remind ourselves that He is more than a wise man or a historical figure? Through the Word and the Holy Spirit, we have the proof that we need that Jesus is who He says He is. He took our sin, was nailed to the cross, and was resurrected on the third day.  So when asked to give an answer we can boldly say as Peter did:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16



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

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