Author Archives: Gareth Volz

Forget the Past

Forget It • Devotion #2: Forget the Past
Gareth Volz | 55+ Ministry Director

What do you think of when you hear the term, “Skeletons in the Closet?” For me, that term speaks of things in my past that are hidden away, things I am not proud of, and things that remind me of scary and ugly times in the past. It is those things that still trouble me, and I do not want others to know about them.

In John chapter 4, we read of a divine encounter a woman of Samaria had with Jesus. While Jews routinely went around Samaria to get to and from Jerusalem because Samaritans were half-breeds and considered unclean, John tells us Jesus had to go through Samaria. He waited by the city well for her to come and draw water. She did not come first thing in the morning with the rest of the women because she had a bad reputation, and she was ashamed of her past. However, Jesus knew all about her life and still wanted to meet with her and reveal to her who He was, and what He could do for her to overcome her past life. After meeting with Jesus her life was changed, and she could not wait to share with others that He was the promised Messiah and tell what He had done for her.

God used a woman who was married and divorced five times, and she was now living with a man. This showed me that in spite of my past and some of the ugly, sinful things I have done, God still loves me and can use me if I surrender my life to Him. Even though I have been a Christian for over six decades, I still struggle at times to do what I know is right. I am encouraged by what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Paul forgot his ugly, sinful past, and surrendered his life to Christ and committed himself to do what God wanted him to do. He forgot his past and strained to do what God had for him in the future so that he could realize the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” If he had not done this, he would not have been able to do the work Christ had for him.

Paul is not the only one. Consider the failure of Peter and the other disciples who abandoned Jesus in the garden when the crowd came to arrest Him and demand His death. They had to forget this failure in order to do what Jesus commanded them to do after His resurrection – to take the Gospel everywhere (Matthew 28:16-20).

In the Old Testament we read over and over again how those who loved God, fell into temptation and sinned, and when they repented were used greatly by God to fulfill His purposes – Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, and Jonah.

I am reminded of the chorus I learned as a child:
You ask me why I’m happy, well I’ll just tell you why,
It’s because my sins are gone.
And when I meet the scoffers who ask me where they are,
I say my sins are gone.
They’re underneath the blood on the cross of Calvary,
As far removed as darkness is from dawn.
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness that’s good enough for me,
Praise God-my sins are gone!

Like the Apostle Paul, forget the skeletons in your closet and strain forward for what God has for you to do. When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. We have victory in Jesus, our Savior forever.

Growth Community

Grow | Devotion #5: Growth Community
Gareth Volz | Seniors 55+ Director

Verse 1
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Verse 2
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Verse 3
Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Verse 4
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Verse 5

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

As I reflected on the words of this hymn, I was reminded why it is important that I take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of a Growth Community again this year. Growth Communities provide us with the opportunity to gather with fellow believers and study the Bible – God’s Holy Word. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Since the Bible is God-breathed, it is inerrant. If I know God’s promises and stand on them, I cannot fail. If I am God taught, God trained, and God equipped, I will be able to prevail when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail. Proverbs 30:5 says, Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

The River Church has Growth Communities for senior adults, married couples, men, women, students, and children at all locations. They meet on different days of the week and at different times to try and meet each believer’s needs and schedule. The Growth Communities are opportunities for us to study God’s Word throughout the week, and then come together to study what God has taught us. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  As we study God’s Word together, we help each other to stand in the liberty where Christ makes us free, to overcome daily with the Spirit’s Sword (the Bible), and to rest in Jesus as our all in all.

We have to know the promises of God in order to be “standing on the promises of God.”

Testimony #1

Reach | Testimony #1
Gareth Volz | Senior (55+) Director

My salvation experience is not very exciting compared to that of people who God delivered from a life of “horrific” sin. God granted me the privilege to be born into a household where both my parents were Christians who loved the Lord. My earliest memories are of my mother and father reading me Bible stories and praying with me daily. 

Until the age of six, my family lived on the first level of my grandparents’ house in Detroit, and my grandparents lived on the upper level. My grandparents loved the Lord, and I adored them. On Easter Sunday in 1953 after lunch, I was upstairs spending time with them, and my grandmother asked me what I learned in Sunday school that day. I related to her the flannel graph lesson we had been taught about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. She asked me if I understood why Jesus died on the cross, and I said it was to save people who had sinned. When she explained that I was a sinner, I was shocked (I was five at the time). That Sunday afternoon in 1953, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and be my Savior. For the next few years, I had a real hunger for the Lord. I memorized Scripture, went to every church youth event I could, and had a real desire to serve the Lord. I was baptized at the age of 12. 

But when I went to college, I began to drift away from the Lord. I still went to church, I even taught a children’s Sunday School class, but my friends, sports, girls, and having fun diminished the time I spent with the Lord. Like the children of Israel, I got my focus off the Lord, spent less time in prayer and the Word, and in effect, wandered in the wilderness of the world. But even in my unfaithfulness, Jesus did not leave me to myself. He needed to humble me so that I would realize again that He was what I needed. The Christian girl I was engaged to broke it off, and I was devastated. I came running back to the Lord, and I asked Him to help me. I told Him I was sorry for putting other things before Him and asked His forgiveness. I also asked Him to direct my life and let me serve Him. Three years later I met the most beautiful girl in the world, who has been my wife for 44 years. God also opened the door for me to leave public education and serve Him in Christian schools for 28 years, as well as in different church ministries. I have been a blessed man, and my desire to serve and live for Jesus grows each day as I walk with Him.

Spirit of God in Him 

Joseph in Prison • Devotion #5: Spirit of God in Him
Gareth Volz | Senior (55+) Director

In Genesis 41:38-39 we read, “And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.’” 

I think that probably the greatest compliment that can be given to a true follower of God is that others can see evidence of God’s Holy Spirit in them. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Every believer is indwelt by God’s Spirit when they accept Jesus as their Savior. However, the Fruit of the Spirit reveals how filled the believer is with God’s Spirit. Being filled with God’s Spirit is a voluntary choice to surrender control of your life to the Holy Spirit’s control. Examining Joseph’s life shows how the Fruit of the Spirit was revealed in him.

A quick review of Joseph’s life showed that he was his father’s favorite son, which made his brothers jealous. This was made worse when, as a teenager, he had a dream that one day his brothers would all bow down to him. He told them this, and they sold him into slavery, telling their father he was killed by a wild animal. While he was a slave, he resisted the sexual flirtation of his master’s wife, and for doing what was right, was falsely accused and thrown into prison. While in prison, he interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants who also had been thrown into prison, giving credit for the interpretation to God. When both interpretations proved correct, and one was executed and one restored to his former position, he was forgotten by the latter and languished in prison. Finally, when Pharaoh was troubled by a dream, and none of his wise men could interpret it, Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh he knew someone who could interpret the dream. Joseph did so, giving credit to God, and this is when Pharaoh saw evidence of God’s Spirit in him.

What evidence did Pharaoh see in Joseph’s life? 

  1. Faithfulness: Faith gave him the ability to discern right from wrong as Potiphar’s slave, confidence to assure Pharaoh’s servants (and later Pharaoh himself) that interpretations belong to God, and God’s interpretations are true.
  2. Patience: Though Joseph was taken from a lavish life and sold into slavery, thrown into prison, and forgotten, he had the patience that God would work in his life for good.
  3. Kindness and Goodness: Joseph was kind to Pharaoh’s servants in prison, caring enough to share God’s truth with them, even while he was suffering.
  4. Love: Joseph’s unwavering love for God is seen throughout his trials in Egypt.
  5. Peace: Joseph was at peace because he knew God was ultimately in control, not Pharaoh.
  6. Love and Joy: Joseph’s love for God was evident in his declarations that it was God – not himself – who should receive credit for the dream interpretations and results. This led to joy for not only Joseph but Pharaoh and ultimately Joseph’s family.

It is my prayer that I will be filled with God’s Spirit and it will be evident to all. I pray that is your desire as well.

Brotherly Shove 

Joseph & Brothers • Devotion #3: Brotherly Shove
Gareth Volz | Senior (55+) Director

Today as we look at the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis chapter 37, we see how jealousy can lead to hatred, disobedience, and a breakdown of the relationship in the family. Joseph came from a dysfunctional family. His father, Jacob, had two full-fledged wives – Leah and Rachel, and two concubines – Bilhah and Zilpah. Leah was the mother of Reuben and Judah, while Rachel was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. The other brothers were the children of the concubines. Additionally, we read in verse 3 that Jacob (Israel) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the son of his old age. Verse 4 tells us that because of this, Joseph’s brothers hated him so much that they could not speak peacefully to him. 

Verse 2 tells us that at the age of 17, Joseph was shepherding his father’s flocks along with his brothers, and he brought a bad report to Jacob about them. Joseph was not a tattletale, but apparently, the head shepherd, as evidenced by his coat of many colors. You might say Joseph was a white collar (supervisory) worker, while his brothers were blue collar workers – and they did not have a good working relationship. Here was disobedience to the working relationship the father wanted. 

Beginning at verse 12, we read that the brothers were tending the flocks near Shechem, and Jacob asked Joseph to go and check on the job they were doing. Joseph willingly accepted the task, and when he got to Shechem, he could not find his brothers nor the flocks. Joseph asked around and found out that his brothers had gone to Dothan, about 20 miles away. This was disobedience to where their father had sent them. 

As you read further in the chapter, you will find that the brothers plotted to kill Joseph. Reuben, however, convinced them just to throw Joseph into a pit, sell him to some passing slave traders, and tell their father he was killed by a wild animal. This was disobedience in the form of treachery, lying, and cover-up.

We find that Joseph was a picture of Jesus in the Old Testament. He was sent by his father to his other children. He was not accepted, and he was rejected by his own. The same was true of Jesus (John 1:9-11). 

Shechem in the Bible is a picture of the world. Joseph’s brothers were shepherding the flock near Shechem (the world) and then moved farther away from the father to Dothan.

The questions we need to ask ourselves as God’s children are:

  1. Do we truly love our Heavenly Father with all our heart?
  2. Do we truly love our brothers and sisters in the Lord?
  3. Are we happy with the assignment that our Heavenly Father has given us, or are we jealous of the assignment He has given to others we know?
  4. Are we spending our time flirting with the things of the world? 

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2

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