Devotions

Author Archives: James Clouse

Reliance on the Power of God

Red Sea | Devotion 4: Reliance on the Power of God
James Clouse

Can you imagine the thoughts running through the Israelites minds as they were crossing the Red Sea running from the Egyptians? I can imagine them running in fear from the Egyptians, but also looking around at the walls of water. Did they see the wildlife in the sea? Did the Israelites have second thoughts as they were running?

The point at which scholars believe the Israelites crossed the Red Sea is about 8.8 miles long. The number of people that were crossing on dry land according to Exodus 12:37 was about 600,000 men plus women and children, which, according to scholars would equal to about 2.4 million people plus livestock. At a normal pace, it would have taken the Israelites approximately 8 hours to cross the dry land in safety.

Exodus 14:21-25 says, “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.’”

There is a tremendous responsibility placed here on the shoulders of Moses. His leadership skills have already been put to the test by both the Israelites and God. The whole company is now running in terror from the Egyptians and their horse-drawn chariots. In the above text, we see that the Lord is faithful to those who listen and follow the leadership to which God has provided. God protected the company of Hebrews by throwing the Egyptians into panic and slowing down their chariots. It took a step of faith for the Israelites to walk onto a path of dry land with walls of water all around them. They could have just surrendered and gone back to Egypt.

In what areas of your life today are you afraid to follow the will of God? God has brought you so far in your life already just as He had brought the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Red Sea. However, at some point in our life, we need to step out of comfort to rely on God’s amazing power. When we take that step of faith in our lives, God helps prepare the way by slowing down the enemy. Yet, we need to do our part to follow that will. Are you following His will or are you surrendering to the enemy?

Giver of Life

Ten Plagues | Devotion 5: Giver of Life
James Clouse

Have you ever read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry? The premise of the story is that there is this dystopian society where a young child receives the feeling of emotions and memories from the past. Every emotion that has ever been felt in any specific memory the child wants to bring up, he can at any time. The Giver is the one who gives all these memories to the child. It is as if The Giver is giving life to the child. The child did not know life until he was given all these memories.

The ultimate giver of life is the Almighty God. What are some of your favorite names for God? Some of the most common include Yahweh, Abba, and Elohim. One of my favorite titles for God is El Chai. This is Hebrew for the God of Life. God is the giver of life, the ultimate authority of all life in Heaven and on Earth. But through time, there have been so many different beliefs. One of those times includes the ancient Egyptian gods and authorities.

A couple of those gods were Isis and Seth. Isis was the goddess of life, and Seth was the god, protector of crops. The early Egyptian cultures worshipped gods that had to do with pretty much anything. They had a god for every aspect of life to which they could sacrifice and pray. While growing up in the Egyptian house, Moses grew to learn about all of these different gods. So Moses was fully aware of which god handles the different aspects of life. All of the plagues that God brought down on Egypt were a direct attack on these different gods to show Egypt and the Pharaoh who really was in control.

The 8th plague, the plague of locusts, was a direct attack on either Isis or Seth.

Exodus 10:12-15 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.’ So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.”

The Pharaoh was quickly learning who really was in control. All through this time during the plagues, he saw that God was in control, yet his heart was hardened so much against the Israelites that he could not recognize the peril all around him.

The church today needs to recognize who the real giver of life is, and that is our God, El Chai. We seek life in so many other “gods” that we often fail to recognize that God is the true Giver.

The Golden Ticket

Paradise | Devotion #3: The Golden Ticket
James Clouse

I grew up in a church that practiced that you needed to be a good person to get to Heaven. Salvation was dependent on how many good things you did and how many prayers you said. Before I came to The River Church, I did not know about salvation. The first time I heard about salvation my aunt said she had gotten saved. When my aunt said she got saved, I thought somebody had literally pushed her away from a bus about to hit her. I had no idea what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. Growing up I never read my Bible, prayed much by myself, or did things to serve my Savior. I always thought that I was a good person and even wanted to grow up to be a priest. However, I knew something was not right. The summer before my 6th-grade year, I came to know Christ as my Savior.

Since this time, many people come to ask me what salvation actually means. Do you have to do something to be “saved?” Is there a certain prayer that you need to pray to be saved? The answer is that there is no magic prayer or a golden ticket to get to the paradise that Jesus tells us about.  

Luke 23:39-43 says, “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him [Jesus], saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

Here we see that a man, a thief on the cross, next to Jesus, understands what he has done. He understands that the man next to him was completely innocent. He also recognized that Jesus was who He said he was, that this man was the Son of God. If you notice carefully, the thief says “your kingdom” and that he recognizes Jesus as divine. 

To know Jesus, we have to recognize the need for Him in our lives. The thief recognized that he needed Jesus to forgive him for the sins that he had committed. He understood that he had done something wrong and recognized the sacrificial act that Jesus was making. If we want to see paradise, there is no magic prayer or golden ticket but rather recognizing that we need Jesus. We can not get into paradise without Him. We have to recognize the sacrificial gift that He offers us. We also need to recognize that we do deserve death, like the thief, but the only way to paradise is Jesus remembering us before His Father.

Gathering Together

Doing the Dishes | Devotion #4: Gathering Together
James Clouse

One of the things that our family enjoys doing is hopping in the car and going for a car ride. Most of the time, it is nowhere in particular. Sometimes we will just get in the car, pick a direction, and start driving. We have found some really interesting places in our family drives. We have run into some amazing flea markets, thrift stores, some hole in the wall diners, and even some small city festivals such as the Bean Festival. On those nice summer days, we will drive rocking out to some classic rock or top Christian artists with the windows down. I enjoy this time with my family because I am getting time to gather with them, worship together, talk together, and enjoy time with each other. We talk about everything from time with the church, school, our future, and many more things. 

God’s Word has a lot to say about gathering together and doing things together as a family. One passage, in particular, came to mind when I was thinking about my time together with my family.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Anytime we are spending time together and gathering together with our family; we should be focusing on this passage. Every time that we sit down with our family, when we sit in our house, when we are going for a walk, when you are putting our children to bed, and when we wake up, we should be reminding our family of our need to love God with all of our hearts. Have talks about events in life and how God can use those events to grow in the Lord. Use every opportunity you have to talk about His love for us. 

One of the things I have started doing with Lorelai, our daughter, is having her come to a gathering with us every Sunday morning. She goes to one of the children’s gathering and then comes into one of the church gatherings. This time is not only for her to learn but for us to spend time learning as a family. This time we get to worship together, learn together, and have things to talk about after the gathering. Encourage your family to be attending gatherings together to not only grow as a family but to grow in the church. 

This week go for a drive. If you do not have time for that, I encourage you to listen to a sermon together, do a devotional together, or maybe even go for a walk and talk about God’s love.

Dessert

Main Dish | Devotion #5: Dessert
James Clouse

Is there a dessert that you absolutely love? Alright, I have a weird quirk to share with everybody. Are you ready? I cannot stand soggy bread. Anything that gets soggy, that is any type of bread like substance, is avoided. I have to eat my cereal super fast so that it does not get soggy. I do not like stuffing during the Thanksgiving season (Gag me with a spoon). It goes so far as me having to ask for a second plate at restaurants when I get a burger so that the sweat under the burger does not make my bun soggy. I know many of you are reading this and thinking that I am so weird, but I know that others are shaking their heads saying that you understand what I am saying. One of my favorite desserts is strawberry shortcake. However, the problem lies in that I need to finish it within minutes of putting my strawberry topping on the shortbread. If I do not, it goes bad in my eyes. 

There are blessings from the Father that we often misuse or let go bad. One of these things is often our family. Let us all take a close look at how often we are looking down at our phones or the game on the television when our children or spouse are trying to get our attention. I know, I do it too. We need to take advantage of the blessing that God has given us. 

God also provided a blessing, a dessert, to the Israelites in the time of the Exodus. 

Exodus 16:4 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am going to rain bread from Heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.’” Another translation (CSB) says at the end of the verse, “Whether or not they will follow my instructions.” 

Manna is a dessert like substance that is said to be described as a honey-like wafer. God gave the Israelites food from Heaven, and they were only supposed to take what they could eat that day. Unfortunately, many did not listen and took extra, and it ended up molding and collecting worms.  

We have instructions from the Lord in His Word for how we are supposed to cherish our families. However, many of us continue to disobey and not listen to His instruction. We do not take advantage of the time that we have with our family, and we wonder why the family idea is rotting.

God has commanded wives to respect their husbands. In what ways do you continue to disrespect your husband on a daily basis? How often do you disrespect the authority that God has placed over your family? Husbands, we are commanded to love our wives as much as Christ loved the Church. This is an immeasurable amount of love! However, how often do you show love more towards your things or towards other people, even ministry, and not your wife and family? Families, let us not let our families spoil.



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