Devotions

Author Archives: Pat Rowland

Trapped?

Red Sea | Devotion 1: Trapped?
Pastor Pat Rowland

I like watching action movies and TV shows that are more real to life, say like a historical war movie, a Jason Bourne movie, or a TV series like Jack Ryan. In those shows, there will typically be a scene that has the main character backed into a corner, and as the enemy is closing in on them, it appears there will be no escape. At least, that is what the enemy and we are supposed to think. That is the scenario of the Israelites in Exodus chapter 14. God intentionally leads them to camp in a spot where they can be trapped. Pharaoh having regretted his decision to let the Israelites leave along with Intel that they seemed to be lost wandering in the desert set out in pursuit with his great army.

Today scholars do not know the actual location of the Israelite encampment, but we are assuming that there was no escape. The Red Sea was on one side, the Army on the other, and they were not equipped or trained as an army to fight. If you are watching this movie, you know this is a bad situation. When we find ourselves “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” we are prime for an opportunity for God to show up.

Sometimes God in all of His sovereignty leads us into situations that appear to be dead-ends, not only to test our faith but also to show His power and complete control over all situations. At the moment, I do not like these situations because I worry and become stressed. I do not sleep, and I am not enjoyable to be around. My default setting is to fight, to figure a way out, as I seek to rely on my own strengths, abilities, and resources. The harder I work, the more I struggle. It is only when I step aside and let God lead that the enemy is defeated. As we trust, we see that He assumes full responsibility for our needs.

In verse 4, God let us in on His plan, as He intends to use Pharaoh and this opportunity to show the Israelites that He is God and that He is with them. You will have to stay tuned to hear the rest of the story, but know this, God always seems to do His best work when we completely depend on Him.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, Paul said it this way, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Let us go and live weak today!

Torn Curtain

Finished | Devotion #3: Torn Curtain
Pat Rowland | Locations Pastor

I am very much a “Do It Yourself” kind of guy. I work on my own cars as much as I can and cannot seem to justify paying someone else to do something I know I can do myself. Needless to say, we always have projects going around the Rowland Farm (our little home and hobby farm). Whether it is knocking down a wall, installing new floors, replacing a roof, or fixing a fence, I enjoy these projects. However, it seems like the projects are never done because as soon as you think you are finished there is something else to do. Finished is never finished in homeownership. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it was finished.

Jesus’ last saying on the cross is found in John 19:30, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” As you probably already know, the New Testament scriptures like the book of John have been translated from Greek manuscripts. The Greek word used for “finished” in John 19:30 is “tetelestai” or more properly stated by Jesus, “TETELESTAI!”  

This was not an utterance or a last gasp whisper. This was a statement, an announcement declaring the finality of Jesus’ earthly life and the introduction of His free gift of grace. TETELESTAI!  Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of the final atonement for our sins which eliminated the barrier between the sinner and the creator.  

In the Old Testament, the temple held the significance of being the place of worship and where God’s presence resided. Having been built to very specific instructions by God, the innermost area of the temple was the sanctuary, and within the sanctuary separated by a curtain was the holy of holies. The holy of holies contained the Ark of the Covenant, which according to the Old Testament is where God’s presence rested. It was also off limits except to the High Priest and only to him once a year, when he would enter on the Day of Atonement with the blood of a perfect lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of all Israelites.  

After Jesus’ last words an amazing event is recorded in Matthew 27:51 (NIV), At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Jesus said, “TETELESTAI!” and gave up His life. Immediately, the curtain separating us from God’s presence is torn from top to bottom symbolizing the separation that had been eliminated. The sin debt that kept us from God’s presence was atoned with the perfect lamb, Jesus Christ. Jesus paid our debt so that we can never be charged again. It is FINISHED!

Abandoned

Forsaken | Devotion #3: Abandoned
Pat Rowland | Locations Pastor

A person’s final words in life are always remembered by those closest because they reveal a person’s character, purpose, and values.  As we look at the fourth saying of Jesus on the Cross, we come to Matthew 27:46, which reveals the agony Jesus suffered physically and spiritually.

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

“Forsaken,” or as translated in other versions of Scripture, “abandoned,” are far from the characteristics we would associate with God the Father. Yet, Jesus expresses the hopeless feeling of abandonment that comes with the bearing of all mankind’s sin. Our sin divides, bringing separation between God who is without sin and us, the sinner. As Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and so we know what it means to be separated from God.  

The significance of this moment is that Jesus was without sin, but He chose to take our sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus knew that this was His purpose and this was intended from the beginning. There was only one possible solution for a man to be reconciled with God, and Jesus fully understood this moment would be forthcoming. Matthew records Jesus’ prayer just prior to his arrest, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).  

No one chooses a punishment for a crime in which they did not perform, but that is exactly what Jesus did. The physical agony of the crucifixion did not compare to the spiritual agony Jesus suffered when our sin separated Him from the Father. He cried out, “MY GOD, MY GOD…” It is a cry of desperation, loneliness, and hopelessness that is only remedied with His own death. Jesus experienced what we do not have to ever experience again because of the grace afforded us on the cross.  

Work Out Your Gifting

Back to Reach | Devotion #4: Work Out Your Gifting
Pat Rowland | Locations & Development Pastor

Recently I sat with a young man who felt God’s calling to be a Pastor, and he asked me, “How do you know if you are the right fit for a ministry position?” He was asking about getting hired to do one of the various staff positions at a church. I do not consider myself old, but I have been working in ministry for many years now. This young man was just getting started; therefore, is still working out his gifting as we all had to do.  

When you are new to your faith or looking to start serving in a church, you do not know what you do not know. What I mean, is you are very excited about your faith, and you want to serve. That enthusiasm and energy are highly needed in any ministry and volunteer role. God has given you a gift or gifts, and as you use them, you start to learn more about yourself. As an experienced Pastor, I know more today about how God has wired me and where my strengths start and stop. I have a good idea as to what I can do and what I cannot and should not do. Like this young man, I did not know that in the beginning. You will not know that either until you start exercising your serving gifts. Over the years, I have had as many experiences that showed me what I should not do as I have had that showed me this is who God wired me to be. For example, in my early days of following Christ, I wanted to sing until I actually did it in front of the little church I was attending. God helped work out my gifting by saying that it is not where you need to serve. It was terrible and embarrassing. I cannot believe I even admitted that to you all. Today, when people ask me if I sing, I reply, “No one wants to hear that, trust me.” 

For almost 30 years, I have done things that I know are not my gifting, and I have been in roles where I believe it is what God has gifted me to do. I would not have discovered what I am meant to do if I did not try and let God show me what I am not created to do. That is how God has worked out my gifting. 

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Serving in ministry is a key part of your spiritual development. It is not about what you get from it as much as it is what you bring to the ministry. However, a by-product is that you will grow in your faith as you serve. We are blessed to be part of a church with many opportunities for you to work out your gifting. My advice to that young pastor is the same to you, “Start serving and start figuring out what God has gifted you to do and not do.” As you serve, you will get to know what you need to know about yourself and God’s unique gifting in you. How? Here are a few thoughts. Please note this is not an exhaustive list.

First, God can speak through affirmation from others. God will allow the voice of others to affirm your ability in the gift you are “working out.” Second, God can speak through the joy you experience in serving. What we do in our jobs, we get a paycheck for our effort. As we serve, we get an eternal reward and sense of joy that we gave of ourselves using our gifting. Third, God can speak through more opportunities to use that gifting for God’s glory. God will continue to bring you into those spaces to use that gift. Finally, seek honest feedback from those leading in the ministry you are serving, and allow them to be part of working out your gifting. 

I want to encourage you to pray about serving, but do more than just pray, start working out your gifting by serving somewhere today! The sooner you start, the sooner you will be on your way to knowing God’s true gifting in your life.  

Testimony: Pat Rowland

Testimony: Pat Rowland
Pastor of Locations & Development

I was blessed to have been raised by parents who found Jesus as adults and sought to raise their children with an influence of the church and Jesus.  As long as I can remember our family was involved in the church and it greatly affected my life.  I made a decision in my childhood to trust Jesus and ask him to forgive me.  That decision was followed with baptism. However, it was in my adolescent years that I struggled with what it meant to have a heavenly father.

When I was five years old, my biological father passed away from cancer and a couple of years later my mother was introduced to the man that raised me as my father. It was his first and only marriage which immediately made him the father of three kids.  I will forever be grateful to him for all he has done for our family as well as his commitment to Jesus.

In my teen years, I struggled with needing to know who I was and where I came from wanting to know more about my biological father. I had felt abandoned, but God showed me that it was a lie from the enemy. I was not fatherless because I had been blessed with three Dad’s.  Psalm chapter 68 says God is a father to the fatherless and He is our Heavenly Father. As I was about to graduate from High School, I fully trusted my life to Christ and felt for the first time I had a relationship with Him. That decision also strengthened my relationship with my earthly father and brought peace of not actually knowing my biological father.

As I entered college, I sensed God was calling me into ministry even though I had no idea what that meant. I began taking classes at a local Christian College and eventually graduated with a degree in ministry. During those college years, my calling was shaped by mentors and my now wife. To this day, I believe my calling has never been to be a “Pastor” or to a position in the Church. My calling has been to the Gospel. I have been fortunate to serve as a Youth Pastor for 12 years, a Family Pastor for 8 years, and as an Executive Pastor for 3 years at churches in Indiana, Tennessee, and Michigan.

Paul writes to the Thessalonian Church, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy”(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, NIV). I want to live each day to be the glory and joy of my fathers and to return the same for my family and the church families I have been part of over the last 24 years. Like all of us, I am far from perfect and still have my struggles. I am grateful for fathers that have loved me through it all, and I pray that I can do the same.



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