Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Pat Rowland

Gather • Devotion #4: An Audience of One

What I know is true about me, is possibly true about you, that is I have an opinion. It is not on everything, but my opinions, right or wrong, have led me to prefer things be a certain way. For example, I prefer the temperature of the room is a little cooler. I do not like it hot. I also do not like it freezing cold. It has to be just right. I prefer my eggs scrambled with sausage or ham (not both), with peppers and onions in them. I do not like fried eggs, and I want my hash browns brown. I could go on, but I will hold back. My point is, just like me, you have a certain way you like things.

It has been my experience throughout the years in the church as an attendee and as a Pastor that there are certain preferences to worship that vary from person to person. While some prefer a more traditional style of worship with hymnals and a choir, someone else will prefer a more modern style with house lighting and a full band singing upbeat choruses. From generation to generation, and from the community to community, styles of worship vary, and we all have our preferences. These preferences have divided local church communities and the generations within that church for as long as there has been music as an expressive part of worship gatherings.  

Several years ago (at a different church), I had a conversation with a dedicated follower of Jesus that was convinced motion stage lights and anything above 90 dBs in the church was not worshiping; instead, it was a concert (or performance). The words or heart behind the leaders was not a factor; it was the production that set it apart according to them. When we are locked into our worship preferences, our focus is misaligned on ourselves as the audience. The act of worship is not what the church does for an audience of thousands, but for an audience of One. Our songs are not performances by a band for us to evaluate but are the words we sing to God who is the only recipient of our worship. He is the audience, not us. We all worship before an audience of the One and Only God!

We read in 1 Chronicles 16:23-25, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.”

I picture worship from a perspective of all those in the gathering as they are standing on a stage, singing, and it is God who is the only audience member. We all worship before an audience of the One and Only God! It is not for us to determine which style is worship; it is for us to bring ourselves to God as an offering for worship. Worship is our chance to bring honor to God. Plain and simple, it is honoring God. 

Psalm 145:10-12 says, “All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”

You should go and read all of Psalm chapter 145. It is a beautiful passage of worship by bringing honor to God through our daily lives as a testimony of God’s greatness. It is a testimony that is to be shared from generation to generation.

Do not allow your worship to be limited to a one-hour weekly gathering or limited to your personal style preferences. Seek to bring God honor in everything.

Standing in the Gap

Shining Face | Devotion 1: Standing in the Gap
Pastor Pat Rowland

I often wonder where I would be if it were not for people that went before others on my behalf to vouch for my character and ask for mercy. I have never been a person that has done things terribly wrong, but I have had my moments of idiocy. For example, there was the time in college I was pulled over in the early morning hours just outside of the college campus. I will spare you the details, but I was going pretty fast and tried to duck down a side street to avoid being pulled over and having to pay the expense of a speeding ticket. I know it was not really my finest moment, because speeding was the least of my problems when I was pulled over 100 feet from my apartment. If it was not for a campus police officer that had known me well enough to vouch for my character, I might have been arrested for failure to stop. Instead, I parked my car and walked to my apartment with only a warning and a deep sense of gratitude to both officers.

It was Moses in Exodus chapter 34 who stood in the gap for the Israelites pleading before “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). Moses knew that God was frustrated with his people and rightfully so; as a matter of fact, Moses was upset as well. However, he approaches God placing his own character and reputation on the line for his people.

Exodus 34:8-9 says, “And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, ‘If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’” 

God is just, and what the Israelites deserved was not God’s mercy. Moses asked for His favor to be extended to his people, in a representation of what Christ has done for us. We do not deserve God’s favor, but just like the campus police officer did for me 25 years ago, Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago. Where would we be without those that have gone before us?

“Emotional Intelligence”

Advice | Devotion 5: “Emotional Intelligence.”
Pastor Pat Rowland

A few years ago, I was at a conference and was first introduced to this idea of “Emotional Intelligence.” I do not recall much of the talk given by Jeff Henderson, Pastor of Gwinnett Church (Georgia), but I will never forget this challenge. He said to ask someone, “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” You cannot ask that to any one person. You need to ask someone who knows you, and someone you trust enough to whom you will listen.

In Exodus chapter 18, we learn that Moses had a man in his life that he trusted and respected enough to listen to his thoughts of being on the other side of himself. Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law, who was also a Priest and a very wise man. He visits Moses and the family, and out of his concern for his son-in-law, he makes an observation.

Moses was carrying a great bit of responsibility day in and day out as God’s chosen leader of the Israelites. All day, every day, the entire nation is looking to him and seeking his counsel and direction. Exodus 18:13 says, “Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.” As soon as he arrives at the office, people are already lined up to meet with him and to receive instruction. I do not get a sense that Moses was at all bothered by this or even complained about it. He would listen, provide counsel, and use the opportunity to teach people about God’s Word. I think he loved his job because he loved God and God’s people. There was absolutely nothing wrong with what he was doing.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had a different perspective. “Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone’” (Exodus 18:17-18). Jethro, being a leader of his own people, was more than likely familiar with the situation. He, more than anyone, understood the responsibility that Moses carried and felt led to intervene. When we are in the middle of the situation, we cannot always see what we need to see. Taking a step back, getting a break or inviting in a wise consultant, gives us a different perspective. Do you have a Jethro in your life? Do you have someone you trust enough to observe you and respect enough to listen to them?

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!



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