Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Pat Rowland

Giving • Devotion #4: Shut the Door and Open your Heart

I am a fan of personality and gift testing. I have done them all: DiSC, Myers Briggs, Enneagram, and Strengths Finder. I am a high I-D, ENTJ, 3 Wing 2, and the top 5 strengths are Belief, Responsibility, Significance, Futuristic, and Analytical. If you are familiar with these tests you would know that I am wired to get things done. I can be addicted to achievement and the recognition that comes with it. These tests have helped me understand who I am and be comfortable with that. They have also helped me understand that what is a strength God blessed me with can also be a weakness leading to unhealthy behaviors. 

Being wired for achievement and motivated by recognition has at times in my life lead me to use my gifts of execution for self-promotion. Being recognized for your accomplishments by others is not wrong, nor should it be discouraged. The core issue with a motive for recognition is self-seeking promotion. Though today’s social media platforms have permitted and expanded this characteristic, it is not a new problem. Jesus recognized over 2,000 years ago the potential flaw in humans. It was one of the first things he talked about in the very early days of His ministry. The famous “Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7 as Jesus’ first sermon which covered many topics. For our purposes we need to zero in on Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”Whether it is praying, worship, giving, serving, or any of the spiritual disciplines taught in the Bible, they are personal, not promotional. God is more concerned about the work He wants to do in you and through you then He is with the response you receive from others. The actions of our own hearts must be driven by the recognition of the Heavenly Father not by attaboys, likes, and reactions. Jesus commands us to “shut the door” on the recognition of others and to open our hearts to the work He wants to do in us. 

Correction • Devotion #4: I am Not your Enemy

“If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

In his second letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul writes what seems to be a very severe and harsh warning. What was the reason for this warning? Was it false worship, immorality, sexual sin, or murder? Those are all terrible, but that is not what Paul is seeking to correct in this church. In verse six, Paul says, “keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness.” Why warn against idleness? The foundation of many sins is a mindset of idleness. 

In the Church at Thessalonica, there was a growing group of people that had refused to do any work contributing to the community. They had refused to learn a trade and work while living off the contributions of the rest of the community. Their mindset was looking for the return of Jesus sensing work as a waste of time. It was a mindset that was contradicting the teachings of Jesus, as well as what Paul had taught and modeled for these young believers. Thus there was the need for correction. 

When discipline is needed with a child, a parent must use the filter, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” In this case, if we focused on the degree of the discipline (“have nothing to do with him”), we could miss an important teaching. This group of people are fellow Christians and we must be willing as well as open to correction from our fellow Christians. Paul’s instructions were not for the purpose of shaming, but for change.In Paul’s previous letter to the Thessalonians, he concludes it, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). At the core of our relationships within the church, we are to love and encourage one another which should also be at the core of our correction. Keep in mind if we receive a form of correction from a brother that it comes from a place of love for you. In the same way, if you are sending correction it should come from a place of building them up, not shaming them. The purpose is not to be right, it is to be encouraging. They are not the enemy.

1 John 1 • Devotion #1: Proclaim

“I was there and saw the whole thing.” Whenever you hear a story from a first-hand account, you can believe it. John, the author, was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus who lived and walked with Jesus for three years. For three years, he was right there beside Jesus as he healed the sick. He was there for the feeding of the 5,000 and witnessed Him walk on water. John, listened intently as Jesus spoke to the crowds as well as later when He explained the parables to the twelve. As he opens his letter in 1 John, he identifies his credentials as an eye witness of Jesus. 

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it.” 1 John 1:1-2a

For John and the other ten remaining disciples, they could not help but share the story of Jesus because it was so much a part of their story. I love hearing the stories of those that have trusted Jesus as they share how that decision completely changed their life. If you are a believer in Jesus, you know what I am talking about. Whether your life was a mess or without challenge, you still had this emptiness that was only made complete when you accepted Jesus as your Savior and trusted Him with your ordinary everyday life. Your life was changed the moment Jesus’ story connected to your story.  

Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I struggle with not wanting to answer the question, “What do you do?” I know as soon as I say I am a pastor, there is a chance that this person either will be guarded around me, or they will want to debate their beliefs or ideas of theology. They are always disappointed when I will not share my thoughts on creation and shift the conversation to my story of what Jesus has done in my life. I will share stories of people I have known that were changed through the Gospel message. I have found that people can debate Scripture, they can argue theology, and quote something they read. However, they cannot argue with a personal story of a life changed.  

In verses 2-3, John writes, “The life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

He proclaims his story as he proclaims the Gospel. You and I have more than belief in Jesus; we have a story to proclaim. Our lives testify to what Jesus has done and wants to continue to do in our lives and the lives of those around us. Your story is powerful and unique because it is your story. It cannot be debated, and it can change lives as you proclaim it

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?



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

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.