Devotions

Author Archives: Roger Allen

The Resurrection • Devotion #1: Do You Believe?

When I was young, one of the things I remember most about a trip to the doctor was the children’s magazines. Growing up in the ‘60s, I fondly remember those stories of David and Goliath, Samson, Noah, and Jonah. For a child who did not attend church, these stories were quite a curiosity to me. I am sure I had heard the names before, but could not retell the stories of these famous Bible characters. I know it sounds silly, but it was some time before I figured out that the Claymation characters of Davey and Goliath were not the same as the Biblical characters of David and Goliath. Today, I can only believe that many children may not even know these names. No longer do you see the magazines that littered the pediatrician’s office. Instead, we see faces buried deep into iPhones, iPads, and other devices. Unless taught, they too will miss out on the “greatest story ever told.”

Fast forward forty years, my life is coming full circle. I have found a new curiosity in the biblical narrative. Sitting on the balcony in church after receiving Christ as my Savior, I heard the Pastor begin to tell a story I had never heard before (John 11:1-44). Unpacking the verses, he opened my eyes to the parallel meaning of what just happened to me and this man’s story. It was about a man called Lazarus, loved greatly by his sisters Mary and Martha. A man who was also loved by Jesus had fallen sick and needed His help. As we follow the narrative, we see that Jesus has stayed back a few more days, only to be told that Lazarus had died. Arriving four days later, Jesus comforted the sisters. With only Martha there to greet Him, their conversation quickly became one of faith. In one short sentence, Jesus told her that her brother “will rise again” (John 11:23). 

John 11:25-26 continues, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” In the next verse, Martha replied, “She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”

In raising Lazarus from the dead, those that were there witnessed the power of the Son of God. Setting the stage for His own death, Jesus was stirring up those that would not believe. It would be only a few short weeks before Jesus Himself would be crucified and raised from the dead. Making believers throughout the land, Jesus continued in His ministry. He was showing His power and compassion to all.

I believe that my own story is one of resurrection and life. Those who had known me previous to my conversion would say, “It is a miracle!” The change was profound and an eye-opener to all those that witnessed the new me. Many would question the permanence of this change until years later, only to find I have grown deeper in my faith. Now they too can say a miracle took place that day. Jesus has used my broken life to lift the faith of those who have struggled in their own lives. His miracles are to show all that “will” believe, the strength to say “I do” believe. Even today, miracles are taking place as we see the striking change that takes place in the lives of those that have received Christ. After witnessing this change in a person, how does your faith not grow stronger, or have you become so hardened that you choose not to believe? During His earthly ministry, Jesus raised a total of four people which included Himself. Yet, there were those who chose not to believe that He was the Messiah. He told them that He would raise Himself up on the third day, yet their unbelief sealed their own fate. It comes down to the eternal question, do you believe that Jesus died and was raised again on the third day so that you too would have everlasting life, or do you not?

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.

Come, see the place where he lay.”

Matthew 28:6

Cleansing the Temple • Devotion #1: Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning will be soon upon us. With the change of the song birds’ voice to daylight savings, spring cleaning is as natural as the change of the seasons. With the buildup of winter’s baggage, we find ourselves compelled to rid our homes of unwanted grime. With a checklist in hand, we go from room to room vacuuming, dusting, washing, and disinfecting as we go. This annual rite of spring for most adults is brought with expectation and enthusiasm for what the finished product will be. There is nothing like a house that has been cleaned and awaiting the greening of the lawns and budding of the trees. I appreciate the wonderful smell of spring as it flows through the recently cleaned screens and takes the place of the stale air of winter. You begin to smile when the smell of Honeysuckle, Lilac, and Autumn Olive begins to take full effect. If given a chance to reflect, you wonder how it became so dirty in the first place and vow for it to never happen again.

Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem, we see another house that needed a spring cleaning. As the Temple was being prepared for Passover, merchants were selling animals for sacrifice, money-changers, and others were bartering and selling their wares as if it were a market. The problem was not that the practice was unethical for providing unblemished sacrifices or currency exchange, but for using the Temple as a place of business and not worship. Angered, Jesus cleared those in the Father’s house by fashioning a whip out of cord and driving both seller and buyer out of the Temple. His zeal for keeping the Temple pure was an all-consuming desire which prompted Him to act swiftly. He was determined to keep the Temple clean.

Psalm 69:9 prophesied of this event, “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.”

We find in all four Gospels that Jesus chased out those who would disrespect God. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Synoptic Gospels), we read that Jesus teaches those that are listening that their actions are as robbers. Instead of selling their wares, they should be in prayer and worship to God. Those disrespecting who God is, have made the Son act decisively and with authority. He is determined to clean house.

In all three Synoptic Gospels, we find Jesus reiterating that the Temple is a house of prayer. Throughout the New Testament, we find Jesus in prayer. At His baptism (Luke 3:21), choosing the twelve (Luke 6:12), in the garden (Matthew 26:42), and the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41-42)are just a few examples of Jesus in prayer. How important must prayer be then if He not only teaches it but is obedient to it? As the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Wecan assume that every time an important decision was made, He was in prayer to the Father. How could He have cleaned house without first praying? Knowing the will of the One who sent you should be the first and most important aspect of “cleaning house.”

In our own lives, the term “cleaning house” can have different meanings. From the literal to the figurative, the act of cleaning house looks different for each one of us. In a spiritual sense, when we clean house, we are attempting to rid ourselves of those things that have become a deterrent to a close relationship with God. From the very desire of idols in our life to those sins that continue to fester up over time, we should want to be closer to Him through our obedience. Through His Word and prayer, we have a greater chance of understanding His hope of change within us. As the Holy Spirit leads and guides us, we should start to see improvements as we live our lives according to His will. Remember, sanctification is not a passive process, but one in which we take an active role. Through His own actions, Jesus shows us that prayer is where you begin if you want to know God’s will. If the struggle to renew and refresh seems impossible, remember He has shown us the way by humbly asking in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

Are you ready to clean up your house? Are you ready to show Him how much you love Him and are willing to let go of the sins in your life? It is a question those of us that call Jesus Lord, must ask ourselves. Are we willing to call out and allow God to “sweep the house,” cleaning us from the inside out, or are we content to let the dirt remain? That is the real question.

“Let my plea come before you;

deliver me according to your word.”

Psalm 119:170

Persecuted • Devotion #2: The Summer of “76”

Many years ago, I watched as a friend gave his life to the Lord. I had no understanding of what had happened, but somehow I knew he was different. You see, I had never been introduced to Jesus and without having a family connected with the church, I had no way of knowing the truth. My friend’s family came from a long line of churchgoers, so he fit right in and I am sure there was a celebration for his new birth. Throughout my teen years, I watched as others gave their lives to the Lord as this was the “Jesus movement” of the ‘70s. So many were leaving the party scene for the Jesus scene that I actually contemplated joining. Those that left, had a different way about them. It was a more joyous and sincere outlook on life. This intrigued me.

John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Intrigued, but not overcome, I continued to chase what the world had to offer. Occasionally, I would look back on that summer of “76” and think about those who had given their lives over to Jesus. Where were they now and what were they doing? Did they stay committed to Jesus, or did they succumb to the constant pressure of the world? Did they somehow get worn down from the constant cajoling that a non-believer would put on them? Did campus life finally get to them? Had they fallen back into the lifestyle they had before? Were they somehow persecuted for their beliefs or made fun of by others? Or did they find a peace that surpasses all understanding? It is where no matter what was thrown their way, they were able to endure it. It would be many years before I would experience what they most assuredly did back in the ‘70s and it was an eye-opener.

Philippians 4:7 adds, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thirty years later, as I freely sat in a church for the first time, I finally experienced the joy so many had talked about years ago. My sin before me, as the Holy Spirit convicted me and I repented, receiving a full pardon for my transgressions, I now understand who Jesus is talking about in His sermon on the hill in Galilee so many years ago. The redeemed are those that Jesus speaks of in the Beatitudes. Only those who receive salvation will see the Kingdom of Heaven and only “they” will have the blessing of being persecuted for righteousness. Until that day of salvation, I could never have known who Jesus spoke about. While most people were intrigued by my instantaneous change, others were amused (thinking I was going through a phase), and yet others found no amusement at all in my new found faith. That very evening, I began a long list of calls inviting others to get to know the Savior and telling them of my new transformation. For most, this invitation was considered a nice gesture, but for others, it was an outright battle cry. There are those that I have not spoken to since that fateful night because of my testimony. Merely mentioning the name Jesus created a chasm that has yet to be spanned to this day. Yet, there are others who try and find a reason to knock me down a notch any chance they get. I guess it makes them nervous that I belong to the King.

Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

While it hurts to lose friends because of your faith in Jesus, it quickly becomes apparent that it is yet proof, you are a child of God. I am no prophet, but I see a time coming soon when we will see persecution, unlike anything we have seen before. At the mere mention of Jesus’ name, we may find ourselves in a place of extreme danger, but remember, it only proves we are His. Continue to pray for those who are now your enemies and that they too can become a child of God. Hopefully, they will learn first-hand what it means to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and the only way to receive that righteousness is through faith in Christ.

Romans 3:22-24 records, “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Mercy • Devotion #1: What is Deserved?

“Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’’” Luke 10:30-35

The age of COVID-19, masks, floods, political dissent, presidential campaign, and defunding the police has brought to the forefront a weakness in the church. As I have read social media posts by others, I soon realized we are on a precipitous slide. The outpouring of our hearts’ true self is alarming. As a supposedly cohesive group, we are quick to disagree and quick to condemn others who happen to be of a different persuasion. Pointing fingers at those who do not share our political ideas or backgrounds, we consider them the enemy. What I am saying is, our hearts are broken. Just like the Priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we have lost our way (Myself included).

Growing up, I was taught to “never allow a bad deed go unpunished.” It was thought of as being weak and foolish. Getting even meant that sometimes two wrongs do make a right. Seeking revenge was a “normal” reaction to those that seemingly had done you wrong. It was said, “Never allow yourself to be considered weak” by letting a wrong go unavenged. It was not the manly thing to do. Forgiveness was not considered an option, only a weakness. Showing understanding and compassion were less than masculine, and possibly a dangerous thing to do, that is until I received Christ. It changed everything. He changed everything.

Today, I see that same embattlement manifesting itself in the church. We have begun to appear like the world. Reacting to the smallest of provocations, we illicit man’s law in lieu of God’s. Instead of having compassion and mercy, we have chosen a different path. Just as the Pharisee and Levite, we have strayed from the course that Jesus intended. Allowing our differences to become a wedge in our relationship with others, we lose the credibility to speak into their lives. Seeing those shipwrecked along the way, we continue on a course unabated. Either because of selfish desires or worse yet, an angry heart, we have little patience for those we feel “deserve it.” I hope we remember, we also “deserve it,” and Christ had mercy on us. As those who have already found compassion from the Lord, we should share the hope that is in us. Our relationship with others should be mixed with salt and light, not anger and disdain, for the Holy Spirit is in us. Through no good of our own, we have been given mercy and we should show that as proof that we are His.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,  compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Poor in Spirit • Devotion #5: Broken

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

It is confession time. How many times have I read this verse and not been grieved by the implications and depth of what it means? Writing a devotion on this verse has convicted me of my inability to see the truth. My sometimes haughty attitude was brought to full display as I thought about the meaning of what Jesus is saying here. While it is true, after receiving the gift of grace I have experienced moments of peaceful humility. More often than not, arrogance snuffs out the true peace that only absolute obedience to the Word brings. The root of pride runs deep even in the midst of sinful action. How quickly I find an excuse for my behavior when I feel confronted by others. How can I feel justified in my action and reason when I live outside the commandments that God has given me? Pride knows no boundaries.

Quickly, I am confronted by my own selfishness when I devote myself to Scripture. The Bible illuminates the real me and all that it implies, it becomes the litmus test that I must use to determine my nature. Brought to a place of self-reflection by the world around me, the Bible helps me to understand the nature of “self.” Thinking about the implications, I see that without the grace of God in my life, I have no ability to experience the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). My love for myself is only defeated when I submit to the Lord. There is no good that resides in me.

Romans 7:18 says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

I see myself in God’s hand as He molds and shapes me, and sometimes “it just ain’t pretty,” but I know that I am a work in progress. As He transforms me into the likeness of His Son, I begin to experience that peace we all desire. Giving me a glimpse of what it means to have this peace, assures me of a future that I can look forward to. It is one in which the love for myself is replaced by a real and immovable love for the Lord. It is where I can look at my neighbor and truly understand what it means to love them as myself. I will be completely submitting to His will, and not my own vain desires. Even when I take a step back, I hope others might see the small step attributed only to Him, as the focal point. It is by the working of His grace within me that He will be glorified and I will gain the peace I long for.

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 15:10, we read, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”



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

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.