Devotions

Category Archives: Reach • Gather • Grow: Fall 2020

Back to Reach • Devotion #1: Open the Gift

Sometimes it is difficult for me to remember the days when I used to walk into a church, listen to a sermon, and go back to the week to live as I wanted. I used to be the guy who would walk in half an hour late because I did not like the worship experience. In my defense, I also did not know how important worship was and is to our relationship with Jesus. “Just give me the meat and potatoes,” I used to say to my wife.

I was young and immature in my faith. I was young and immature in life as well. As I continued to grow in my walk with the Lord, I began to realize that it was less and less about me and more and more about Jesus. It was not until I was directed to take a spiritual gifts test. I did not know that there was such a thing. I wish I still had that test because I am sure that public speaking was not on it. God will definitely put you where He wants you to be. You will find He has a reason for every situation.

You have all been given gifts. They are talents and abilities that we are called to use to glorify Christ. Learn from my experience. God will use you. He will use your talents. He will use you in ways you cannot imagine if you let Him. 

In 1 Peter 4:10 (CSB), we read, Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.”

As we wrap up this edition of Reach, Gather, and Grow, I encourage you all to evaluate the gifts that you have. You can be in a Growth Community, and that will definitely play a big part in your growth. Your real growth will be stunted if you do not realize that we have to serve others the way that Jesus served us. It is uncomfortable to put yourself out there. Trust me, I understand your thoughts. I am about as introverted as a person gets. By the time I wrap up my day on Sunday evening, I am mentally and emotionally spent.

God has given me gifts and it my duty to use them. He will carry me through despite myself, and the same is true for you. Making the commitment to serve others and in the church is the thing that finally took me to a place where I truly felt that I was in the relationship that Jesus wants to have with me. If you are not already, find a place to serve. If you do not know what that looks like for you, try as many different ministries as you need until you find the right fit.

Grow • Devotion #6: The Goal

“But grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18a 

I remember the night I was saved like it was yesterday. I was only 11 years old, but it was very real and powerful. I was baptized at the age of 12, and the following year, I dedicated my life to Christian service. All the spiritual boxes were checked, except for the growing part. I was raised in a great Bible-teaching church. My Pastor was one of the best verse-by-verse preachers in the country. My parents decided to make the 30-minute drive several times a week so we could learn and grow from the best. The Bible teaches, “To whom much is given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Based on how I had been taught, I fell into this category, what I do not know, or fail to apply is not from a lack of knowledge or teaching. I remember as a young teenager sitting on the front row of my church with my Bible, pen, and notebook in hand at every service. I was so excited to learn God’s Word and grow in my faith. I have always had a desire to know the truth and walk in it. I am still a student of the Bible because I love it, and I need it every day. It can never be exhausted, nor will I finish the course because the Bible is the living Word of God, fresh off the page each day for exactly what I need.

Today, I am thankful to belong to The River Church and the strong emphasis that is placed on spiritual growth. If you are not in a weekly Growth Community, I highly recommend that you join one. The Apostle Paul warns us, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). The walk of the believer is not to be done alone. We need each other for encouragement, accountability, friendship, and prayer. Studying God’s Word each week with other believers will not only encourage you but also boost your faith, and equip you to share the Gospel.

It is important to remember when studying God’s Word, context is key! Many times we treat Bible verses like a bowl of mixed nuts. We pick out the ones we like and ignore the ones that we do not like. All of the Word is useful and purposeful for correction, instruction, and encouragement in our daily growth. When we take a verse out of its context, we will most likely change the meaning, causing confusion and doubt. If you do not have a desire to grow in the Lord, I encourage you to pray and ask God to place that desire in your heart. 

The goal for every believer should be:

 To know God’s Word 

 To apply God’s Word 

 To memorize God’s Word 

 To teach God’s Word 

Grow • Devotion #5: Growing in Love

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63  

Jesus is the Living Word. His words were spoken for us to learn and grow. People come to know Jesus through the Word of God. The Word of God is the Christian believer’s food to feed us through our minds, to learn the will of God. Growing in the Lord should be the purpose of our lives.

Job 23:12 states the concept well, “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”

Deuteronomy 8:3 adds, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Billy Graham, in an article from 2015, gives us nine ways to grow in our faith: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

The Bible calls those traits the “Fruit of the Spirit.” Dr. Graham goes on to explain that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Bible says we receive supernatural help from the Holy Spirit. God expects us to have faith, and if we live according to that faith, God will be pleased. From that, we will be blessed. If we lack in faith, God will be displeased.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:3 continues, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

To grow in grace is to mature as a Christian. We are all saved by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We are sanctified by grace. Grace is a blessing we do not deserve, something that we did not earn. It is a true blessing from God because He loves us!

In 2 Peter 3:18, we read, ‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 

We have “Grow” events throughout the year. In the summer, all of our locations have summer grow events. At our Holly location, we get together on Wednesday nights during June and July for dinner, a devotion, and then softball. It is heartwarming to see the church family getting together for food, a devotion, and fun. This is a picture of how the church should grow together.  

To grow is to mature and learn, just like a baby, we never should stop growing in our faith. Living for the Lord is why we are here; the Lord created us so that we could grow to love Him.

Grow • Devotion #4: Power of a Changed Life

On a recent trip to an Ohio correctional institution with the HIM Prison Team, I was able to witness something incredible. One afternoon, as the team was greeting each of the prisoners entering the yard, one of the inmates approached me, shook my hand, and said, “How’s it going, man? Thanks for coming in to see us! It’s good to see you guys again!” At first, his “good to see you guys again” comment did not strike me as unusual, as it is common for inmates to see the team multiple times over the course of their prison sentence. However, I soon realized that the man who was greeting me was an inmate that we had seen two previous times this year, in two different institutions! This was the third time.

To understand just how incredible this encounter was, we need an understanding of how the Ohio Correctional system works. When a prisoner first enters into the correctional system, they are assigned to a facility based on their security risk and behavior. Level 1 is for the lowest risk inmate, and level 4 is for the highest risk ones. This man was being transferred from facility to facility because of his improved behavior and reduced security risk. He had been in three facilities in one year, and from what I have been told, this is highly unusual! So, what is going on with this guy? He is growing, and his growth is evident. 

It was not long ago that this man surrendered to God’s will and gave his life to Christ. Now, with the grace and mercy of God, the power of the Gospel is apparent in his life. For the first time, he is growing spiritually and has begun the process of becoming like Jesus.

So, what makes this gentleman’s salvation appear different than others? Why does he seem to be growing, and others do not? The Apostle Peter gives us some insight into spiritual growth in his second letter.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:2–3 NKJV)

Notice that by God’s “power he has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”Anyone can live a life of godliness as long as they are using God’s power and seeking “the knowledge of Him.” For us today, this knowledge is obtained by the regular reading of the Word of God. If we ever expect to grow spiritually, we must have knowledge of the One we are trying to grow with, for, and like! 

As I continued my conversation with my inmate friend, it became really apparent to me exactly what was happening.

  1. He had received and believed in the power of the Gospel message, and the Holy Spirit now lives in him (John 14:16-17).
  2. He is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  3. His former nature is fading away (Ephesians 4:22-24).
  4. He is reading the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  5. He is willing to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).

Like I stated earlier, I witnessed something incredible that day. It was the power of a changed life. Whoever thought this prison inmate could or would ever change? I bet the Ohio prison system did not expect him to change, but it is apparent, he has changed. They may not recognize his growth as spiritual, but I did. He is growing, all because he was willing to submit himself to God’s power and His Word.

So, whose power are we using to grow? Are you only using your own power, or are you willing to grow through God’s power?

Grow • Devotion #3: Shrink?

Once a year, my wife and I line up our five kids and draw a line to measure our kids’ heights against last year’s line. It is always exciting to see their faces when they turn around and see that they have grown from last year. My wife and I get excited with them. We love that our kids are healthy and growing.

I believe 100 percent that this is the way God looks at our spiritual growth. He gets excited to see His children growing from when we first came to know Him. We were babies in Christ, and over time, we grow through prayer, reading the Word, and gathering with the saints in a Growth Community. 

We read in 1 Peter 2:2-3, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the lord is good.”

Could you imagine if this year we walked up to the wall where the marks from the past years are, we put our kids up there, and they had shrunk from last year? We see that none of them had grown, but shrunk. It would be a really disappointing day for our kids and for us.

I believe 100 percent this is how God feels when we put off our spiritual growth. He wants us to grow and become spiritually strong, but we become content growing to a certain point, and we think we have arrived, or we just stop making our growth a priority altogether.

There is an old song that we used to sing in kids’ church. The song’s words are: “Read your Bible pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”

Then the second half of the song’s words say, “Forget your Bible, forget to pray, and you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink.”

It is a pretty fun song to sing with kids to teach them the importance of growth and the importance of reading your Bible and prayer. 

Growing in the Lord is important, and it is not a seasonal thing. Make your spiritual growth a priority in your life. Get in a Growth Community. Get in the Word and spend some time in prayer. Do not put off or forget because you will “shrink, shrink, shrink.”



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