Category Archives: RGG Fall 2021

Grow • Devotion #1: Study the Real Thing

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Growing up is a painful and seemingly long process. When I was a young girl, I would complain to my mom that my legs hurt, and she would say, “You are having growing pains.” For me to grow up, my body had to work hard and endure the process, especially through the awkward phases. When we first come to faith in Christ, we are like newborn babies. We can only handle and assimilate a small amount, but as we begin to grow, we begin to tolerate solid food. This part of our spiritual journey can be discouraging because we need help to gain our balance to walk worthy of our calling. We fall and get back up again by the grace of God. Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow into salvation.” In order to grow spiritually, we need to develop an appetite to study and apply God’s Word. It takes time and discipline, but it is the most valuable investment of time we will ever make. 

When we decide we are going to make it a daily discipline to study God’s Word, beware the enemy will put every obstacle in our way to keep us from it. That, right there, should tell us how powerful and life-changing it is! We need to be intentional and dedicated to growing in the Word. I once saw a great object lesson on this. There was a huge jar filled to the top with beans, the person then tried to fit a tennis ball in the top of the full jar, but there was no room left. Then they emptied the beans from the jar and put the tennis ball in first then added the beans. Guess what? It all fit perfectly! The lesson is this: when we fit God into the first part of our day, we will accomplish so much more. Conversely, when we try to add Him in at the end of the day, there will likely be no room left.  

I recently joined a Bible reading accountability group. We use an app on our phone for the Scripture reading along with a ten-minute recap and application of the passages. In three months’ time, I will have read the entire New Testament chronologically. I look forward to my time in the Word every morning; it has truly become the very best part of my day. When we get into God’s Word, His Word gets into us. Even if we do not comprehend everything we read, the Bible says we will be washed by the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). It is the only book that is 100% true, accurate, alive, and has the power to change us into His image!  

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 

In 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV), we read, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Did you know you will not recognize a counterfeit by studying it?

You only recognize a counterfeit by studying the real thing!

Study the Truth!

Gather • Devotion #6: Pure Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2 (NIV)

Wait, what did that say? Let me try that again, “Consider it pure joy” is fine, but “whenever you face trials” is challenging. Is this saying I am supposed to be joyful not only through my trials but because of them? 

We all face struggles and conflicts. Trials are inevitable. Yet, how do we “consider it pure joy?” 

James 1:3 (NIV) continues, “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Trials can be a blessing because we can come out better for it on the other side!

For the first time in my walk with the Lord, I am beginning to understand this concept. I will let you in on a not-so-secret part of my life. I am not always firm in my faith; I waiver. 

This last season, I struggled with depression (another first for me). I began to question myself, and eventually, it turned into questioning God, and even His people. I knew that He was good, and He knew what I was going through, but even still, my faith was wavering. Once I gained the courage to ask for prayer and seek counseling, I was surrounded by reminders that my feelings were not His Truth. No, our feelings do not equal Truth.

God’s Truth is: 

I am created in His image! “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). 

He cares about me so much; He even knows the ridiculous details, like how many hairs I have on my head! “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). 

He knew me before I knew me – and knows me better! “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16).

I am, in fact, a child of God. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV).

Finally, that in Him, I am whole. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10 NIV).

I was able to be reminded of all of this because I am surrounded by a community that loves the Lord and loves me.

I wish I had continued to read. I wish I continued to go to gatherings. I wish I continued to pray. However, when I did not, they did. Community is important. God’s Word is important. When we are down, they both can remind us of this, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV).
Now, on the other side of this trial, I can help someone else be reminded of who they are in Christ! Gathering with the church family is important! After all, it is what He calls us to do! “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).

Gather • Devotion #5: We Are the Church!

I will never forget the moment my nephew reminded me about a very simple truth of the Bible. Of course, it was a truth I very well already knew (and was reminded of constantly by my brother-in-law), but it was memorable all the same. Driving in the car while on vacation, I mentioned something about missing church that weekend. My nephew, who was only about five or six at the time, was extremely quick to jump in and tell me, “We don’t go to church; we are the church.” His father (my brother-in-law) taught him well! It made me laugh then and still does now when I think about it, but it really is a truth that is so easily forgetten. We do not just go to church; we are the Church. If you are a born again follower of Jesus Christ, you are a member of the body of Christ. That is an awesome concept! Often times, people get caught up focusing on the building, denomination, program, or worship style, and lose sight of why we gather together. The body of Christ has been gathering together since the Church was established thousands of years ago, as seen in the book of Acts.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of gathering together when he tells us to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Though our gatherings may look a little different than they did back in Israel in the first century, the reasoning behind it stays the same. Going to church does not in any way make you a Christian, but a true follower of Christ should desire to be regularly gathering with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It is here where we can encourage others and be encouraged. Aside from the fellowship, we gather so we can corporately worship God and be taught the truth from His Word. As a child who attended church on a weekly basis, I remember oftentimes wishing I could skip and just sleep a little longer. As an adult, even though I am far more tired and sleep-deprived than I was as a kid, I cannot wait for the weekends when I get to come and gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Gather • Devotion #4: Celebrating the Gospel

There are many misconceptions about what people think a Church gathering should be. We will not be addressing any of those right now. Instead, I want to point out one of the greatest opportunities that gathering together as followers of Christ presents to us, one thing on which our gathering together should always be centered. When we gather, we have the opportunity to celebrate the Gospel together. 

The Gospel is what gives us life and hope. The Gospel is what changes and heals broken lives. The Gospel is a gift from a loving God to people who have a need they can never meet on their own. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The Gospel is good news for people that are born into some really bad news. Every person is born a sinner, and as a sinner, they are separated from a perfect, holy, and righteous God. As sinful people, we have no hope of having a relationship with a perfect God. However, God in His mercy and grace made a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and declared righteous. He made it possible for the relationship to be restored. In I John 4:14, we read, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” John 3:16 adds, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus left perfect Heaven, came to this imperfect world and was born of a virgin. He was completely God and completely man at the same time. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, yet was executed on a cross, bore God’s wrath, and took the punishment we deserve for our sin. He was buried, and three days later, He rose from the dead, defeating death and sin and giving us hope. We can repent of our sins and call on Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and He will justify us and restore our broken relationship with the Father. Faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross is the only way to stand right before a holy God. Jesus made it possible! That is the Gospel. When we gather together as believers, we have the privilege of celebrating Jesus and the Gospel. When we gather together, we need to be mindful of what the Lord has done for us and make it a priority to celebrate our amazing God. Psalm 34:1-3 says, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!”

Gather • Devotion #3: A Matter of the Heart

About six years ago, I accepted this position on staff as Director of Women’s Ministry. At about that same time, our Church began defining our mission as Reach, Gather, Grow, and Back to Reach, taken from the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28. Since then, we have revisited this topic every September and January. These months are typically when believers reassess their priorities and set goals.

As I write, it is January 6th. I recently returned from vacation and set out to begin preparing for another year of study. I reached in the box and pulled out the new book: Reach, Gather, Grow. Full disclosure: I rolled my eyes and thought, “Not again.” To add to my weariness, I needed to write this devotion on gathering. I began seeking God’s guidance in writing about an “old” topic in a fresh way. God is so good and so very faithful. He managed to teach me a new truth.

Six years ago, I was frustrated. Our pastor was frequently preaching on “What the church is not.” He frequently reminded us that we are members of one body, each having a specific gift we are meant to use to grow His Church. Though these truths are very important, I found myself thinking, “This is not deep enough” or “I am not being fed.” I was not growing spiritually, but my attitude was growing worse. Through the teaching of our mission, God taught me that my Sunday gathering is not meant to be my time in the Word. My Growth Community and Bible study is the primary place to grow.

Several years later, I began to get frustrated again. This time I started to resent the interruptions during “my” gathering time to assist ladies with their needs. The Lord stepped in and pointed me to a second truth. We are called to “meet together,” “encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25), and “count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Ouch! It was difficult for this selfish believer to receive and yet another important truth.

The third truth is the icing on the cake. Over the last week, I have started revisiting our mission, and God faithfully brought me to a passage. Psalm 84:1-2 says, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” 

My commentary suggests this Psalm was written by a Jewish man who was unable to go to the temple (Church). In those days, Jews were expected to travel three times a year to the temple. It was not like today, where believers can enter the throne room of God any time, any place. The presence of God was believed to be only in the temple. Scripture teaches us that for some, this required months of travel by foot, through desert conditions while navigating dangerous animals and situations. This puts a lot in perspective. I have been convicted about those times when I did not want to leave my warm home to drive ten miles to the gathering time that fit my schedule. I am really hoping someone else can identify with this. As you read on, you realize this man views the temple as his home, like “the sparrow finds a home” (verse 3) and values this time greatly, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (verse 10). Clearly, the longing of this believer’s heart was to be in the house of God.

I realized I have a lot in common with this gentleman. My flight on Christmas Eve landed at 4:45, and my first concern was whether or not we would make it to the last gathering. Many of the people at church were strangers as friends were traveling, and I was surrounded by the unfamiliar faces of out of town guests. Honestly, I enjoyed my uninterrupted opportunity to worship my Savior, and it was so good to be home.

It is true that a word of encouragement on Sunday morning is important, but the gathering was not meant to be my sole opportunity to grow in His Word. It is true that we are called to gather with and encourage those around us, but not at the expense of our personal worship time with God. Hence, I needed to find balance.

Believer, what is the desire of your heart? Is gathering with the saints a priority? Do you fall in the category of believers who do not want to get up early on their one day off, do not want to battle the snow or fight the traffic, or would rather serve because you learn just as much online or have to get your child to travel sports? There are many excuses, but when all is said and done, we rob ourselves when we choose not to worship and fellowship with God.

Free Commercial: if you are racing (or floating) into gathering after prayer and worship, you have missed Him!

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