Category Archives: RGG Fall 2021

Back to Reach • Devotion #6: Feed My Sheep

My ultimate goal in life is to be more like Jesus Christ. Jesus made it clear in His life and His ministry that He loved people. He met people where they were, and He met their needs. There are so many examples of this that I could go on all day. The third time Jesus appears to His disciples after His resurrection, He tells Peter repeatedly to “feed My sheep” (John 21:17). 

As we grow in our walk with Christ, part of our job is to help “feed the sheep.” We need to be reaching out to those who need help. We need to be reaching out to a lost and broken world. When Jesus performed a miracle by feeding the 5,000 in Mark 6:30-44, He showed another example of how to reach out to a broken world. The Scripture says that Jesus and His disciples withdrew to a quiet place to rest. They were exhausted and needed to get out of the chaos for a moment. The crowds heard where they were, and they followed Jesus. Instead of being annoyed at this group of people who followed Him and constantly expected something of Him, Jesus felt compassion for these people. Mark 6:34 says that Jesus saw the crowd and had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then Jesus fed them. Mark 6:34 says, “And He began to teach them many things.” Jesus feeds His sheep twice in this Scripture – once by feeding them spiritually (teaching them), then again by performing a miracle to meet their actual physical needs for food. 

This is a theme we can see throughout Scripture, starting in the Old Testament when God provided manna to physically feed His people in the desert and then said to them, “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” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus also quotes that verse when being tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4). 

Jesus knew the importance of meeting people’s very real physical needs. He saw a broken and hurting people, and He made sure that they were not hungry. I love that beautiful picture of our Savior; He cares about our human needs, hurts, and pain in this life. Jesus also knew that just meeting their physical needs was not enough. If he had just given the people a four-course dining experience and sent them on their way, they would continue to wither in this broken world. He knew that part of “feeding the sheep” is feeding them spiritually. God’s grace and mercy are the only things that can save anybody in our broken world. 

So, how about us? Are we feeding His sheep? Do you need to get more involved feeding His sheep? Come serve a free meal on Tuesdays at our recovery gathering. We provide a free warm meal for people every week because we know it is important. After we feed them physically, we have our gathering with worship, a message, and table groups where we feed His sheep spiritually. Get involved in a Growth Community! Maybe get brave and lead one! This is an excellent way to spiritually feed His sheep. Did you know we have a food bank? It is open on Saturdays, and we provide free food to those who are hurting in the community. There is also the Community Center in Holly, where we provide clothing, food, and the Gospel message to His sheep. I am grateful for a Savior who cares about all of the needs of His sheep.

Back to Reach • Devotion #4: The Letter

“What a week it has been! My mind and my heart have gone through so many emotions and seen so much this week. Lord, thank you for allowing me to come here.”

Those are words that I wrote in a letter to myself more than two years ago. Just seeing the envelope causes my heart to begin to remember. The letter was written at the end of one of the hardest, most rewarding weeks of my life. It was a week that was spent in Guatemala, sharing the Gospel with families that live in the second-largest garbage dump in the world. We were sharing the hope of Jesus in a place where hope is hard to find. On our last day there, our assignment was to write a letter to ourselves of things that we never wanted to forget. 

Reading the letter floods my mind with memories of the wonderful people we met in the dump. There were the beautiful children singing out the memory verse we helped them to learn. With sadness, I recall that an extra sack lunch was the coveted prize for reciting the verse without any mistakes. Food is scarce in the dump. I remember the family that we helped by building bunk beds for their children. The sweet man who made gifts for our students and the precious baby that we all took turns holding will forever be in my mind. Together we scraped and painted a medical building, renovated a house, and taught Vacation Bible Schools. We worked side by side with the incredible people in Guatemala City who live surrounded by mountains of garbage. God allowed us to step into their lives for just a brief moment, and this letter reminds me of the boldness that I prayed for on that trip. It was a boldness to tell them of a Savior that loves them. 

I spent many years studying and growing in God’s Word. Now it was my turn to “go.” In Mark chapter 15, Jesus tells us to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.” I went to Guatemala with a desire for others to know that Jesus came to save us from our sins. He lived a perfect life and died on a cross. On the third day, He conquered death and rose from the grave and went to Heaven to prepare a place for us. Jesus came for the people living in that dump in Guatemala, and He came for you and for me.   

“Lord, don’t let me forget this feeling of serving you while serving others. Thank you for giving me the desire to ‘go.’ Please do not let me become complacent when I get home. There are people all around me who need you. There are people living in the garbage of this world. Give me the boldness that You gave me here in Guatemala to not just tell them, but to show them with my life what we taught those precious kids today:

You are the God who created us,

You are the God who sees us, 

You are the God who saves us, 

You are the God who provides for us, 

You are love!”

Mark 16:15 says, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”

Back to Reach • Devotion #3: A Jar

About 16 years ago, when I came to know Christ, I was so thrilled about the things of God I wanted to serve Him with my life in any way I could. I started serving at my local church, helping with tech and music. I was studying music at U of M Flint and decided to transfer to a Bible college. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and someday hoped to be in full-time ministry. A few years went by, and college was not helping my desire to study the Bible. It just did not interest me like I had thought it would. Eventually there came an opportunity to be in full-time ministry, and I was as excited for that as when I first started serving in the Church. I loved to be busy for the Lord. However, year after year, I was more drained, exhausted, stressed, anxious, and depressed. I struggled to find the desire I once had and wondered why I was even in ministry. 

Through many people God brought into my life, and hearing the Gospel preached, He revealed what my problem was. I had left the glory and wonder of the Gospel. I left the cross as if it were just where I started in my faith, and I would move on without the needed growth. Through being broken down to nothing is when I realized how glorious the Gospel is.

Paul wrote, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

I was a shattered jar, and all I had left was that beautiful treasure that was inside. In my brokenness, it shone brighter than it ever had before. I recall my years as a believer when I spent time thinking I had to serve in Church and live life a certain way to be worthy of the grace I received. However, God does not need my works or anything from me as the best of my works are as filthy rags. He wants us to see that the power belongs to Him. He is the one who saves, who transforms, who renews, and who sanctifies. It is all by His power alone. 

Romans 5:6-11 adds, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” 

I am weak, broken, and sinful. I need the Gospel every day, every hour, with every breath I take. Christ died for me while I was dead in my sins. He came and lived a perfect life to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law that I could never obtain. He willingly went to the cross for me and bore all my sins, past, present, and future, so I could be justified by His blood. He bore the wrath of God that was upon me, and I am now reconciled and at peace with God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Oh, how much I rejoice in this good news. 

You can easily force yourself to do the Church vision (I have done it for years). We reach by going to events, gather by going to gatherings, and grow by being in a Growth Community. However, you will never truly live out the Great Commission without the Gospel being the engine that drives you and gives you a deep burning desire to live for Christ. With the Gospel at the heart of your actions, reach becomes brokenness over the lost, gather becomes a desperate desire to be with believers to praise the One who saved you, and grow becomes a daily dependency on growing in the knowledge of the Word of God. My friend, never leave that cross and never forget the power of the Gospel that saved your soul.

Back to Reach • Devotion #2: Scheduled for Success

The River Church is very active in its ministries. Gatherings, Community Center, Growth Communities, and prison ministry are a few of them. God keeps opening doors for us as a church, and we are called to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) and to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Everyone within the River Church community has ample opportunities to be used by God. 

My first involvement in ministry was as a 14-year-old in the church band. I played every week until I left for college. During my college years, because of the pool of instrumentalists and my quiet nature, I was very inactive in ministry. After graduation, I went home, and I have been involved in church practically every weekend for the last eleven years. 

My experience with the ministry has taught me this principle: if you want to attend church consistently, have some responsibilities. Get involved with the nursery, become a greeter or volunteer with children or students. Get scheduled regularly and take on the responsibility of serving your church family and guests visiting the church. 

God has a plan to use you. If you open yourself to be the hands and feet of Jesus, you may be the answer to someone’s prayers. It may seem a trivial deed to you, but it could be monumental to someone else. Chances are you will be blessed as well.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” Ephesians 6:7 (NIV)
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

Back to Reach • Devotion #1: Why Back to Reach?

While serving in South Africa with the ministry Key of Hope, someone took my wife and me to a place just west of Port Shepstone called Oribi Gorge, about 75 miles south of Durban. Words cannot describe what we heard, saw with our eyes, and touched that day. The gorge carved out of sandstone, is approximately 19 miles in length, 1,300 feet deep, and over three miles at its widest point. We experienced sensory overload that day as this surprisingly quiet place was stunning to observe and a thrilling place to set foot. 

From that day forward, whenever we had the chance to expose someone to the wonders of Oribi Gorge, we went out of our way to do so. Seeing the wonder in their eyes as they, too, were overwhelmed by what they heard, saw, and touched brought us great joy!

In a similar way, the apostle John describes what he and his fellow disciples had heard, seen, and touched concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1 John 1:1 (NKJV), he says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” 

In this letter, John explains to the recipients just why he was writing to them. He and the disciples that were with him had been changed forever by their encounter with Jesus Christ. They were bearing witness that the gift of eternal life and a restored relationship with the Father had been given to them. John wanted them to know that this was also available to them as well.

He continues in verses 2-3 (NKJV), “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 

Sin has broken the relationship between God and mankind. Nevertheless, God the Father has atoned for sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross and made it possible for anyone to have a right relationship with Him once again through faith, for now, and forevermore.

In verse 4 (NKJV), he adds, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 

The joy that John had received from the Lord was what he wanted others to know. John understood that the world could not offer complete or lasting joy because the source of worldly joy is only temporary (2 Peter 3:10). 

As much as my wife and I wanted others to experience the grandeur of Oribi Gorge in South Africa, the joy that would be produced from our visits could only be temporary. Only a proper relationship with the Lord can produce a joy that is full, complete, and eternal.

So, why do we emphasize going back to reach?

Why is it important that you and I commit to reaching others with the message of the Gospel?
It is so that their “joy may be full.”

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