Devoted

Monday April 19th

"Joining God's Work" by Ed Skipper

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Friday, April 16th

"An Attitude of Gratitude" by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, April 15th

"Satan's Strategies Backfire!" this is "Truth Talk" with Ed Skipper

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Wednesday, April 14th

“God is praying for you!”, by Warren Stroup

There is an amazing story located in Exodus 17:8-13

“8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.”

I’ve always interpreted this in the natural, we need people to intercede for us, with us.  I’m not saying that’s not true, but I’d like us to go deeper here.  Let’s look at the spiritual aspect of intercession.

There are many things that we are contending for through prayer.  There are battles we’ve fought that have been impacted directly through prayer.  In Romans 8 we are given a heavenly perspective of how battles are fought and won.  Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When we no longer have the strength to hold our arms up and the heaviness of the battle is weighing down on us and the right words escape us, the Holy Spirit steps in.  The Spirit intercedes on our behalf. 

In this same passage we have vs. 34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Not only is the Holy Spirit interceding for us, Jesus is petitioning for us. 

It is overwhelming to understand our position in the middle of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, both interceding for us.  Take courage today for the one that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is making your needs known to God. What battle is too big for our God? We are not alone for God himself is standing with us in prayer. 

 

Tuesday, April 13th

"Can You Take Just One Bite?" this is "Truth Talk" with Ed Skipper

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Monday, April 12th

“A.S.A.P.?” by Bob Elliott

How often when we pray, do we want God to move and take action right now? We live in a microwave world where everything needs to happen immediately. If we download something from the internet, 2 minutes seems like an eternity. If our computer’s printer stalls out with a long delay, we can easily feel frustrated.

How does this aspect of instantaneous gratification affect how we pray? I think it raises an expectation that if God doesn’t respond immediately to our requests, our dependability upon him is lessened. It can become a faith defeater rather than a faith builder. The reality is that God always answers our prayers, it may not be the way we want it to be initially, but He does answer. Those options are yes, no or later. We tend to want the latter option to be eliminated.

Mark Batterson in his book titled Draw the Circle writes, “Until recently, I attached an ASAP to every prayer. I wanted God to answer as soon as possible. But this is no longer my agenda. I don’t want easy or quick answers because I have a tendency to mishandle the blessings that come too easily or too quickly. I take credit for them or I take them for granted. So now, I pray that it will take long enough and be hard enough for God to receive all of the glory. I’m not looking for the path of least resistance; I am looking for the path of greatest glory.” This is more crock-pot time frame than microwave, and that can be a good thing. Often times our initial prayer is in need of more refinement. As we make these adjustments, we become more aligned to God’s purposes and plans. It’s like writing a term paper. Our initial draft needs refinement before it is complete.

Batterson further states, “ I’m not praying ASAP prayers; I’m praying ALAT prayers. (As long as it takes.) This doesn’t mean that I am forcing God’s hand. After all, we can’t force God to do anything! It just means I’m praying with confidence. He always delivers on His promises, but He does it on His timeline!

Friday, April 9th

"One Day Miracles!" by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, April 8th

"Open Up", by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, April 7th

“Sweeter than Honey” by Warren Stroup

I was reading a book this week that was talking about abiding in the word of the Lord.  There was an illustration that spoke of young Hebrew children as they attended school at the young age of six. The rabbi would begin by making a lasting impression on them.  The rabbi would pour honey on their slate board and have the students lick it off as he recited Psalm 119: “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” It taught the students that there wasn’t anything sweeter than the Word of God.

 When I was finished, I opened my Bible to the passage for the day which is found in Psalm 19 and here is what was written.

7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect,

reviving the soul.

The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,

making wise the simple.

8 The commandments of the Lord are right,

bringing joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are clear,

giving insight for living.

9 Reverence for the Lord is pure,

lasting forever.

The laws of the Lord are true;

each one is fair.

10 They are more desirable than gold,

even the finest gold.

They are sweeter than honey,

even honey dripping from the comb.

11 They are a warning to your servant,

a great reward for those who obey them.

I was taken back by how the book I was reading and my Bible reading for the day paralleled each other. I quickly called to my wife down the hall, “Kim, come here, the coolest thing just happened to me.” We both just smiled as I explained what had happened that morning.

I was challenged that when reading the Word of God, we are taking in the sweetest message given to mankind.  There is nothing more precious, more delightful to the pallet than the message of the Gospel. One thing I love about honey is that it explodes in your mouth, you don’t need a lot of it to be overwhelmed by it.  The Word of God mirrors this sensation, just a verse or two can send your heart racing or your head pounding as you ponder God’s amazing Grace. 

Please take the time to savor every word, every sentence, every verse that is written down for our enjoyment.  Take in the sweet honey of the Word of God, meditate on it, pause and marvel at it.  As it says here in Psalm 19:7, “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.” Let His word breathe afresh upon you and may it revive your soul with the understanding that God loves you and His words remind you every day.

Tuesday, April 6th 

"Peace Like No Other" an episode from Truth Talk with Ed Skipper

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Monday, April 5th

“Lord, Surprise Me” By Bob Elliott

Recently I have been going through the book titled Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson. One of the things that has stood out to me is from a chapter called: Lord Surprise me. What a revolutionary way to look at prayer! Rather than just bringing some sort of shopping list to God when we pray, ask for God to surprise us with his favor, purposes and plans to unfold in our lives.

This is causing a change in my mindset around the whole subject of prayer. Giving God the freedom to surprise us brings a faith-adjusting attitude of how we pray.

Batterson describes this kind of prayer as “in one respect, this feels like a dangerous prayer because we have to put our plans on the altar. We have to relinquish control. We have to trust God’s timing. It is prayer that is motivated by a genuine desire to see God do something unprecedented- something that supersedes our plans. It is something that we cannot take credit for or control.”

This may sound difficult and sometimes prayer can be just that… difficult. How do I pray? What do I pray? How can I be persistent to persevere in prayer? Many of these things can be put to rest when we simply ask God to Surprise us.

This layer of prayer is in addition to the things that we need to be asking for help from God. Batterson describes, “In His omniscience and omnipotence, God has determined there are some things He will only do in response to prayer. The Bible puts it bluntly: You do not have because you do not ask God.” Further, “I don’t pretend to understand where the sovereignty of God and free will of humans meet, but it motivates me to work like it depends on me and pray like it depends on God. And if we keep doing these two things, God will keep surprising us.”

Let’s pray: Lord Surprise Me/Us!

Friday, April 2nd

"Let's Guard Our Hearts..." by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, April 1st

"The Greatest Exchange" by Galen Troyer

Easter is my favorite time of year. Winter is behind us; Spring has arrived and along with it the beauty of various colors from flowers and trees that are blooming. In addition, sunshine and warmer temperatures make us feel more alive and energized. Most, if not all of us are ready each year to trade (exchange) winter for spring.

Easter is a reminder of the Greatest Exchange that Jesus offers us.

He paid a heavy price, his life, in order to make this exchange available to you and me and everyone else. I was impressed when, as a youngster, I learned of this prophesy that the prophet Isaiah received from God, more than 700 years before Jesus was born.
Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s
saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God- a scrawny seedling, scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried-our disfigurements, all of the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him-our sins! He took the punishment and that made him whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wondered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off-and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten body for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in the grave with a rich man, even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it-life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad that he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly-the best of everything, the highest honors- Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep. Isaiah 53 (MSG)
Jesus suffered tremendous pain on the Cross. He carried the sins of all of us, of all mankind; even God abandoned him.
With a loud cry, he breathed his last. (Mark 15: 1-37). But that wasn’t the end. On the third day, He Arose From The Grave! (Mark 16).
He paid the price for our sins and offers us his Righteousness!! By faith we can be “Born Again” and be freed from our sins. All of us have sinned. If we confess our sins, he will forgive us and make us clean! When we invite Jesus into our life, he lives in us by the Holy Spirit. If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.
Have you made The Greatest Exchange?
If not, I’d encourage you to do so. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do!!
Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 31st

“Never too early, Never too late”, by Lynn Koehn

It was a beautiful relaxing drive from Roseburg to Bandon. The mountains, the trees, the rivers and streams all proclaiming the, “Glory-of-the-Lord!” Even the herd of elk bedded down peacefully in the lush green meadow reminded us of the 23rd Psalm;

“He leads me beside the still waters,

….He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He refreshes my soul.

I will fear no evil,

….for You are with me.

Your goodness and love follow me.

….all the days of my life.”

Perhaps you know someone…a good friend, a work associate or a family member who has been feeling a little discouraged - like his or her world is being turned upside down. Maybe they’ve expressed deep concern or even a little fear for themselves or their family. Perhaps they’re wondering; “Where, God? Where are you at in all this? Perhaps they’re feeling like it’s been days, weeks or months and may be asking, “How much longer, God?”

I encourage you to take 3.04 minutes to listen to Toby Mac sing; “Help is on the Way.”

Sometimes it's days
Sometimes it's years
Some face a lifetime of falling tears
But He's in the darkness
He's in the cold
Just like the morning, He always shows

Well I've seen my share of troubles
But the Lord ain't failed me yet
So I'm holding on to the promise y'all
That He's rolling up His sleeves again

He’s Never early, never late.

Help is on the way.

Those are just some of the truth-claims of this song. Please click on the link below and listen to the words of this song. Invite your friend(s) to watch this video with you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z6MmV8xuq0

Rejoice with me today! God has promised:

“I will never leave you, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!”

-Hebrews 13:5 [The Passion]

Join me in proclaiming with the Psalmist:

”My life, my every moment, my destiny—it’s all in your hands.”

-Psalm 31:15 [The Passion]

Tuesday, March 30th

Enjoy "Truth Talk" with Ed Skipper

"How to Understand and Apply Truth!"

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Monday, March 29th

“It is I; do not be afraid.” By Bob Elliott

These comforting words coming from Jesus to his disciples takes place in the context of them being in a boat with rough seas all around them. It is night and they have been rowing in this storm for a long time. The scripture says that they have traveled about 3 or 4 miles.

They have just experienced the miracle of feeding of the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, truly this was a spiritual high point. Now just a few hours later they are in the midst of a physical crisis and are in grave danger. It is dark night and they are fighting against the waves, focusing on keeping their boat upright. Then along comes Jesus walking towards them… on the water!

The scripture says that they were afraid; I think this is understated; they probably were totally freaked out. They may have thought they were seeing a ghost, or a zombie apocalypse was unfolding. Then Jesus comforts them with these words, “It is I; do not be afraid.”  What a relief, it was their rabbi, working out another miracle in their lives. The text says that they welcomed him into their boat, and immediately they were transported to the land where they had intended to go in the first place before the storm blew them off track.

The symbolism in this story is ripe for comparison to our walk with Jesus. One minute we walk into zenith experiences where we see how God is orchestrating things together beyond circumstances to reveal himself to us. At other times we are confronted with tests that reveal just how weak our flesh is, and how easily prone to failure we are.

I think the most important part of this biblical story and the story of our personal lives is that Jesus says “It is I; do not be afraid.”  Jesus encourages us… do not be afraid. Jesus confronts us… do not be afraid.  It is the reason behind the call that brings us peace in the storms of life. “It is I; do not be afraid.” 

Jesus is both our Redeemer and Lord. He rescues us from the storms of sin and calls us out as his chosen people to follow him in obedience. He has given us His precious Holy Spirit to help us navigate the boat.

Thursday, March 25th

"Who've you been with?" by Galen Troyer

Most likely, you’ve been asked that question at least once in your life. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, it’s possible to become defensive because of the personal nature of the question, or perhaps because of who is asking.
Where’ve you been? Also a question that may produce similar reactions.
Parents, no doubt have asked these questions to their children; sometimes already knowing the answer.
I love the account in the book of Acts where Peter and John we’re going to the temple to pray. There was a man, crippled from birth being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. This man was 40 years old and he no doubt expected this to be a day like every other day, for the many years he’d been begging. No doubt, the best he was hoping for was to accumulate a sizable amount of money by the end of the day; then start over doing the same thing again the next day. Pretty boring life, huh? But wait! What is Peter saying to him? Peter said “Look at us!” So, of course, the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold, but what I have, I’m giving you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” Peter took the man’s right hand and helped him up. Instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. He went with Peter and John into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him, they recognized him as the same man who always sat begging at the temple gate called Beautiful and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. What a beautiful miracle this was! Naturally all the people were astonished and came running to Peter and John. When Peter saw them, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to Pilate to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.....By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see...”
Because of Peter and John’s teaching and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead, the priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees became very disturbed. They put them in jail overnight and the next day questioned them. Peter preached a powerful sermon of the resurrection and Salvation in Jesus, concluding with this: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”
What did the religious leaders conclude?
(Hint: they didn’t have to ask them where they’d been, or who they’d been with)..
WHEN THEY SAW THE COURAGE of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, THEY WERE ASTONISHED and they took note THAT THESE MEN HAD BEEN WITH JESUS.
 
Who’ve you been with?
Every day brings opportunities for Jesus to be seen in you and me. It’s the best life:)
Acts chapters 3 & 4

Wednesday, March 24th

"Law or Grace?" by Ed Skipper

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Tuesday, March 23rd

“Spiritual Training”, by Lynn Koehn

Serious athletes - athletes who are, in-it-to-win understand the value of training. Training even when…especially when…it starts to hurt. It is in those moments the athlete discovers an area that need additional attention. According to Mana Medical Associates, regular exercise increases muscle strength, bone density, flexibility, and stability. Chris Dinesen Rogers, B.S. Biology writes, “The benefits go far past the physical aspects. Good physical fitness is the most important gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.” Physical training helps to assure an athlete that he or she is prepared both emotionally and physically to enter the competition and win!

In the same way, spiritual training strengthens the well-being of the soul and empowers us to live life in victory! The spirit of Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy is, “hold on to the promise” or have confidence that godly training empowers us to stand firm and deny self-gratification, conquer weaknesses and overcome ungodly temptations.

 “But keep away from those godless legends, which are not worth telling. Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed.” 1 Timothy 4:7-9. [The Message Bible]

Spiritual training is about preparing and making yourself ready to run with perseverance the race God has set before you and to not grow weary or lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3. [The Passion Translation] “As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

Spiritual training is about knowing how to respond appropriately to situations and circumstances we are facing.

Hebrews 5:14. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

I invite you to join me in asking God to help us be more diligent and consistent when it comes to “spiritual training.” Like Paul, we do not want to be disqualified by running aimlessly or beating the air.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Pray this prayer with me;

“Father, empower me with the attitude of Apostle Paul. Strengthen and encourage me to not grow weary or lose heart in strict spiritual training. Help me to have my senses trained to accurately discern good from evil.”

Monday, March 22nd

“Chinese Bamboo,” By Bob Elliott

Recently I have been reading the book titled The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. In the last chapter, he describes how Chinese Bamboo grows. “Of all the growth patterns I’ve observed as a gardener, the growth of the Chinese Bamboo tree is the most amazing to me. Plant a bamboo sprout in the ground, and for four or five years (sometimes much longer) nothing happens! You water and fertilize, water and fertilize, water and fertilize- but you see no visible evidence that anything is happening. Nothing! However, about the fifth year things begin to change rather dramatically. In a six week period, the Chinese bamboo tree grows to be a staggering ninety feet tall! It seems incredible that a plant that lies dormant for years can suddenly explode with growth, but it happens without fail for these trees.”

I think that this illustration aptly fits where we are as a church right now. With Covid 19, there has been an extended window of time where we don’t think that much has been happening. However, behind the scenes, we have been faithfully watering and fertilizing the soil. We walk by faith and not by sight, believing and trusting in God for big things. In the parable of the seed and the sower, it is the good ground that reaps a multi-fold harvest. Our watering and fertilizing has been played out in exploring the lavish and extravagant grace of Jesus, avoiding deadly legalism and making much of the power of the resurrection of Christ.

The key has been to not give up. God is faithful to build his church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. It is his promise to us. So let us remain on point to walk in the path that He has chosen for us. Let’s look to the promise of the bamboo shoot.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Gal. 6:9

Thursday, March 18th

"What does the Lord Require?" by Galen Troyer

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of youbut to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8
How did it happen that the children of Israel so quickly stopped obeying God’s instructions/commands after all he had done for them in getting them out of Egypt and providing everything they needed along the way to the promised land? God sent Micah to warn them of coming judgment because of their disobedience. In the midst of what was happening, Micah also proclaimed hope, reminding them of God’s mercy and forgiveness if/when they returned to Him. (Chapter 7).
Before I/we criticize others, it’s always better, but more difficult, to examine ourselves and honestly answer the question: how am I responding to what the Lord is requiring of me/us? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God still sums it up pretty good. The most important thing is walking humbly with God. Anyone, on their own, showing justice and mercy, lacks the power and life of God in it, so it’s just works and in one’s own righteousness. Eternal value and life is when God is in it.
During last Sunday’s church service we were challenged and reminded of how blessed we are as children of God. Dwight challenged us with the truth of how much Jesus loves us. His love is so great-in some ways beyond our comprehension. The only way to begin to understand his love is to embrace salvation through him and begin to experience the depths of his love. As we walk with him daily we understand more and more the depths of his love. He wants to help us in every situation every day. Debbie shared from Psalm 139:5-6 “You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is to wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”
Warren’s message reminded us that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. We have access to God through Jesus. The truth sets us free and guarantees a successful journey as we walk in it. The culture is not our friend. God’s word is our foundation. Never put culture ahead of what God is saying to us and what his word says. It’s best to be more absorbed in what God says we are to be doing; rather than listening to or being absorbed by the culture.
Be challenged, motivated and encouraged each day by these words of Jesus: “The most important one (commandment) is this: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

Wednesday, March 17th

“The Mystery of Christ”, by Warren Stroup

When reading the book of Acts, we come across amazing stories found in the 10th and 11th chapter. It’s on these pages that we bear witness to the Gospel being presented and received by the Gentiles.  This is the illumination of revelation that flows from the Gospel. Those that were once outcasts are now fellow heirs’, members of the same body. 

Ephesians 3:4-6, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

This mystery has been revealed to us and it is our responsibility to live lives that emphasize this truth.  There is another passage in Galatians 3:26, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It’s these truths that set us apart from everyone that stands in opposition to Christ.  We no longer live arguing over our differences because we embrace what unites us.

Can we not lead the way, one Christian at a time, being an example, a testimony to the rest of the world? Christ unites us, our identity is found in him.  We live in a world that is trying to find themselves. The depth of this problem will not be answered in the struggle over gender identity, or believing that if everyone accepts our gender choices happiness will follow.  This is a deception of immense proportion, because we have been created specifically by God, for God and our happiness flows out of his purpose for us.  Outside of his will, there are only desperate people wanting to believe in something that they choose for themselves.  Their identity becomes their idolatry.  This cultural perversion is a byproduct of a people that have come to believe that we live only to survive, purposeless and meaningless.

Church, Jesus is the only hope for racism and discrimination.  He takes away what separates us and he becomes what unites us.

Something to think about:

How can you enlighten those blind to the mystery of the Gospel? People are looking for identity, have you found yours in Christ? 

Tuesday, March 16th

"Help is Available," enjoy this short video by Ed Skipper on"Truth Talk".

WATCH VIDEO

Monday, March 15th

“It’s All About Jesus,” By Bob Elliott

I have a friend that used to work for the John Deere Tractor company. He worked at the managerial level and described how many of their decisions followed their company motto to “make the main thing… the main thing.”

How true this is with Christianity as well. A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. We are not interested in playing some sort of religious game. We focus our energies on worshipping and following Jesus.

While this may seem obvious to us, it is very different to our culture. I like what Warren said yesterday about how important it is for us to not water down the bible in order to try to fit in with the culture around us. The main story line woven throughout the scriptures is the redemption power of the resurrected Jesus. That is the main thing! The scandalous grace given to humanity is a free gift for us to receive.

That is the good news of the gospel and it is meant to be shared with others. We have a distinct opportunity this week to invite our unsaved friends to the Alpha course.

This course makes the main thing… the main thing. It is all about Jesus, getting to discover who he is in a friendly environment that includes small group discussion.

The course starts next Monday evening at 6:00 p.m. here at the River Center. Please be courageous and invite others to come taste and see that the Lord is good.

Thursday, March 11th

"In All Circumstances" (Part II), by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, March 10th

“Welcome into the Holy of Holies!” by Warren Stroup

Matthew 27:50, 51 “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

Stop for a second and ponder the significance of this moment. This is the moment in time when we were given access into the Holy of Holies. It’s through the blood of Jesus that we can come boldly into the throne room of grace.

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

If this doesn’t bring a person to their knees?I don’t know what else will.  When we pray, we are now in the very presence of the Lord, protected by the blood of the lamb.  We no longer need a person to intercede for us.  It says in Hebrews 4:14, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Church, because our High Priest is Jesus and he is the perfect mediator for us. We can be confident that our confession of faith will last. It will persevere through the darkest of times. Jesus has changed our position before God.  We are now reconciled back to the Father; this is the “Good News” of the gospel.  

The next time you talk with God, let your gratefulness shine through, for we have so much to be grateful for. The High Priest used to go into the Holy of Holies only once a year. I would hope that we would frequent his throne room more than that.

Our relationship with the Father should be close and personal. We have been given full access through the gospel, take advantage of it.  You don’t have to wait until heaven to come boldly before him, you can do it today.

Something to think about,

Do you realize the gift you have being granted access to the Father, through the Son?  I’d encourage you to take advantage of it.  

Tuesday, March 9th

“It’s Out Of My Hands” by Jeremy Camp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B_iXPaoTD4

Allow me to highlight three distinctive fail-proof responses to life’s “never-ending pressures” referred to in this song:

 1. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty over ALL!

  • “There is nothing that You cannot handle.”
  • “God, You are strong enough.”
  • “Only You can take this out of my hands.”
  • “You're greater than all my sorrows.”

“For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” [Colossians 1:16-17]

 2. STOP worrying, take your hands off and give it to God!

  • “I will let the weight of my fear fall like sand”
  • “Letting go of worries I can't measure.”
  • “But that's where I find my life was never mine at all.”
  • “Holding onto truth that's healing me.”

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the Godly to slip and fall.” [Psalm 55:22]

 3. Praise God. Thank the Lord. Worship Jesus for who He is!

  • “Thank You, Lord, that this is out of my hands.”
  • “Worthy of all my trust.”
  • “Knowing I can trust You is a treasure.”
  • “You are the one inside always in control.”

 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:28]

So…the next time you’re facing what seems to be a “giant,” remember God is BIGGER! Go to your favorite Christian worship station and begin worshipping Jesus for who He is! LET GO AND LET GOD! Responding to difficult situations and circumstances this way is a guaranteed way to overcome and win!

I love the triumphant outcome of this song:

Out of my hands and into Yours
Out of my hands and into Yours

Take this out of my hands
Take this out of my hands
Take this out of my hands
It's out of my hands!

Take this out of my hands
Take this out of my hands
Take this out of my hands
It's out of my hands!

Monday, March 8th

“Psalms 104,” By Bob Elliott

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
   covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent.
 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
    he rides on the wings of the wind;
 he makes his messengers winds,
    his ministers a flaming fire. Ps.104:1-4 esv

Let’s take some time this morning to reflect on the goodness of the Lord. There is great value in quieting ourselves to allow our souls to drink deeply from the wells of God’s grace and mercy.

God’s very nature is filled with splendor and majesty. I am reminded of the British Royal family and all of the pomp and majesty of a royal wedding. Every detail is woven together to make for such beauty. I know this is a relatively poor example of trying to compare earthly things to the heavenly. However, if you can, picture in your mind how awesome is the splendor of God.

The reality is that we are all wired to be inspired spiritually.  Painting a mental picture of the beauty and majesty of God is what we see the Psalmist doing in this passage. We can take some time to do the same thing here.

He stretches out the heavens like a tent. This visual cue was appropriate in the day that it was written. We don’t often pitch a tent these days. However, we do see the stretching out of the heavens as a clue to an expanding universe that is getting bigger and bigger even as we are reading this devotion. The rate of expansion is so finely tuned for life to exist. I am grateful for the masterful hand of God to make it such.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!!!!

Friday March 5th

"Onward, Upward, Forward!" by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, March 4th

"In All Circumstances," by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, March 3rd

“We need Friends,” by Warren Stroup

“…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” I Samuel 18:1

Whenever I think of David and Jonathan I think these are two guys that had an amazing friendship.  They were willing to sacrifice everything for each other. 

What is a friend? The Bible gives us some definition to this question.

Ecclesiastes 4:10-11, the words of King Solomon

10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Have you ever fallen and needed someone to help you up? There are times when we fall and we can’t get back up without some assistance. A friend is there on such occasions.

You’re not perfect and there will come a time when you’ll find yourself flat on your face, reach out your hand and let your friend help you up.

Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

There’s a bit of a double edge sword here. Yes, we need friendships, but be mindful of who your friends are. An unreliable friend will do you harm, but there are friendships that grow deeper than your flesh and blood.  There may be some of us that have been in a friendship that hurt, they weren’t reliable. Don’t let one failed friendship produce sower grapes towards having another close friend.  We can learn from both good and bad relationships.

John 15:12-13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

What a powerful demonstration of true friendship, to be willing to sacrifice for the person you care about. 

When we are creating space at the River Center for men and woman to come together we are giving you an opportunity to cultivate friendships.  It’s our desire that we find people that we can walk with. People that we can share our up’s and down’s with, friends that are slow to judge and quick to love.

Something to think about:

How many close friends do you have, and you can’t count your spouse? It may be time to walk across the room and meet someone new.

Tuesday, March 2nd

“Continue Bearing Fruit—John 12:2” by Lynn Koehn

Spring is my all-time favorite season of the year. Clear blue skies, sunshine, warmer temperatures and occasional rain showers—all conducive to new plant life and bountiful growth! Which, as you can imagine, inspires “pruning!” Pruning is necessary if you want trees that bear healthy fruit and landscape plants and shrubs to continue to mature into the desired shape and design.

The Davey Tree Expert Company at www.davey.com gives some clarity to “pruning.”

What is the definition of tree pruning?

  • Pruning is when you selectively remove branches from a tree. The goal is to remove unwanted branches, improve the tree’s structure, and direct new, healthy growth.

What are the benefits of Pruning?

  • Pruning is one of best things you can do for your trees. A proper prune is an investment in both the long-term health of your plants and in the overall look and safety of your property.

Davey goes on to say; “When you remove old branches, you give trees the green light to put on healthy, new growth, train trees to grow on your terms and set the tree up with a good foundation for long-term health!”

An encouraging word was shared with the church on Sunday regarding “pruning.” The message was positive and a great exhortation.

Jesus says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].” [John 15:2 – Amplified Bible] 

Are you interested in bearing more, richer and finer fruit? I know I am. And…as was mentioned on Sunday, Jesus wants that for us, too! Pruning is setting you up with a good foundation for long-term fruit bearing!

I was challenged to do some serious evaluation. Are there things in my life hindering my relationship with God and others? Considering “more, richer and finer” fruit encourages me to invite Jesus to prune off the “dead branches” of past wounds, negative attitudes, failed endeavors, pent-up bitterness…anything and everything that interferes in running this “life’s marathon with passion and determination!”

Hebrews 12:1 [The Passion Translation] “As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So, we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.”

Joyce Meyer takes it one step further when she says; “It would be nice if we could see what God sees and say, “Yes, God. Let’s get rid of that dead branch.” I’ve done a good deal of pruning over the years. It is difficult to know in March which branches are not going to bear healthy (finer and richer) fruit in August. There’s no way to know for sure. But…God knows! He sees beyond the season of pruning. He knows our hurts, our disappointments and all the other hinderances in our lives.

I encourage you to say with me today, “Jesus, I give you permission to prune away the dead branches in my life that I am not able to see.” I also encourage you to say with me today, “Jesus, I give you permission to prune away ‘_________’ fill in the blank with things you know that hinder you from bearing an abundant crop of fine, rich fruit.

Joyce Meyer wraps it up well by saying, “The truth is, you can be miserable dragging those dead things around or you can go through the pain of letting God “prune” them away. Even though it’s uncomfortable, the best thing you can do is let God prune you, because after the hard part is over, you will see some amazing results!”

Monday, March 1st

“More about the Kingdom of God,” By Bob Elliott

For this session, I would like to look at the Kingdom of God in the context of the present times in which we live. We see that the Kingdom of God is both in the now, and in the age to come. How things look now are very different from in the age to come.

In Galatians 1:4 we see that Jesus gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. Our current situation is that we are living in a time where evil can easily prosper. The scriptures in the book of Ephesians talks about a spirit that is at work in the sons of disobedience. We should not be afraid or intimidated by this, however, we need to be aware of what this condition is and also know that it will not last forever. God is calling his church out from the cultural influence of this age. We are to be in the world, but not of it.  What does this look like for us?

I think that the big takeaway for us is that we are called to be salt and light to the culture around us. In the parable of the seeds being sowed on varying types of soil we see what happens to the seed that fell on thorny ground. He hears the word, but the cares of this age choke the word and it proves to be unfruitful. This age is one that attempts to choke out the word of God. It is an age where its spirit is hostile to the gospel. Men and Women will often yield in conformity to this age, rather than surrender to the claims of the gospel. It is not an easy climate for us to walk in by faith. However, that does not mean that we are to give up. No, we are to walk in the light, as he is in the light.

All of this could look depressing, until we see the glory and majesty of the King that rules our kingdom. At the end of the day, our job is to know him and to make him known. The massive scandal of His grace to bring redemption to humanity in these evil days, is without equal.

Worthy is the lamb, that was slain! It’s not about us…it’s about Him!

Friday, February 26th

"Let's Love Each Other!" by Gary Bittner

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Wednesday, February 24

“Holy Spirit breathe on me.” By Warren Stroup

Not only are we alive in Christ, we are continuously made alive by the Holy Spirit.  There is an amazing prophetic vision in Ezekiel 37:8-10, “8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”

When we grasp the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will live like we’ve never lived before.  It’s one thing to know the Gospel, the Good News regarding Christ’s work, it’s another thing to live it every day.  Knowledge is not enough, there are plenty of people that have book smarts, they know the Bible, they can quote scriptures, but the power behind those pages is missing.  This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  There was a reason Jesus was baptized in water and filled with the Holy Spirit before his three-and-a-half-year ministry began.  Do we think we are more than able to do it without the Spirit?  

Sign me up! If Jesus needed filling, then fill me to overflowing every day.  

Church buildings all across the world are full of dried up bones.  God breathe your Spirit on us so that we might be a great army ready to fight for your Kingdom.  Church if we could only see the battle that is warring around us, we wouldn’t take a step outside of our house without the Holy Spirit right beside us.  Jesus once said, “…I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Then Jesus goes onto say, “And when he comes, he will convict the world…” Our job is not to bring conviction regarding sin, righteousness and judgment. We are to preach the gospel and let the Holy Spirit bring conviction.  We are in a relationship with the Spirit that transforms a church goer into a Christ Follower.  When this transformation happens, we see the world differently, we see the truth through all the lies.  The Holy Spirit illuminates’ truth to us that changes lives.  We no longer try to find purpose or create life goals, we are purposed and his goal becomes our goal.

Ask yourself the question; what in my future is directed by the Spirit and what is directed by me? It might surprise you how easy it is to make a plan without any regard to the leading of the Spirit.

Remember, it’s to our advantage that the Spirit has come. What a blessing it is to walk everyday with the breath of life filling our lungs with passion and purpose for the things of God.

Something to think about:

Have you asked God to breath upon you, letting the Spirit of God become your source for living a radical life for Christ?

 

Tuesday, February 23rd

“Pursue God’s Plan and Purposes with PASSION,” by Lynn Koehn

I was recently blessed to have the opportunity to visit with a young mom who shared a small part of her life journey. She spoke briefly about her passion-for-the-mission of a particular organization she was connected with.

Like many of us, she discovered something she strongly believed in, jumped in with both feet and immersed herself in it. Often the immersion process progresses to a deeper and/or higher level than expected or anticipated without being fully aware of what is actually happening. The question becomes are you properly maintaining healthy relational commitments and responsibilities such as being a good parent, spouse, neighbor, employee, etc? Or…another good question, are you nurturing and maintaining proper physical, mental and, most importantly, vibrant spiritual health and well-being? Is the pursuit of your “earthly passion” distracting you from the joy, the benefits and the necessity of fully participating as a functioning member of the “body of Christ?”

Passion for God, His church, His plan and purposes for your life does not come naturally. Fortunately, the young woman I referenced earlier, to her credit, realized before any permanent damage was done to her relationship with God, her natural family and her church family, that the pursuit of her earthly passion was a distraction. I was blessed to hear her say, without regret and with her husband’s support, that she made some necessary life-altering changes in order to expend her time, energy and resources on pursing God’s plan and purposes.

Below are three requirements to maintaining a healthy passion for God, His plans and purposes for your life as well as your passion for His church:

A good recipe for Godly passion—Remind yourself that humble acts done for the glory of God will serve as guardrails in your pursuit of a vital life-giving relationship with God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  -Colossians 3:23

So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

-1 Corinthians 10:31

Give your heart fully to God—We have to truly open our hearts to God if we want to experience an intense enthusiasm for Him. If our heart's not in it, then we easily lose interest or start to think about our faith as a chore instead of a joy.

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” -Psalm 84:2

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21

Abandon ungodly passions—Being passionate about one thing often means that we can't be passionate about something else. As Christians, our faith needs to be paramount. Once we stop pursuing conflicting interests, we can reach a place where we rediscover true passion for God.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” -Galatians 5:24

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  -James 4:3

Monday, February 22nd

“What is the Kingdom of God? Part 2”, By Bob Elliott

Last week we talked about the kingdom of God being both now and into the future. Today I would like to look at the attributes of what this kingdom is.

If you look at a definition of kingdom in the dictionary, it will describe a geographic place, which is under the authority of a monarch. For example, the Kingdom of Great Britain has the Queen as their sovereign. To our modern minds, geography or real estate is the major factor of consideration.

In Biblical times, this would not have been the case. Back then, it was the person that is the monarch, not the land that was the most important way to describe a kingdom. The kingdom of David had considerable variation in the actual amount of land involved. However, it was always referred to as the kingdom of David.

For us as Christians, this second viewpoint makes the most sense to us. After all, there are Christians all over the globe. Therefore, our focus is more about our sovereign Lord than a geographical allegiance. I’m not saying that we should not be patriotic, but I am saying that we place Jesus before nation building. This helps us to keep a proper perspective when the politically crazy happens.

George Eldon Ladd describes “The Greek word for kingdom as basileia, in the New Testament is the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king. A basileia may indeed be a realm over which a sovereign exercises his authority; and it may be the people who belong to that realm and over whom authority is exercised; but these are secondary and derived meanings. First and foremost of all, a kingdom is the authority to rule, the sovereignty of the king.”

The scriptures teach us that Jesus holds all authority and that one day, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. His kingdom is an unending one. We can find great comfort in knowing that we are subjects of th