Devoted

Tuesday, October 26th

God is with you…ALWAYS!

By Lynn Koehn

 Feeling deserted, forsaken and all alone can be one of the most fearful and hopeless feelings one could ever experience. Fear is one of Satan’s most popular weapons he uses against us. The most common lie that Satan uses to instill fear in us is that God is distant or absent from us. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

 Let’s look at three truths that are the bedrock, the foundation, the solid rock on which we are planted. These scriptures emphatically assure us of where we are in our relationship with God:

Colossians 3:3, For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.”

 Colossians 1:13, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

 Ephesians 2:13, But now [at this very moment] in Christ Jesus you who once were [so very] far away [from God] have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

 Perhaps the greatest once and for-all deathblow to “the” lie are the words of Jesus,

 John 14: 18-20, “I promise that I will never leave you helpless or abandon you as orphans—I will come back to you! Soon I will leave this world and they will see me no longer, but you will see me, because I will live again, and you will come alive too. So, when that day comes, you will know that I am living in the Father and that you are one with me, for I will be living in you.”

 Finally, the crowning promise:

 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever [always]—the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you.” - John 14:16-17

 Thank you, Father, for sending us the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for promising to “be with us…ALWAYS! Thank you for helping us overcome the fear of being forsaken, deserted and all alone. Thank you, Jesus, that you are not distant or absent from our presence. Thank you Holy Spirit for, being with me….ALWAYS!

 God bless you all.

 

Monday, October 25th

God’s Abundant Pardon

By Bob Elliott

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:6-9

 

In verse 7, we read about this great abundant pardon. This displays God’s penultimate power to forgive. This is the real deal. The promise given to us is rock solid.

Notice the context that follows. “His ways are higher than ours, as far as the heavens are above the earth.”

 How often do we hear that phrase? Usually we think it pertains to something mysterious that we don’t understand so we simply say God’s ways are higher than ours. This doesn’t fit the context that we see in the text. This huge gap between God’s ways and our is speaking about His ability to forgive us, when we fall short of His glory.How often do we associate it with God’s glorious abundant pardon?

The scriptures describe his forgiveness as flowing out of guts or bowels. (Imagery) The implication is the deeper the sin, the more he pours out his forgiveness deep from within his core.

It is the center of his thoughts towards his people who love Jesus.

Think about this- God can be provoked to anger, He doesn’t need to be provoked into loving and forgiving us. Love and forgiveness are his default position towards us.

 

Friday, October 22nd

He Didn't Bring You This Far To Leave You On This Side

By Gary Bittner

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Thursday, October 21st

Roots

By Galen Troyer

Last fall I planted some lawn seed. The goal is always to plant enough seed so that the lawn will be thick enough to keep the weeds out. We know that it’s impossible to keep all the weeds out, and there are some weeds that are easier to control than others. Recently I pulled a weed that had a 14-inch root! I was surprised because the plant itself was only 8-10 inches tall.

 

I still have the plant, although, thankfully, it’s dead now. It’s a clear analogy of how easily “weeds” can take root and grow in our hearts. Life happens and we make choices every day based on things that happen to us and around us. Habits, thoughts and attitudes, family and friends and our environment, all influence our opinions. How we choose to respond is the seed we plant and that determines what takes root in our heart.

 

God will never be mocked! For what you plant will always be the very thing you harvest. The harvest you reap reveals the seed you planted. If you plant the corrupt seeds of self-life into this natural realm, you can expect a harvest of corruption. If you plant the good seeds of Spirit-life you will reap beautiful fruits that grow from the everlasting life of the Spirit. Galatians 6:7 (TPT)

 

Our actions, our words and what we think about are revealed by our heart. How much better and easier it is, if, when we see “weeds”, we “pull” them from our heart before the roots go deep.

 

There are lots of “tools” available for us and we aren’t expected to go it alone.

 

Tools include:

The Bible

The Holy Spirit

The Body (brothers and sisters)

 

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Ps. 139:23-24

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 20th

Unshakable Kingdom

by Warren Stroup

 Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

 When everything around us seems to be shaking, we can rest in the fact that our God does not get shaken. This passage says he “cannot be shaken.” It’s not even possible!

 We live in a time when it appears that it doesn’t take much to ruffle someone’s feathers. People have become so sensitized to their own feelings that they believe they’re the only ones that matter. 

 We are not of this worldly Kingdom. It’s extremely important that we believe this truth. A Kingdom that is being tossed about like a wet rag. This Kingdom will not endure. We have been added to an unshakable Kingdom and king who’s reign will endure throughout all eternity. 

 The author of Hebrew’s is imparting truth that will keep us humble. We are to offer acceptable worship to the Lord. Let us come before him with reverence and awe for he is a consuming fire. 

 Don’t you just love this ominous image?  Drive up through Green Peter and you’ll get the sense of what a consuming fire can do.  It clears a path for something new. One day God will make all things new. 

 Here’s a warning to the church. Let it burn, don’t yearn for the old as Lot’s wife did. He is a consuming fire and his fire is just and true. Let it burn!

 

 

Monday, October 18th

Walking in the Light

By Bob Elliott

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1st John 1:5-10 esv.

This scripture gives us so much insight on how to walk a balanced life in Christ. John is the author of this text and he has had an in-person relationship with Jesus. He is speaking of personal experience so he wants to communicate just how intimate we can be in trusting Christ to forgive us from our sins.

The reality is that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. While sin is serious business, it is incredible that God looks at us through the lens of Jesus’ righteousness. Sin does not defeat us. We fall down, then we get back up and stay in the game. We don’t fall down and say “I can never get back up because I fell.”

Nicky Gumble in his book titled Through the Bible in One Year puts is like this. “Keep short accounts with God. When you sin, quickly confess, repent and receive God’s cleansing. Get up and keep going. There is an extraordinary balance here. We are not supposed to sin, but rather walk in the light. However, we have all sinned.  If we say otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves. This leads to a wonderful combination: John both encourages his readers not to sin, while at the same time assuring them of God’s grace and mercy if they do. This balance of a call to holiness alongside of grace is right at the heart of the Christian life.”

People often say that Christians can be such hypocrites. That is not accurate, we are human beings with faults, like any others. The difference is that we are forgiven and set free from the clutches of sin through the amazing grace of King Jesus.  His freedom towards us is the motivator for us to be diligent to be people who walk in the light and to stay away from darkness.

 

Friday, October 15th

Keep Your Eyes on the Father

By Gary Bittner

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Thursday, October 14th

Ready, SET, Go!

By Galen Troyer

 

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, he gives specific instructions to them for holy living in chapter three. (In the earlier chapters he is getting them ready, by reminding them who they are in Christ Jesus):

 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, SET your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. SET your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

 Paul goes on to explain what they must do as they Go:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Col 3: 5-10

 Changing how we live isn’t an easy thing; it’s only because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit living in us that we can “put to death” all those things and live as God’s people by what we “put on.”

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col. 3:12-14

 I thought of the challenges issued during our 40 days of prayer and the fact that we don’t know when a prayer is answered unless we’ve prayed specifically.

There is plenty for me to pray about. That He would reveal specifically anything that I need to put to death; and also, that I rely on His strength to live fully “clothed” each day.

 Let’s not miss out on opportunities before us!

 Ready, Set, Go!

 

Wednesday October 13th

Pleasing the Lord

By Warren Stroup

 “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.”

2 Chronicles 29:1-2 NLT

 

If you’re like me when you’re reading the Bible there are people that either inspire you, remind you or irritate you. Hezekiah is an inspiration. He was a king that had an idolatrous father, Ahaz. He did not follow in his father’s footsteps but instead it was his Grandfather’s (Uzziah) leadership that drew him to the Lord.

 

Hezekiah wasn’t perfect by any means, but he lived a life pleasing to the Lord. What did he do that was so special?  He listened to the prophet Isaiah and turned to the Word of God for instruction on how to live. He put away the idols and worshipped God alone.

 

Worship is pleasing to the Lord. When we truly make him Lord of our lives, this becomes a sweet offering to the Lord. What can we offer the Lord that already has everything? Ourselves, when we surrender our lives to him, we become image bearers. Our love reflects his love. As Christ died for us, we in turn die to ourselves.

 

“The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Luke 9:22-23 NLT

 

Lord Jesus, I pick up my cross daily as an expression of my gratitude for the life that was sacrificed for me. I am but a poor reflection of your amazing love.

 

If you want to please the Lord, simply make him Lord.

 

Tuesday, October 12th

God is counting on You!

By Lynn Koehn

 “God will do His work on the earth through us, in spite of us! But He will not do it without us.” -Pastor Gary, Sunday morning preach, October 10, 2021. God is counting on us. “This is our Kairos moment.” We should be keenly attuned to the slightest hint that God is at work around us and graciously inviting us to join Him! As Pastor Gary says; “We have been chosen to re-present [represent] Christ!”

 “We are ambassadors of the Anointed One, who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly through our lips.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 TPT

 Allow me to highlight two of the many take-aways from Sunday’s message: NOW is our Kairos moment! Seize those opportune God-moments to re-present Christ to the community where He has chosen for us to live, work and play.

 “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So, don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” -Ephesians 5:15-17

 And, take-away #2: God is counting on us to carry out His eternal plan here on the earth.

 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” -Matthew 5:14

 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” -1 Peter 4:10

 God has graciously placed us in his church, His family. He has co-missioned us to be His ambassadors to the world. He is counting on us to live out all the promises of God as His chosen people, His church, in the community He has given us. Deuteronomy 1:1-8. He is counting on us to live in such a way that the enemy is defeated, the church is victorious and the world is reconciled back into a loving relationship with God the Father!

 Thank you, Heavenly Father for counting on us to be your ambassadors to the world. Thank you, Jesus, for counting on us to represent you to the community where you’ve placed us. Thank you, Holy Spirit for counting on us to join you in what you are already doing around us. We love you Jesus! We trust you God! Thank you, Holy Spirit! WE ARE COUNTING ON YOU!”

 God bless you.

 

Monday, October 11th

Set

By Bob Elliott

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4

I am reminded of an encouragement given by Gary Bittner recently about the word “let.” The word for today the word is “set.”

We are told in Colossian’s to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, rather than on earthly things. You see the person who doesn’t know Christ is locked into an earthy mind set. We have the freedom to rise above the din of naturalism.

We are called to live differently. We are the ecclesia, meaning those who are called out. Jesus has called us because he loves us. This is not some form of punishment where we don’t get to have all the fun that the earthly minded do.

No, His Love for the saints is awesome to behold and understand. God loves us from deep inside of himself. The scriptures describe this love as coming out of his gut or bowels. God is for us and not against us.  The more messed up we are, the more He loves us. 

He loves us because… He loves us! This is what it means to be hidden in Christ. We are made righteous because He is righteous. We are forgiven, so we walk in freedom. It is out of our freedom in Christ that we “set” our minds and hearts of the things that are above.

Sometimes we can tend to think that God sort of loves us, but is constantly perturbed at us when we fall short of His glory. The end point of this kind of thinking is actually not good doctrine. It places God’s love for the saints as conditional only. This is a warped picture of who God is. God can be provoked to anger, but He can’t be provoked to love. His default position is one of massive love for His people.

Today, let us set our minds on the things that are above, knowing that God really loves us unconditionally and we can walk in peace knowing how awesome and lavish His grace is extended to us.

 

 

Friday, October 8th

Keep On Keepin' On

By Gary Bittner

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Thursday, October 7th

WHO?

By Galen Troyer

 “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?

They who have clean hands and a pure heart, who do not lift up their soul to an idol or swear by what is false. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior.” King David. (Ps. 24: 3-5)

 The benefits of having clean hands and a pure heart include blessing from the Lord and vindication (justification) from God our Savior. There’s nothing better!

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Jesus ((Mt. 5:8)

 It is obvious that Jesus is saying that only the pure in heart will see God. Having a pure heart is a must if we hope to spend eternity with him.

 How can a young man (or any of us) keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119: 9-11)

 On our own, are any of us able to keep our hearts pure? The answer is obvious. Thankfully we aren’t doomed to failure because God knew we couldn’t and long ago he sent us a Savior-Jesus, His only Son. Read these promises from Jesus which he spoke to his disciples near the end of his life here on earth:

 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14: 15-18)

 “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16: 13-15)

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Prayer connects us to the Holy Spirit. Only by his presence in our lives can we have a pure heart and live a life pleasing to God. He knows us; he knows everything we think about. Nothing we say to him will surprise him. He wants to set us free from anything and everything that would hold us back. Let him know that your life is his at the beginning of each day and then “expect to be surprised”.

 My Prayer: Holy Spirit, we need you every moment of every day. We want to hear your voice; We want to respond promptly and correctly to your voice. Set us free from the things of this world that would keep us from being fully devoted to you. Help us to be quick to discern and reject any thoughts and attitudes that keep us from having a pure heart. Fill us with your fruit. Amen

 Wednesday, October 6th

Let Him In!

By Warren Stroup

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15,16

I think it’s safe to say that none of us want to be described as lukewarm. It’s equally as safe to say that some of us are. Here’s the honey to will help swallow the bitter truth. Jesus has a remedy for this condition.

Let’s first look at the condition of being lukewarm. In verse 17 it reads, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” This is Jesus saying that our dependence on the natural things to meet our needs is a tepid way of living. It’s living in a fantasy, thinking that our security is in what we can obtain, rather than in what he freely gives. One of the results mentioned here is blindness, being lukewarm is like have spiritual glaucoma. We are looking at life through a haze.

I remember when I was working at Safeway as a checker. There came a time during the day that I just wanted to check-out, disconnect from all the busyness of my job. My remedy was to take off my glasses. When I removed my glasses everything was blurry. It was as if removing my glasses, people couldn’t see me. I didn’t care about what was going on around me, I was in a haze, oblivious to my surroundings. It desensitized me to what I needed to do. 

Jesus shares the remedy with us in verse 18, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” It’s what we receive from Christ that ignites the passion and desire within us. It’s what makes us hot or cold! 

Here’s what he has to offer us…

Gold-eternal riches

Garments-being clothed in his righteousness

Salve-so that we will see clearly

The next two verses are explosive as they come off the page. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Being corrected by God, like the church in Laodicea, is a good thing. His love compels us to repent. Church, be zealous about the things of God; it will drive us to repentance. It will point us to the cross, to the one that conquered sin and death, who is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks. OPEN THE DOOR!!! He already knows you, he sees your darkest secrets and he wants to come in. YOU NEED HIM TO COME IN! This isn’t a salvation message to the church, this is a sanctification message to the church! He wants to be your everything!  Your every need will be met by opening the door and letting him in!

He wants to open our eyes to being zealots! The day of lukewarm Christianity is over! LET HIM IN!

 

Tuesday, October 5th

"Spring Up, O’ Well"

By Lynn Koehn

 Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds— “All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says.” -John 7:37-38

 We have to read those words again! Jesus challenged, invited and prophesied those words over two-thousand years ago. His promise of “rivers of living water will burst out from within you,” is still true today!

 Without question, it is obvious that Jesus again is standing up and shouting to us, the River Center people (and people everywhere) “all you who are thirsty, come to me and drink!” Jesus is inviting us to come to the well for an “Infusion Therapy!”

 Allow these words of Jesus to sink deep into your spirit today. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal again, fresh, new understanding of this phrase “rivers of living water will burst out from within you!”

 Prayer Initiative (making prayer a priority), Crossing-Over series, 40-Day Prayer Challenge, Daniel Fasting and Corporate Prayer has been the beginnings of a thirsty people in our church responding to Jesus’ invitation. Thirsty people are drinking deeply and are being filled to overflowing! Rivers of “living water” are bursting forth!

 Spring Up, O’ Well! (some of us will recall singing this song)

I've got a river of life flowing out of me. Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors, sets the captives free. I've got a river of life flowing out of me.

 Spring up, O well, within my soul. Spring up, O well, and make me whole. Spring up, O well, and give to me - That life, abundantly.

 “And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.” - Ezekiel 47:9 ESV

 “Lord, let this river not be just a trickle, not just any water, not still waters. Let it be a mighty river of living water bursting forth from the Holy Spirit deep down within us bringing new life to everyone and everything the river touches!”

 God bless you. We love you!

Monday, October 4th

"What’s Next?"

By Bob Elliott

Now that we have finished our 40 days of circle prayer, it is now on our hearts to ask the question of what happens next? We want to see the momentum that has been established to continue on going forward. Now is not a time for us to kick back and say we made it, now lets just cruise back into the same patterns of lifestyle that many of us had before these 40 days.

I would like to encourage the church with scripture from the book of Ezekiel. This is the prophesy of the dry bones coming back to life.

 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

The part to emphasize is the aspect of breath. Bones are just bones, that is until the breath of God is imparted to them. We know that in the scripture that there are many references to breath being linked to the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is what is next for our church. It is for us to be more sensitive to the breath of the Holy Spirit in new and exciting ways.

Notice how Ezekiel is further commanded to prophesy to the breath.

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.  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.” 

May our hearts grow together in love and unity as we surrender our own will to the manifest working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We have just begun to scratch the surface of the deep river of God. Let’s be river (center) people.

Friday, October 1st

Day 40, “Prayer Alphabet”

By Warren Stroup

“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

Today is our final day of our “40 Day Prayer Initiative”, we have enjoyed going through “Draw the Circle” over these past 40 days. I believe that today is the Beginning of a Prayer Initiative that will continue at the River Center. God has been calling our church to Pray, it has begun with a prayer initiative, but it will continue with a people that are passionate about prayer.

We are going to continue meeting at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings and 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday evenings (notice we moved this time by half an hour). As we have been reading the book of Joshua, there has been a theme. “Talk to the Lord before you move forward.” Church, God is calling us to “Crossover” each step we take must be led by prayer. Our Tuesday and Wednesday prayer times are essential as we begin to move out into what God is calling us to do.  Jesus Christ is giving us marching orders. I really liked the comment Mark made in yesterday’s devotion, “The purpose of prayer is not to give orders to God; the purpose is to get orders from God.”

We are going to continue praying because we need to receive orders from God.

The Psalmist writes, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…” (Ps 37:23) How can a people follow the Lords orders if we aren’t positioning ourselves to listen? Church, it’s time for us to stand at attention and receive what God is saying to us.

This might be a challenge to many of us, because we’ve become accustom to giving ourselves orders. We may have even said, “God is directing us… or God told me…”, when in reality it’s been just a tag line used so people won’t ask any questions. We must be able to differentiate our will from God’s will.

We are the army of God, together on mission, listening to the commands spoken to all of us.

This Friday night (6 p.m.) and Sunday morning (10 a.m.) are times when God is going to speak to us, and I emphasize “US”. Church, come and hear what our marching orders are.

Thank you all for being part of this prayer initiative, may you be richly blessed as you make prayer a valued part of your daily lives.

Thursday, September 30th

Day 39, “Holy Ground”

By Galen Troyer

“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

This was God speaking to Moses from the burning bush. No doubt Moses was surprised to see the bush and then to hear God speaking to him. After all, he’d been out in the middle of nowhere for about 40 years and probably thought God had forgotten about him. In our reading today (chapter 39), Mark says that Jewish scholars concluded this: “God appeared to Moses in the burning bush for one simple reason: to show that no place is devoid of God’s presence, not even a bush on the backside of the desert. So they gave God a name I’ve learned to love: The Place. God is here, there, everywhere. So it doesn’t matter where you are; God can meet you anywhere.” Let’s not forget that!

The two testimonies shared in today’s chapter are unbelievable in the natural. Only God could pull these off. Be sure to read the testimonies of General Cecil Richardson (page 215) and Ken Gaub (page 217).

These past 39 days have made me more aware of my need to be listening to that nudging in my brain and heart. I don’t want to miss out on anything God wants to do through me, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Nothing God does is insignificant.

Mark reminds us of something he said earlier in our readings (page 219): “No one can live off someone else’s experience, someone else’s story. We need our own epiphany, our own testimony.”

In all of our lives God wants to show himself strong. There are no doubt times He’s done that and over time we’ve forgotten. We’ve been reminded that we forget the things we should remember and we remember things we should forget. I’m challenging us to write things down. When we go back and read those things, it increases our faith.

In conclusion, I want to share a personal testimony. In recent days I’ve been going through files and boxes, keeping what I want to save and throwing all the other papers away.  Tuesday, I came across a note I wrote about 20 years ago. Here’s what it says:

It’s been a wonderful day because this morning we got the news that blood work was negative on (our grandchild). Thank you Jesus!! I felt His assurance yesterday and especially last night, but the news was still a most welcome confirmation! The Lord’s gentle hand is on (our grandchild) and (our grandchild) will be -already is-a testimony of what God can do. My prayer is that (our grandchild) will always be a true servant of Jesus and a blessing to family and many others in this world.

Of course I forwarded this treasure to (our grandchild) and we had a wonderful conversation yesterday because God is answering our prayers.

I’m looking forward to our Friday night (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning Worship service.   There will be personal testimonies along with praise, prayer  and worship. You don’t want to miss it!!

Wednesday, September 29th

Day 38, “Climb the Watchtower”

By Warren Stroup

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.” Habakkuk 2:1 NLT

I just talked on Sunday about the 450 prophets of Baal and how they were defeated by the one prophet of God, Elijah. Faith produces more faith, answered prayer produces a tenacity to pray. Elijah witnessed God defeat Baal, why wouldn’t he pray for rain to fall. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Praying increases praying.

I remember when my older brother first started playing the violin, he struggled with practicing. I remember on many occasions when my parents would threaten to stop paying for lessons if he didn’t practice. Interesting enough it took years of practicing before he didn’t need encouragement from Mom and Dad anymore.  You might ask, “what changed?” It was when he began to see the results of practicing. The difficulty in practicing was trumped by his enjoyment in playing. He actual loved playing, whether it was practicing or performing with an orchestra.

You’ve heard it said, or maybe you’ve even said it yourself, “I find it so difficult to pray.” The answer to this challenge is pray until it isn’t.

We quit too quickly, and never cross over to that place of enjoyment. 

I share that illustration to encourage us that praying will produce a love of praying.

You’ll be amazed at the circles you draw, as you make drawing circles part of your daily life.

The Bible is full of memorials, moments in time when God did something extraordinary. The children of Israel set up landmarks that would be identifiable for generations to come. God wants to do something extraordinary through prayer, are you ready to make a landmark?

Pray believing that God is going to do something significant through prayer.

Tuesday, September 28th

Day 37, “Prayer Contracts”

By Lynn Koehn

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” -A.W.Tozer

“I think Tozer was right when he stated that a low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils and high view of God is the solution to ten thousand problems.” -Mark Batterson. I love the way Batterson puts biblical truths into words. He goes on to say, “Our biggest problem is our small view of God. God is so much bigger than our biggest problems. God is so much better than our best thoughts. He is infinitely wiser and more gracious and powerful than anything we can imagine.”

I realize you may have or will read those statements in todays chapter but I think they are words worth re-emphasizing. I encourage you, each time you face a hurdle or an obstacle and as thoughts, dreams and visions fill your heart and mind, do this simple yet profound and life-changing exercise that Batterson suggests; think about God. What images come into your mind…..? As you do, remember:

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” -Colossians 1:16-17

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” - Revelation 4:11

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” -Jeremiah 32:17

Praying prayers that are in agreement with the Word of God are “backed by the full authority of the King and His Kingdom!” (Draw the Circle, Mark Batterson, pg 205) As Pastor Warren likes to say, “Let’s make our God BIG”….in you, in your family, in our church! Allow yourself to dream God-sized dreams! Welcome and entertain God-thoughts! Believe our “God-of-the-Impossible” for the impossible!

Monday, September 27th

Day 36, “Senior Partner”

By Warren Stroup

I really enjoyed the title of this chapter, what better partner could a person ask for than God himself.

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Matthew 6:20

Mark paints a picture of what this looks like using a testimony from Stanley Tam. I won’t go back over the chapter, but I’d encourage you to read how a person’s generosity was changed once he gave God control of his business.

I’ve been reading a book series called “Chronicles of the Kings” by Lynn Austin. It’s an excellent series that gives you an inside look at various kings around 700 B.C. I was reminded while reading this chapter in “Draw the Circle” how the God of the kings is the same God in our lives today. He hasn’t changed and there is scriptural support backing this claim up. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 6:8 I would encourage you to read the stories of the Kings that risked everything, putting their lives, as well as the kingdom in the hands of Almighty God.

Are you willing to risk it all? Would you be willing to face insurmountable odds and put your trust in God? The real question is; will you make him your Senior Partner? Give God control of your company, your family, your finances and your life.

Mark says, “The greatest legacy a person can leave is a complete surrender of their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ.”

We sing the song, “I surrender All.” Today will you make him Lord of your life and surrender it all to Him?

Trust me when I say you’ll never regret this decision!

Friday, September 24th

Day 33 – “Prayer Covering”

By Gary Bittner

Good Morning River Center family! Today is Day 33 of our 40 day prayer initiative, and we are looking at Chapter/Day 33 in our book ‘Draw The Circle’ entitled ‘Prayer Covering.’

The key scripture for today is Exodus 17:12 where we read the account of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands and arms during an intense battle with the Amalekites. We read that as long as Moses’ arms were held up, Israel prevailed, but when his arms became weary and lowered, the Amalekites prevailed. Because of Aaron and Hur’s support, Joshua and the army of Israel won the battle! And, while Moses got the headlines, Aaron and Hur seem to be just ‘footnotes’ in the story.

Here is the last paragraph of Chapter 33: “Prayer is the pen that writes history. Don’t worry about making headlines, focus on the footnotes. And if you focus on the footnotes, God will write the headlines.”

I love that last paragraph! The issue in Exodus 17 was not whether the ‘great man Moses’ would have his hands help up by a couple of ‘footnote guys,’ the issue was whether Israel, the people, won or lost!

Please read the account of Father Nash in today’s chapter. Many of us have heard of the great evangelist Charles Finney, but how many of us have heard of Father Nash? I venture not many. I have read much about Finney and Father Nash over the years and am always inspired and amazed by Father Nash’s heart of prayer. Nash was called to intercede for Finney for decades, before, during, and after the amazing meetings and revivals Finney presided over. And his prayers were so effective that Charles Finney himself said, ‘without Nash there is no Finney.’ I encourage you to look at little deeper in Evangelist Charles Finney and his mighty ministry. And as you do, remember that Father Nash was there the while time, not seen, but powerfully used!

Walter Wink said “History belongs to the intercessors.”

I want to make history, let’s do it, thru prayer, together.

Thursday, September 23rd

Day 32, “Get a Testimony”

By Galen Troyer

“They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Rev. 12:11

I have been blessed and challenged in these daily readings and I’m believing you have been also. Today, Mark reminds us that testimonies can light a fire under our faith unlike most anything else we experience; because “if God did it for them, He might just do it for me”.

Mark tells us to share answers to prayer - it’s the way we give God all the glory; and because others need to hear it. A personal testimony is our secret weapon, and that’s why the enemy wants us to keep it a secret.

Jesus triumphed over the enemy by His shed blood on Calvary’s cross. He broke the curse of sin so we can break the cycle of sin.

It is so freeing to know that we are not stuck in that cycle but instead we’ve been set free because of what Jesus has done for us. We enjoy when things are going well, however if it was always that way we wouldn’t have a testimony. It’s in times of difficulty (testing) that we get a testimony, after we pass the test. I think it’s God’s goodness that gives us the “opportunity” to rely on Him. We are learning to pray about more things and more specifically about things. The results will be (more) testimonies to share. That’s exciting to think about!

Don’t be satisfied with simply going to church; get into God’s presence. Don’t be satisfied with hearsay; get a word from the Lord. Don’t be satisfied with secondhand faith (someone else’s testimony); Get a testimony!

Wednesday, September 22nd

Day 31, “Spell it out”

By Warren Stroup

“What do you want me to do for you?” Matthew 22:32

What a challenge for us this morning. If God where to ask you what you wanted would you have an answer for him? If you haven’t ever thought about it, when the time comes you may have nothing to say.

I like this quote:

“Most of us don’t get what we want simply because we don’t know what we want.”

Jesus saw that the two men were blind, but he wanted to hear them articulate their need. Isn’t that interesting? God wants us to be specific about what is on our heart. We often times pray what I call “around the world” prayers. These are the general prayers that cover every topic imaginable. It’s like we walk away thinking, “Did I cover everything?” We don’t have to cover everything, but we should be able to cover something. What is that, “something” that is on your heart?

The next time you pray come to the altar with a specific need in mind. Mark wrote, “...we’ve forgotten most of the prayers we’ve prayed before they are even answered.” What is a prayer that you haven’t forgotten, that eats at you, that comes to your mind so often? Let that be your prayer.

I like how Mark refers to these as Jericho prayers. These are the specific prayers that you have to spell out, not the “unmentionable” prayers. When I was a youth pastor we’d ask the kids if there were any prayer requests, one day a young boy raised his hand and said, “I have an unmentionable prayer.” Really? A prayer you can’t even speak out loud. Trust me, I found out later what the boy’s prayer was and together, we “mentioned” it to God.

Take some time this week and allow the Holy Spirit to help you define specific needs for yourself, your family and the church.

Jesus is still asking the question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Tuesday, September 22nd

Day 30, “Abide in Me”

By Lynn Koehn

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” -John 15:7

As Pastor, Author Mark Batterson states in today’s chapter, being in the presence of God, “will radically change the way we think, the way we live, the way we love.” The desire, the goal, the dream of every Christian or at least it should be. Right? King Solomon makes the argument that we become like those we associate with; Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Pastor Mark goes on to say, “If we linger in His presence, God will linger on us.”

The question is; “How do we linger in His presence?” One on the surest ways, as described in today’s chapter is to get into the Word of God! Abide in God’s Word! Abiding is a lifestyle. It’s permanent. The word abide means “to dwell in.” Staying in a hotel is temporary. Living in your home is permanent. Abiding in God’s Word is being immersed in it. Reading, studying, meditating and continually applying the Word of God. Abiding is static. Not like a piece of clothing you put on and take off. All the promises of God are permanent and unchanging.

2 Corinthians 1:20 [NLT] “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means, ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory.”

Being immersed in, dwelling in, clothed with are all permanent connotations. Permanently abiding in God’s Word brings supernatural peace in the midst of the storms, unwavering authority over our enemy(s), impressive and notable victory against the temptations of doubt and fear. Abiding in the Word of God is living the presence of God and the presence of God dwelling in you!   

“I thank you Father, for inspiring, challenging and encouraging us to become more and more immersed in your Word. I thank you Jesus for slathering (as Pastor Gary likes to call it) your love all over us as we “abide” in your Word. I thank you Holy Spirit for revealing more of the heart of our Heavenly Father to us through your Word.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Day 29, Draw the Circle

By Bob Elliott

The message for the day starts like this, “Spiritual growth is a conundrum. The key is developing healthy and holy routines called spiritual disciplines. But once the routine becomes routine, we need to change the routine. Why? Because sacred routines become empty rituals if we do them out of left-brain memory instead of right brain imagination.” I don’t know about you, but for me it is so easy to get stuck into a routine. During this season of our prayer initiative, I would like to encourage you to do something outside of your normal routine with the specific purpose in mind to worship the Lord with the right side of your brain.

I am challenged and encouraged by todays message. One other quote that stood out to me was “One of the great dangers we face spiritually is learning how and forgetting why.” At the end of the day, the “why” is all about desiring to please the Lord in our thought’s deeds and words.

I love the idea of right-brain prayer that is grateful to God for all of the majesty of creation. The more we study the complexity of all living systems, the more in awe we become of God’s amazing creativity. I would like to encourage us all to be aware of the majesty of God in creation, that He did all of this on our behalf.

Praise the Lord! All you servants of the Lord!

Friday, September 17th

“Day 26 – “Game With Minutes”

By Gary Bittner

Good Morning River Center family! Today is Day 26 of our 40 day prayer initiative, and we are looking at Chapter/Day 26 in our book ‘Draw The Circle’ entitled ‘Game With Minutes.’

The key scripture for today is 1 Thess. 5:17 (NASB), ‘Pray without ceasing.’ Author Pastor Mark Batterson begins this chapter by encouraging us to redeem every area of our life, every minute of our life and turning into a prayer.

Obviously ‘pray without ceasing’ doesn’t mean take your eyes off the road when driving to pray, or spend your day at work on your knees in prayer, or ignoring your family to pray, but it does mean that we can ‘be in prayer all the time, in every situation, every minute.’

Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century monk said it like this “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” This is ‘prayer without ceasing.’

Just as we don’t have a ‘church life’ and a ‘family life’ and a ‘play life’ but have ONE life, so it is with prayer. We should not limit our prayers to a regimented ‘prayer time’ but we can and should be communicating with our Heavenly Father all through the day as we pray for the tasks at hand, as we pray for our fellow students, our fellow co-workers, the gas station attendant, the Winco checker, and on and on.

As we pray ‘at all times and in all circumstances’ we will find ourselves walking with the very real sense that we are indeed Romans 14:17 ‘Kingdom covert agents’ as we bring righteousness, peace and joy into situations and circumstances through our prayers and our acts of intercession.

I’m convinced one of primary reasons people feel ‘far from God’ is that they are not regularly talking to Him and listening as He talks to  them. Remember, prayer is not a monologue, it is a dialogue. And the more we dialogue with God the more we begin to really hear His voice, begin to walk more in the Spirit, begin to live a life of purpose and compassion.

As Pastor Mark said in this chapter “Prayer is not something we do with our eyes closed; prayer is something we do with our eyes wide open.” At all times, in all situations and circumstances. Amen? Amen!

Thursday, September 16th

Day 25, "A Prophetic Voice"

By Galen Troyer

“I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit in them!” Moses (Numbers 11:29)

I love the challenge Mark gives us in today’s chapter. When we listen and respond with God’s words to us for others, the results can make an eternal difference.

You no doubt have benefitted from encouraging words from others. The first two that come to my mind are Dwight Haley and Randy Springer. They’ve often encouraged and motivated me.

In today’s reading, Mark reminds us of several truths that will increase our influence and benefit others: Prayer isn’t just the way we cultivate our own potential; it’s the way we recognize potential in others too.

Like Paul, who saw gifts in Timothy that Timothy couldn’t see in himself, we, through prayer, are able to see with prophetic eyes. We are given supernatural insight. Then we are prepared to speak with prophetic boldness into the lives God places in our path.

The more we grow in grace, the more prophetic we become. This doesn’t mean we will start predicting the future; it means we’ll start creating it. How? Through our prayers! Prayer is the way we write the future. It’s the difference between letting things happen and making things happen. And when we speak prophetic words into someone’s life, it gives them a new lease in life.

According to 1 Corinthians 14:3, a prophet speaks words of comfort and encouragement as prompted by the Holy Spirit, and prophets come in all sizes and shapes. But the common denominator is prophetic insight that is the by-product of intercessory prayer. The more we pray, the more prophetic we become…but the less we pray, the more pathetic we will become.

Lord help us, that we never become “pathetic”. Our families, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and others need us to pray diligently and regularly!

And the world is passing away along with it’s desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17 ESV

You may not see yourself as a prophet, but you are one. You’re a prophet to your friends. Parents are prophets to their children. You’re a prophet at work and a prophet at home. And your words have the potential to change lives by helping people discover their identity and destiny in Jesus Christ”. Mark Batterson (pg. 142)

Wednesday, September 15th

Day 24 “Find Your Voice”

By Warren Stroup

“The word of the Lord came to me.” Jeremiah 1:4

Have you ever had the word of the Lord come to you? I’m not sure what the percentage would be, but I believe that a lot of us have. It may be that he has spoken, we just didn’t realize it was his voice.

Mark talks about how we have a prophetic voiceprint. I was reminded when reading this chapter about Paul discussion to the church in Corinth. He said, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (I Corinthians 14:1) God has chosen to speak through his people. Isn’t that what the Bible is, God speaking through his kids?

Prophecy is the rhema word, better defined as the “now” word. It’s God speaking through his people that are listening. Just as God spoke to Jeremiah he wants to speak to you. I would encourage you to take Paul’s word personally and begin to desire to hear his voice.

This past Sunday Mike Mackessy came up to me and spoke a very simple word from the Lord. This was just before I preached. What Mike said gave me the confidence to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Mike’s faithfulness was an encouragement for me to be faithful. This is an excellent example of body ministry. Each one of us has a gift, it could be that when we hold back our gift it doesn’t ignite the gift in others. We are all connected, let’s desire the spiritual gifts.

God wants to give you a voice. If you haven’t done this already begin to listen to what God wants to say through you.

Tuesday, September 14th

Day 23, “Not Now”

By Lynn Koehn

The following sentences captured my thoughts as I read today’s chapter in our 40-Day Prayer Challenge, Draw the Circle, by Mark Batterson. If you’re like me, as I’m reading along and something jumps off the page at me I have to go back several times and reread it as well as several sentences or paragraphs before and after to catch the context and the full meaning of what the writer is saying. Please take a moment today to reread the entire ‘Wait’ section (pgs. 131-133) to catch the full meaning, the value and the benefit of what is being said.

Read carefully what Mark wrote: “Let me come right out and say it: we’re way too busy. In the words of Apostle Paul, we’re ‘busybodies.’ We’re constantly trying to do more and more in less and less time. The net result is that we don’t have any margins in our lives. And that is when prayer get marginalized. We think we have too much to do to pray, but the exact opposite is true: we have too much to do to not pray!”

Isaiah 40:28-31 – "Have you not kn