Devoted

Friday, March 1st

Entering God's Rest

By Gary Bittner

Hi River Center,

Have you ever felt just plain worn out, exhausted and empty as a result of ‘life?’. Me too. Here is this weekend’s devotional, let’s rest in Him and His promises.

 

Scripture: Hebrews 4:1 (NIV) - "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it."

 

In Hebrews 4:1, the author reminds us of the promise of entering God's rest and reminds us to be a diligent people of faith so that none of us fall short of His incredible promise of rest.

 

The topic of God's rest is deeply rooted in Scripture. In the beginning, after God created the heavens and the earth, on the seventh day, He rested from all His work. This rest was not a result of exhaustion or weariness, but rather a manifestation of His satisfaction and delight in His creation. ‘It is good.’

 

Similarly, the promise of entering God's rest in Hebrews is not primarily about physical rest or ceasing from labor. It is an invitation to experience the fullness of God's peace, joy, and provision in our lives. It is an invitation to find rest for our souls amidst the chaos and challenges of this life.

 

Why or how would anyone fall short of God's rest? It is because of unbelief and disobedience. Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author addresses a group of Jewish Christians who were tempted to turn away from their faith and return to their old religious practices. They were in danger of missing out on the rest that God had promised them because of their wavering faith.

 

Today, we too can easily fall into the trap of unbelief and disobedience. We may allow our circumstances, doubts, or the pressures of the world to overshadow our trust in God's promises. We may become complacent in our spiritual journey, neglecting to diligently seek after God and His rest. We may seek satisfaction and fulfillment in the things of this world, rather than finding our ultimate rest in God alone.

 

But let us be encouraged by the fact that the promise of entering God's rest still stands. Let us be intentional in pursuing a deep and intimate relationship with God, allowing His peace to fill our hearts and minds.

 

As we navigate through the ups and downs of this life, let’s remember that true rest is found in Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29 (Message version), "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly."

 

So, let us hold fast to our faith, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith. Let us rest in Him as we trust in His promises. And as we enter into His rest, may we experience the abundant life He has prepared for us.

 

God bless,

Gary B.

 

Thursday, February 29

It’s Your Right

By Galen Troyer

 

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1: 9-13 (NIV)

 

It is important to understand, and believe this; that it’s your God declared Right to be called his child when you receive (accept) Jesus and believe in his name. Why? Because that’s what he calls you! There has never been, nor will there ever be any Right more valuable than this; this one is eternal.

 

Pastor Warren explained so well last Sunday what this looks like. For all who have received and believe in Jesus, their lives, including their bodies belong to God. And they live to please him; doing what he wants, rather than what their flesh wants.

 

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Romans 8:14 (NIV)

 

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom. 8:5-6

 

Thank you, Father, for your goodness and favor. You have made us righteous through Jesus and we are yours. We are your children, and we celebrate that right.

 

 

Wednesday, Feb 28th

The Kingdom of God

By Bob Elliott

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Eph. 1:3-10

This piece of scripture is a good example of what the Kingdom of God actually means. The terms kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably in the New Testament. However, it can be confusing or even elusive to understand what kingdom business is. Is this kingdom something in the future?  Is it about us being with God in heaven when we die? Alternatively, is there something more to the equation?

Often times when we think about the kingdom of God, we tend to settle into one of three possible positions. N. T Wright in the book titled The challenge of Jesus describes it like this. Option one, a quietist that separates from the wicked world. The kingdom is found in a hidden conclave away from what is going on in culture and the world. We wait for God to do whatever God is going to do. Option two, be engaged with the culture, particularly in politics of power, doing the best that you can and hope that God will somehow validate what you are doing. Option 3 is a zealots approach to the world. We should fight against all forms of evil wherever we see it. Say your prayers, sharpen your sword. Good must triumph over evil, so by any means necessary overcome evil.

Most of us could probably relate in some fashion to any one of these positions, or maybe some combination of them. I am not saying that all of these positions are bad, they each have some inherent value. However, they are not particularly good in trying to define what the kingdom of God is about.

Ultimately, the kingdom of God is found in our redemption in Christ. The kingdom is a person, the person is Jesus. Jesus said to his disciples that the kingdom is at hand.  Wright describes the following  “God was now unveiling his age-old plan, bringing His sovereignty to bear on Israel and the whole world as he had always intended, bringing justice and mercy to us all. And He was doing so, apparently through Jesus.” It is in him that we have redemption through his blood.

Therefore, at the end of the day, the kingdom of God is inextricably linked to the good news of the Gospel. We are forgiven from sin by the lavish grace of redemption. When we talk about extending the kingdom, we are talking about being salt and light to the world with the intention of sharing this marvelous hope for a future that extends beyond the grave. The kingdom is both now and yet to come. Redemption begins when we are saved, it is fulfilled in heaven.

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Greatness of His Power

by Lynn Koehn

 True power resides with God, not men. As Daniel expressed in Babylon when God revealed to him the meaning of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

 19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.20 Daniel answered, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,For wisdom and power belong to Him.”21 “It is He who changes the times and the seasons;He removes kings and establishes kings.He gives wisdom to the wise
And [greater] knowledge to those who have understanding!” 
22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness,And the light dwells with Him.”-Daniel 2:19-22

 Join me in praying Paul’s prayer for ourselves, so we may live in God’s all-sufficient power at all times. 19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20 which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:19-20 [GNT],

“Christianity is the power of God in the soul of man.” –Robert B. Munger

 

Monday February 26th

Grace

 By Jonah Lang

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

The other day God reminded me of a quote.

“Run, John, run, the law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands. Far better news the gospel brings: It bids us fly and gives us wings.” John Bunyan

Thank You Jesus for the new covenant, thank you that you came to fulfill the law and gave us grace and an example to live by.

 

 

 

Friday, February 23rd

Oregon Springtime

By Gary Bittner

 

Hi River Center, here is your weekend devotional.

 

I shared this poem I wrote end of winter last year, and given the beautiful weather yesterday and today I wanted to share it again. I know we still have some ‘winter weather’ to come, but rather than complain let’s look forward. Yes? Of course yes! God bless, Gary B.

 

Oregon Springtime: In Oregon it is often long awaited as the rain continues sunny Spring days are long abated. But we can have hope and in our future invest.

 

For indeed, Spring is coming, and an Oregon Spring is the best. Oregon Springtime awakens Winter’s slumber As new life bursts forth from the soggy under The drying earth, once muddy and still Will bloom with bright colors, vibrance and thrill The rain-cleansed air carries the scent of rebirth.

 

As the world awakens from its rainy wet dearth. Buds unfurl into green leaves and pretty flowers And with the warming days come longer sunny hours Late in the evening birds sing melodies into the night. As they take to the skies in joyful evening flight Their wings beating with a newfound lightness and grace As they explore their world with a fresh and expectant face.

 

The world seems to be coming alive with a new energy As Spring brings forth a renewed synergy. It is a time of growth, a time of new colors all around, as new life springs out from the trees and up from the ground. So, let’s worship Him as He brings this new season of life So let’s honor Him as we show forth His beauty and light. And let us always be mindful, as faith does not grow without some pain Yes, Oregon is so green and beautiful, all because of the rain.

 

Thursday, Feb. 22

Anxious, Worried, Stressed?

By Galen Troyer

 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22

 

No one likes the burden that comes with being anxious, stressed or worried. Yet, it would be difficult, if not impossible to find someone who could honestly say they’ve never had any of those feelings.

 

The good news is that when difficult times come, no matter how often, we have one who wants to carry our burdens. Throwing them off on him, laying them down at the foot of the cross, frees us to be the person we were created to be. It doesn’t mean we forget them, but we no longer carry them. We give them to the Lord and that frees us to give ourselves to doing the things he has for us to do.

 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

 

That’s how important you are to God. He laid out a great plan for your life before you were born. It includes casting all your cares on him in order for you to fulfill his purposes in your life. And, you can be assured that he is at work on your behalf now, just like he was before you were born. That’s pretty amazing!

 

He cares for you and he loves you.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Christ is Enough

by Lynn Koehn

 

 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)

 

Notice the contrast. We were dead—God gave us life. We were separated from God—Jesus brought us back into relationship with our Heavenly Father. We were poor and wretched—God gives us riches and honor.

 

We were helpless and could do nothing about it. BUT GOD…because of mercy and love, rescued you and me! The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (nothing else) did it all. He IS ENOUGH.

 

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

 

Friday, Feb 16th

My Feet Won’t Slip

By Gary Bittner

 Hi River Center,

Several weeks ago, a prophetic word came during our Sunday AM service that urged us to be confident as we ‘push off’ into new things, for God will make our feet secure. Here are some scriptures along that line for your meditation.

 God bless,

Gary B. 

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.

Psalms 18:35-36 NIV

 

 My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

Psalms 26:12 NIV

 

You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious and secure place.

Psalms 31:8 NIV

 

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.

Psalms 37:30-31 NIV 

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalms 40:1-3 NIV

 

Thursday, Feb. 15th

Embrace the Wait (Part III)

By Galen Troyer

 

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, you and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Exodus 24: 1-8 (NIV)

 

The children of Israel had seen so many miraculous things that God did in getting them out of Egypt and providing food for them in the desert. This was a great time as Moses spoke to them and they were committed to honoring God and obeying him.

 

Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you, Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.”

When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud settled in Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24: 13-18

 

What the children of Israel saw on the mountain was further evidence of God’s power and faithfulness. Surely, now they would be waiting for Moses to return. Wouldn’t they?

 

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Eph. 32: 1

 

They quickly got tired of waiting, forgot the promises they had made and brought disaster upon themselves. How different it could have been if they had only waited. If would have not been long.

 

And Aaron, why did he go along with their request? He of all people knew God had a plan for his people. Why didn’t he seek the Lord before giving in to their request? Instead, he asked for the jewelry that their wives, sons and daughters were wearing, then melted it all down and created an idol in the form of a golden calf.

 

Disaster struck as a result. Many died within a few days. So much pain and suffering could have been averted if they had only waited for Moses to return.

 

In our day, we all have times of waiting. Our best decisions are made as we wait on the Lord, seek his counsel and open ourselves to our brothers and sisters.

 

Help us Lord to wait for answers from you.

 

Wednesday, Feb. 14th

Born Again to a Living Hope

By Bob Elliott

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1st Peter 1:3-9 esv

The evidence of promise in this text for us as believers in Christ is breathtaking. Our future in the Kingdom of God is awe-inspiring because of the living hope in the power of Jesus resurrection from the dead.

The description of a “living hope” is provocative. Hope is alive and vibrant, full of expectancy and yearning. It is also durable, in that there is a security that this hope cannot be nullified or extinguished in any way.

The word “hope” is often used in the Old Testament as an equivalence to the word “inheritance.” The promised land was meant to be an inheritance for the Jewish people. The emphasis of the real estate of Israel in connection with the belief of the God of Abraham and Issac and Jacob was deeply woven into that culture.

 Likewise, this hope that we have is full of the promise of inheritance.  Inheritance by definition becomes active when a person dies, not beforehand. When Jesus died, he left us the legacy of mercy and grace fully shared in salvation.

 It is as if we had a very rich uncle who we loved dearly. When he died, he left us everything, a massive inheritance that has completely changed our financial position in life for the better. Only the reality is that the real inheritance that we have is far greater than the rich uncle scenario. Our faith is founded on the rock-solid truth of the gospel.

Watch: Living Hope by Cross Point Music

 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Encouraging One Another

by Lynn Koehn

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

 

I had the most encouraging Zoom call with our dear friend and River Center family member Danae Fouts this morning. Danae is doing an intense one-year Bible training in the European nation of Georgia. Encouragement is something that truly gives the same amount of joy to those who give it as it does to those who receive it. A positive, affirming and uplifting word at the right moment can keep us motivated, loved, and feeling confident in what God is doing in and through us.

 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

Monday, February 12th

About Jesus...

By Jonah Lang

 

Hebrews is a cut a dry explanation of who Jesus is, we see Jesus has within himself all the authority and the Majesty of God. God uses this in a challenge for us to stay faithful to God though we may face persecution.

God explains to us who Jesus is. God’s Final Word: His Son.

 

Hebrews 1 NIV

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

The Son Superior to Angels

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son;
    today I have become your Father”?

Or again,

“I will be his Father,
    and he will be my Son”?

6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

7 In speaking of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels spirits,
    and his servants flames of fire.”

8 But about the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
    a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

10 He also says,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.”

13 To which of the angels did God ever say,

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. 

 

 Friday, Feb. 9th

Turn it Up

By Gary Bittner

 

Hi River Center,

This weekend’s devotional is a simple reminder...Our God is Good.

 

I encourage you to meditate on the scripture below, then listen to/watch the video after, on repeat, really really loud.

 

Turn it Up!!!!!!

 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.“ Psalms 34:8

 

Listen here:

 

God bless,

Gary B.

 

 

Thursday, Feb. 8

Embrace the Wait-Part II

By Galen Troyer

 

Last week we looked at Joseph, who was one that waited for the Lord to rescue him. The Lord honored him with favor and blessing in everything he did, even while he was in prison. He not only forgave his brothers, but showed them favor. There is no record in the Bible of any wrong that Joseph did against God or man.

 

Today, let’s look at Abraham who was called Abram at birth.

 

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram left as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan and they arrived there.

 

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So, Abram built an altar there to the Lord. Gen. 12: 1-5 & 7 (NIV)

 

No doubt Abram’s heart was to obey God in everything, he accomplished amazing things and God blessed him over and over. I doubt that he ever planned to take matters into his own hands.

 

Ten years is a long time, at least in our eyes and it must have been for Sarai and Abram too. They waited ten years for a child, but then took matters into their own hands-maybe even thinking they were helping God out.

 

They were getting old! So, Sarai told Abram to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar thinking she could build a family through her, and Abram agreed with her. Why didn’t he ask God what he thought of it, first?

 

After Hagar conceived, Sarai despised her and it became a source of conflict between Abram and Sara also.

 

“Your servant is in your hands, Abram said. Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so, she fled from her. Gen. 16:6

 

(To Hagar) The angel of the Lord added, “I will also increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand will be against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers “ Gen. 16: 10-12

 

How different things would have been for Abram and Sarai if they had “Embraced the Wait” and watched the perfect plan that God intended for them.

 

How different things might be in the world today.

 

About thirteen years later Sarai gave birth to Isaac, the son the Lord had promised. Isaac’s life and the children of Israel then and now are affected by the choice Abram made thousands of years ago. Moving ahead of God’s plan always has consequences, maybe none as long lasting as this one. Even though Abraham failed in this instance, God didn’t disqualify him. He was a great man of faith. Like us, he was human.

 

We could probably all give examples from our own lives of times we became impatient, rather than waiting for God’s best, and as a result, the pain we caused ourselves and others.

 

Well, my idea of sharing this was to be encouraging. I hope it was; and you and I are more inspired to consider consequences of our actions and motives in things we do and don’t do.

 

Embrace the Wait:)

 

Wednesday, Feb7th

Stir up One Another

By Bob Elliott

 

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb. 10:19-25

 

I love this passage of scripture. It so full of promises from God. Reading this should send our confidence in Jesus through the roof. We have the full assurance of faith in Christ. The text encourages us to hold fast with out wavering. I don’t know about you, but with all of the misinformation and corruption flowing through our society, it’s almost as if the enemy of our souls is trying to discourage us and derail us from our appointed destiny.

 

However, God is faithful to fulfill his great promises to us. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. He is mighty to save.

 

Let’s be about the business of encouraging and building each other up with the goodness of God. Let’s stir up the pot.

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

 At peace…Even in the Storm

 by Lynn Koehn

 

Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [peace that reassures the heart] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. Philippians 4:6-7 [AMP]

 

When we are asked, “how are you doing?” we can honestly say, “fine.” Because we have that inner peace that Jesus gives us …even in the middle of adverse circumstances and situations.

 

Psalm 23:1-4 [ESV] The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

 

 

Monday February 5th

Jesus is the Word

 By Jonah Lang

 

Psalms 33:4-5 niv

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

John 1:1 niv

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

The word is the place people would go to to find answers. As we read and memorize scripture, the word becomes hidden in hearts.

 

Jesus being the word is the means by which we hear from the Father. 

 

Friday, Feb. 2nd

Put Your Hope in God

By Gary Bittner

 

Here is this week’s weekend devotional. God bless.

Scripture: Psalm 42:5 (NIV) - "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

When you were a kid did you ever play the game ‘Have You Ever?’ Well, here’s one for you…

Have you ever experienced times or seasons when your soul feels downcast and disturbed, you just feel blah? We all experience times when the weight of life's challenges and uncertainties can weigh heavily on our hearts, causing us to lose sight of the hope that is available to us. In Psalm 42:5, the psalmist honestly grapples with these feelings, but he quickly reminds himself of the source of true hope – God. We should be as honest.

We may face disappointments, setbacks, or overwhelming circumstances that leave us feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. But in the midst of it all, the psalmist's reminder rings true: "Put your hope in God."

Hope in God is not just a wish or a temporary fix. It is a steadfast confidence in the unchanging love and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. When our souls are downcast: we can turn to God, knowing that He is our source of strength, comfort, and peace. He is the one who holds our future in His hands and promises to work all things together for our good.

But, putting our hope in God requires us to shift our focus from our circumstances to the character and promises of God. He is our Savior and our God, the one who has proven Himself faithful throughout history. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His love for us is unwavering and His plans for us are good.

When we put our hope in God, we acknowledge that He is in control, even when life feels chaotic. We surrender our worries and anxieties, trusting that He is working behind the scenes, orchestrating every detail according to His perfect plan. We can find peace in His presence and unfailing love.

As we choose to put our hope in God, our perspective changes. We no longer see our circumstances as insurmountable obstacles, but as opportunities for God to display His power and faithfulness. We can praise Him, even in the midst of our trials, knowing that He is good!

Today, if your soul feels downcast and disturbed, if you feel blah, take a moment to reflect on Psalm 42:5. Ask yourself why you are feeling this way and then choose to put your hope in God. Remind yourself of His unchanging love and faithfulness. Seek His presence through prayer, worship, and meditation on His Word. Allow His peace to flood your heart and renew your hope.

You got this.

God bless,

Gary B.

 

Thursday, Feb. 1st

Embrace the Wait (Part 1)

By Galen Troyer

 

Who likes to wait? Do you? How long can you wait before you get tired of waiting? And, what do you do when you’re tired of waiting? Are you one of the rare ones who will remain patient for as long as it takes?

 

I just finished reading Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In this book are included stories of people and how they responded when they found themselves in situations that involved waiting.

 

Let’s look at one today: Joseph, his brothers were jealous of him because he was his father’s favorite son. Some of his brothers wanted to kill him, but one brother, Judah, convinced them to sell him as a slave to the Ishmaelites. In Egypt, one of Pharaoh’s officials, Potiphar, bought him, and soon realized that the Lord was with him and gave him success in whatever he did. Joseph was put in charge of everything that Potiphar had and the Lord’s blessing was on all of it. Everything was going great for Joseph, until Potiphar’s wife tried to get him in bed, and he refused. One day she grabbed him, and in his hurry to get away his cloak came off when he ran out of the house. She lied about what he had done and he was put in prison.

 

In prison, once again the Lord showed favor to Joseph. After he’d been in prison awhile, he interpreted the dreams of Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker. After interpreting their dreams, he said; But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even there I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon. Gen. 40-14-15(NIV)

 

The chief cupbearer was restored to his position with the king.

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. V. 23

 

What, how could he forget? Unbelievable. So, two more years passed before Pharoah had a dream, and no one could interpret it. Then the cupbearer remembered, and told Pharoah about Joseph.

 

Why did God allow Joseph to go through all the things he did? Surely there were times he doubted, maybe? But he never took things into his own hands. Because he waited for God to reveal his plans for him, the outcome was amazing. Joseph was put in charge of the whole land of Egypt and ended up saving all of his family and the Egyptians through seven years of drought.

 

You might say Joseph was in training for many years in preparation for the great way God used him. Reading the story of Joseph’s life (Genesis 37-50) is a great encouragement in the benefits of “waiting”

 

To be continued.

 

 

Wednesday, Jan. 31st

Vessels of Mercy

By Bob Elliott

in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?  Rom. 9:23-24 esv

In this passage of scripture, the vessels of mercy are those people (us) who love God and are called according to his purposes. It is interesting to note that a vessel serves as a place holder. A vessel is built to contain. Likewise, our purpose in life is to be a container for the presence of the Holy Spirit.

A Vessel doesn’t make something of its own to place inside of itself. Similarly, our righteousness is not built internally by any form of self-righteousness. No, our vessel is a container of Christ’s mercy. What an awesome thought. God deposits his mercy in us. It is not something we can earn or deserve, it is totally unmerited favor.

The Bible describes this as grace upon grace. This speaks of the superlative nature of God’s ability to forgive us from our sins, to love us unconditionally and clothe us with His righteousness. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning!

Today, know that you are blessed beyond measure by the forgiving power of the cross and the empty tomb.

 

 

Monday, January 29th

Shine and be grateful 

By Jonah Lang

 

Colossians 3:16 niv

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

 

As a church body matures, it is important that the small things don’t get overlooked. Kinda like. don’t grow weary in well doing or being faithful in the small things… 

 

Father, I pray that the Gospel would dwell deeply in us. Give us wisdom and may praises to you be always in our hearts. Amen.

 

 

Friday, Jan. 26th

Don’t Fret, Trust God

By Gary Bittner

 

In these times of turmoil and uncertainty, let us not fret or worry, let is trust our good, good Father. God bless.

 
Scripture: Psalm 37:1-8

In our walk with God we often have times of uncertainty, where the path ahead and future seem unclear, and the challenges in front of us seem overwhelming. During these times, it is easy to become discouraged, anxious, or tempted to take matters into our own hands. However, Psalm 37:1-8 gives us a powerful reminder of how we can get through these seasons with trust and confidence in God's love and care for us.

Verse 1 begins by urging us not to fret or be envious of the wicked. It is a call to resist the temptation of comparing our lives to others, especially when it seems like they are prospering while we are facing difficulties. Instead, we are encouraged to focus our attention on God and His promises.

Verse 3
reminds us to trust in the Lord and do good. In times of uncertainty, it is essential to maintain our trust in God's faithfulness and goodness, even when circumstances seem challenging. Trusting in the Lord means surrendering our plans, desires, and worries to Him, knowing that He is in control and has our best interests at heart.

Verse 4 encourages us to take delight in the Lord, finding our joy and satisfaction in Him alone. When we delight in the Lord, our perspective shifts from worldly concerns to an eternal perspective. We find contentment in His presence, knowing that He is enough for us, regardless of our circumstances.

Verse 5 instructs us to commit our way to the Lord and trust in Him. It is a call to surrender our plans, dreams, and uncertainties to God, acknowledging that He knows what is best for us. As we commit our ways to Him, we trust that He will guide us and lead us on the right path.

Verse 7 reminds us to be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. In a world that encourages instant gratification and quick solutions; waiting patiently can be challenging. However, as we wait on the Lord, we develop a deeper dependence on Him and grow in our faith. It is in the waiting that we learn to trust His timing and His plans.

Verse 8 concludes with the instruction to refrain from anger and turn from wrath. In times of uncertainty, it is easy to become frustrated or angry, especially when we don't understand why things are happening the way they are. However, God calls us to respond with patience, grace, and love, trusting that He is working all things together for our good.

As we meditate on Psalm 37:1-8, let us be reminded of the importance of trusting in God in times of uncertainty. Let’s do our best to resist the temptation to compare ourselves to others and instead focus on His promises. Let us commit our ways to Him, finding our joy and contentment in His presence. And in the waiting, may we develop a deeper dependence on Him, refraining from anger and trusting that He is working all things together for our good.

God bless,

Gary B.

 

 

Thursday, January 25th

It Was Very Good

By Galen Troyer

 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

 

And so, the Bible begins by describing creation in detail. And God said, and as He spoke things happened. Let there be light. Let there be an expanse between the waters. Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear. And it was so. And God saw that it was good. 

 

Then God said: Let the land produce vegetation; seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it according to their various kinds. And it was so. And God saw that it was good v. 11-12

 

And God said: Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so. And God saw that it was good. v. 14-18

 

And God said: Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. So, God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. v. 20-21

 

And God said: Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. And God saw that it was good. v. 24-25

 

After speaking things into existence each day for five days, God saw what He had created and each day declared that it was good.As amazing as creation was after only five days, the best was yet to come.

 

Then God said: Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So, God created man in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. v. 26-27 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. v. 31

 

Not just good, but very good!

 

We are created in his image. Think of that. Because we are made in his image, we are called to reflect Him!

 

Church, what an awesome privilege is ours. We are in this together.

 

Wednesday Jan. 24th

Celebrate the Goodness of God

By Bob Elliott

 

It is so awesome for us to celebrate the goodness of God.

I have been thinking about how compressed the time was between Jesus being betrayed by Judas and his resurrection. The last supper and Jesus being arrested on Thursday afternoon/evening, trial and scourging and crucifixion all taking place on Friday. Then the resurrection on Sunday. What a weekend!

It must have been such a whirlwind for his disciples. All of their meaning and purpose for life seemed to be so quickly taken away, leaving them decimated. Their hope had seemed to vanish at the cross. They had forgotten all the things that Jesus had prophesied to them about his death and being raised back to life.

But on Sunday, everything changed for the disciples. Hope was reborn and the seeds of the early church were set in motion to turn the world upside down. On that Sunday everything changed for you and I as well. We walk in a new life because of the resurrection and the grace filled goodness of God.

And like the early church, we are called to turn the world upside today.

We must awaken to the things of the spirit and truly be salt and light to the culture around us. Salvation is a springboard, a catalyst for our lives to be on fire for Jesus.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2nd Peter 1:2-4 esv.

That…now that, is such a great passage of scripture. I would encourage you to read it over and over and let the fullness of promises sink in deeply to your soul. Yes, and amen to it all. Celebrate God’s goodness.

 

 

Tuesday, Jan. 23rd

Self-Control?

By Bob Elliott

As part of the Step 2 class, we have been reading through the New Testament. Being the instructor, I have felt motivated to read the text with each class taught. I am close to finishing my 3rd time through. This has been such a valuable process to begin to see certain themes unfolding during my study time.

One particular theme that I noticed was how often the directive of being self-controlled is listed. It is mentioned eighteen times in the New Testament. That is quite a lot, so I believe that it is important for us to pay attention.

No, I am not talking about a works-based salvation message. It is by grace alone that we are saved. That is certain. However, we are called by God to put off the sins that can beset us if we give in.

Self-control, it is such a foreign concept to our society, Nike declares that we should just do it. Lays potato chips says “bet you can’t eat just one.” As Christians, we are called to swim against the current of society. When we are tempted to sin, we need to put on the brakes, fight the good fight and exercise self-control.

Self-control involves our will, mind and emotion. To this end, the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us have self-control. Pastor Warren often mentions how the Spirit wants to speak to us, and often times we plug our spiritual ears and we say “not listening.”

Titus Chapter 2 spells out the most detailed instructions about self-control. I will finish today’s entry with this scripture.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:1-8 esv

In the middle of all of this it is so important to know that God loves us throughout these processes. Our salvation is found in faith in Christ alone. Jesus bore our shame on the cross to set us free from the law of sin and death. And the Holy Spirit really wants to help us work through.

 

 

Monday January 22nd

We reap what we sow

By Jonah Lang

 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10

 

Paul is giving a "warning and a how to” to the listener. He starts off Galatians by stating who he is and who has made him who he is: then he gives a grace and peace blessing, and then gets down to business. NO OTHER GOSPEL… He reminds us of the gospel of Jesus Christ often and he is correct, the Gospel of Jesus should be on our hearts and minds constantly.

 

He gives us instructions for teaching and counseling the church, the "how to do what to do.” I appreciate how he transitions from watch out to do good, and then he gives us the “why” behind doing good.

 

We all should just read Galatians today… 

God Bless!

 

 

January 19th, 2024

Am I Helping or Watching?

By Gary Bittner

 

If you’ve been around for any time at all you know God is ‘up to something.’ In fact, He is ‘up to many things.’ These are exciting times; times full of anticipation and joy for the seasons and things to come. With all that is going to be happening with us here at the RC, here is a question: Are you helping or watching?

 

Look at this illustration of 4 people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, Nobody…

 

“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, yet Nobody did. Somebody got angry due to the fact that it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, yet Nobody realized that Everybody wasn’t doing it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

 

Now, the above illustration is rather funny, but it’s also serious. As God speaks to US, He is speaking to all of US, to YOU and He is asking each of us ‘What is your part in all this?’ For we each do have a part to play, a gift to offer, a ‘place on the wall’ if you will.

 

Here is another funny/serious illustration…

 

 

WHO WILL DO THE WORK?

(An actual letter written to church of 1,400)

 

“Dear Friend:

 

Our church membership:                                        1,400

Nonresident members:                                                75

Balance left to do the work:                                   1,325

 

Elderly who have done their share:                              25

Balance left to do the work:                                   1,300

 

Sick and shut-in:                                                         25

Balance left to do the work:                                   1,275

 

Members who do not give:                                        350

Christmas and Easter members:                                 300

Balance left to do the work:                                       625

 

Members who are overworked:                                  300

Balance left to do the work:                                      325

 

Members with alibis:                                                  200

Balance left to do the work:                                       125

 

Members too busy with other things:                          123

Balance left to do the work:                                          2

 

So, it’s just you and me my friend, and you had better get busy, because it’s just too much for me.

 

See, funny and serious. Where do I fit in this big adventure? Where do you fit in? Let’s find out together and go forward, together.

 

One more thing, “A person who is helping row the boat usually does not have time to rock it.” When Everybody and Somebody and Anybody row together, nobody feels left out!

 

God bless,

Gary B.

 

 

Thursday, January 18

Short and Powerful

By Galen Troyer

What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? The shortest verse?

Each convey a powerful truth. I challenge you to memorize both.

 Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forevePraise the Lord. Ps. 117 (NIV)

Extol means to “praise enthusiastically”.

God’s love is the greatest power on earth, and it is directed toward us.His love, like his faithfulness, never ends. 

 

The shortest verse: Jesus wept. John 11:35 (NIV)

Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died and when he saw Mary and others weeping, he also wept, because of his love and compassion for them.

He wept, even though he knew that he was going to bring Lazarus back to life. What compassion he showed! Think about it, it’s the same compassion he has for us, and all of mankind.

When you know God’s love you know he is worthy of your praise.

Praise him enthusiastically!

 

Tuesday, Jan 16th

Let not your hearts be Troubled

By Bob Elliott

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:1-4

These word of Jesus to his disciples are so encouraging. The opening statement is a directive for us to not let our hearts be troubled. Notice how this is an action statement. It implies that we can allow our heart to be troubled if we let it. We need to be proactive and protective so as to not be troubled. The power of the Holy Spirit can help us here. Jesus promises us to receive his peace, not as the world gives, but as he instills in our hearts. There is a tenacity that Jesus is imparting to his disciples that we should grab ahold of as well.

Next, we are to walk in faith and belief in the Father and in Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Let the promises of scripture and the presence of God fill you up today. In our step 2 discipleship class, there is an excellent opportunity to get serious about studying the New Testament and growing in maturity. Faith is belief, but faith is action too. Maturity and growth in Christ is not automatic, we are to be intentional in this area.

Next comes a very great promise. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us, a heavenly dwelling full of promise that we will be him and the rest of all the saints in heaven.

This is a message of hope that our destiny in Christ is secure and that we live with the confident assurance of such a bright future. Let’s be encouraged today, let not your heart become troubled.

 

 

 

Monday, January 15th

Father I need You

By Jonah Lang

 Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

 

What a thing to strive for; but we can never obtain it without the help of the Father. God’s desire is to have relationship with HIs creation and only He can bring us back in to relationship with him. Only God! 

 

Friday, Jan. 12th

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

By Gary Bittner

 Hi River Center,

You know how sometimes you wake up with a song in your heart, on your lips? This morning, this was mine and I felt led to share it with you.

Love you, God bless…

 

 

TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS

 

O soul are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
There's light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

 

His word shall not fail you he promised
Believe him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

 

O soul are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
There's light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

Watch Video

God bless,

Gary B.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, Jan. 11

Conformed or Transformed?

By Galen Troyer

 Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

 According to the Apostle Paul, there are only two options. Before anyone comes to faith in Jesus, they are conformed to the pattern of the world, or “worldly.” That is the way all of us once were.

 When anyone confesses their sins and declares their faith in Jesus, transformation happens. They are immediately a new person, and a new way of living begins. No longer living for themselves and their old desires, they submit themselves to Jesus and to pleasing Him.

 Sounds easy, doesn’t it? We all know that it’s only by faith in God that we are able to please Him. And, it’s a daily choice we make to live a transformed life.

 Our home is in the country so our water comes from a well. Unfortunately, there is iron in the water, which makes it taste bad So before it comes into our house, there is a filter system (called media) that the water runs through to take out the iron. The water tastes great for 2 or 3 days or until the iron builds up and some of it gets through. Thankfully, our system is set to renew before that happens. In renewing, the media is flushed and all the iron is removed. Because of the regular renewal, the water continues to taste good.

 So, it is with our minds, the world is the pollutant (iron) that will overwhelm us if we aren’t regularly renewing our mind.

 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Rom. 12:1

 I’m reminded of the chorus to a hymn from my childhood.

Transformed by grace divine,

The glory shall be thine.

To thy most holy will, O Lord,

We now our all resign.

 This is my prayer. 

 

 

Wednesday, Jan 10th

The Power of the Resurrection

By Bob Elliott

 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt. 16:13-19

 

The question of the ages is this: Who is Jesus? What does the culture around us think about who he is? This question was common among the Jewish people that encountered Jesus. They were looking at options based on their own personal opinion on the matter. Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Some people may say that Jesus was a great moral teacher or a mystic sage, but not the son of God.

 

Simon Peter gets it right, he says that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. This is the only answer that truly makes sense. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. This is the lynchpin doctrine of the Christian faith. The scriptures say that if Christ is not resurrected, our faith is in vain. For me, the only way that Jesus could have possibly done this is that He is the real deal. Only the true son of God could have this miracle beyond human explanation happen. Jesus predicted many times that this was to be his destiny, and then it actually happened. The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb is historically documented in the Gospels.

 

This is our hope that because of the resurrection, we also when we die, will be raised to eternal life with Jesus. The sting of death is overcome. We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

 

 

 

Monday January 8th

What to Do...

By Jonah Lang

 

Ephesians 5:1-2NIV

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

I love that God gives us the examples we need in order to have life and life more abundantly. Christ is the only thing we need. He is the only example to follow.

 

 

Friday, Jan 5th

Finding Peace in the Middle of Adversity

By Gary Bittner

 

 Psalm 3:1-4 (NIV) "Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him.' But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me."

 

In our lives, even as children of God, we often face hardships, challenges, and trials that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. In times like these, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of God's faithfulness and the assurance of His peace and presence. Psalm 3 reminds us that even in the middle of trouble, we can find peace in God.

 

The psalmist (most likely King David) begins by acknowledging the multitude of foes rising against him. He is surrounded by people who doubt God's ability to deliver him. It is in times like these when our faith can be tested the most. We may question if God sees us, sees our struggles or if He will help us. But the psalmist's response is a powerful example for us to follow.

 

Instead of giving in to fear, doubt and anxiety, the psalmist declares his unwavering trust in the Lord. He recognizes that God is not only a shield of protection around him but also the source of his glory and the lifter of his head. In the face of adversity, the psalmist chooses to turn to God and call out for His help. And the beautiful thing is that the Lord answers him from His holy mountain. He will do the same for us.

 

When we find ourselves surrounded by challenges, may we remember that we have a shield of protection in God. He promises to be our refuge and strength in times of trouble. He is the one who lifts our heads high, reminding us of our worth and significance in Him. We can find peace in knowing that God sees our struggles and is ready to come to our aid when we call upon Him.

 

The psalmist's confidence in God's faithfulness is so deep that he can lie down and sleep peacefully. Despite the turmoil surrounding him, he trusts that the Lord will sustain him through the night and wake him up in the morning. May we have this same faith in God's ability to provide and protect.

 

In our own lives, may we learn to rest in the assurance that the Lord sustains us. Even in the darkest of nights, we can find peace and rest in Him. Let us remember that our circumstances do not define us, but rather our trust and dependence on God and our place ‘in Christ’ do. As we surrender our fears and worries to Him, He will be our strength and peace that surpasses all understanding.

 

Let us take comfort in the words of Psalm 3:1-4. Regardless of the challenges we face or the doubts others may words bring our way, we can find peace and victory in the knowledge that God is our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our heads. He hears our cries for help and sustains us through every trial. May we draw near to Him in times of trouble and experience the peace that only He can provide.

 

God bless,

Gary B.

 

Thursday, January 4

Think About This

By Galen Troyer

 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:1-9 (NIV)

 

Can I say as Paul did, “whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice”?

 

Anything is possible with God.

 

Be blessed as you think on these things.

 

 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2024: An ‘Unusual’ Year

by Lynn Koehn

 

Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

 

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

 

God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  

 

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” Exodus 3:1-4 [The Message]

 

2023 went out with a bang. The Holy Spirit is stirring, the Kingdom of God is advancing and the Name of Jesus is being exalted. 2024 is, without a doubt going to be, as God said to Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah, a year of ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6) I for one, am (re)committing to, like Moses, stopping and looking (investigating) the extraordinarily ‘unusual’ things God will do in 2024!

 

God wants to demonstrate His glory and power and majesty: as well as His grace, His mercy and His love through individuals and through His church. When we allow God to do through us what we can’t possibly do ourselves (the ‘unusual’) He gets the glory and people are drawn to Him.

 

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

 

Let us again commit our lives, our families, our church and everything about us to an ‘unusual’ God. Let’s watch, investigate and engage in what He’s doing with and through us throughout 2024. Don’t be surprised when the ‘unusual’ happens.

 

 

Monday January 1st 

What did God Say?

By Jonah Lang

 

 As we step into a new year remember what God says, walk in His redemption, 

 

Isaiah 43:1-7

Israel’s Only Savior

43 But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
    and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,

    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.

 

 

 

Friday, Dec. 30th

Happy NEW Year

By Gary Bittner

 

As 2023 ends and 2024 begins; what a blessing to know that now God is giving us a new year, another chance.  He has given us a new opportunity and a new future and a new day for each of us individually to claim that which God has for us.  God has that for you. I pray today you will claim it.  I pray you will stake your claim on it. 

 

I pray today that you will embrace your future.  It is a wonderful future.  I pray today, you will enlarge your faith because God has great things.  And I pray today that you will go in the power of the Holy Spirit and see what only God can do in your life.

 

Scripture: Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

 

In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul shares his perspective on the Christian journey. He acknowledges that he has not yet reached the ultimate goal, but he demonstrates a determination to press on and pursue the purpose for which Christ Jesus has called him. These verses serve as an encouragement for us to embrace a similar mindset in our own spiritual lives.

 

  1. Acknowledging Our Imperfection:

Paul humbly admits that he has not obtained all that God has in store for him. It is essential for us to acknowledge our own imperfections and recognize that our journey with Christ is a lifelong process of growth and transformation.

 

  1. A Forward-Focused Mindset:

Paul's focus is not on his past accomplishments or failures, but on straining toward what lies ahead. He understands that dwelling on the past can hinder progress and limit our potential for growth. Similarly, we are encouraged to let go of past mistakes, regrets, and successes, and instead fix our gaze on the future God has planned for us.

 

  1. Pressing On in Faith:

The apostle Paul's determination to press on serves as an example of unwavering faith and perseverance. He does not allow setbacks or obstacles to deter him from pursuing God's calling. Likewise, we are called to press on, even in the face of challenges, knowing that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.

 

Scripture: Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

 

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet delivers a message of hope and restoration to the people of Israel. Amidst their struggles and captivity, God assures them of His faithfulness and promises to do a new thing in their midst. This verse serves as a powerful reminder that God is always at work, bringing renewal and transformation to our lives.

 

  1. The Promise of a New Thing:

God declares, "See, I am doing a new thing!" This statement reveals God's desire to bring about change and transformation in our lives. He is not limited by our circumstances or past experiences. God's power and creativity are limitless, and He is constantly working to bring about new beginnings and fresh opportunities for His children.

 

  1. Perceiving God's Work:

The verse asks, "Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" God's work of renewal may not always be obvious at first glance. It requires spiritual discernment and a mindset of faith to recognize God's hand at work in our lives. As we seek Him and align ourselves with His purposes, we will begin to perceive the signs of His new thing unfolding in our midst.

 

  1. Making a Way in the Wilderness:

God promises to make a way in the wilderness, where there seems to be no way. The wilderness represents times of confusion, despair, or feeling stuck. When we feel lost and alone, God steps in to provide guidance, direction, and a path forward. He is the One who clears obstacles and makes a way where there seems to be no way.

 

  1. Streams in the Wasteland:

Not only does God make a way in the wilderness, but He also brings streams in the wasteland. The wasteland symbolizes dryness, emptiness, and a lack of productivity. When we find ourselves in such desolate places, God brings refreshment, abundance, and life-giving streams. He provides for our needs, sustains us, and brings about a flourishing in the most unlikely of circumstances.

 

As 2023 winds down and 2024 begins, let’s be reminded that God is always at work, bringing about newness and renewal in our lives. He is not limited by our past or present circumstances. When we feel lost in the wilderness or surrounded by wastelands, God promises to make a way and bring forth streams of life. Let us open our hearts and minds to perceive God's work, trusting in His faithfulness and His ability to bring about a new thing in our lives. May we embrace His promises, knowing that He is the God who brings beauty out of ashes and joy out of despair.

 

 

God bless, and Happy NEW Year!

Gary B.

 

Thursday, Dec. 28

What We Need

By Galen Troyer

 

“It is my conviction that our greatest need is to know God better, to trust Him more implicitly, to obey Him more conscientiously, to take action expecting Him to be true to His promises and thereby bring Him great glory.” -Terry Virgo 

 

A few weeks ago, I started reading Terry’s book The Tide Is Turning.  In it he uses the lives of Joseph, Gideon and Nehemiah as examples of what God can do through anyone who trusts Him, and is committed to serving Him, no matter what.  

 

I am encouraged and inspired by what is happening at the River Center and sensing that the hearts of people here desire to follow God in whatever He has for us now and in the days ahead. 

 

Following are a few more quotes from Terry that will inspire you:

 

“Let patience have its perfect work among us. Gods work, done in Gods time and in Gods way, will produce Gods fruit.”  

 

“God does not despise your weaknesses, but He looks for soul thirst. He is not merely looking for those who know the jargon, because commitment and obedience in themselves can be cold and routine. The people God delights in are those who cry out in their spirits, ‘I am hungry for God and I long to see Him!’”

 

“Moses continual prayer to God was, ‘Let me see more of you’. God delights in people like this who are not just interested in what is happening in the church at large, but are saying, ‘Oh God, I have a personal appetite for You.’”

 

“Although we are weak and frail, God wants us to be people who are zealous for His house and who want to see the power of God manifest. This is the only qualification I can see in Gideon to start with-he had a hunger to see God at work.”

 

“Do you have a hunger to see God at work once more in power and glory? Or will you settle with the view that these are just quiet days for the Church-days to somehow muddle through, to survive, to hope for the best?”

 

“God sees you in your weakness and says, ‘O mighty man of valor, I’ll get you into Hebrews 11! I’ll get you into My book of heroes! I know what I can do with you in all your frailty.’ Hallelujah! It thrills my heart. God can say this to any one of us in our weaknesses. We must become men and women of faith. There is no other way, no bypass. It is nonsense to say, ‘I am too weak to become a man of faith.’ God doesn’t despise your weakness, but He will not bless your unbelief. It is not enough to hear God’s voice if we do not fully trust Him.”

 

Be encouraged and expect God to do great things in the church (that’s us) in 2024!

 

(All quotes are from the book “The Tide is Turning” by Terry Virgo; Copyright 2006)

 

Monday December 25th Christmas Day

I love it when a plan comes together

By Jonah Lang

 

I Had this thought during the Christmas Eve service yesterday morning…

 

God and Lucifer weren’t playing a game chess, God wasn’t in check by Lucifer. Having some moment of Bobby Fisher of genius sending his son to save humanity. Jesus wasn’t a Hail Marry (pun intended) … The wholeness and completeness of who God is included the birth of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, and the Resurrection of Jesus all along, from the very beginning. Jesus was never a contingency plan. 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Christmas Eve

Dec 24th

Good News, Great Joy, All the People

By Gary Bittner

 Hi River Center,

Here is this weekend’s devotional. I recorded and shared this video last Christmas season, but felt to share again today. Lets ‘Repeat the sounding joy!’

Watch Video