Devoted

Monday, February 6th

Psalm 33: 1-5

By Jonah Lang

 

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;

    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

 Praise the Lord with the harp;

    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.

 Sing to him a new song;

    play skillfully, and shout for joy.

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.

 

I find so much reassurance in these verses… The psalmist exhorts us to praise God, calls us righteous, and gives the reasons to praise God. 

 

Friday, Feb. 3rd

God Will Always Do Good For Us

By Gary Bittner

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Thursday, February 2nd

Jesus Said, “Give…”

By Galen Troyer

 

They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. They came up and said, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one.

“This engraving-who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”

“Caesar,” they said.

Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”

Their mouths hung open, speechless.

Matt. 12: 24-17 (MSG)

 

I find it amusing how Jesus toyed with them at first. He knew they were trying to trick him, so he strung them along, asking to see a coin. You and I both know that he already knew exactly what that coin looked like, but instead of just answering their question, he asked them to bring him a coin. Then, he asked them to tell him what it looked like and whose name was on it. I wish I could have been there. To top it off, he not only answered their question but he gave them more than they asked for: not only were they to give Caesar what is his, but likewise he reminded them that they were to give God what is his.

They had nothing more to say after his answer!

 

No doubt most of us have wished at times that we didn’t have to pay so many taxes. We pay them, or else we may find ourselves having to pay more because we were delinquent.

 

Jesus knew that in giving everything to God that belongs to him, the result would be full fellowship with him. The more we give of ourselves to him and walk in obedience, the more we come to know him.

 

“Obey God in the thing he shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. God will never reveal more truth about himself until you have obeyed what you know already - there is true delight in friendship with God!”

- Oswald Chambers

 

Wednesday, February 1st

Perfection Required

By Warren Stroup

I’ve been reading the Pentateuch these past few weeks. In my reading, I came across the conversation God had with Moses about constructing the Tent of Meeting. This is a passage I’ve read many times before, but as I was reading, I was taken back by the pain staking details that were given to Moses. Not just how the Tent of Meeting was to be built but how it was to be consecrated to the Lord. Details were also given regarding the consecration of Aaron and his sons who would be serving the people.

It was at the end of chapter 29 that these passages came together.

“It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29:42-46)

In order for God to meet with his people, there had to be a place and a people that were consecrated to Him. Aaron, his sons and the temple were made holy by the offerings, procedures and His glory. It’s quite beautiful and terrifying at the same time. All of the pomp and circumstance that were necessary for a sinful man to come into the presence of a perfect and holy God. God in his mercy and grace made a way through offerings and sacrifices.

Today, God has made a way through a single offering and sacrifice. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 10:12)

Just as God entered the temple that had been consecrated to him, God enters each one of us through Jesus Christ, who has made us his holy residence. God could not live inside of us without the consecrating power of the blood of Jesus who makes us white as snow. This temple not made by human hands cannot be defiled by us because Jesus is the one that made it clean, not you or me. Take a moment and think on that.

I am overwhelmed by the blood of the lamb that made this sinner a saint and more than that a place where God will speak and dwell with me.  

You are the temple of the living God and Jesus was the perfection required to make it so.

 

Tuesday, January 31st

Praying with Confidence

by Lynn Koehn

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman [Matthew 15:21-28] 

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes, it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

I am particularly struck by two words Jesus used when addressing the woman... ‘your faith.’ Matthew 15:28 [Amplified Bible] Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, your faith [your personal trust and confidence in My power] is great; it will be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that moment.

FAITH! An unwavering confidence that God hears us. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will He hears us. [1 John 5:14] An absolute assurance that God is absolutely able to do what we are petitioning Him for. Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. [Matthew 19:26]

My dear friends, let faith arise, be tenacious (resolute). Let us pray without doubting. Let us make way for our AMAZING, INCREDIBLE God to do some AMAZING, INCREDIBLE things.

But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind. If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-8 [GNT]

 

Monday, January 30th

Matthew 6:9-13 The Lord’s Prayer

By Jonah Lang 

Isn’t it amazing that how amazing God is? In fact, that is how we are to begin any prayer to Him; by putting Him in the proper place. "Our Father In Heaven" isn’t just a nice thing to say. It is us declaring where God the Father is. He is in heaven on his thrown. The next part is "Hollowed be Thy Name." Once we understand where God is, it is obvious that the only pure thing we could possibly do is praise him. Not for what the Father has done, but simply for who He is. He is Amazing.

I couldn’t help but see that yesterday during church. Everything from the lyrics in the songs: to the thankful testimony given, and especially Bishop Eludi preaching, declared who God is and how amazing God is. 

One thing I love about God is that He isn’t just the most amazing God of the universe all alone… He invites us to be a part of what He is doing. He wants to use us, He actually has written us into HIs Grand plan. Just like Bishop said “everybody wants to be on the winning team. And if we are on God’s team, we win.”

 

Saturday, January 28th

“Sow a Seed”

A Reminder from Our 40 Day Prayer Focus

By Gary Bittner

Hi River Center,

For this week’s devotional, I felt led to take us back to some thoughts from our 40 Day Prayer Focus/Circle. This is good for such a time as this…

The key scripture for is Matthew 17:20a ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed.’ Author Pastor Mark Batterson begins this chapter by using the example of the giant sequoia trees that he saw in Yosemite National Park and how amazing it is that one mature tree will produce approximately 400,000 seeds a year.One tree can bear exponential fruit!

I often say ‘Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple, but no one can count the number of apples in a seed.’ One tree can bear exponential fruit.

The giant sequoia tree, the small apple tree, you and me. WHAT? Yes! Just as the sequoia and the apple trees will produce fruit well ‘beyond themselves’ so will our prayers produce fruit ‘well beyond ourselves.’ One prayer can bear exponential fruit.

The law of sowing and reaping is one of God’ immutable/unchangeable laws. In fact, in Genesis 8:22 the promise is given ‘seedtime and harvest will never end.The truth is, the only way to not reap is to not sow.

Some people ‘wish’ they had more fruit of the spirit; or they ‘wish’ they had more friends, or they ‘wish’ they had more money, or they ‘wish’ they had more joy, or they ‘wish’ that their loved one would be healed, or they ‘wish’ their church had more people getting saved, or they ‘wish’ their church could become debt free. Sound familiar? Friends, wishes are not prayers. A ‘wish’ just goes out of our mouth and into the air, but it never engages with the Creator of the universe who has promised over and over again that if we will cry unto Him, He will answer.

Our problem often is, we want to see the ‘fruit’ of our ‘prayer seed’ NOW! But, that’s just foolish. What farmer plants a seed and looks for immediate fruit? No: like a seed, our prayers go ‘underground’ where they begin to develop, to germinate, to break through barriers, and then after some time, it may be short or it may be long, the seed WILL bear the fruit.

 

One final thought,Our prayers never die. How many of us are still reaping fruit in our lives from the prayers our parents or grandparents prayed generations ago? I know I am.

 

So now, in our time, on our watch, let’s sow seeds of faith. Let’s plant prayers that will continue to be answered long after we are with Jesus. In this chapter or our book, we read that, Honi, The Circle Maker learned a great lesson about seeds that inspired his prayer life. He then decided to pray prayers that will affect NOT ONLY THE HERE AND NOW BUT GENERATIONS TO COME.

May we pray the same way.

GOT A NEED? PLANT A SEED! 

 

Thursday, January 26th

According to Your Faith

By Galen Troyer

I’ve often thought over the past few weeks about the words that Jesus spoke to people who came to him for healing, especially those instances when he referred to their faith being the reason they were made whole.

In Mark 4, we have the account of his temptation for 40 days by the devil. After that Jesus began his ministry by preaching and calling his disciples.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. Matt. 4:23-2(NIV)

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matt. 8: 1-3

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed…”

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour. Matt. 8: 5-8, 10, 13 

“If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. Matt. 9:21-22

To the two blind men who begged him for mercy, he said, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Matt. 9:29b-

It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in his hometown, because of their lack of faith (Matt. 13: 56-58). Because they watched him grow up, most of them considered him like any of the other boys who grew up there. They missed out.

Fear and unbelief nullify faith.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Heb. 11:6

Pray with me: We thank you Father for miracles that are happening in our church, community, and all over the world. We believe that miracles will continue, and increase and many will come to you as they see your power and glory. Help us to always be faith-full. Heal and restore those among us who are sick and hurting. Use us for your honor and glory. We are yours!

 

Wednesday, January 25th

Why Not?

By Warren Stroup

Have you ever found yourself making excuses for the very things you want to do?

My wife and I should go on a date every week but we haven’t. Why Not?

I want to pray with my children every night but I don’t. Why Not?

I need to lose 15lbs but I haven’t. Why Not?

I want to pray every day but I don’t. Why Not?

I need to give a tenth back to the Lord but I haven’t. Why Not?

I want to read my Bible everyday but I can’t seem to do it. Why Not? 

When someone asks you “Why Not?” the excuses start flying. Do you ever get tired of hearing excuses come out of your mouth? There are times I’ll stand in front of the mirror and argue with myself about the things I want to do and know I should be doing. It’s actually quite pathetic.

There is a verse in the Bible that states a very simple truth. A truth that should remove all our excuses. It goes a little like this, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

Decide today to make God and others a priority in your life. Let the one who strengthens you be the reason you do what you want to do every day.

 

January 24, 2023

Trustworthy

by Lynn Koehn

Trust is critical. It defines us and affects everyone around us. Being trustworthy is a necessary characteristic to being a constructive influencer and an effective leader. Trust isn’t a quick, easy thing we purchase. It’s something we earn by being consistently honest: acting with untainted integrity, never lying or misleading and always being humble and authentic. It is how we live, even when others aren’t watching. It is who we are. Here are several notable Biblical traits of a trustworthy person.

  • Integrity…People are drawn to people who stand up for what is right.

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. 2 Corinthians 8:21

  • Humility…Trustworthy people look out for the good of others first, before themselves. They are team players. They realize more is accomplished as a team versus what they can do on their own.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

  • Authenticity…People want to be around others that are real, meaning they have no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. Authentic people are not trying to place themselves above anyone else. Their actions are rooted in a pure heart.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. 1 Peter 1:22

  • Consistency…People are drawn to those who exhibit an unwavering, optimistic and productive lifestyle. Affirmative actions and wise decisions make a difference in the eyes of others.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

In other words, what we say and what we do has to line up if we want to be trustworthy. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. Psalm 111:7

  

Monday, January 23th

A wise man seeks wisdom… (silly, I know) but so true...

By Jonah Lang

Proverbs 23:23 niv

Buy the truth and do not sell it—   wisdom, instruction and insight as well.

1 Kings 3 :10-12 niv

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.  So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

I love this simple truth about wisdom… so how do we get wisdom?

James 1:5-8 niv

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 

Friday, January 20th

Five Ways to Fulfil Your Potential

By Gary Bittner

Hello River Center!

I came across this devotional by Nicky Gumbel earlier this week. I thought it would be good to share as an encouragement to go higher, press deeper, grow more.  

In life, many people do not reach their full potential. We can become so caught up in the everyday that it is easier to continue in old patterns rather than change. Yet, we all have a God-given desire to live to our full potential. Perhaps you remember this celebrated biography:

 ‘Solomon Grundy… Born on a Monday…

Christened on Tuesday… Married on Wednesday…

Took ill on Thursday… Grew worse on Friday…

Died on Saturday… Buried on Sunday…

And that was the end of Solomon Grundy.’

For some people, that just about sums up their life. And yet, all of us feel deep down ‘There must be more to life than that’. Jesus says, in effect, ‘Yes, there is’. The potential for every human being is great.

Jesus wants you to live a highly productive life. He wants you to produce ‘a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’ (Matthew 13:8). The minimum is a thirty-times multiplication. The key to that potential lies in your relationship with Jesus – a relationship that can be as close as that of a brother or sister or mother (12:50). You can live a life of real purpose that will make a difference to the world, because of what you receive from him (13:11,12,16).

Your potential is not about being driven by ambition or success; it is about recognizing who you are in God. As you seek him and live your life according to his purposes, you will bear much fruit. The more you begin to fulfil your God-given potential, the more he entrusts to you. He wants you to live a life of abundance (v.12).

The potential for Israel was very great (Genesis 35:11). God intended that Israel would not only be blessed, but also be a blessing to other nations. You have the potential to live a life of even greater blessing than those you read about in the Old Testament. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it’ (Matthew 13:16–17).

Jesus warns that although there is great *potential* in each of us, there are *pitfalls* ahead. How can you avoid the pitfalls and fulfil your potential?

 Psalm 10:1-11 

  1. Possess humility

In his book, Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life, Abbot Christopher Jamison defines pride as ‘self-importance’. He writes, ‘Humility is an honest approach to the reality of our own lives and acknowledges that we are not more important than other people.’

The psalmist goes on a journey from feeling that God is ‘far off… in times of trouble’ (v.1 onwards), to a realization (as we will read tomorrow) that God certainly does ‘see trouble and grief’, does ‘listen’ to the ‘cry’ of the ‘afflicted’ and does defend ‘the fatherless and oppressed’ (v.14 onwards).

In fact, it is the ‘wicked’ (v.2) who seek to make themselves distant – ‘your laws are rejected by him’ (v.5). They think of themselves as more important than others – especially the poor, whom they ‘draw into their net and crush’ (vv.9–10, AMP). These verses tell us about the pitfall of ‘pride’ (v.4).

When things go well it is tempting to say, ‘Nothing will ever shake me... No one will ever do me harm’ (v.6). We can be tempted to feel that we have no need of God: ‘In their pride the wicked do not seek him; in all their thoughts there is no room for God’ (v.4). It’s easy to become arrogant (v.2) and boastful (v.3). This psalm warns us against doing so, and reminds us of our need for God.

Lord, keep me from pride, arrogance and self-importance. May I seek you with all my heart, remembering that I need you and that you never forget me.

 Matthew 12:46-13:17

  1. Pursue intimacy

Some dangerous cults have twisted the words of Jesus (12:50) to teach that becoming a Christian means severing relations with your family. This is not only dangerous, but also unbiblical. The fifth commandment is ‘honor your father and your mother’ (Exodus 20:12). In the New Testament, we are told that, ‘Anyone who does not provide for relatives, and especially for immediate family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Timothy 5:8).

Yet Jesus shows here that there is something even more important than your relationship with your own family. Your supreme calling is to an intimate relationship with Jesus, doing ‘the will of the Father’ (Matthew 12:50). 

Jesus says, ‘Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’ (v.50). His words speak of intimacy, permanence and acceptance – a relationship at the deepest possible level. You can have this amazing closeness to Jesus. Stay close to him each day and you will fulfil your potential. 

  1. Put down roots 

The highs of spiritual experiences are very important, but if they are not combined with deep spiritual roots there is the danger of shallowness, which can lead to falling away. Be aware of this pitfall. We can all fall away in our hearts even while we are doing the right things.

Jesus talks about the seed that falls on shallow ground. It springs up quickly but withers because it has no root (13:6). Later on, he will explain that the person who has no roots lasts only a short time because they fall away when trouble or persecution come (v.21).

Your spiritual roots are the parts of your life that no one else sees – your secret life with God. This includes your prayers, your giving and your thought life. If you want to fulfil your potential make sure you develop deep, strong and healthy roots in your relationship with God.

  1. Protect your heart

It is so easy for people to be distracted by the busyness of life. Many things can fill your life and push out time for God, church and other ways in which your spiritual roots could be developed. Again, this is a danger for us all.

Jesus warned about thorns that choke the plant (v.7). Later on, he explains that the thorns are ‘the worries of this life’ and the ‘deceitfulness of wealth’ (v.22). 

Father, thank you that you call me into this intimate relationship with Jesus. Help me to put my roots down deep and to keep my eyes fixed on you. Help me to guard this relationship and never allow other things, even good things, to crowd in and choke my life.

Genesis 34:1-35:29

  1. Purify yourself

In this passage, we read a warning of the danger of escalating revenge (see 1 Corinthians 10:11). One terrible crime (the rape of Dinah, Genesis 34:2) led to another. The retribution was not proportionate. The people of God ‘attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male… They carried off… all their women and children’ (vv.25–29).

The result was a disaster. Jacob says, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to… the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed’ (v.30). The actions of Simeon and Levi are roundly condemned for their violence, ferocity and cruelty (see 49:5–7).

Revenge was not just a pitfall for Simeon and Levi; it is a temptation for all of us. When I am offended, I want revenge. In the Old Testament, retribution was limited by proportionality – ‘life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ and so on (Exodus 21:23–24). Jesus sets (and by his death and resurrection makes possible) an even higher standard in your relationships today: forgive and love your enemies.

Joyce Meyer, who often speaks of the terrible abuse that she suffered as a child, writes: ‘Have you, like Dinah, ever been an innocent victim? I can assure you that even in the worst circumstances, God gives us grace to forgive so that we can go on with our lives.’

Jacob said to his household, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves’ (Genesis 35:2). God appeared to Jacob (renamed Israel, v.10) and said, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you’ (v.11).

The potential is great. As Rick Warren says, ‘In ministry, private purity is the source of public power.’ This is true for all of us, whether we are operating in the family, the workplace, the community or the church. If we want to have a powerful impact for Christ in the world, we need to be people of purity.

Lord, thank you that the potential for my life is vast. May I produce a crop thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

 

Thursday, January 19th

Loving God, Loving People

By Galen Troyer

Watch Video

 

Wednesday, January 18th

A Four-Letter Word

by Warren Stroup

You have heard said that knowing Him will lead to worshiping Him which leads to obeying Him. I don’t think we struggle as much with the knowing and worshiping parts but when it comes to obey, it’s a four-letter word to some of our ears.

You’ve probably even sung the song “Trust and Obey” with your arms lifted up as though it’s already a forgone conclusion; of course, I’ll trust and obey you. It isn’t long and those arms once raised towards heaven are folded across your chest as you justify some type of disobedience. 

Have you ever had a mind war with the Lord about what is written in the Bible? It may start with, “God, you didn’t really mean…. or God, you’re not saying I have to… or God, it doesn’t really matter if I don’t…”

If we are still struggling with the “O” word, I’d challenge you to go back to the part about knowing Him.

Thus, says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 

When you truly understand the God that is speaking to you in scripture, you’ll no longer wrestle with obeying Him. God is good and what he asks of us is for our benefit. David wrote “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8a) All that God has to say is good news and it’s our responsibility to put on all that God has given us.

The chorus of the hymn Trust and Obey reads, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Isn’t it interesting to think that our obedience could be linked to our happiness? I’ll be honest, I never felt all that great when I disobeyed my parents. I do remember being elated after accomplishing something asked of me. I couldn’t wait to show Mom or Dad when they came home.

Church we’ve made Jesus Lord of our lives. To obey Him is to find true joy and happiness in this life and the next.

 

Tuesday, January 17th

The Great Exchange

by Lynn Koehn

If you had the privilege of participating in last Wednesday night prayer, you will agree that we were drawn into the presence of God and significantly impacted the kingdom of darkness. Pastor Warren listed a number of lies Satan is using to deceive and devour people. 1 Peter 5:8, Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. But, we know and are now experiencing [living] the “Great Exchange.” The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But…I have come that they [you] may have life, and that they [you] may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 [NKJV] I encourage you to go through this list declaring God’s truth over Satan’s lies.

 

Satan’s Lies vs God’s Truth

  • Addiction(s) vs Freedom/Liberty
  • Abuse vs Respect/Honored/Admired
  • Suicide vs Life
  • Depression vs Joy/Energized
  • Hopelessness vs Hope/Anticipation
  • Poverty vs Riches/More than Enough
  • Complacency vs Conquering/Victorious/Engaged
  • Indifference vs Inspired/Encouraged
  • Brokenness vs Healed/Restored/made Whole
  • Selfishness vs Others Centered
  • Judgement vs Love/Accepted
  • Bitterness vs Forgiveness/Compassionate/Mercy
  • Anti-Christ Spirit vs Holy Spirit filled, led and anointed
  • Oppression vs Joyful/Rejoicing
  • Spiritual Darkness vs Walking in the Light

 

Isaiah 61:1-3a, The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Here are some of the truths we declare when we sing; Who You Say I Am, by Hillsong: I am who You say I am. I'm a child of God. Free at last. I am chosen not forsaken. You are for me not against me.

Please take a moment to listen to the song and declare God’s truth over your life, your children, your job, our community and our church.

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Monday, January 16th

I Love Reading Proverbs and Psalms

By Jonah Lang

In these books, there is so much wisdom given to us and such opportunity for our growth and understanding of who God is.

Proverbs 16: 1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. ESV 

This passage teaches us that we in and of ourselves cannot come up with anything, speak anything, or think anything good on our own. And that all of our sufficiency is of God. He works in us and through us to accomplish his will. God gives man free thought and freedom of will, but man cannot accomplish anything without the assistance and blessing of God who made us and teaches us what to say.

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. NLT

As we mature in our understanding and our thoughts align with God’s; He begins to put his desires into our hearts.

 

Friday, January 13th

I Thank Ya’ Lord

By Gary Bittner

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It gives me hope. Hope that God is not done with me, no matter where I am in life. Hope that freedom is coming over every bondage and every sin and every obstacle in my way.

And most of all, hope that I am BEING transformed into His image. There is a saying I really like. In fact, I think I made it up: “I thank ya Lord, that what is IS, is not what it WAS and it’s not what its GONNA BE.”

So many believers become frustrated with His process of transformation. The verses above say ‘we are BEING’ transformed; hence that transformation is an ongoing process. Are you convicted of a sin? Good, that’s a sign your ‘in process.’ Are you frustrated with a less than helpful habit you can’t overcome? Good, that’s a sign you’re ‘in process.’ Are you seeing the need for more discipline in some area of your life but you’re struggling to make the change? Good, that’s a sign that you’re ‘in process.’

Don’t become frustrated with the process. As we yield to Him, He will bring about the transformation. The vinedresser needs to ‘dress’ the vine so that vine can be the most fruitful it can be. Is the pruning happening? Good, it’s a sign that you’re ‘in process.’ Is the furnace of His love burning away some impurities? Good, it’s a sign that you are ‘in process.’ Is the Lord disciplining you as one of His beloved children? Good, it’s a sign that you are ‘in process.’

God is good, therefore ‘His process of transformation’ is good.

I’ve heard it said, ‘Jesus loves us just the way we are.’ This is a true statement, and I would add ‘but too much to leave us that way.’

I’ve heard it said, ‘Come just as you are.’ This is a true statement, and I would add ‘but don’t expect to stay that way!’

Ephesians 1:11-14 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

He chose YOU and He has a plan for YOUR life that conforms with His plan for the entire creation.

He chose YOU as a trophy of His grace, for the praise of His glory.

He chose YOU and marked you with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. This speaks to Him making a ‘down payment’ of the fulness of the Spirit in YOUR life and He will continue to make ‘deposits’ until His work in YOU is completed.

Don’t be frustrated with His process. The only time we should be frustrated is when something that should be happening is not happening. And YOUR transformation IS happening. He promised.

God bless you.

 “Father, help me to simply submit to your loving process. I trust you Lord, with ALL my life, ALL the time, ALL the way, I’m ALL IN. I love You Lord.

 

Thursday, January 12th

Pure Joy

By Galen Troyer

What comes to mind when you think of “pure joy?” Most likely it is not thoughts of trials or difficulties.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1: 2-8 (NIV)

Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Some translations use steadfastness (the quality of being resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering) or patience (the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset) in place of perseverance.

This scripture says that as we persevere, we move towards maturity and completeness. Always persevere and eventually we will be complete and mature, not lacking anything. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1: 12 (NIV)

Perhaps you (or someone you know) are going through a difficult time right now and, maybe you have feelings of anything but joy. Jesus cares. I encourage you to have hope and believe that God’s word is true and he is faithful. Reach out to others in the church for encouragement and support. We are the body of Christ.

Praying you are encouraged by these words and scriptures.

 

Wednesday, January 11th

I am Free

by Warren Stroup

 In John 8, Jesus was speaking to the Jews who believed him but as you read on this was short lived. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (31,32) Being free is a weird concept, if you’ve never been a slave. Just trying to understand this could be very difficult. Those listening responded in such a way. “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (33)

Slavery throughout history was either by choice or by force. People chose slavery to pay a debt or they were poor and couldn’t survive without being placed into servitude. People that were forced were either on the losing side of a battle or taken to be placed into forced labor. No matter which circumstance placed you under a master; it was a time of pain, uncertainty and fear. I can understand the perplexity on the face of these Jews who had never experienced slavery.

Jesus responded by saying. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (34-36) Jesus struck a chord with these Jews; calling them out as slaves to sin. He’s about to go one step further by confronting their pedigree. They think their Father is Abraham but Jesus is about to call the Devil their father. Ouch!

 The Devil was once our close relation but because we died to sin, we have been set free to be part of the family of God. “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (36) People don’t like to be told that they are slaves to sin. What they don’t realize is that we are all slaves, either to sin or to righteousness. What is truly amazing is that we have been liberated from the bonds of sin. We are no longer harassed and condemned. 

We are sons and daughters of the King of mercy and grace.

 

Tuesday, January 10th

His Grace is Sufficient for Me

by Lynn Koehn

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you...” II Corinthians 12:9a

Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying; “OH Be thought,” says he, “that every word was a mighty word unto me; as ‘My,’ and ‘grace,’ and ‘sufficient,’ and ‘for thee’; they were then, and sometimes are still, far bigger than others be.” Spurgeon is saying to consider these five words more impactful than any other words may be. 

‘My’—the one who won a pivotal victory over Satan and all the supernatural powers of evil who are aligned with him, Colossians 2:15 [GNT], And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. The one who overcame the world. John 16:33 [NLT], I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. And, the one who is now seated at the right hand of the Father. I Peter 3:22 [NLT], Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority. He HAS all power and authority to make this statement.

 ‘grace’—Tony Evans defines grace as “the inexhaustible supply of God’s goodness whereby He does for us what we could never do for ourselves.” Ephesians 2:5 [Amplified Bible], even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment).

 ‘sufficient’—He is, El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One. He is the God who is more than enough to adequately handle all our needs without running short of supply. Ephesians 2:20—[NIV] Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we [I] ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

 ‘for thee’—the goodness of the Lord (grace) relentlessly pursues me (personal). Psalm 23:6—Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

I thank you, Father for the strength and courage I draw from you to conquer all my difficulties, failures and fears. Your grace is sufficient for me. And that is more than enough!

 

Monday, January 9th

Here are Some Simple Instructions for Life Today…

By Jonah Lang

The prophet Amos gives some pretty good advice to the people of Israel and we the people of today can put this wisdom into practice and benefit from it as well.

God’s words to Israel in Amos 5:4 are also God’s message to every human being: “Seek me and live.” Although angry with His own people, Israel and Judah, and ready to punish the pagan nations around them, God’s deepest desire was that they would turn from their sins and repent. He desires that for us, too (Matthew 3:22 Peter 3:9Revelation 2:521). When we repent, God offers forgiveness and cleansing through His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:211 John 1:9).

Amos 5:14-15, Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

God desires us to use wisdom: His wisdom, to seek things that will benefit us and not hurt us, and then He will be with us. We must be able to tell the difference between things that are good and evil.

 

Friday, January 6th

2023 is Bright

by Gary Bittner

Each year comes and goes

They seem to come faster each year

But there is one thing we know

Our God is always with us, now, here

 

So, each new year starts

And we all make our new year plans

But too often we soon falter

And cover our red face with our hands

 

How can we go forward?

Having so soon failed again

Our God is always with us, now, here

And He takes my face, lifts my chin

 

“My child I am pleased with you

You are forever my chosen and adopted one”

And as I said in John 17:23

I love you the same as I love my Son

 

You are not what others may say

When they say ‘see he failed again’

No, I see you clean, redeemed and whole

No longer bound by sin

 

So, lift up your head and smile

And ever be at peace

For I am your God, with you now, here

Let all striving cease

 

With me all things are possible

Even that resolution you already broke

But be of good cheer my child

And make sure you’re wearing my yoke

 

For my yoke is easy

And my burden is light

And as you lean into me and let me carry you

2023 is bright.

 

Thursday, January 5th

His Kindness, Love & Mercy

by Galen Troyer

As we begin a new year, it’s a good time to reflect on things we’ve been given, especially those things we didn’t deserve. It is humbling to bask in the reality of our position because of Jesus, our Savior.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

Our position in Christ is secure. We have been saved by grace. Our responsibility, because of what we’ve been given, is to be ready to do good, and then to do it. It’s our love for Jesus and our fellow man that motivates us. Many still need to hear about and experience the kindness, love and mercy of God.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! I John 3:1

The definition of lavish is: to bestow something in extravagant quantities.

That’s how much God loves you and me! The more we share it and try to give it away, the more it grows in us.

My prayer is that the beauty (love) of Jesus is seen in us by everyone we come in contact with.

 

Wednesday, January 4th

The Invitation

by Warren Stroup

Lynn said yesterday that 2023 is a year of anticipation. I love the anticipation of something that is to come. I can’t help but think of events in my life that I looked forward to, such as the birth of my two children or a family vacation. In the anticipation that there was work to be done. We had a season of preparing for what we expected to happen.

My prayer for our church is that we are faithful in this time of anticipation. Let’s get ready for what God has instore for his people.

I’m reminded of something Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians regarding division that was happening in the church. He said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (I Cor 3:6) We recognize the results belong to the Lord, but we have a responsibility to plant and water. God is the one that will bring the increase.

What planting and watering is God calling you to do? Have you picked up the watering can or grabbed a handful of seeds? God has invited us to participate with him. I’m always blown away by the invitation, “Who Me?” It’s like Gideon standing in the winepress threshing wheat, when the angel called out to him, “O mighty man of valor.” We know in reading Judges 6 that Gideon didn’t see himself as mighty but just the opposite.

Don’t let your vision of who you are limit the vision God has for you.

Paul says it best, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13,14)

Let us run with the anticipation that God has something amazing waiting for us.

 

Tuesday, January 3rd

2023…a year of Anticipation

by Lynn Koehn

Blessed Happy New Year to you all. Welcome to 2023! 2022 was a season of drawing closer to God, distinguishing His voice above all other voices and wading out a little deeper into the waters of His mercy, His love and His favor. I am praying and believing God with you for His goodness to be released in our homes, over our children, at our workplaces, in our schools and in our church and throughout our community in 2023.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21

Apostle Paul emphatically declares: "NOW is the time of God's favor, NOW is the day of salvation." II Corinthians 6:1-2, As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

I encourage you to join me in 2023 by anticipating God’s salvation power to manifest itself over your wayward child, your finances and your unhealthy marriage. I invite you to join me in this new year by praying with anticipation for the release of God’s favor in our church and our community.

Buckle up...here we go! We, you and me, the River Center church is so blessed to be on this journey together with Jesus. 2023…a year of Anticipation!

 

Monday, January 2nd

Proverbs 2 

by Jonah Lang

  My son, if you accept my words

    and store up my commands within you,

 turning your ear to wisdom

    and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

    and cry aloud for understanding

 and if you look for it as for silver

    and search for it as for hidden treasure,

 then you will understand the fear of the Lord

    and find the knowledge of God.

 For the Lord gives wisdom;

    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

In this passage we are urged to receive our fathers’ words 

and store up his commands. Our Father is saying pay attention. 

If you do these things, you will find what I want you to have,

which is understanding the fear of the Lord and you will find knowledge. 

The writer of this passage does such a good job telling us what to do in order to obtain

wisdom.

Later in the chapter we were told what wisdom does for those who have it… 

It protects us from wicked men and women, and it allows us to walk on the good,

righteous path…Wisdom is the principal thing…Prov. 4:7

I’m very much looking forward to 2023, 

this is my drive for the new year to become wiser.

 

Friday, December 30th

A 2023 Encouragement

by Gary Bittner

As 2022 comes to an end, and we approach the beginning of 2023, I want to encourage us to ‘look up’ before we begin to ‘look out.’ See who we are in Christ, what we have in Him, so that when we have opportunities to share the good news in 2023 we are not sharing from ‘an empty well.’

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:1-14 NIV

Below is a link to a 7-minute video by Joel Osteen, ‘The Blessing For 2022.’ I want us to watch/hear this again as it stands just as true for 2023. Please don’t dismiss the message because you may not like the messenger.

Close your eyes, receive it, believe it.

7 amazing minutes. Be blessed.

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Thursday, December 29th

Stirring Words

by Galen Troyer

Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code, don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of-finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. Y