LIVING IN THE LOVE OF JESUS

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, December 2, 2022

1 Peter 5:7  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

This will be short. I hope it’s sweet. It certainly is to me.

God loves me!

God cares about me!

God takes care of me!

God’s love compels me!

Thanks to a dear friend for pointing this out. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the duty of being a Christian that we lose sight of the motivation for the duty. We so quickly fall into performance mode and accomplishment mode. We grow weary and tired long before we should because we have lost connection with the love of God.  We focus on the work we have to do for Him. We have lost our first love. We are not consistently motivated by the love of God.

Excuse me for a moment while I sing a song that I know will make me cry.

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong

They are weak but He is strong.

Yes! Jesus loves me.

Yes! Jesus loves me.

Yes! Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so.

I am weak. I am worn out. I know why. I’m living to get things done when I could be living in the love of Jesus. He is Strong. He cares for me. His love must compel all my work, or my energy will be drained. His love is endless. His strength is everlasting. His faithfulness endures forever. His mercies are new every morning.

Pastor John

MORE ON HUMILITY

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, December 1, 2022

George Vasilievich Govorov was born in 1815 in Russia in the village of Chernavsk. His father was a Russian Orthodox Priest. After years of education and seminary training, he was ordained into the priesthood at the age of 26. At that time he chose to go by the name Theophan. Later, because of the focus of his spiritual walk, he became known as Theophan the Recluse.

He became a prolific writer, focusing primarily on the inner life of holiness to which every believer is called. He believed that the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” was to be taken seriously. He wrote that all spiritual life begins with the humbling of the heart and the death of the flesh. Then, as a sacred vessel before the Lord, we can commune with Him constantly.

Theophan wrote some marvelous things, and regardless of what we think we know about his theology based on his church affiliation, truth is truth regardless of the context in which it is spoken. He had much to say about humility. One of his quotes which particularly interested me was this:

“The Lord sometimes leaves in us some defects of character in order that we should learn humility. For without them we would immediately soar above the clouds in our own estimation and would place our throne there. And herein lies perdition.”

Much of our lives are spent, or should I say wasted, in the pursuit of self-exaltation. The passion of the human spirit is to better oneself. It is what is conceived into each of us because of Adam’s sin nature. It is what contradicts the Holy Spirit’s call to humility so that God can exalt us in His time.

On three distinct occasions the Apostle Paul prayed for the removal of the “thorn” in his flesh, and each time the Lord Jesus demanded humility instead of delivering healing. Why? Because Paul knew that there was a high probability that he would have taken pride in the level of spiritual revelation that God had given him. Paul’s estimation and evaluation of his own position would have interfered with what God wanted to do in his life.

Peter speaks of humility this way: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7  

We must humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. Notice, we do not humble ourselves under someone who is weak or powerless to control the outcomes of our lives. We do not humble ourselves under someone who cannot fulfill His promises. We do not humble ourselves under someone who does not understand our situation. No, we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We can cast all our anxiety upon Him. There’s no need to worry – His hand is mighty. There’s no need to fear – His hand is mighty.

Theophan later wrote this: “Whatever you thirst for – so long as it is not contrary to the spirit of the Lord – you will find relief in Him. If you thirst for knowledge, run to the Lord, for He is the one and only light, enlightening every man. If you thirst for cleansing from sin and quenching of the flames of your conscience, run to the Lord, for He tore asunder the handwriting of our sins upon the Cross. If you thirst for peace in your heart, run to the Lord, for He is the treasury of all good, Whose abundance will teach you to forget all deprivations and despise all earthly good, so as to be filled with Him alone. If you need strength, He is almighty. If you need glory, His glory surpasses the world. If you desire freedom, He gives true freedom. He will resolve all our doubts, loose the bonds of our passions, dispel all our troubles and difficulties, will enable us to overcome all obstacles, temptations and intrigues of the enemy, and will make smooth the path of our spiritual life. Let us all run to the Lord!”

What a transforming truth – God cares for you. Humble yourself before Him, and He will fulfill His purpose for you, and someday you will stand exalted in His presence.

Pastor John

BE HUMBLE

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Peter now shifts his attention from Elders to young men.

1 Peter 5:5   “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

The word humble in the New Testament is interesting. It means, “not rising far from the ground.” It is used in Romans 12:16 when Paul writes, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

Paul uses it again to describe Jesus in Philippians 2 when he says, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Just prior to using Jesus as our model of humility, Paul had challenged each one of us with these words – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

One night, General Ulysses S. Grant was on his way to a reception in his honor. He got caught in a rainstorm. Walking near him was a man who had no umbrella. General Grant moved closer to him and offered to share his. The stranger did not recognize General Grant.

“I have never seen Grant,” he said, “but I have always thought that he was a very much overrated man.”

“That’s my view, also,” said Grant.

Not many of us could or would say with the spontaneity of General Grant that we are overrated. I fear that most of us feel we are under-recognized and under-rewarded. What we don’t understand is that the pride that motivates such feelings is really holding us back from reaching our full potential.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said that “some in his time might have become excellent scholars had they not been so persuaded of their scholarship already. Grant, most precious God, that I may never hold so high an opinion of my own spiritual health as to prevent my being in my deeds full of your grace and fear!”

In his book Authentic Christianity John Stott writes, “We need to repent of the haughty way in which we sometimes stand in judgment upon Scripture and must learn to sit humbly under its judgment instead. If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”

Learning to live in the fullness and joy of Jesus requires us to rise not far off the ground. We are not capable of rising high enough to reach the presence of God. But Jesus is, and it is only His life in us that exalts us. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Renounce your own strength and be reinvigorated by His power!

Pastor John

SHEEP APPRECIATION

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Recently we celebrated Pastor Appreciation Month. As a pastor at a wonderful church, I’m blessed to be appreciated all year long. But it’s especially nice to hear from people in unique ways during October.

In response to Pastor Appreciation Month, I want to start an appreciation month of my own. It will be called Sheep Appreciation Month. I think the flock needs to be admired more often. I want my flock of sheep to know how much I love them and what joy they bring to my heart as I serve them. This is especially relevant now as I am three months away from retirement as one of their shepherds.

As Peter writes today to challenge the shepherds (pastors and elders) of the church, he also alludes to several things that are true of a good flock of sheep.

1 Peter 5:1-3To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 

I have been blessed to be assigned as a shepherd of God’s flock. I am honored to have them under my care, because they are willing to be cared for. They are not stubborn sheep. They like to be led and fed. It’s easy to get up every day and watch the Lord use me to move the sheep to places where they can experience a deeper relationship with their True Shepherd. The sheep God assigned me are humble and willing to listen to me as a shepherd.

As an overseer, it’s fulfilling to be able to lead. But I have learned through the years that it’s not always easy to lead. Sometimes the sheep do get stubborn. Sometimes they don’t follow. Often, they burst through the fences and wander in the world as if they were lost. But God has given me His heart to seek the lost. I am so thankful to be surrounded by other shepherds and sheep who also want to seek the lost ones. We do not do it because we must, but because we are willing. The love of Christ compels us, and it’s a blessing to be surrounded by sheep that are also compelled by Christ’s love.

I also praise God for the attitude of the sheep to both serve and be served. One of the sheep come to my office with a humble heart and repented of a sin and asked for forgiveness. In the process of our conversation I discovered a financial need, and as the shepherd I was able to serve her by meeting that need. She humbly accepted that help. I know that someday when she is able, she will serve others in the same way. She will follow the example of the shepherd. I only pray that I will continue to be the right example. I never want to force others to do what I would not model myself.

There’s one more thought on my heart. Some shepherds aren’t so fortunate. Some flocks are pretty messed up. Some sheep are pretty stubborn. I’ve been the shepherd of a flock like that in the past. I’ve seen how sheep can devour their shepherds. I’ve seen how sheep can take their shepherds for granted. I’ve seen the hearts of good shepherds crushed by mean-spirited sheep. I’ve seen sheep who didn’t appreciate their shepherd as a gift from the Chief Shepherd. My words to those shepherds are the words of the Apostle Paul – “The sheep that reject your instruction are not rejecting you but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess. 4:8)

You are the appointed one of God. You are the humble, willing servant of the Good Shepherd. Be the example of love and grace. And no matter how you suffer, keep serving, not because you must, but because God’s call is upon your life and His love compels you. If you persevere, the Chief Shepherd will come and expose the wolves who have been masquerading as sheep, and He will purify His church.

Pastor John

FROM SOAPBOX TO HIGHHORSE

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, November 28, 2022

Get ready to catch me. I’m about to get on a soapbox and when I do I sometimes fall. Today’s soapbox may not make me fall, but it may make you mad at me, which will feel to me like falling. But I must take the risk.

Throughout my study of Peter’s writings on suffering for the cause of Christ I have been challenged with how to make practical and personal application. How far are we to go in applying these words of Peter to our everyday lives? “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

Today it became clearer to me as the Holy Spirit directed my mind to the things Jesus and other writers in the Bible said about suffering and how to treat the people who cause it. For example, the Apostle Paul said, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Or the words of Jesus who said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Peter said that no matter what the circumstances or hardships, we are to continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:19So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Today I was reminded that we don’t apply that to our lives very well, and I am as guilty as the next guy. When someone has hurt us, or done something we think is wrong, we have this terrible tendency to love hate. Deep in the center of our flesh is a desire to put others down to build ourselves up. It is a tragedy of the human heart that the biggest portion of our memory seems to be set aside for the storage of other people’s faults.

Want proof? Let me mention one name as an example – Donald Trump. Everyone seems to have formed an opinion of this guy and taken very vocal sides. My question is – Why do our opinions of people dictate our actions towards them and our words about them? I thought as the messengers of God’s love we are to repay all hurt with help. I thought the Holy Spirit was clear when He said through Paul in Romans 12 that we are to consider others better than ourselves. Or later in Romans 15 when he says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” I am disappointed in myself and other Christians that we have so quickly fallen into the worldly habit of tearing others down rather than building them up.

We have not done a very good job of continuing to do good, especially when someone else’s evil actions affect us so deeply. We quickly fall into the trap of the flesh to build ourselves up at the expense of others. We allow our opinions of others to dictate our speech and actions. We let some perceived suffering justify the defense of our own position, and that defense usually involves some form of attack. We have moved from humility to hurt; from helping to harboring hate; from building up to butting heads; from honor and respect of others to honoring self above anyone else.

Where is the love of Christ in all of this? Why hasn’t the heart of Jesus overwhelmed us and filled us with true and consistent love? I think the reason is that we have gone from standing on a soapbox to sitting on a high horse. And that could cause a much bigger fall.

Pastor John

REASONS TO BE THANKFUL – part two

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, November 25, 2022

Here are the rest of the New Testament reasons to give thanks, even on Black Friday.  Your attitude of thanks will make a huge difference in how the rest of your day goes.

Give thanks for…

  • A generous spirit in us as a result of our salvation- You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.   2 Corinthians 9:11-12
  • The generosity of God – Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15
  • The love we have for others – ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,   I have not stopped giving thanks for you. Ephesians 1:15-16
  • The privilege of being partners in missions – I thank my God every time I remember you.   In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy   because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5
  • God’s qualification of our lives and our future inheritance – joyfully   giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you  to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12
  • The peace of Christ in our hearts – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.   Colossians 3:15
  • The energy and endurance to work for Jesus – We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.   We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
  • The knowledge of the truth – And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
  • The joy our lives in Christ bring to others – How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 1 Thessalonians 3:9
  • It is God’s will to give thanks in everything – give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  • Growing faith and love – We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3
  • Choosing to be saved – But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you  to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
  • Being appointed by God to serve Him – I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 1 Timothy 1:12
  • Our government leaders – I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
  • All of God’s creation – For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,   because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4
  • The coming kingdom of God – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28
  • The reign of the King We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. Revelation 11:17

Pastor John

REASONS TO BE THANKFUL – part one

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, November 24, 2022

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Psalm 107:1-2  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say this.”

As promised yesterday, here are the New Testament reasons to give thanks. Because there are 34 of them, I’ll send half today and half tomorrow. Be blessed with an abundance of thanksgiving as you read them.

Give thanks for…

  • daily provisions of foodTaking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. Matthew 14:19
  • the Redeemer of the world Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38
  • the healing power of Jesus – One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.   He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16
  • that the Father hears our prayers – So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” John 11:41
  • to encourage others in the middle of a crisis – After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.   They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Acts 27:35-36
  • fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ – The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged. Acts 28:15
  • the faith of others living for Christ – First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. Romans 1:8
  • freedom from sin – But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.   You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:17-18
  • freedom from the old nature of death – What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?   Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25
  • freedom from legalism – He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.   Romans 14:6
  • God’s grace in Jesus Christ – I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4
  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit – I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.   But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:18-19
  • Victory over death – But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
  • Answered prayer – Then many will give thanks on our  behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:11
  • Triumphant living for the glory of God – But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.   2 Corinthians 2:14
  • People getting saved by God’s grace – All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15
  • Compassionate hearts of others – I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.   2 Corinthians 8:16

Don’t let the stress of the holiday preparations quench your thankful spirit.

Pastor John

JESUS GAVE THANKS!

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

1 Thessalonians 5:18Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I love this week of the year. If I had to rate it, it would be in the top 50 or so. Actually it would be in the top three. For as long as I can remember from childhood, Thanksgiving week has always been the time of my fondest and deepest family memories. My kids all make fun of me for this and will understand when I say, “This is so special.” At some point during the Thanksgiving dinner I will probably say that with tears in my eyes. One year one of my sons imitated me early in the meal and everyone roared with mocking laughter. I love my family!

This morning, as I started to put together a list of all the reasons the New Testament provides for us to be thankful, I stopped at the third one I came to. I guess I will go into that list deeper tomorrow, but for today God stopped me and made a connection with me.

Think back to when Jesus was just hours away from His crucifixion. He’s in the upper room with His disciples, and He’s telling them the details of His suffering that is at hand. Then, in a symbolic gesture incredibly deep with spiritual truth, Jesus takes the bread. Let’s read how Matthew relates it to us in his Gospel.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”

Two times Jesus gave thanks. He was thankful for the bread and thankful for the cup of wine. But His thankfulness goes far deeper than mere habit or courtesy of praying before a meal. In fact, they were already eating, so any blessing of the food had already taken place.

Just think what the bread represented in the plan of God and in the understanding of the Son. The bread was symbolic of His body – the physical body that would soon endure excruciating pain and suffering. He would be spit upon and struck, beaten and bloodied, crowned and crucified. His body would suffer more than we dare to imagine but not more than we ourselves deserve.

The cup of wine represented the blood of Jesus. Once shed on the cross it would become the once-for-all covering for our sin. Every sacrifice for sin required the shedding of blood – the expelling of the source of life from the physical being. Jesus knew that on the cross His blood would be spilled out. He knew that the weight of sin would crush His heart and His chest cavity would fill with blood as He took His last breath and gave up His life for ours. He foresaw the spear thrust into His side so that His blood could be shed to meet God’s righteous requirements and provide eternal forgiveness.

Yet, seeing it all with His infinite mind’s eye and knowing the suffering that was ahead, Jesus gave thanks!

I am in awe of my Lord! I am ashamed of myself. I complain. I grumble. I criticize. I find fault. I want change. I want to be more like Jesus. Jesus gave thanks!

I think I’ve discovered a connection. Being thankful is the product of a surrendered heart. Self-centered hearts aren’t thankful. Jesus was fully surrendered to the will of the Father, so He could be thankful for every step He was directed to take, even suffering ones. He had His eyes fixed on the finish line, not the competition of the race. It is in full surrender that thankfulness abounds.

“Jesus, forgive us for being self-willed and not surrendered. Forgive us for complaining and criticizing when we could be content in knowing that You are in control. May we express gratitude rather than grumbling. May we learn to be thankful before, during, and after suffering as was Jesus.”

Pastor John

FISH FISH

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, November 22,2022

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in the Gospel of John. It happens after the resurrection of Jesus, but prior to the time the disciples become convinced that they made a good decision to follow Jesus three years earlier. The story is found in John 21.

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.” 

I connect with Peter. He models the tendency most of us have to fall back into our comfort zones when things don’t go right. We are outcome-based people, and when a certain path doesn’t produce what we think is the right outcome, we go back to the way we used to do it so we can take control of the outcomes again. After having left his nets years earlier, Peter now decides that he needs to think and reflect on his decisions, so he goes back to his comfort zone of fishing. At least there he’s his own boss and can manage his own outcomes.

Or can he? I love what Jesus does. Being all-knowing as He is, and in absolute control of all things because He’s God, He doesn’t allow Peter to catch any fish. Then, to prove to Peter that he’s not really in control of anything, Jesus tells him to let down the nets in the same spot where he has been fishing, just on the other side of the boat. Lo and behold, there’s fish. Lots of fish!

There are so many lessons in this story, but here are the two on my mind today.

  1. We can’t do anything unless Jesus is in it. We may think that by returning to our comfort zones and pet areas of expertise that we can control what will happen, but we can’t. If we have any success in those areas, it’s because God granted it, not because we earned it. Everything is by His grace and His grace controls ALL outcomes.
  2. Jesus wants us to apply the same discipline and diligence we use in our comfort zones to serving Him. Peter was a professional fisherman. No way was he going to get skunked in an all-night fishing tournament. No matter how many times he and his friends brought in an empty net, they kept casting it out again. They knew the only way to catch fish was to actually fish for fish. They were bound and determined to catch, so they kept fishing. But it wasn’t until they did it the Lord’s way that they caught anything. When Jesus got involved, fish got caught.

A former worship pastor at our church, James Alan Hall, posted the following comment years ago to his Facebook page – “We are guilty of spending far too much time counting fish and not enough time catching them.” That got me to thinking. Our churches today are filled with fish that have been caught, and we spend most of our time in the comfort zone of counting them and controlling them. We rest on our past successes. We maintain and manage an aquarium for them without realizing that those left in the lake are going to end up in a lake of fire. We clean our aquariums and feed the fish, but we fail to bring those fish to the point of fishing for themselves. That’s right, in God’s aquarium, fish fish. Unfortunately, in most local aquariums (churches), fish just feed and fight.

1 Peter 4:19  “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

We need to be building bigger aquariums. The same principles of discipline and diligence that we use to be successful at our jobs need to be applied to catching fish. We have been called to be fishers of men. We have been equipped with the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus. It’s time we put as much energy into serving our Savior as we do into the success of self. We must keep casting the nets. This may be the day that Jesus fills them with fish.

 Pastor John

MEASURING CHURCH HEALTH

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, November 21, 2022

1 Peter 4:17  “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God;”

Some people believe that the measuring stick of success for a church is attendance. Others believe it is finances. Still others believe it’s facility. All are wrong because all are based on man’s perspective. If we are to use the right standard to measure the success of the church, we must use the one Christ designed. After all, He is the Head of the church.

There are many indicators of church health. If it were up to me, a successful church would be measured by the preaching of truth. But that would not be a complete analysis because it eliminates so many other aspects of body life. Not everyone is an eye. Not everyone is a nose, although far too many are nosey.

However, after considering all the characteristics of a healthy church like faithfulness, humility, servant-hearted people with sacrificial spirits, great teaching, cheerful generosity, effective programs, inspiring worship, Godly leadership, and countless others, I must confess that there are two that stick out above all the rest. The reason is that they were the commands of Jesus for every individual in His church. I’m talking about His Great Commandment and His Great Commission.

One day Jesus was in a conversation with some teachers of the law. Attempting to trap Him, one of them asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus responded by saying this – “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Let me repeat – there is no commandment greater than these.

Then, as Jesus prepared to leave this earth and go back to the right hand of His Father from where He now reigns supreme, He gave His followers another command. This command does not supplant the previous ones. It is the living expression of the first two. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

My dear friends, all the plans you have for your church will be of absolutely NO SIGNIFICANCE if we are not as individuals completely surrendered to Jesus Christ so that He lives in and through us. Only then will we be healthy and able to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission. There has never been nor will there ever be any other measuring stick for the health of a church.

It is my prayer that for the rest of this week, as a prelude to the rest of your life, that you will fall on your knees before Jesus Christ, the Lord of your life, and renew your commitment to His commands and commission. When we come together as the Body of Christ we do so as a people who live for the glory of Jesus and do His work of connecting others to God by loving them, serving them, and growing them.

Pastor John