A weekly devotional designed to help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, through practical application of spiritual truths from God's word.
Fishers of Men
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11)
The way fishers back then caught fish was usually with wide nets. They’d cast them into the water, drag them along, and pull up to have caught a net full of fish. Today, we have many methods of fishing - fishing pole catching one fish at a time, a handheld net catching possibly a few at a time, and the wide nets as of old catching multitudes of fish at a time.
The Tools to Catch
When Jesus said He would make His disciples fishers of men, He never specified which way they’d be catching them though. The call was to fish and it was going to be to the Holy Spirit’s eventual empowering with gifts, and His still small voice guiding them, that would determine what method they used at any given time.
In today’s time, we have many methods available for the Holy Spirit to use as He gifts us and prompts us in our fishing expeditions, both locally and farther out. He may call you to use a wide net, being a pastor or evangelist. He may call you to use a hand net of sorts, sharing the gospel with small groups of people. He may call you to use a fishing pole ministering to one person at a time.
The Temptation to Compare
It can be tempting to look at the methods and callings of other people and feel like they’re better in some way, especially when our culture creates idols of people and places them on high pedestals often. The truth is, not any one method is better than the other, just as not any member of the Church body is better than the other. The Spirit will give as He wills for the glory of God.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1 Corinthians 12:14-18)
The Spirit gives gifts to Christ’s followers for the common good. No matter what gifts He gives or what method He calls you to use, you don’t need to compare to others, only need to listen and obey. You’re not responsible for how many people you catch, you’re responsible for your faithfulness to obedience. So today, my friend, I encourage you to listen for the Spirit’s voice to go fishing for people and be faithful with whatever tool He gives you to use!
And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon.. (Luke 4:31-33a)
Jesus went into the synagogue teaching on the Sabbath and in there was a demon possessed man. Don’t you wonder what a man who was demon possessed was doing in a synagogue?
This really brings front and center that just because someone is in a church doesn’t mean they are saved. They could even be demon possessed.
Being Hurt by Church People
So many people get hurt by people in their church, and yes that could be by other Christians because we’re all imperfect, but we have to know that we can’t expect perfection from people in the church whether they’re saved or not. I’ve heard it said that the church is like a hospital, where Christians come to get healed. I won’t fully disagree, but I think of the church more of like a big restaurant where we all come together to eat the meat of the Word and serve one another. Sometimes we feel like the food has been served cold, or the server wasn’t as quick as we’d like, or we felt the way they spoke to us wasn’t as pleasant as we’d prefer. Except, because this example is not perfect, we shouldn’t decide to never come back to the restaurant if we feel like the service towards us wasn’t the greatest. We should be serving as well and have grace and understanding for one another, as well as getting together when we’re not serving or sitting at church, to do life together the way Jesus intended.
Meeting Your Needs
There can be a great danger and disservice in our representation of Christ when we look to the people in the church to meet the needs only God should be meeting.
The church shouldn’t ever be what we look to as our example or our fulfilling, only Jesus should be in that role. There is no pastor, teacher, leader, or person otherwise that will perfectly meet your needs or fulfill the desires of your heart because the Church is made up of imperfect people just like you and me.
You may have gotten saved in a church building, but the Church didn’t save you. The Church can’t sanctify you, the Church won’t take you up into heaven and glorify you one day, only God can do those things. So if you’re placing too much expectations on the Church, our fellow brothers and sisters who are being sanctified right along with you, then I can guarantee you’re going to be hurt and disappointed and the devil will gladly tempt you in those feelings. In addition, if we’re placing our expectations and hopes and desires of fulfillment in the Church and the people who make it up, then we’re creating an idol.
Jesus designed His Church to be a family, and with every family there are familial spats that arise and need to be resolved. If we are operating as the family Church that God desires us to be, we’ll not only be pleasing to the Lord, but we’ll be more able to serve and help those around us, including any demon possessed people who walk through the doors of the church.
How to Respond
Last week we read about Jesus walking with purpose in His calling, and today echoes a similar message – regardless of the little details of your church’s worship services, BE the Church in and out of the building. Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).
Lastly, if you have something against someone in the Church that has been left unresolved, I encourage you to go to them and make amends. It could have been a misunderstanding, it could have been purposeful, or maybe they never even realized how you were hurt, but you can’t gain your sibling in Christ back if you won’t go to them. God doesn’t want falling outs in His family, so go “Matthew 18” it and as far as it depends on you, live peaceably
Walking With Purpose
And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)
Jesus' ministry was to proclaim the good news and set people free, yet hatred and persecution followed Him throughout it all. He spoke the truth and did the works and miracles the Father told Him to and for some people it resulted in believing and being set free, and for others it resulted in a desire to murder Him.
In our life of following Jesus here, we can’t expect any different. If the world hated Jesus, it certainly is going to hate us, just as He told us in John 15. Throughout Jesus' ministry, He had to dodge people seeking to kill Him, and ultimately gave Himself into their hands when His time had come. BUT through all that hatred and persecution, Jesus was fulfilling Scripture and the mission the Father sent Him on.
Could you imagine if Jesus had decided what to do based on the people seeking to kill Him instead of the Father’s will? The ramification of that would have literally been death to the whole world. Thankfully for us, He walked through His life on earth with a discipline to spend time with the Father and do and say whatever the Father told Him to.
Fulfilling our Purpose
Now we don’t have the weight of the world’s salvation on our shoulders the way Jesus did (Thank you, Lord, for that!), but we do have a purpose in this life and God calls us to serve in specific ways, and our actions to obey or disobey will have its own consequences.
Let me ask you this:
Are you willing to be ridiculed, hated, and persecuted for Jesus?
If it ever came to it, are you resolved to die for His Name sake?
These are heavy things to think about, and for those living in free areas such as America it isn’t something that’s front and center in life the way it is to our fellow brothers and sisters in places with intense persecution of the saints. Regardless of how prevalent it is, we must resolve to stay faithful to our Faithful God and Savior no matter the cost.
What’s the Purpose?
Why even bother to think upon these things? If you were going to be in a boxing match one day, let’s say a year from now. Would you wait until you’re entering the ring to start weight training and sparring? That seems crazy, right? Of course you wouldn’t wait, you would train from the moment you knew you’d be in that match! Well, Paul did warn us that “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). So if you’ve never read this and maybe never faced any kind of persecution yet, here’s the news that your boxing match is coming and it’s time to prepare!
This doesn’t mean that when persecution comes you’ll be immune to it or you’ll somehow not be physically, emotionally, or spiritually affected. You don’t even need to memorize speeches of what you’ll say when the time comes, the Holy Spirit has you covered there just like Jesus said in Mathew, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20) However, it does mean that you’ll be prepared to suffer, and even die, for Christ’s sake if it comes to that, because you’ll have been training and renewing your mind.
Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi has such encoura
Led With Purpose
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry… And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-2, 13)
The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The Holy Spirit knew exactly why He had led Jesus there and it was in the Father’s will that Jesus be equipped through this time of testing.
We know that with calling into ministry work, there is going to be times of trial and equipping. The purpose here we can see was equipping Jesus for His ministry, but the purpose for the specific things we go through isn’t always easy to see while we’re in it. The thing is, if we hide God’s word in our hearts and remain steadfast in the trial, trusting we are indeed being refined through it, it will have an outcome for our good and be one step closer in the process of being formed into the image of Jesus Christ.
During this encounter in the wilderness, Jesus was tried physically, mentally, and spiritually, and was triumphant after resisting the devil. The book of James hadn’t been written yet, but this doesn’t change the truth that if you resist the devil, he will flee from you. Jesus proved that and serves as an example of that to us.
The Devil in is in the Details
We can’t ignore the fact though that the devil had departed from Him until an opportune time. This means that just because Jesus had victory in this particular time of tempting, didn’t mean satan was just giving up and going to leave Him alone now. The enemy is like a lion seeking whom to devour, and like a predator, they seek out prey who are weak, isolated, young (physically or spiritually speaking), or hurt. Jesus in that time was weak from hunger and even though it was for a spiritually good reason, He was also isolated as He fasted and satan took that opportunity to pounce and attempt to devour.
What State Are You In?
Knowing that the enemy goes after those who are weak, isolated, young, and/or hurt, where does that leave you?
Are you young in the Lord?
Are you in a state of weakness or hurting physically or emotionally?
Have you knowingly or even unconsciously isolated yourself from others, either in person or by keeping them at arms length from having a real relationship with you?
Coming from a place of being physically and emotionally hurting, I understand the desire to withdraw and wait for better days to come. But I can also tell you from experience that unless I’m withdrawing for a period of time to fast or setting aside a set period to focus on time with God, isolating doesn’t yield good things. The times where I have fallen into self-isolation are the times when the enemy has attacked from every angle and been all up in my face and it is awful! It’s hard to know top from bottom and side to side when he’s hurling constant attacks, and the way to get out of it and, better yet, prevent it, is being in the Word and letting other believers come alongside you and bear your burdens with you the way God intended His Church to.
Have Victory as a Human
We are all human, but so was Jesus and He had victory. If you are in Jesus, you can have victory too, but remember that our human limitations are not the issue, it’s when we embrace our flesh nature and desire that we find ourselves in trouble.
It’s ok to be weak but don’t be afraid to boast in your weakness because His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
It’s ok to isolate for small periods of time to fast and spend dedicated time with God the way Jesus did, but don’t neglect to allow others in (Matthew 6; Galatians 6:2)
It’s ok if you’re young, physically and/or spiritually, but don’t be afraid to cozy up in the wings of Jesus (Luke 13:34)
It’s ok to feel hur
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart… And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:19 & Luke 2:51)
As the shepherds came that night, worshipping the Son whom the angels had told them of, Mary treasured up that experience in her heart. As she listened to how her 12 year old Son was in the synagogue and spoke of being in His Father’s house, Mary didn’t understand it all, but she treasured up that experience in her heart. She kept these things stored to recall all the works and wonders of God she had observed.
Why is this important to treasure things up in our hearts?
If we’re talking about experiences in which we’ve witnessed God working, it’s important because as humans we tend to be a forgetful bunch. Just ask the Israelites who lived in a cycle of seeing great miracles, signs, and wonders of God to forgetting Him and running after idols. Treasuring up these personal experiences in which God has worked in our life helps keep our mind and heart set right on Him. It also builds our faith to treasure them up. Whenever we think back on the wonderful works of God, it serves as a kind of pep rally to our hearts, boosting our faith as we remember His love, faithfulness, and graciousness towards us. It also keeps our hearts treasured on the right things.
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:20-21)
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
The other thing we should be treasuring up in our hearts is God’s Word. As we walk through life, the only safe way to navigate through is with the Bible, the very breath of God which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that we’ll be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).
Answer these for yourself:
Do you keep a remembrance of treasured moments that you have experienced God work in your life?
When was the last time you thought about those treasured moments?
Do you regularly memorize scripture?
If you’re like me, memorizing nowadays isn’t always something that’s easy, but thanks to journals (paper or computer) and songs, my mind gets extended storage through journaling about those things I want to treasure up and look back on, and memorizing scripture is much easier when it’s with a song.
On a quick side note, if you’re interested in memorizing scripture with songs, a good resource is a website called_ I Am A Wall - iamawall.com._ It’s a project currently in progress and being added to frequently, that lists songs by Bible reference. The project’s goal is to have a song for every part of the Bible, both to memorize scripture and to accompany your studies through the Bible. I have the pleasure of being a part of this project and have been blessed by the other artists and musicians who area part of it too.
However you choose to treasure things up in your heart and memorize God’s word, I pray your time spent doing it would be a blessing to you and effective in bringing you closer in your relationship with God.
Growing Strong in the Wilderness
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. (Luke 1:80)
This verse is speaking of John the Baptist. John grew and was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. I don’t know about you, but when I think of my children growing up and living their adult life, I wouldn’t in a million years think that they would live in the wilderness, eating locusts and honey and wearing camel hair outfits. However, as a Christian parent who is raising godly young children, I do expect they’ll face spiritual wilderness, likely more than once in their lifetime.
When we think of the wilderness in biblical accounts, it’s a physical and metaphorical place, but often seen physically displayed in an account while reading the spiritual work being done there.
Examples in the Wilderness
Jesus was in the wilderness leading up to His ministry, being led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil after fasting for 40 days (Matthew 4).
The apostle Paul spent time in the wilderness after his conversion on the road to Damascus in which he grew in the LORD and was prepared for his ministry (Galatians 1).
The prophet Elijah spent time in the wilderness as God told him to hide by the brook Cherith. There God provided his needs through ravens bringing food and when the brook water had dried up, he was sent out to serve God again (1 Kings 17).
Likewise, John the Baptist was also being prepared, spending time with God alone, for when he would make his public appearance to make straight the way of the Lord.
In all these people, time spent in the wilderness led to wonderful works of God being worked through them. And yet, it’s not only through Jesus and these biblical figures that we see the Holy Spirit working. He is still working through men and women today, and they go through their own wildernesses and preparation in order to be fully equipped for the good works that God has prepared for them to walk in.
What Season Are You In?
If you’re in a wilderness right now, take heart, God has good plans for you, for hope and a future. He knows what He’s working in you through this season of wilderness, which may feel dry at times, but I can guarantee you that if you’re spending time with God through it, you’ll be like a tree, planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season. Keep meditating on His word day and night! (Psalm 1)
If you’re also a parent, would you pray for your own children’s seasons of wilderness? That they too would be brought through it well, being refined and prepared for the next season of work in their life. It doesn’t matter how old you or your children are, God can use you and will use you if you’re surrendered to His will.
My prayer for you and your family is that you all grow strong in spirit in any and every season of your life, but that you especially continue that growth in seasons of wilderness.