Devotions

Author Archives: John Carter

When enough is not enough!

Grow | Devotion #4: When enough is not enough!
John Carter

I have been attending the River Church for over six years now. I have heard the vision of Reach, Gather, Grow, and Back to Reach consistently twice a year; then more once I joined as staff. When I was asked to write a devotion for Grow, I honestly thought, “What else is there to say that has not already been said!” If this is your first time going through Reach, Gather, and Grow, this is all new and exciting. Maybe you are like me, and you feel like the subject has been exhausted. I know I have found myself there before, and you may be thinking this is a good topic to skip. Let me show you what the Lord showed me regarding this mindset.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-2 we see Paul give Timothy some warnings. These instructions are also for us. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” 

Pay attention to the phrases of caution in this passage. It says, “Some will depart,” and they are lead to “devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” I ask myself, how is the follower of Christ so easily turned away? How does one choose to devote (commit, submit, allocate, give) themselves to the teachings of demons? Think of those words used to describe “devote.” It indicates a complete giving over of oneself to the false teachings. How does this happen? These passages are very troubling to me and hopefully to you.  

Later in verses 6-9, he says, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” To my question, “How is one so easily lead to follow false teachings?” Well, Paul’s answer is because they have not been “trained in the words of faith” and “good doctrine.” In case you missed it, that is the Grow part of our church mission. My initial heart of complaining kind of goes away after reading this. Why do we cover these topics so frequently? Well, Paul says, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.I am so thankful that we have leaders in the church who are willing to remind us of the importance of growing in the Word. It is an important aspect of the believer to grow. As Paul continued to teach Timothy and us about the importance of growing, he gives us a life application, “Train yourself for godliness.” We all know training the body has its benefits, whether we train our muscles in exercise or our brains in knowledge, the earthly benefit is clear. We intuitively know that training will help us in accomplishing our goals. The training we get through Grow is the stuff that helps us in not only this life but also the life to come. I love how Paul wraps it, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.”  It is worthy of full devotion. It is worthy of our commitment. He says this for your own good so that when we are presented with the silly myths and irreverent teachings of liars, we are able to show ourselves approved workers. 

In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul instructs again. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” You may have heard this many times before, and more than likely it will not be the last time you hear these kinds of instructions. How confident are you in handling the Word of Truth? Growing is not just a brain knowledge of the Bible, it is the ability to handle the truth and share it with others. I hope, as I was challenged, that today you also would be challenged to train, study, and commit to growing as a believer in Christ. 

Methuselah 

The Flood • Devotion #1: Methuselah 
John Carter

It is really kind of interesting to see how God works through the meaning of people’s names. Methuselah is only mentioned seven times in the Bible, and aside from a little bit of information in Genesis, he is primarily listed in genealogies. What can we learn about this man named Methuselah?

In Genesis 5:21-27, you can learn the most about Methuselah; he is the oldest man ever to live recorded in history. He was 969 years old. He was the Son of Enoch and the grandfather of Noah. When you dig a little deeper into the meaning of his name things start to get interesting.  

For a meaning of the name Methuselah, Jones dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names translates the whole name, “When He Is Dead It Shall Be Sent.” 

“When He is dead it shall be sent!” kind of an ominous name to have as a kid I would think, but what is fascinating is that we see a prophecy given by Enoch through the name of his son. Often, we think it was just Noah that preached the judgment of the flood. However, there is evidence that Enoch and Methuselah would have known this day of judgment was coming as well. Consider this, God and Enoch where very close, they no doubt had conversations about where the world was at and where the world was going. In Genesis 6:6 you can read the thoughts of God, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

As I consider the meaning of Methuselah’s name, I cannot help but link that the prophecy of judgment and his age are somehow directly linked. Can you imagine being 969 years old? Imagine the family reunion! We get excited when we see someone turn 100, imagine doing that eight more times! So, we can see that the world in which Methuselah lived in was a wicked world, God was heartbroken at the way man lived. God’s patience was very long. I think what is incredible is that God had hope that man would change his ways, and He gave them every opportunity He could. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” In the prophecy of Methuselah, we can see the same patience that God showed the people of Noah’s time. God gave humanity the length of the oldest man ever recorded as a timeframe to turn their heart to God. Unfortunately, humanity in Noah’s day did not heed the warning and repent; they kept on living as if God’s patience would never run out.

Ironically, we have been given the same warning in Luke 17:26-27 where it says, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” We can look around in our society and see a world that pays no attention to honoring God; there is little effort in trying to please Him. Jesus is coming again, this time to judge the world. I know we do not like to hear this message, but that does not make it any less true. What is incredible is that God is so patient with us. He does not wish that “any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” God is calling for repentance and a returning to Himself. Will you be like the people in Noah’s day and miss it? Will you be willing to accept God’s mercy and patience with you, and call to Him for forgiveness in repentance? The application of Methuselah’s prophecy is clear; judgment is coming. Will we ignore it and test God’s patience with us or will we hear His message and repent?  

Toilet

Back to Reach | Devotion #6: Toilet
John Carter | Director of Operations

After covering Reach, Gather, and Grow, we all can recognize areas in each of our lives where we can improve. The tendency might even be to exclusively focus on ourselves for improvement. Looking inward is a critical aspect of a believer in Christ as we always need to examine our motive for why we do what we do. Keeping it in line with God’s Word and making sure we are following God’s will and not our own is often easier said than done. With all this examining we do, it can be easy to forget that we also need to act. 

James touches on this brilliantly in chapter 2. In verse 15-17, he says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Later in verse 26, he says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

As I think about this devotion and contemplate the things we have already heard about in Reach, Gather, and Grow, I cannot help but think that this would be the natural progression for us. It takes all the inward changes and turns them into visible outward actions. It will look different for each of us as we each have different talents and resources. Consider how God might use you to influence or minister to others. You might say, “I do not know anyone lacking in cloth or food.” Do not miss the point, that was just an example, the point is our faith produces action. Maybe you see someone hurting, say something nice! Maybe you see someone that sits alone in the gathering, sit with them and befriend them! Maybe you know someone struggling to understand the Bible, offer to go through it with them!

Part of my job is to make sure that all the buildings are ready to go for gatherings and different events. One of the most important individuals in the church is the one who cleans the toilet. No one wants to go to a place where the bathrooms are not clean. The people that do this are often the people you do not see or hear, but their faith in God is louder than ever because their actions show it. You may not be an outgoing person, but trust me when I say there are ways you can get involved and help. We need people picking up trash, cleaning windows, mopping a floor, stacking chairs, painting, building, swinging a hammer, and the list goes on. The list is the actions of people you never see or hear that make all the difference in the world to the person that may not know Jesus. If you asked any of them why they do it, they would say, “Jesus!” 

Sometimes our actions that influence and or minister to others are the ones that no one ever knows we do for them. There are these people at every location; they understand that they do not just go to church, they are the church. They want that person that walks through the door to feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. I have heard it said like this, “I would hate for someone to miss out on the Gospel because I forgot to put a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.” How can you put your faith into action today? Take all the inward changes you have been working through and put them to use in outward action.

Endless

Prince of Peace | Devotion #5: Endless
John Carter | Director of Operations

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

The title attributed to the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7 is attributed to Jesus Christ. The particular title “Prince of Peace,” indicates some significant things about Jesus. The title “prince” would have been understood as the future leader of a particular people or group. When Jesus is our Lord, He fulfills that title; He is our leader. In our current world and society, peace might be hard to understand. We for sure see the opposite of peace in a very real and dynamic way with current news. So, we see Jesus’ title as the one that will lead a particular group of people and will have peace. Verse 7 of this particular passage in Isaiah states that “of peace there will be no end.” Consider that Jesus is not only the leader of peace but the one who gives it without end. Wow! How awesome is that?  

To know that no matter what trial, difficulty, or life circumstance that may arise our Lord is the Prince of Peace, the one who will give it without end. Maybe you have never considered Jesus Christ as someone that holds this title in your life? Maybe you have held onto something that has kept peace from becoming a reality? May I encourage you to look to Jesus as the holder and giver of peace. He is the One who knows every kind of pain that you may endure today. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

I want that kind of peace to exist in my life, in my family, and in every aspect! Jesus is the answer to that desire. I hope this short reminder may be an encouragement today to look to Jesus for your peace in the difficulties of everyday life. 

Compassion

Everlasting Father | Devotion #6: Compassion
John Carter | Director of Operations

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In our current culture and country, the role of the father has been diminished quite significantly; our view of what a father is may seem obscure to many. Watching T.V. will quickly show you that the modern father is portrayed as a weak role, a position that is not respected or revered. Often the character is played like one that is ignorant, incompetent, or downright wicked. I assume this role is played out because that is what the majority of people have experienced in their own life. As we see Jesus described here in Isaiah, He is given the title “Everlasting Father,” we must be careful not to associate our perceptions of what a father is onto Jesus.  

Jesus is described as “Everlasting Father” meaning that He has always been and will always be the founder of our faith. It is easy to forget that everlasting part of the title. That means forever, always, and in all situations. He is our father when things are difficult, when things are going well, when we make mistakes, and when we do not make mistakes. It is forever! We must be careful not to respond to Jesus as our Father in the same way that we respond to our earthly fathers. We may find ourselves putting guilt and shame where guilt and shame have already been handled. When we humble ourselves, repent, and put our trust in Jesus, we give Him the shame and guilt that comes with sin.  How awesome is it to have a Savior that has an intimate understanding of what a good father should be?  Psalm 103:13 (NASB) says, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” 

I hope today, you will reflect on how good our Heavenly Father is. He is kind, just, and merciful. Maybe you can relate to this with your earthly father, maybe not. Either way, we have an example to look to in Jesus as our Eternal Father.



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