The Right Reputation

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 18, 2019

In the following story, Jesus is invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. His intentions were not the same as those of Jesus.

Luke7:36-39 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Let me speculate, based on what happened, as to what the Pharisee may have been thinking.

  1. “If I can invite this popular prophet (and I use that term lightly) to my home for dinner I will make some big points with the other guys down at the temple.”
  2. “Having Jesus over to my house for dinner will earn me greater respect from the people and will increase my sphere of influence.”
  3. “If Jesus comes to my house for dinner it will validate my belief system and confirm my position on the law.”
  4. “If I have Jesus over for dinner I’ll be able to better evaluate where He truly stands on the issues and be able to pin Him down if I see any problems with what He teaches.”
  5. “I’ll invite this guy Jesus over for dinner so I can see if He’s anything like they say He is. There’s got to be something wrong with Him?”

It appears that every motive of the Pharisee was selfish. He already had decided that nothing or no one was going to ever change his mind or belief system, and the best way to validate his own way of thinking and living was to discredit the one who brought guilt to his heart. The Pharisee was more concerned about remaining untouched by his sin than he was about touching his sin with salvation.

He was on a totally different page of the Spirit’s guidebook than was Jesus. This religious leader had no concern for this woman’s plight, no desire to lift her from her sinful life or to help her become a better Jewish woman. Instead, he judged her as a sinner, shoved her aside, and presumed that any other rabbi (and especially one who was a “prophet”) would do the same.

I wonder how you and I are doing in this area of outreach? Could it be that we have also drawn clear lines of separation from sinful people for fear that they will negatively influence us? Could it be that our faith is so weak that we believe that he who is in the world is greater and more influential than He who is in us?

Jesus had no problem putting Himself into intimate relationships with people who were considered scum by society. Jesus’ compassion and offer of forgiveness gave hope to people such as this woman. Jesus cared when no one else bothered. He did not fear that the flow of influence would be reversed so that she would change Him. Why do we fear that so much? Why, when Jesus Himself dwells in us in the power of the Holy Spirit, do we fear that sinful people will corrupt God’s character in us?

Or maybe we simply fear a tarnished reputation. Allowing ourselves to be seen in the company of sinners is one thing, but then actually letting their lives touch ours in some way – that’s preposterous! What would people think if they knew I had spent valuable time intentionally reaching out to the needs of those kinds of people? My reputation in the church would be shot.

Hey, I’ve got an idea – if your reputation in a church would be destroyed by spending time with sinners, then find a different church! Find a church that intentionally reaches out to sinners with the compassion of Jesus Christ. Get yourself a new and improved reputation!

We must not become like the Pharisee and shove sinners aside for self-centered and self-protective reasons. We must intentionally allow ourselves to be touched by the worst of sinners, because prior to our own salvation, that is what we were.

Pastor John

A Child of Wisdom

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Experts claim that in the first three years of life a child is not capable of understanding true sharing and sacrifice. They are self-centered and want what they want when they want it. At around age four, they begin to understand the concept of giving, but unless it is nurtured they will quickly decide to remain in their selfish ways. They will continue seeking to fulfill their lives by getting more for themselves. They will become little “devils” and soon alienate their peers. They will grow up to be teenagers who are hurtful and hateful, seeking to improve their own lives at the expense of others. They will become adults who are judgmental of others. If someone dares to point out their flaws and offer words of correction, they quickly jump on the defensive and attempt to discredit the criticism and solidify their own position. Such was the status of the people of Jesus’ generation.

Luke 7:31-35To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Jesus compared the people to children at play. When they would get together at their playground called the marketplace, they would imitate the adults having either a wedding dance or a funeral procession. One group of children would decide to have fun by pretending to play flutes in celebration of a marriage, and the other children would not be interested in that game. The same would happen when they tried to mourn and wail as if in a funeral march. No matter what games were chosen by some, the others would reject them.

Jesus said that the adults of his time were the same way. John the Baptist came with the seriousness of a funeral procession and preached repentance from sin or suffer death. He modeled the seriousness of the message with his lifestyle choices. This should have appealed to every person who was self-righteous, and they should have praised his choices and external appearance. But self-righteousness is a destructive bondage that refuses to admit wrong, so repentance was out of the question. They looked past the outward appearance and judged the condition of his heart to protect their own.

Jesus came with the same message of repentance, but wrapped in the clothing of grace and love. His emphasis was not on the external appearance but rather on the inner condition of the heart. But He too was rejected by the self-righteous people because they did not want to acknowledge the sin in their own hearts. They instead chose to focus on His externals, believing that if they could prove an action to be wrong then the message of the heart could also be rejected.

This brings us to one key point for today – wisdom does not judge others to protect self. God has called us to be children of wisdom: His wisdom. God’s wisdom is first and foremost humble, and humility never honors self. Humble people do not seek to build themselves up at the expense of others. Humble people do not cover their own sins and shortcomings by pointing out the defects in others. Humble people are not children who reject the suggestions of others, but surrender their own desires for the betterment of others. Humble people do not criticize other Christians because their methods are different than their own. Humble people expose their own weaknesses so that the grace and love of Jesus can have its full effect on their lives, which in turn will witness to others of His transforming power.

Ask yourself the question that stems from Jesus’ final statement in this passage – Does my life prove that I am a child of wisdom, living humbly and selflessly?

Now answer the question honestly.

Pastor John

Doubts Stimulate Growth

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The circumstances of life tend to affect our perspective of faith. This was true of John the Baptist, who by faith had made the declaration upon seeing Jesus that this was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Yet John’s perspective of Jesus was Messianic in nature, growing out of his faith in the “Expected One” who would deliver Israel from their national disgrace. When John was arrested for his preaching, doubts about Jesus began to overwhelm him. John was thinking that if Jesus truly was the Messiah than why is even the political leadership of the nation rejecting me. He had to clarify his faith.

Luke 7:18-23 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

 Notice several significant lessons from this story:

  1. Jesus understands that some doubts are legitimate. Doubt becomes sin when it questions the validity of God’s Word. John had not stopped believing in the Messiah; he just needed to know if Jesus was the Messiah or if they were to wait a little longer for His coming. John’s faith in the promise of God was secure. He needed faith to believe the timing of God’s fulfillment of His Word.
  2. John took his doubt to the source of faith. He did not seek input from even his own disciples. He sent them to talk to the One who knew the answer – Jesus. If his doubt was sinful he would have sought an answer from other sources in which he trusted. His contact with Jesus proved his faith. John was not questioning who Jesus was so much as he was questioning the process Jesus was using to reveal His kingdom to the world.
  3. John’s doubt did not stop the work of Jesus. At the very time of John’s questioning, the process of the Messiah’s revelation to the world was progressing according to God’s plan. Our legitimate doubts do not interrupt or delay the glory of God’s purpose. Do not let Satan lay guilt on you for having legitimate questions that strengthen your faith.
  4. Jesus gave John all the evidence he needed to totally trust Him. Jesus told John that things are progressing just as Isaiah promised – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  5. Jesus called everyone “blessed” who trusts Him rather than trusts their circumstances. When times are bad, God is still good. Place your faith in the Person not in the process.

Enjoy letting your faith grow today as you consider these truths.

Pastor John

Give Hope

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 15, 2019

It is increasingly dark around us. Normal, hopeful, peaceful life is dying. Dreams are dying, and with them the ambition to create new ones. Hope is dying, and with it the ability to believe in anything good. Peace is dying, and has taken security down the tubes with it.  We are surrounded by a large crowd that empathizes with our condition because it is so similar to their own. But instead of helping us carry out our dreams to fulfillment they come to carry out our dreams to a place of burial. We are left hopeless and helpless, with nowhere to go but to the graveyard of memories.

Luke 7:11-17 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”  This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

But Jesus comes along to resurrect the dream. He restores our hope and returns our peace. He says to them, “Get up!” and gives them back to us. That is my favorite part of this story – Jesus gives the son back to the mother. Jesus works to give us back what has been taken away. He does not do it for Himself; He does it for the one whom He loves. His heart goes out to us in our situation and He works His grace on our behalf to restore to us what has died.

This is how we witness to the world. We have the message of resurrection and restoration. We have the ministry of reviving dreams and hopes that have died. We get to come along and cross the paths of people mourning death and restore a spirit of celebration of life. Through Jesus we give them back their hope and their dreams.

What an incredible motivation to get up every day and get on with God’s work. We get to bring life to a dying world. News will spread quickly throughout our society when we become people who are known as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ who have been sent to help His people. People need help, and the help we have is Jesus Himself. Let’s bring His life-giving help to everyone in need.

We may not be much help in solving their crisis, but we can be their help in changing their perspective. It’s amazing how small and unimportant the problems of the world become when the focal point of life becomes Jesus Christ. The troubles of this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us when we see Jesus face to face some day.

Deliver hope to someone today.

Pastor John

The Good News Is…

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, July 12, 2019

Every day we are surrounded by messages and influenced by desires to get more for ourselves. This even applies to the motivation some people have to seek out Jesus Christ. But Jesus never rejects them; he simply redirects their motivation to the right thing.

Luke 7:1-11 After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, the entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”  And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

The Jewish elders became advocates for a Roman centurion because of the personal benefits he provided them. They called him “worthy” of the gospel because he built them their church. These elders had no interest in understanding the true Kingdom of heaven; they only wanted their personal kingdom protected. They saw Jesus as a means to an end, not the End itself!

Jesus recognized that the centurion had not made his request for the wrong motivation, so he went to see him. Along the way Jesus discovered the truth of the centurion’s heart – he was humble and broken, not considering himself worthy of anything the Lord had to offer him. He understood completely the authority of the Lord and compared it to his own military authority. What a contrast between him and the elders. One focused on his unworthiness and the Lord’s authority: the elders focused on man’s worthiness and the Lord’s obligation to help. Jesus made it very clear which perspective He honors when He said, “not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 

Far too many Christians and churches proclaim Jesus gain an earthly advantage. We attempt to make Him palatable to a lost society by changing the message so it is less offensive. All that does is rob the cross of its power. Jesus honors only one kind of faith with salvation – a faith based on man’s total unworthiness and God’s total glory.

It is time to evaluate our own perspective of salvation. Is Jesus just a means to an earthly end for us? Do we believe He is obligated to help us because we are worthy of it? Must he heal us and provide wealth for us because we have done something to earn it? We must answer each of these questions with an authoritative and convincing “NO!”  Paul’s words in Colossians 2:6 are powerful – Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. We received Jesus as Savior totally by faith in His grace, so what makes us think we can do anything now to deserve anything more?

Once we get that straight in our own lives, we will be able to spread the Good News more effectively because we will be spreading the right Good News. The Good News is not that Jesus will be your benefactor in heaven making your life sweet on earth. The Good News is that Jesus will save you from the horrible condition of your sin.

It is time for us to stop making the gospel politically and emotionally correct to the hearer, and start telling the Good News that Jesus saves from sin. Without a recognition of sin, the sinner cannot be saved. There must be repentance for salvation to happen, and repentance cannot happen without a recognition of sin.

Jesus healed the centurion’s servant because He recognized his faith – a faith that was based on his own unworthiness and the Lord’s authority to forgive sin. All salvation begins with that same faith. Let’s make sure we understand it, so we can tell that Good News to others.

Pastor John

Words Backed Up By Action

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 11, 2019

In Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount, Jesus spends a substantial amount of time speaking about doing good. But Jesus did more than just talk about it – He did good. When testifying to the integrity of Jesus’ life, Peter proclaimed in Acts 10:38, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good. Jesus not only preached the good news, but he also practiced it.

For our words to be truly believable they must be substantiated by our actions. In fact, our actions should be the first form of witnessing that the world sees. That is why Jesus spent so much time challenging His followers to do good and charging His adversaries with hypocrisy. People who say one thing and do another are not credible. People who have been transformed by the Spirit of God so that their hearts are filled with the good things of God producing good works are incredible. People like you and me. People who have been touched by the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. People who have been forgiven for their sins. People who have been accepted into the family of God. People who are overflowing with the love of God. People whose actions are the product of the good God has stored up in their hearts.

But for good works to be a truly powerful testimony of the Good News, those works must go beyond what is ordinary and become supernatural. It is ordinary for all humans to do good works. If it were not, then the Scriptures would not tell us that our works of righteousness are as filthy rags. We can all do works of righteousness, but if they are done outside of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they are worthless. Just look around at all the good that is being done by all kinds of people who respond to human tragedies. Man is capable of doing good.

But for good works to be a testimony to the Good News they must go beyond what is ordinary and humanly possible.

Luke 6:27-36 But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Good works that are the product of the good news will reflect the nature and character of God as modeled in Jesus Christ.

  1. God’s work will be acts of true love with no “friend or foe” qualification. The ordinary works of the world meet the needs of friends. The supernatural works of God’s people meet the needs of enemies in a spirit of true love.
  2. God’s work will be done unconditionally, demanding no repayment or reward. The ordinary works of the world are done to people who have the potential to return the favor. The supernatural works of God’s people are done for God with people as the benefactors, so nothing from people is needed in return.
  3. God’s works will be merciful works, done to the most undeserving. The ordinary works of the world are done to people qualified as those who didn’t deserve to suffer. The supernatural works of God’s people are done to those who deserve to suffer.

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go around doing good, just like Jesus did. Then when the world notices true good being done, we will have the opportunity to tell them the Good News, and it will make sense to them because they have witnessed the transforming power of God in action.

Let’s spread the good news by doing good.

Pastor John

Witness by Praying

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Historically, only a few weeks have passed since Jesus preached His first sermon of good news to the people.  He already has a following that totals well more than 12 disciples. A disciple is one who is a learner, or pupil, seeking to know and understand the spiritual philosophy of a teacher or rabbi. Out of all these eager learners Jesus needed to select a few who would be designated as apostles, or commissioned messengers of the good news. This was an incredibly important decision, and Christ models for us the one-step plan of how to make such choices – PRAY!

Luke 6:12-13 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.

Every day we are confronted with choices in such areas as finances, health, relationships, and recreation. While all those things are important, none is so important as this – to whom will I tell the good news today? As we pass people in the mall, in checkout lines, or communicate with them at work, who will God have us talk to about His Son? We have no greater resource with which to answer that question than the direction of the Holy Spirit available through prayer.

I’m sure that most of us spend time daily taking personal needs to God in prayer. Interruptions and inconveniences that arise throughout the day cause us to send up a quick request to our heavenly Father to give us the strength to carry on. We probably even ask Him for a specific outcome, hoping He will respond positively to our request for our objectives to be met. (Isn’t that amazing, that before we even ask Him to reveal His will and purpose we are asking Him for our outcomes.  That’s another issue for another day.)

But how many of us take the time every day to ask God to use us in a specific way to accomplish what He has already revealed to be his will and purpose – to share the good news? God has prepared people to be brought across our path every day so that we might touch them with His grace and love. Yet we tend to pass this off as insignificant when compared to our jobs or finances or health or pleasure.

Jesus didn’t. He spent the whole night in prayer asking God for specific direction in choosing those men who would become apostles. That should be our model also. Maybe you don’t need to stay up all night praying, but why not try this – make the last thing you pray before you go to sleep and the first thing you pray when you wake up a request to be directed to the person that God wants to call into His Kingdom. You can still pray about all the other things, as you should and as God desires, but make the prayer for the unsaved your priority. Followed it with a prayer for spiritual sensitivity and strength to share the good news with the people God brings you.

Prayer is the one-step plan to personal evangelism. Start praying.

Pastor John