PRAY TOGETHER

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

I am fascinated by statements people make that contradict Scripture. On several occasions I have had to confront people who have stated that they were praying for permission to do something God’s Word already forbids. I once had a young woman tell me that she and her new married boyfriend had prayed about their “love” for each other and that God had given them peace that their adultery was not a sin for them.  I thank the Lord for the spiritual maturity of the Elders that rebuked her with the authority of God’s Word.

Another area where people have trouble is with understanding prayer, specifically the wrong motivation for praying. For many, prayer is nothing more than an emotional tool to bring self-assurance. Others believe it is the secret ingredient that, when made public, brings affirmation and praise from others about choices they have made. You’ve heard people say things like, “I prayed about this before I made the decision.” Their expectation is that when we hear they prayed about it, we will accept their decision as God’s will.

But the Bible does not define prayer as a “genie-in-a-bottle” approach to satisfying one’s own desires. In fact, any sin in our lives actually hinders our prayers, and the prideful pursuit of our own desires is sin. If we have unrepentant sin in our lives it closes the ear of God to our prayers. King David said in Psalm 66, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”

Look at how Peter relates this to marriage.

1 Peter 3:7  “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Peter declares that when a husband does not treat his wife with the consideration and respect she deserves, he sins. As a result, his whole prayer life is affected. Men, the reason many of you are not powerful in prayer is because you’ve chosen to be too powerful in the home. Being in control of everything is the very antithesis of prayer. Prayer requires submission to God’s control. Pride demands that our own will be done. Prayer seeks to know and do the will of God.

One way that you can be considerate of your wife and show her the proper respect she deserves is to pray with her. Praying together with your wife shows her that you consider her your equal. This is crucial, and yet tragically overlooked by many of us, including me.

Paul Tournier, writing in Leadership, says, “It is only when a husband and wife pray together before God that they find the secret of true harmony: that the difference in their temperaments, their ideas, and their tastes enriches their home instead of endangering it. There will be no further question of one imposing his will on the other, or of the other giving in for the sake of peace. Instead, they will together seek God’s will, which alone will ensure that each will be fully able to develop his personality …. When each of the marriage partners seeks quietly before God to see his own faults, recognizes his sin, and asks the forgiveness of the other, marital problems are no more. Each learns to speak the other’s language, and to meet him halfway, so to speak. Each holds back those harsh little words which one is apt to utter when one is right, but which are said in order to injure. Most of all, a couple rediscovers complete mutual confidence, because, in meditating in prayer together, they learn to become absolutely honest with each other …. This is the price to be paid if partners very different from each other are to combine their gifts instead of setting them against each other.”

Men, you are at the starting line. Forget what has happened in the past. Don’t look behind you. Look ahead at the finish line. Your goal is to run the race with perseverance and discipline, and to be found faithful at the end. And the greatest testament to your faithfulness will be when you cross that finish line hand-in-hand with your wife and present her to Jesus as His bride.

On your marks! Take your position in your marriage – the spiritual leader of your home. It’s the position God has assigned you and equipped you to fill.

Get set! Plan the strategies for winning the race. Then kneel down so you start the race from a position of humility.

GO! Run! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and run! Be strong. Be courageous. And when you look to your side to see if she’s keeping up, you’ll discover something incredible. You’ll see Jesus running with you, making sure you stay together. 

Pastor John

GET OVER YOURSELF

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Men love stories. I had breakfast recently with a brother in Christ. Our purpose for meeting was to further study the subject of salvation and to clarify some teaching that confused him. We started our meeting at 6:25. Soon the stories were flowing. Stories of bow hunting, fishing and golfing. It wasn’t until 7:10, after the food had been eaten, that we got down to the real business of the day.

Stories captivate the hearts of men, so I have a story for you that will help bring to light the truth of yesterday’s admonition to husbands to be considerate and respectful of their wives. The story comes from Howard Hendricks, preacher and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.

“We had one of the Dallas Cowboys come to Christ a few years back. What a testimony! He came to me one day and said, ‘Howie, I’m going out to Thousand Oaks for the training camp and need an assignment.’ I said, ‘Okay. I want you to read the Book of Ephesians.’

“The what?”

“The Book of Ephesians.”

“How you spell it?”

 “Have you found Matthew?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, “I got it right here in the front.”

 “Okay, find Matthew, go right, and you’ll run into it.”

“I found out later he read the Book of Ephesians six times, every single day. When he came back he called me up and said, ‘Hendricks, I’ve got to get together with you. You know that assignment you gave me?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Man,’ he said, ‘it blew my mind! That’s a wipe out.’ I said, ‘Okay. Come on over.’

“So he comes over, he opens the book, and says, ‘Here … here it is right here! Here: ‘Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church.’ Whooo!’ he said. ‘That’s impossible!’

“I said, ‘Fantastic, man! You have made the greatest discovery in your Christian life, and that is that the Christian life is not difficult; it’s impossible. Let me ask you a question. What does your wife do that you appreciate?’

“In typical male fashion, he says, “Oh, lots of things.” “Well,” I said “name one.” “Well,” he said, “for example, she’s a good cook.” I said, “Great. That’s your assignment. I want you to go home and tell her how much you appreciate her cooking.” “Oh, man,” he said, “I—I couldn’t do that. That’d take a miracle.” I said, “Great. That’s what God specializes in.” “Well,” he said, “we’d better pray about that.”

“We got down. I’ll never forget this guy’s prayer, “Oh, God, you’ve got a rough assignment here.” Then—you know, the Lord’s so beautiful—the guy gets up from his knees and goes home. His wife knocked out the best meal he’d ever seen: six courses, beautifully spread table, candlelight, the works.

“I said, ‘How’d you enjoy the meal?’ ‘Aw,’ he said, ‘it was horrible.’ ‘Why? What’s the matter?’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I just sat there saying ‘God, you gotta do it.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘what happened?’ He said, ‘Well, finally the Lord encouraged me, and I got up and I ran around to the other side, and I grabbed her. She went as white as the tablecloth. I really think she thought I was gonna clip her. I lifted her up so that I could talk to her eyeball to eyeball, and I said, Woman, that was wonderful! And I knew we were off the ground.’

“He gave his testimony last Friday in Dallas. It just blew the minds of the guys. He said, ‘Man, I want you to know that I was the most yellow man in America behind a closed door. I’ll take on anybody in the NFL. It usually takes two or three in the pits. But you put me behind a closed door, and I’m yellow.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus Christ came into my life. How do I know it’s real? I’ll tell you. He took a self-centered, great-big football stud like me, who had all of his life revolving around him, and he began to deliver me from myself.’

Start today to get delivered from yourself, so you can truly care about your wife. She is your equal heir in life.

Pastor John

HONOR THE QUEEN

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, September 26, 2022

“Married folks are not to act as they usually seem to. The men are almost lions in their homes, hard toward their wives. The women, too, want to domineer and have their husbands as servants.”

That assessment of the state of marriage could very easily have been written recently, but it wasn’t. It was actually written by Martin Luther in the 1500’s. Relationship problems resulting from an improper understanding of submission have existed since marriage began.

Men, it’s time for Peter, and for me, to address some serious issues that we need to get right or our relationships will be all wrong. Over the past few days of devotionals, you may have been tempted to think that it’s been good to have someone writing about what’s wrong with your wife. Now I’m going to give your wife the same opportunity, so get ready to take your medicine too.

1 Peter 3:7   “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

When Peter told wives to be submissive to their husbands, he put it in the context of what he had just written on the subject to others. He used the words, in the same way. Hey guys, pay attention, he says it again. “Husbands, in the same way…” Every man is responsible to go back to every point made about how women are to live in relationship to their husbands, and apply those principles to themself. 

The first thing we’d better get right is that the responsibility to submit to them is greater for us than it is for them to submit to us. How do I know this? First, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:21 that we are to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Then, he tells the wife to submit to the husband as unto the Lord – in a living relationship. And finally, he tells the husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, in a dying relationship. The call upon men to submit demands more than the call for women to submit. It calls for death to self.

Think about this for a minute. God created woman from man. She was created with a nature to help. Man was created to rule over all of creation. Woman was commanded to help man rule. Women will more naturally submit to leadership, while men aspire to be leaders. When Christ gave up His life for the church, He did so even though He was perfectly qualified to rule and reign and was already in that position. Men, we are called to do the same. Our call to submit demands the total sacrifice of our lives and position for the sake of our wives. We are only able to do this if we have the same motivation as Christ – LOVE.  

Kevin A. Miller, an editor in suburban Chicago, writes, “I’d just finished mowing the lawn, and it seemed like the perfect time to spray Weed & Feed on the grass. Except I didn’t have any Weed & Feed. “I’m going to the store,” I told Karen. “But the kids and I are waiting for you to go to the pool with us,” she said. “That can wait,” I said. “Honey,” she said, “we promised the kids we’d all go.” Next thing I knew, we were having a heated argument. I knew what I wanted; what she wanted could wait.

“Most of us stumble over the words of Ephesians 5:21 because we’re concentrating on what’s fair. But if we insist on playing out our marriage that way, we only bring pain to our spouses and ourselves. To paraphrase Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “If you insist on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you’ll both end up blind and toothless.” God wants to spare us that pain, so he gives us a better way: “Submit to one another. 

“That doesn’t come naturally. Scripture has to remind me: Exaltation comes after humility. You have to descend into greatness.”

So, men, start learning to submit. You are not the lord of the land nor are you the king of your castle. You are the servant of the daughter of the King. She is your princess. Treat her like your queen.

Pastor John

TRUST GOD

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, September 23, 2022

After Philip Yancey and his wife reached their 25th wedding anniversary, he reflected on their experience:

“Before marriage, each by instinct strives to be what the other wants. The young woman desires to look sexy and takes up interest in sports. The young man notices plants and flowers and works at asking questions instead of just answering monosyllabically. After marriage, the process slows and somewhat reverses. Each insists on his or her rights. Each resists bending to the other’s will.

“After years, though, the process may subtly begin to reverse again. I sense a new willingness to bend back toward what the other wants—maturely, this time, not out of a desire to catch a mate but out of a desire to please a man who has shared a quarter-century of life. I grieve for those couples who give up before reaching this stage.”

Unfortunately, many couples do give up before they reach the stage of surrender and submission again. We generally call that the mid-life crisis. It’s that age where unfulfilled dreams and goals become over-exaggerated and attack our sense of worth. We feel slighted by the life we are living. Men begin to see greener grass on the other side of the fence. They become self-centered, which, if left unchecked, will lead to self-serving choices. Women may be tempted to engage with men who communicate, understand, and validate their dreams. Their perception quickly changes, and they begin to believe that submission will never accomplish any grand purpose in their lives, and that God has left them to fend for themselves.

I think today’s verses from Peter give us a key to understanding this. In his final statement about the true beauty of a woman, he gives a warning. I believe the whole discussion on the subject of submission hinges on this one point.

1 Peter 3:5-6   “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

Peter says to be careful not to give way to fear. What kind of fear is he talking about?

To begin with, I do not believe he is talking about being afraid of another person. He is not advocating ignoring fear caused by potential or real physical harm from an abusive husband. In the context of his whole discussion on submission, it seems that Peter is referring to the fear that is self-generated by pride. It is the fear that stems from the false belief that self cannot and will not be fulfilled or satisfied by obedience to any other person. Fear like that is the product of distrust. Not distrust of people, but distrust of the promise of God. Distrust of God will lead to internal thoughts like “I’m not being satisfied,” or “He’s not meeting my needs,” or “When do I get to fulfill my dreams for life?”

Ladies, I’m not assuming that every husband is perfect, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and your husband, saved or unsaved, is willing to live with you, support you, care for you, and love you, then the true beauty of Christ will be seen in you by trusting God to use your husband to fulfill you. Do not give way to the fear that God will not fulfill His promise to you. Do not let fear cause you to run from doing what is right and turn instead to self-fulfillment. Be patient, and trust God. Put your hope in Him, not in what you think the world will provide for you. There’s way too much self-gratification going on. There’s way too much denial that it is. Surrender to Christ. Submit to others. Be the servant of those God has put into your life and trust Him to exalt you.

Pastor John

TRUE BEAUTY

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, September 22, 2022

What am I going to wear tomorrow? I actually ask that question to myself every night. I usually get up much earlier than my wife, so I lay out my clothes in the bathroom the night before. The rationale I use to make the decisions are simple – what’s the weather going to be like and what am I going to comfortable in accomplishing my tasks. Very rarely do I ever consider how it will make me look or what others will think of me. I know what you’re thinking – maybe I should consider those last two things more often. Tough! It’s not going to happen.

On the other hand, the question of what to wear each day is a huge dilemma for some. I know for a fact that it’s a lot more serious decision for women than it is for men. Author Billie Hawks of Columbia, Missouri, shares some insights into solving this issue of true beauty.

“For most ladies this is a daily dilemma because we want to look our best. Some women consult the latest fashion magazines for hints on hairstyles, clothes and makeup. But, believe it or not, the Bible offers tips on fashions that never go out of style. Here are some of the requirements for the well-dressed Christian woman:

1. A gentle and quiet spirit  (1 Peter 3:3-4). This does not mean we must be silent or never speak our mind. It does mean that we should not be loud or boisterous, or call attention to ourselves by being bawdy or brazen.

2. Contentment (Heb. 13:5). We may not have a big, fancy house or the latest car, but we need to remember to count the blessings we do have and to be content with them. Nothing is less attractive than a jealous spirit.

3. A smile. This is a reflection of a joyous heart. Christians have every reason to be happy because we have hope above all hope (John 16:22). Why would others desire to serve Christ if they see us wearing pained expressions on our faces? Don’t forget that smile!

4. Inner peace (Rom. 5:1). God gives us strength and peace in facing whatever we encounter every day.

5. Confidence…not necessarily in ourselves so much as in Christ (Phil. 4:13). He is our strength and our refuge (Ps. 46:1-2).

6. Kindness. Before we act, react or speak we should always consider the feelings of the other person. How would you feel if you were in their shoes (Matt. 7:2)? Treat them kindly, gently, with compassion.

If you remember to wear these things daily you still may not make Blackwell’s Best Dressed List, but you will make Christ’s list. Which is more important to you?

Another famous author, Jill Briscoe, offers help in facing the tensions felt when we place an unnecessary emphasis on external beauty.

One day I had a speaking engagement in Florida and I shared a table with three elegant young women. I felt fat, forty, and somewhat futile.

“Suddenly and unexpectedly God inquired of me, “Why do you think everyone is so tense?”

“Competition,” I replied with sudden understanding.

“I distinctly heard his next words: “Jill, you’ll never be competitive.”

‘For the first time I thanked God for my ordinary good looks. I could be a big sister to women, a friendly mother, an aunt. I could relax, knowing I would never threaten anyone. God had made me just right for my ministry of teaching women, and that was all that mattered.”

God has made us all “just right” for the purpose of serving Him. Stop spending so much time trying to improve on what He made. And stop letting your life be ruled by the law of the world which defines beauty as skin deep. God says beauty emanates from the heart.

1 Peter 3:3-4   “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Speaking to all you ladies as a man, I can tell you that the beauty of your heart makes you beautiful in every way. Real men know that. Real men love that!

Pastor John

GODLY SUBMISSION

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

I saw a cartoon in a Leadership Journal some time ago in which a preacher had prepared the pulpit area like a fortress. He was peering through the crack of a machine gun nest. The caption read, “Today my text is 1 Peter 3:1, ‘Wives submit to your husbands.’”

If you did your homework from yesterday and reviewed the principles we find in First Peter 1:3-4, you have a better understanding of what it means to be submissive. I’ll assume that’s true and step out from behind my fortress. I want you to notice today that the command to wives to be submissive to their husbands is not contingent upon whether they are saved. These are not special instructions to wives who have unbelieving husbands. They are to be the guidelines for all women. The admonition to be a Godly woman of purity and reverence is given to all wives. The instruction to be beautiful from the inside out and have a gentle and quiet spirit is given to all women. If the husband is not a follower of Christ, these qualities he sees in her wife will be his best chance to be won to Christ. If the husband is a believer, these qualities in his wife will bring him the greatest blessings in marriage.

I also want you to notice the distinction Peter makes between behavior and characteristics. He does not instruct women to act as if they have these qualities of Christ, but to actually be the living example of these attributes of their Lord. Behavior is not to be an act. Behavior is to be the product of a pure heart which reflects the nature of Christ.

Jill Briscoe, wife of Pastor Stuart Briscoe, relates this story about her married life:

“Stuart and I brought our families and religious heritages to our marriage. My father, a quiet, gentle man, considered himself head of his home: protector, defender, and provider. My mom was a sweet, Scottish- born Presbyterian. She believed in the sovereignty of God and her husband. My father adored my mother, put his considerable business assets into her name, and looked to her to raise the children. When my sister came of age, my father supported her when she became an excellent car mechanic and raced cars. Eventually she took her place at his side as partner in his successful car business.

“Stuart’s family was strict, conservative evangelical. His father was an elder in a small local assembly of believers, and he took seriously his responsibility to rule the household well. He considered himself the authority in his family, while his wife, a bright, articulate, efficient lady, considered herself in subjection to her husband in everything, carrying those convictions to her dress, her hair style, and silence in the presence of men at the church.

“Newly converted at a college in Cambridge and having just been introduced to Stuart’s family, I remember wondering greatly about this amazing mode of doing things. I sensed an unconscious frustration of unexplored desires and frustrated gifts in my mother-in-law. It was as if those gifts sat meekly inside her heart with eyes downcast and wearing a hat.

“In that moment as a new believer, I believe I stumbled on an important truth of what submission isn’t. Submission isn’t sitting down on the outside while you’re standing up on the inside.”

Submission is not an act. It is not an obligation. It is not simple obedience to a command. It is a reflection of the very nature of Christ within us. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father because He loved Him. He gave Himself up for us because He loved us and wanted what was best for us – forgiveness of sin. We do not truly reflect Jesus unless we are living lives of submission and surrender to Him. That, in turn, will cause us to submit and surrender to those we love so that their best might be accomplished.

Submission is never selfish. Check yourself on this in your marriage today. The issues and problems you may be facing are probably your own fault (sorry for the finger pointing) because your selfishness is showing. Let the quiet and gentle spirit of Christ captivate your heart, and surrender. It’s the guaranteed way to experience the fullness of love.

 Pastor John

DANGER! SENSITIVE TOPIC AHEAD

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

One of my favorite television shows when I was a kid was Lost In Space. The show was a space-age adaptation of the novel Swiss Family Robinson. It was about a family that was – you guessed it – lost in space. They had crashed on another planet that could sustain their lives, and no one knew where they were. The weekly adventures included contact with aliens and monsters of all types as they fought for survival.

One of the characters was a robot with no name. He was the constant companion of Will, the son of the captain. One recurring line from the robot keeps playing through my mind this morning. Whenever the robot sensed something was wrong, red lights would go off on his head and he would begin to flail his arms wildly and yell, “Danger, Danger!” As we begin the next chapter of our study in First Peter, I think the robot is yelling.

Submission is a dangerous subject. When taught in the context of beauty it becomes even scarier. So before we attempt to tackle it, I’m going to lay a necessary foundation for it, and then let you think about it until tomorrow so our hearts are prepared to hear God’s truth.

1 Peter 3:1-4  “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Peter uses four extremely important words to introduce this subject of submission. He says, “in the same way.” In what way? As we look back into chapter two, we discover that he has been teaching submission for a while already. He has told all Christians to submit to the governmental authority under which they live. Then he told Christian employees to submit to their employers. Within both of those directives, he gives us some principles for how to be submissive. Here’s a quick review that is to become the foundation for his next teaching about submission within the context of marriage.

  • Live as aliens and strangers to the world – 1 Peter 2:11
  • Become famous for your good deeds and bring glory to God – 2:12
  • Seek to be commended by others for doing good – 2:15
  • Don’t use your freedom or rights to cover up for sin – 2:16
  • Be a servant to others – 2:16
  • Respect others – 2:17
  • Love others – 2:17
  • Honor authority – 2:17
  • Be willing to suffer unjustly – 2:19
  • Follow Christ’s example of suffering for a righteous cause – 2:21
  • Never retaliate for insults – 2:23
  • Never make threats – 2:23
  • Trust God’s judgment and justice –  2:23

If we are going to understand Peter’s admonition to wives to submit to their husbands, we must understand these principles he has already taught, because he says to submit “in the same way.” So, what we all need to do today is take some time to review the list of submission principles above, and make sure we embrace them as God’s truth for our lives. Then tomorrow we will be able to make the application of those principles to our marriages.

Pastor John

THE TRUE SHEPHERD

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, September 19, 2022

We had friends in South Dakota that raised sheep. They quit because they were too hard to take care of. My best friend from high school also raised them and quit for the same reason. They would always jump or break through fences. They weren’t trainable. They had a rebellious and free spirit. They were very self-willed.

Sound familiar. Reminds me of a look in the mirror. But there’s a huge difference between someone who raises sheep and a shepherd. Mutton farmers simply grow sheep for slaughter with no real personal or consistent involvement with them. They pen them up, keep them fenced in, and feed them. They get disgruntled and discouraged by the work they demand when they escape their boundaries.

Shepherds, on the other hand, have the same ultimate goal – to raise sheep for slaughter. But they do so in a far different way. They live with their sheep. They invest their time in their sheep. They only pen them up at night for their own protection, not for his convenience. And they allow them to roam while they watch and care for them. If one gets out of line, he pursues it with the love of a father for a child. The sheep are the focus of his heart, and he would give his life to protect them.

1 Peter 2:25b   “…you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Jesus called Himself a Shepherd in John 10 when he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” This must be what Peter had in mind when he wrote about the death of Jesus making it possible for us to return to the Shepherd of our souls. How wonderful to know that Jesus is a Shepherd and not a mutton farmer.

Back in July of 1941, the men of Block 14 were digging gravel outside the Auschwitz concentration camp. Suddenly, the sirens began to shriek. There’d been an escape. That evening their fears were confirmed: he was from their block.

The next day, the block’s 600 men were forced to stand on the parade ground under the broiling sun. “At the day’s end,” wrote reporter Connie Lauerman, “the deputy commander, Fritsch, arrived in his crisply pressed uniform and shiny jackboots to announce the fate of the terrified men in dirty, striped prison suits. ‘The fugitive hasn’t been found,’ barked Fritsch. ‘In reprisal for your comrade’s escape, ten of you will die by starvation.’”

The men slated for starvation were selected. One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish army sergeant, was sobbing, “My wife and my children.”

Then a Polish Franciscan priest, Maximillian Kolbe, pushed his way to the front as S.S. guards sighted their rifles on his chest. “Herr Kommandant,” he said, “a request.”

“What do you want?” barked the commandant.

“I want to die in place of this prisoner,” pointing to Gajowniczek. “I’ve no wife and no children. Besides, I’m old and not good for anything.”

A stunned silence, and then “Request granted!”

What a gift! However, the voluntary gift of the life of our High Priest is beyond comparison with the gift of the Polish priest. Why? Because He rose from the dead to be our Shepherd and Overseer. He guarantees us life. The Polish priest’s gift was only for that day. Our Shepherd’s gift is for eternity. He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls forever. Hallelujah!

Pastor John

CLOSER THAN YOU THINK

LifeLink Devotions for Friday, September 16, 2022

1 Peter 2:24-25  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Dr. J. H. Jowett was a powerful preacher from England. In 1911 he became the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. Then, in 1917, he accepted the call to become the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, succeeding the famous G. Campbell Morgan. While on the ship crossing the Atlantic back to England, an officer of his boat told him that they had just passed over the spot where the Titanic went down. He contemplated all that life and wreckage beyond the power of man to recover and redeem. He thought of the great bed of the deep sea, with all its held treasure, too far down for man to reach and restore. “Too far down!” Those words stuck in his mind.

This led him to think of all the human wreckage engulfed and sunk in oceanic depths of nameless sin. He found himself speaking out loud to the ship’s officer. “Too far gone! For what? Too far down! For what? Not too far down for the love of God! Listen to this: He descended into hell, and He will descend again if you are there. “If I make my bed in hell, thou art there” (Ps. 139:8). “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). “He bore our sin” (1 Peter 2:24); then He got beneath it; down to it and beneath it; and there is no human wreckage lying in the ooze of the deepest sea of iniquity that His deep love cannot reach and redeem. What a Gospel! However far down, God’s love can get beneath it!

Jesus has already been to the depths and depravity of man’s sin. “He who knew no sin became our sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) He suffered the totality of God’s wrath against our sin. He substituted Himself for us in death. Then, with shouts of victory on His lips, God raised Him from the dead so that we might be victorious over sin as well. By His wounds we have been healed!

Friend, you are not too far down for the Savior to find you. You are not too deep in your sin for Jesus to get under you and lift you out of it. You are not so overwhelmed with guilt that His grace cannot restore you. You are not so lost that the Shepherd cannot find you.

He is looking for you right now. His arms are extended. His reach is limitless. Don’t resist the tug you feel. It is the hand of the Lord lifting you to Eternal Life. Turn to Him and embrace Him. He will forgive your sins and accept you as His own.

 Pastor John

OH WELL

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, September 15, 2022

One of my favorite newspaper comic strips is Frank and Ernest. One episode I remember shows Frank exiting a Stress Relief Class. As he approaches Ernest, he says, “We learn to take things as they come and not stress out.” Ernest responds with, “It’s an ‘Oh-Well-ness’ program.”

I believe it would benefit each of us to say “Oh well” a little more often. There’s far too much stress in our lives, and much of it is self-generated. In today’s Scripture, Peter points out to us one way in which we generate stress: we seem to suffer from a growing epidemic of “wrong-righting.”

1 Peter 2:20-23   “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Wrong-righting is the prideful pursuit of self-serving justice. It is our attempt to make sure everyone knows when we are right, and to fix it when they don’t. It’s pretty stressful having to defend oneself all the time. It’s overwhelming to take on the total responsibility for one’s own image. Wrong-righting stands opposed to Oh-Well-ness.

I suspect that our lives would be much more enjoyable if we weren’t constantly under pressure to prove ourselves. In Aesop’s fables, a traveler was entertaining some men in a tavern with an account of the wonders he had done abroad.

“I was once at Rhodes,” said he, “and the people of Rhodes, you know, are famous for jumping. Well, I completed a jump there that no other man could equal within a yard. That’s a fact, and if we were there I could bring you ten men who would prove it.”

“What need is there to go to Rhodes for witnesses?” asked one of his hearers. “Just imagine you are there now and show us your leap.”

Many who say they follow Christ have only their words to try to prove it. But true followers of Christ prove their commitment by walking in the steps of Jesus. They trust their lives, their reputations, and their image to the One who judges justly. They do not seek human justice. They wait patiently for God’s justice, and as they do, they know the life of Jesus will be revealed through patient endurance of suffering.

We have been called to such a commendable lifestyle. We have been granted the grace and the faith to graduate with honors from God’s Oh-Well-ness program. Bad stuff happens. Oh well. Friends accuse us of wrong-doing when we know we are innocent. Oh well. Bosses fire us for what someone else did. Oh well. Injustice invades our lives every day. Oh well.

Our natural tendency is to fight. Our flesh says fix it. Our pride demands protection of our reputation. Our faith says Oh well.

Instant stress relief. Someone else is responsible for the outcome. We have a great example of a perfect outcome – the resurrection of Jesus to glory. So forget the bad stuff. Forget your image. Don’t worry about your reputation. If you’re following in the steps of Jesus, it won’t matter what people say. And when all those people, whose opinion you’re so concerned about today, stand in front of Jesus to be judged, they’ll see you standing beside Jesus, and they’ll have to give glory to God because of how you lived your life.

Pastor John