Servant Saints

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Today we begin our verse-by-verse study of the book of Philippians, as we journey toward a life of true joy. Let’s read the first six verses.

Philippians 1:1-6 1  Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4  always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

As Paul introduces his letter to the church at Philippi he mentions seven things that I think are foundational to the experience of joy. Here they are:

  1. Be a servant – vs. 1
  2. Know you’re a saint – vs. 1
  3. Know you’re accepted – vs. 2
  4. Be thankful – vs. 3
  5. Spend time in prayer – vs. 4
  6. Be partners with others in the cause of Christ – vs. 5
  7. Be confident of God’s work in your life – vs. 6

I like to take joyrides. Not the type of joyride that produces momentary thrill and excitement because of a temporary freedom from the rules, but the type of joyride that produces lasting satisfaction with life. I like to go to places of beauty and historical significance, and I am especially drawn to places that have an emotional connection to my childhood. Each of these destinations touches a different part of my heart and gives me a deepened sense of significance and worth.

That’s the way it should be in our relationship to God. Let’s consider that we are on a joyride, with the specific purpose of stopping at each of the seven scenic sights listed above. At each stop, we will take in the joy God intended, thus deepening our understanding of our significance and worth to God. So, let’s get in the car and head out on our adventure.

Our first stop is Servant City. Paul begins his letter by calling himself and Timothy servants of Jesus Christ. Paul certainly had the right to call himself an apostle – he had done it before when writing to churches with issues that needed to be addressed with authority. But even in those situations, he spoke in a gracious way, as a servant of Jesus Christ.

(For further study see 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 and 2 Corinthians 13:1-10)

Paul makes it clear in these passages that the authority he invoked to correct error and sin in the church was done to build the church and honor God, and he did it as a servant of Jesus Christ. There is, in Paul’s life, a consistent humility that seeks the glory of God and not personal advancement. Humility is the cornerstone of building a life of joy.

But don’t let a wrong understanding of humility cause you to live beneath your privilege in Christ. The servant Paul addresses the people in Philippi as saints. It is only in a balanced understanding of a servant’s heart and a saint’s position that we can experience true joy.

If one or the other of those positions is over-emphasized, there will be problems. If humility is the primary focus, it becomes a false humility that forces external behaviors of pride. When such a person wants to feel humble they debase themselves in some way, believing that others will recognize the sacrifice and self-destructive behavior as humility. But the fact that they seek the recognition of others is really pride.

Or, if being a saint is the primary focus, then a superiority complex quickly develops as the “saint” begins to believe that their behaviors and choices make them more spiritual than others. Both these positions are dangerous.

True humility is only experienced through an understanding of our position as saints in Jesus Christ. When we truly understand the incredible grace of God that made it possible for us to be transformed from a sinner to a saint, and when we totally accept the reality that we were totally undeserving of such a miraculous transformation, then and only then can we be truly humble.

We are joint heirs with Jesus Christ of all things for all eternity, and not one of us deserves it based on our own merits or accomplishments. But in Christ we are called saints, and because it is totally His doing and not ours, we honor Him by serving Him. We are servant saints, and we are living beneath our privilege if we don’t live in the fullness of both.

Pastor John

Joyful Generosity

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

We are currently preparing to look at the subject of Joy in the book of Philippians by reviewing the founding of the church in Philippi in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts. Our understanding of joy will take on its fullness when we study it in light of the suffering that was experienced by Paul and the Philippian people. True joy is not the product of positive circumstances in our life, but rather it is the gift of God as a result of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and our trust in His unfailing love.

The example set by Paul and Silas had an obvious and lasting effect on the people of Philippi. Read about it in Acts 16:35-40.

35  But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36  And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37  But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38  The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39  So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40  So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Paul and Silas had humbly withstood false accusations, an underserved beating, and unjustified imprisonment, during which they sang praises to God while in chains. When it finally came time for them to be released, Paul mentioned to the newly saved jailer that he and Silas were Roman citizens. The Philippian Christians got to see God’s justice delivered in God’s time, and their new faith was strengthened. They had seen a living example of a person who trusts God for the final outcome even though the present circumstances are painful.

I am reminded of the words of David in Psalm 35 –

26May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.

If I had to guess, I would choose to believe that when Paul and Silas arrived at Lydia’s house after their release from prison, there was a time of shouting for joy because God had vindicated them. Paul was able to teach the Philippian Christians, by experience, that they could trust God for the strength to endure suffering and remain joyful until the day God’s justice is displayed. We know that the Christians in Philippi learned this lesson because of what we read about them in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.

1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches (Philippi being one of them)2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.

The church at Philippi is a great example to us of joy and faith in the midst of severe trials. They not only endured the trouble, but also served the Lord in the midst of it. It was their overflowing joy that turned extreme poverty into rich generosity. The joy of knowing Jesus and being in the hand of God overcomes any trial we experience in this life, because the love of God is permanent and the trials are only temporary.

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, REJOICE! 

Pastor John

Joyfully Endure Suffering

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, February 26, 2018

The historical record of the founding of the church in Philippi is found in Acts 16. We will soon begin our study of Paul’s letter to this church and discover the principles of joy the Holy Spirit has for us, but there are some important foundational truths to discover in studying the beginning days of this church.

Acts 16:29-34  29  And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30  Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34  Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Paul and Silas get arrested by the Roman magistrates. The two men who had been using the demon-possessed slave girl for personal profit are very angry that she no longer has the ability to produce income for them. Paul had delivered her, as we read yesterday. They bring Paul and Silas before the Roman magistrates for justice.

It is heartbreaking to think that people can become so self-centered in their pursuit of wealth and fame that they refuse to consider the oppression of others. Why weren’t these men rejoicing?  A young woman has just been given the chance to experience life to its fullest as it was intended to be lived, and these men could only see the detrimental effect the deliverance was having on their status quo.

When the magistrates heard that these Jews were causing an uproar in their city, they had a choice – take action according to Roman law or take action that would please the people. They chose to please the people, and had Paul and Silas beaten with rods. These civil leaders showed a severe lack of leadership when they caved in to the demands of an outraged group of people who were threatened by the message of Jesus Christ. They responded in much the same way as the Roman magistrate named Pilate did when the angry mob asked for Jesus to be crucified. It seems not much has changed today in society’s response to Christ.

I am convinced in my heart that Paul saw the connection between what was happening to him and what had happened to his Savior. I am also convinced that he considered it a privilege to enter into that suffering knowing that in the end God would accomplish a glorious purpose.

After the beating, Paul and Silas are thrown in prison and the jailer is commanded to watch them carefully. They are placed in maximum security and bound in chains behind locked doors. But their joy in the Lord is not affected by their circumstances, and they begin singing and praising God in the middle of the night. As a result, God brings an earthquake that shakes the foundations of the prison and opens the locked doors. In addition, all the chains that were keeping the prisoners in place were unshackled. In the darkness of the night, the guard can only see that the doors are open and he assumes that the prisoners have escaped. He knows that he will be punished by death under Roman law and draws his sword to commit suicide. Paul shouts that they are all still there, and the jailer asks the most important question any of us could ever ask – “What must I do to be saved?”

There are two points we need to understand today from this story:

  1. Circumstances don’t determine freedom. Paul was free while in chains: the jailer was in chains while free. Don’t let the events and status of your life dictate your happiness. The joy of knowing Jesus overcomes any human suffering. Do you see what the jailer did after he got saved? He put himself at risk to care of Paul and Silas. The fear of death that would have been imposed upon him for allowing the prisoners to escape was no longer a fear. The grace of God so captured his heart and overwhelmed him with joy that he escorted the prisoners out of the jail. The belief in God that results in salvation is more satisfying than any possible suffering from earthly circumstances.
  2. Circumstances don’t dictate decisions. When the prison doors opened and the chains fell off, Paul and Silas could have walked out to freedom, but they didn’t. Most of us would jump at every opportunity to escape physical and emotional pain, but Paul was being guided by a more fulfilling principle than personal safety and security. He surrendered his personal goals to those of God, and waited for God to accomplish His purpose.

When we get into our study of Philippians we will discover how important this last point is. If the jailer had not seen the willingness of Christ’s disciples to suffer for the sake of the Gospel, then the church at Philippi would have never grown to be commended for their joy in serving others while in the midst of severe trials.

Maybe the reason Christians around us today don’t endure suffering for the cause of Christ is because they have not seen in us a good role model. Maybe today we need to start praying correctly. Rather than asking God to deliver us, we need to simply praise Him and stay in the circumstance until God’s work is done.

Pastor John


Prayer Produces Joy

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, February 23, 2018

Paul’s ministry in Philippi began with a prayer meeting of women beside the river outside of town. Here’s how it happened:

Acts 16:11-15 11  So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12  and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13  And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14  One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15  And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

With the salvation of a woman named Lydia, the first church in Europe was born. God’s grace made it possible for Lydia to understand the Gospel as it was preached by Paul. As a result of her salvation, her whole household was saved and baptized, and Paul was invited to take up residence at her home and use it as his base camp for further ministry. Daily, Paul was going to the place of prayer by the river and by now it had become a well-known meeting place for those interested in spiritual things.

Whenever God’s work is growing, Satan is going to attack. As Paul and the Christian people were on their way to church one day a girl who was possessed by an evil spirit followed them. (You can read the story in Acts 16, starting in verse 16.) She was shouting, under the influence of a demon, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

At first glance this doesn’t appear to be a bad thing. In fact, it seems to be a confirmation of Paul’s ministry. But that is the deceptive nature of Satan’s influence. He wants us to base our opinion of God on other people’s opinion of God. Paul recognized that if the new converts to Christianity used the statements of the girl as the basis for their faith, then Satan could easily sway their faith with false statements later. Satan wants us to look to human authority as our basis for belief rather than to God alone.

Paul handles the problem with the authority of Jesus Christ and expels the demon from the girl. In doing so, Paul made it very clear that it was not his human power that accomplished this, but the Name of Jesus Christ. Jesus is to be the foundation of all our faith and activity.

This truth is vital in this present age, when people’s opinions and experiences are exalted to the place of truth and given equal authority with the Word of God. Our society has become a collection of people who need the support and approval of others to take a stand on what they believe. They are deceived into believing that truth is relative, and they justify their position by seeking out people who support their beliefs. In their hearts they know their position is weak because they seek out the strength of numbers. They dare not take a stand alone for fear that their position will be proven untenable.

To the majority of people, the Word of God no longer stands as the final authority of absolute truth. It has been replaced by human opinion and experience, all motivated by people’s desired personal benefits. The day has come when those who stand for Christ, like Paul, must turn to the people of the world and proclaim the authority of the Name of Jesus.

We who stand on the authority of God’s Word can stand alone if necessary, because we know we are never alone. Our position is secure because our hope is not in the world’s response to our position but in Christ alone. We have no fear of the temporary suffering brought against us by an unbelieving world, because we are filled with the expectation of overwhelming joy in the presence of Jesus Christ. We can stand against all the attacks of a satanically controlled world because we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). We do not fear the appearance of defeat because we know we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37), and our faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).

There is one more thing to notice about this story. It happened while they were on their way to the place of prayer. The eternal principle is this – without prayer there is no power. The church in Philippi was able to withstand tremendous persecution and remain joyful because they were people of prayer.

That truth has not changed. Prayer is the fertile soil into which the joy of the Lord is planted and brings forth a bountiful harvest. Prayer is the greenhouse in which the fruit of joy is produced regardless of the storms outside. Prayer is absolutely essential to the discernment of evil and the stand for truth.

Make prayer a planned part of your day, and joy will be the product all day.

Pastor John


The Pursuit of Happiness

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Philippians 4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

The people of our western civilization are consumed by the passionate pursuit of happiness. The bookstores are filled with people checking out the latest self-help books to find the newest formula for success in conquering their dissatisfaction with life. Motivational speakers and advice columnists claim to offer the key to happiness, but for many people the door remains locked.

Many of us experience an occasional moment of emotional ecstasy, but the stress of the daily grind puts too great a distance between those moments. We do not have an overall enjoyment of life. We awaken each day hoping that some circumstance or event will have a positive outcome, so that we can experience a positive emotional response. We have accepted as truth that we can only be happy if things turn out right according to our preferences and expectations.

If this seems to describe your life right now, and you believe there is something missing, you are probably right! What’s missing is joy. It’s a common malady. Far too common. But not incurable!

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church in Philippi that reveals the principles of joy that can be our continuous experience despite the circumstances of life. I invite you into an in-depth study of the biblical book of Philippians. Our intent is to find a way to be able to “rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS!”

Before we begin the verse-by-verse study of Philippians, it is important to define our basic terms. What is the difference between happiness and joy?

Happiness is a fleeting feeling of exhilaration. Happiness is an emotional response mechanism of human nature. Happiness is defined as an attitude of satisfaction or delight based on positive circumstances. Happiness is an emotional response to an outcome that meets our expectations and preferences.

Happiness cannot be planned or programmed, much less guaranteed. It is experienced only if and when circumstances are favorable. Since we know that to be true, we seek to predetermine what outcomes will be considered favorable, and we then attempt to manipulate the process to achieve the desired outcome. We want to be happy, and we assume we have the power to make it happen.

In stark contrast to the pursuit of happiness is the presence of joy. Joy is the settled conviction that God sovereignly controls the events of life for His glory and the believers’ good. It is the deep and abiding confidence that, regardless of one’s circumstances in life, all is well between the believer and the Lord. No matter what difficulty, pain, disappointment, failure, rejection, or other challenge one is facing, genuine joy remains, because of the Divine influence of God’s grace. Regardless of the pain of unrealized expectations, when joy is experienced, we can always say, “It is well with my soul!”

Joy is not dependent upon the outcome of circumstances, but rather on the character of the One who controls all circumstances. True joy is not found in the removal of trials and troubles or the positive outcome of those circumstances. True joy is found in a personal and trusting relationship with Almighty God who controls all circumstances for the purpose of His own glory. True joy is discovered when we understand that God’s glory produces ultimate good for us who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So the issue today is this – are you living your life in the pursuit of happiness based on circumstantial evidence or in the presence of joy based on the character of God? Your response to that question will determine your response to life itself.

Join me in this great study of Paul’s Principles of Joy.

Pastor John

Do All to Exalt Christ

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

1 Corinthians 10:31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Today we come to the final letter in our acrostic of the word NAME. The E stands for exaltation, and is a reminder to us that every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we choose is to bring glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today is my wedding anniversary. 42 years on the date of this publication. Every day for the rest of my life it is my desire to magnify my wife, and to exalt her ahead of and in front of others. Every thought I think, every word I speak, and every activity I choose must exist only in the realm of honoring her as my wife, my friend, and the love of my life.

Our relationship with Christ is no different, albeit more intimate. I want to share with you today some passages of Scripture that emphasize this aspect of living life as a response to God’s love. Read them carefully and let the Holy Spirit apply the truth to your life.

The Apostle Paul begins in Romans 15: 17-18 by sharing his personal testimony of commitment to exalting Christ.  Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.

Paul again speaks to the church at Corinth about how each one of us is in process of being transformed into the glory of the Lord. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The author of Hebrews encourages us with the truth that God has equipped us to live lives totally pleasing and honoring to Him according to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Once again Paul writes to us through the church at Philippi that as we grow in love and knowledge the end result is to be the glory and praise of God. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

The Apostle Peter confirms Paul’s teaching that everything we need for life and godliness comes from the power of God, and that we need not seek anything from the world to make our lives more valuable or prove our worth. In fact, when we live our lives for the glory of God, we escape the corruption of the world and all its evil desires. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Peter again shows us that everything we do is to be an expression of the work of God in our lives and is to be done for the glory of Jesus. The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)

And finally, the words of Jesus Himself tell us the one specific thing that brings the Father the most glory – This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

Join me in this prayer. Father, I resolve that whatever I do in word or deed will be done in the NAME of Jesus, according to His nature, His attributes, His mission, and His exaltation, so that my life is lived as a thanksgiving offering to you, who in your great and gracious love for me saved me from my sin by the blood of yours precious Son Jesus, who is my Lord. May my life bring glory to the Father by bearing much fruit for Him. AMEN.

Pastor John

According to His Mission

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Luke 4:18-19  “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.”

If you remember from last week, I started a short study of Colossians 3:17. That verse says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” I am specifically focusing on what it means to do everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” God gave me an acrostic of the word NAME, and it has proven valuable in our study. That acrostic is:





Whatever I do, whatever I say, and whatever I pray, is to be according to the nature of Jesus, the attributes of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the exaltation of Jesus.

Today we come to the  letter “M”, which represents the mission of Jesus. I wonder how our lives would change if we took some quality time to reflect on our lives and evaluate how much of them are spent on the mission of Jesus compared to being spent on our own pursuits? I suspect they might change drastically.

First, a couple of ground rules for such evaluation.

  1. No guilt and shame allowed. You may not have thought about these things before, and Satan would love to wrap you up in a blanket of regret. But spiritual change is about forgetting the past and pressing on towards the future.
  2. It is granted that we all need relaxation and recreation, and our tendency is to compartmentalize mission and not see how “fun” connects to it. Even Jesus got away from everyone and relaxed. However, when He relaxed, He did so with the sole purpose of being physically refreshed for the accomplishment of His Father’s mission. Even while He was relaxing, He prayed, prioritized, planned, and prepared for God’s purpose in His life.

For example, on any given weekend or day off from work, how much time do we intentionally spend thinking about how the activity we chose would refresh us and provide us with increased opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with someone at work when we returned? In case you’re wondering, I have spent many days off not thinking about that. But on the days I do, the next day is dramatically different.  I wake up with all three engines running at peak performance. My physical engine is strong. My emotional engine is secure. My spiritual engine is running at top speed in anticipation of being used by God to touch someone’s life with His love. All because while I relaxed, I thought about what God wanted to do with my life after I was refreshed. The mistake many of us make is to use relaxation and recreation as an escape from the past, rather than a preparation for the future.

Now that we have those basics in place, we are ready to start the evaluation process.  First, do you understand what the mission of Jesus is for your life? While each of us is unique, and uniquely equipped for various roles and responsibilities within the body of Christ, each one us starts with the same marching orders. Our identical mission is this – Go into all the world and make disciples.

We could spend weeks upon weeks studying all of the individual ways we are prepared, equipped, and gifted to do that, but unless we truly accept the primary mission itself then all of the methods will be meaningless. There is to be nothing in our lifestyle choices more significant than glorifying Jesus, and He is most glorified when we accomplish His mission – the salvation of souls. There can be no higher priority than people.

Second, we must carefully prioritize all areas of our life under Christ’s mission. Some of our chosen activities can remain. Some might have to go. Let’s use some of our evaluation questions again today to examine our priorities in light of God’s mission for our life. Ask these questions about every choice you make.

  • Does this word or activity support my understanding of the mission to which I have been called in Christ Jesus?
  • Does this word or activity represent the Gospel message of the transforming power of Jesus Christ to change my life?
  • Does this word or activity prepare me in some way to fulfill Christ’s mission for me?
  • Does this word or activity present an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with another person?
  • Does this word or activity present an opportunity to make a disciple?
  • Does this word or activity present an opportunity to teach others to obey Jesus?
  • Does this word or activity present an opportunity to encourage and build up a brother or sister in Christ?

If the answer to any of the questions above is “no”, then ask yourself, while remembering ground rule #2 above, why that activity is permitted to remain in your life. Of what value is it in accomplishing the mission of God?

My friends, we are people of purpose. Everyone wants to know their purpose. We are blessed to be children of God, who get to experience the one true and fulfilling mission of all life – serving the Savior. Let’s join together to serve Him according to His mission, not ours.

Pastor John

According to His Attributes

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, February 19, 2018

Psalm 139:1-3  O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

The next word in our acrostic on the NAME of Jesus is Attributes. If we are going to live our lives according to Colossians 3:17, then we must live it in such a way that it reflects the attributes of Jesus.

When I was a young boy, my father was the pastor of a church in Michigan. It was customary in this church for the pastor and his family to be invited out to dinner at someone’s house on a regular basis. On those nights that we were headed to our host’s home, I remember clearly something my dad always did. As I and my two brothers would pile into the back seat of the car in our usual rowdy way, fighting over who had to sit in the middle, dad would already be in place in the driver’s seat. He would reach up and tilt the rearview mirror down so he could see us and he would say, “Now boys, don’t embarrass me when we get there.”

I’ve thought about that statement a lot. It had its positive and its negative sides. From the negative perspective, it assumed that we were both capable of embarrassing him and likely to do so. Be realistic. Imagine three boys ages 5, 6, and 7 together in a home of adults with nothing to do but sit still and behave. Yeah – that’s possible. We were by nature rowdy little boys, with expectations of adult attributes thrust upon us. Dad knew it, or he wouldn’t have told us his expectations before we even left the driveway.

On the positive side, dad was trying to help us grow up. We all want our children to emulate the attributes that we believe are important for maturity. Any word or action that doesn’t reflect those attributes is an embarrassment, both to the parent, and hopefully to the child who really wants to be the best they can be. Every kid wants to measure up. If motivated by love, that’s a good thing. If motivated by a lack of love so that it becomes a performance to earn value, then that’s dysfunctional.

Measuring up is a biblical concept. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3: 19, “…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Then in the next chapter he says, “so that the body of Christ may … become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Christ is the perfect model of maturity for our lives. When we are motivated by love for Him, we will strive to emulate His attributes. When we don’t, it will be an embarrassment to us.

It is not practical to attempt to consider all the attributes of our wonderful Lord and Savior in one short devotional today. But yesterday we gave you a list of questions from a short list of those attributes. Here they are again, with a little twist on them as we consider them from the perspective of emulating them or being an embarrassment to them.

  • Does this word or activity support my belief in the attributes of Jesus?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t measure up to the fullness of God’s love in me?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect the maturity of the life of Jesus in me?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect His holiness?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect His righteousness?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect His love and compassion?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect His truth?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect His grace?
  • Does this word or activity embarrass Christ because it doesn’t reflect His mercy?

The Apostle John, the one whom our Lord Jesus loved, wrote about this embarrassment in his first letter to Christians around the world. He said, See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

Wow! According to these verses, it is possible for us to be ashamed and embarrassed before our Lord because of the way we have lived our lives. So, according to those verses, what’s the key to not being embarrassed? Remain in Him and continue in Him. What does that mean? Very simply, it means to live according to His attributes.

Our lives are to be the constant reflection of the characteristics of Christ. He is our model. He has sent His Holy Spirit to bring the fullness of His life into ours. We do not live in obedience to a set of laws and standards. We live as an expression of the life of Christ in us. Anything less than that is an embarrassment.

O Lord, motivated by our love for you, may our lives reflect your life in us, and not be an embarrassment to you.

Pastor John

According to His Nature

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, February 16, 2018

Psalm 139:1-3  O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

As you recall from yesterday, the challenge was to live out the command of Colossians 3:17, which says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Do you remember the acrostic for the NAME of Jesus?

Nature – Attributes – Mission – Exaltation

Living life in the name of the Lord Jesus begins with an understanding of the nature of Jesus. Who is He, and how does the knowledge of Him change me? What are the practical implications of living with the knowledge of the nature of Jesus?

First, Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is THE GOD. What a marvelous pronouncement of this truth we find in Hebrews 1:3 – The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Why does this matter? Because if Jesus were simply a god, then we would have the right to abandon Him for any other god of our choosing. We would even go so far as to declare ourselves a god. Unless we accept and act upon the truth that Jesus is God, we will live our lives according to our own desires. We will be completely self-centered and seek self-fulfillment. Our decisions will be based on obedience to the flesh. Our actions will be the result of seeking immediate gratification. We will become our own god, when the first commandment of God to the human race states, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

This directly leads to the second aspect of the nature of Jesus – His sovereignty. If we do not accept that Jesus is God, then we will not accept that He is Lord. We will strive for control of our lives and the lives of others, rather than surrender all control to Him. We will cease to be people of faith and become people of fear.

Fear develops when we believe we are in control of outcomes. Faith is victorious over fear because it trusts the outcome to the One who is ultimately in control. Faith is patient and waits for God’s outcomes, while fear attempts to manipulate results. Faith brings peace that surpasses all human reason. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This peace is only possible if we truly believe that Jesus is in control, and surrender to His control in all areas of our lives.

The next aspects of the nature of Jesus deal with His eternal existence. He is omnipresent (He is everywhere always), omniscient (He is all-knowing), and omnipotent (He is all-powerful). Look how Psalm 139 declares them all to us –

  • He is omniscient – verses 1-4  O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
  • He is omnipresent – verses 7-10  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
  • He is omnipotent – verses 13-14  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

We cannot fool Him, for He knows us. We cannot hide from Him, for He is everywhere always. We cannot overcome Him, for He is the creator and sustainer of all things.

The final aspect of His nature is His immutability – He never changes. His nature is always the same. His word stands forever. His promises are secure. There is no compromise of His truth. What was true then is true now.

There is freedom in this. No longer do we need to look for new revelations of God, for in Jesus we have the complete revelation of God to man. Jesus does not change. His Word does not change. His commands do not change. Living life in the Name of Jesus is true liberty because we completely trust the Nature of Jesus.

So, for today, let’s evaluate our thoughts, our words, our choices, and our actions, in the light of the nature of Jesus. Then ask this question – Does this thought, word, choice or activity support my belief that Jesus is, in His very nature, God, and that I trust Him?

Pastor John

In Jesus’ N.A.M.E.

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I have a serious problem. I react negatively when things don’t meet my expectations. I know you do too. My favorite response at such times is “Oh man!” What’s yours?

Several years ago, Colossians 3:17 was my New Year’s resolution. I remember an Elder meeting just four days into the year, when I had ordered some take-out Chinese food. I asked for extra mushrooms in my chicken and snow peas. When I dumped the pint container of sauce onto the rice, I counted three mushrooms. My first response was a disgusted “Oh man!” I immediately caught myself and confessed that sin to the Lord. I then began thanking Him for the meal I was about to eat. I had already failed at fulfilling my resolution.

But growth is a process. One step at a time I will become more thankful, and my life will become more honoring to the Lord Jesus Christ in all areas. At least that was my goal. As I reflect, I’m not sure how much better I am.

I continue to seek to live life according to Colossians 3:17. As I read it again today, the Holy Spirit drew my attention to three words in the exact middle of the verse. Those words are “in the name.”

What does that mean? When we pray in the name of Jesus, what does that really mean? When we are commanded to do and speak all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, what does that mean? It means far more than just stating the name of Jesus at the end of a prayer.

Understanding what it means begins with knowing that a name is a representation of someone. The name itself is just a word, but what that name represents gives it meaning. So, when we say or do anything in the name of someone, those words or actions become of a reflection of what we believe to be true about that person.

Make sure you fully understand the significance of that last statement.  Here’s what God taught me as I sought to understand it. It was so significant that I wrote it in the margin of my Bible. It’s an acrostic of the word NAME.





Whatever I do, whatever I say, and whatever I pray, is to be according to the nature of Jesus, the attributes of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the exaltation of Jesus. Every activity of my life, every word I speak to others, and every prayer I pray to God is to be a reflection of what I believe to be true about Jesus Christ.

For this to be true about me, I must be willing to continually ask myself some penetrating questions.

  • Does this word or activity support my belief that Jesus, in His very nature, is God? Does this word or activity reflect my belief in His sovereignty (He is in control)? His omnipresence (He is everywhere always)? His omniscience (He is all-knowing)? His omnipotence (He is all-powerful)? His immutability (He is unchanging)?
  • Does this word or activity support my belief in the attributes of Jesus? Does this word or activity comply with His holiness? His righteousness? His love and compassion? His truth? His grace? His mercy?
  • Does this word or activity support my understanding of the mission to which I have been called in Christ Jesus? Does this word or activity represent the Gospel message of the transforming power of Jesus Christ to change my life? Does this word or activity present an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with another person? To make a disciple? To teach others to obey Jesus? To encourage and build up a brother or sister in Christ?
  • Does this word or activity exalt the name of Jesus? Does this word or activity reflect a surrendered heart to the will of God for my life? Does this word or activity make much of me, or does it make much of Jesus in me? Does this word or activity glorify God?

Over the next few days we will spend some time on each of those four areas and discover some practical applications of these truths to our everyday lives. But before we do that, each one of us must decide if we are going to take this command seriously.

Are we prepared to live our lives as representations of the Name of Jesus Christ? Are we ready, at any and all cost, to say and do everything in our lives according to what we know to be true about Jesus? And will we do it with thanks to God for the privilege of knowing and serving Him?

My prayer is that you will join me in resolving to live this way.

Pastor John