Get Out of the Rut

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Philippians 2:13  …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone..

I love maps. I miss maps. GPS has ruined my life. Not really, but I love maps.

When I was in 4th grade, I remember spending hours drawing maps of Africa and South America, carefully putting in all of the country boundaries and major topographical elements like rivers and mountains. I loved imagining what it would be like to travel to those places. When I travel anywhere today I love to look at the map before I go, and discover in advance what I am going to see and what route I am going to take. I carefully evaluate every possible option, and depending upon the reason for the trip, I will determine which roads to travel – the speedy ones or the scenic ones. If it’s a route I have traveled before, I first consider if there is an alternate way to get there because I don’t like going the same way every time. I want to experience all the different ways to get to a final destination.

I understand that there are probably more people who like consistency than there are those who like change, but I am glad that I like diversity. I think this is an asset to leadership, especially in the church. Imagine what your church would be like if everyone wanted things to stay the same all the time. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Sorry. I believe it is incredibly important for leaders to be able to discover, understand, and empower all the possibilities that exist to accomplish goals.

That’s what God has done in all of us. Not one of us is identical, and not one of us is equipped for serving God in the same way as another. Paul tells us that it is God who works in us to transform our will  and to produce activity that accomplishes His good purpose (see yesterday’s devotional). God is putting forth His power in us to show Himself operative in our activity. Yet everyone’s activity is different. The destination is the same – God’s good purpose – but the route we all take is different. Our only concern should be that we are taking a route that is on God’s map. Be careful here – we are not talking about different routes to salvation; there is only one way, and it is Jesus. But we are speaking clearly about the incredible diversity God designed into the body of Christ to accomplish His good purpose.

I admit the church today has lost some confidence in God’s way because too many people are taking personal routes that are not approved by God. We have also lost a lot of momentum because too many Christians have demanded that everyone’s activity be the same. God has a map for accomplishing the mission of Christ, and He has placed on that map all the approved routes we may take to complete the course. Some of us may take the scenic route, while others will stay on the interstate system. I prefer to try them all, including the back roads – just ask my family. But if it’s not on the map, then I don’t take it.

I have great confidence in the body of Christ which God has asked me to lead, because I know they are always checking their map. I also appreciate them because they allow for alternate routes to be considered and taken by each individual. I wholeheartedly believe that this brings about the fullness of joy God intends for every church to experience.

How about you and your church? Do you get to see and experience the incredible diversity of God through the affirmation of people’s unique gifts and ministries, or are you stuck in a rut on a gravel road that’s been formed because it’s the road everyone is expected to travel?

Pastor John

More Than Clay

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Philippians 2:13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Psalm 141:3-4 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! 4  Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!

When we were without Christ, and living according to the desires of the flesh, our will was self-centered. We made choices based on personal preferences, and we hoped the outcomes would benefit us. But when we came to Christ for salvation and God began His work in us, as we discovered yesterday, our will became subject to His will. This truth adds yet another element of confidence to our lives as we journey towards joy.

To some, God’s work in us can be compared to a potter as he molds clay.  Scripture teaches that analogy.

  • Isaiah 45:9 Does the clay say to the potter, ’What are you making?’
  • Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
  • Jeremiah 18:6 Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.

But this comparison is not the complete picture, because to God we are more than just a lump of unresponsive clay. We need to be as surrendered as clay to the will of the Potter, but we are also called to be involved in the process of accomplishing the Potter’s purpose.

The Apostle Paul states that clearly in Philippians 2:13 when he says it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. God does more than just shape us and mold us into a vessel He can use: He leaves our will intact so that we can choose to serve Him. We are active participants in accomplishing His purpose.

I met a young man in the hospital one day who didn’t fully understand this. He was brought up in a spiritual tradition that emphasizes the sovereignty and will of God in all things. He believed that we really have nothing to say in any of it. He was enrolling in classes to move from being in the transport department at the hospital to becoming a chaplain. Every statement he made about the plans were always followed with “If it’s God’s will.” He seemed to have no active role in working out God’s will; he was just going through doors that seemed to be open and then hoping that they led to God’s will.

That’s not what the Holy Spirit had in mind when he guided Paul to write Philippians. There is something much more wonderful available to us. We can have the confidence to enter each new day knowing that God not only reveals His will to us but also invites us to join our will with His. He is at work in us to bring our wills into agreement with His will so that our desires become His desires and our choices become His choices.

This brings great confidence to our lives. Not only are we called to be involved in God’s work, but every desire of our heart is transformed by the indwelling work of God so that every activity of our lives is done according to His good purpose.

So today, evaluate the desires of your heart and ask God to continue His work in you so that they become His desires. We need to grow in our understanding that it is more than our wills being subject to His will. God’s work in us is not to subjugate our wills to His but rather to transform our wills so they are one with His. It is a liberating way to live in the total freedom Christ promised when we know that the debate between our wills and His will has ceased, and we are of one mind and heart with Him.

May you know such confidence today.

Pastor John

God’s Work in Us

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Philippians 2:13  …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Imagine that you have just been hired for a new job. You have a college degree in business, and have all the management skills and experience necessary to run a large corporation. In your orientation on your first day you are told you will have to prove yourself and work your way up from the bottom.

You are assigned to start out in the maintenance department of the corporate office building, and you are specifically responsible for the upkeep on the heating and air conditioning system. You are sent to the basement with no further instructions or training. When you arrive in the boiler room you discover that whoever was in charge last has been gone for some time, and when they left they took all of the tools and equipment with them. You not only have no idea what anything is, or whether it needs repair, you also have no idea how to take care of it and you have no tools to even pretend to work with.

At the end of the day the corporate CEO calls you into his office and asks you what you accomplished for the company. You must admit to him that you did nothing because you had no training in that area and had been given no tools with which to work. He fires you on the spot and says you should have been better trained, better equipped, and taken more initiative to accomplish the assigned tasks.

That’s pretty unjust, don’t you think? Not only were you put into a totally unfamiliar job position, but in addition you were given no equipment to accomplish the task. Your desire was to benefit the company and honor the boss, but you had no way to do either of those things.

When we came to Christ for salvation and joined His kingdom work, we were totally unprepared for the position we would be given. We had no training in righteousness, no experience in holiness, and no spiritual equipment with which to accomplish the purpose of the Boss and honor Him. We didn’t even have a real desire to do anything differently than we had done before we met Jesus. But God understood our predicament and chose to meet ALL our needs. He had demonstrated His incredible power when He brought Jesus back from the dead, and now He would use His power to indwell us, equip us, train us, and do the work for us. God has asked us to join the work He is already doing, rather than just assigning us a task and hoping we can accomplish it.

But don’t carry this to an apathetic extreme. Some people will try to teach that the work is all God’s responsibility and our only duty is to be empty and available. This philosophy could result in us blaming God for any seeming inactivity. God has clearly stated that we are to work out our salvation, and that He has equipped us to do His will. We are to be an active participant in God’s work.

It is a wonderful balance that God manages. He provides us with the desire to join Him in His work. He equips us with His power and gifts to accomplish His purpose. He indwells us so that He is directly and intimately involved in every aspect of the work. It is a symbiotic relationship that produces indescribable joy and eternally valuable results.

This truth provides us with the necessary confidence to rise enthusiastically every morning and ask the Boss for our daily assignments. Imagine how great it would be to go through every day of your life with that kind of confidence. “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.  5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

WOW! We are confident and we are competent because God is doing His work in us. Join Him!

Pastor John


Get to Work

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 16, 2018

Philippians 2:13  …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Hebrews 13:20 – 21  20May 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, 21equip 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.

 Now for the rest of the story: three young men armed with knives have backed my two younger brothers and I up against a wall in an alley in downtown St. Paul following a high school hockey game. We are scared to the point of trembling, not knowing what they wanted. It was a holiday tournament being held during the Christmas break from school, and that’s why we were allowed to be out late at night. I really don’t remember if I prayed or not, but like Paul and Silas in prison I did sing. Not because I wanted to, but because that’s what the armed men wanted us to do. They told us that if we would sing them a Christmas carol, they would let us go. I sang “Joy To The World” with all of my heart, especially emphasizing the next line – “The Lord is come.” When we were done, they asked us to sing one more. I started singing “Silent Night,” and there really was a calm that came over the situation. They let us go. We walked briskly to our car, and once inside with the doors locked, we determined to never tell mom and dad what had happened.

In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you. When my brothers and I were left to work out our own rescue, we were filled with fear and trembling because we knew we were powerless to change our situation. But when God came into the situation, everything changed.

We are not left to fend for ourselves after we have received Jesus as our Savior: God’s work has just begun. Remember what Paul said earlier in Philippians – He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. God is at work in each of us so that we can do His will and act according to His good purpose.

There are three things in the two passages of Scripture printed above that encourage us:

  1. God’s presence changes our will (Phil. 2:13a). In other words, when we are saved, He gives us a whole new set of “want-to’s.”  His abiding presence in us creates a desire to know and do His will. He transforms our wills so that they are Christ-centered and not self-centered. God’s work in us makes us want to do God’s work.
  2. God’s grace gives us everything we need to do His will (Heb. 13:21). We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing from above (Eph. 1:3) so that we might be fully equipped to accomplish His purpose. He has given us every resource we need in the Holy Spirit and His Word to serve Him faithfully.
  3. God’s power enables us to move from knowledge to action. It’s not enough to know God’s will and have the resources to accomplish God’s will: we have the power to DO God’s will. Every choice we make and every action we take can be pleasing to Him and be in accordance with His divine purpose.

The fear that has gripped you because of the current situation in which you find yourself does not have to control you. Yes, we are weak and helpless, but we are not alone and hopeless. God is at work in you. He is accomplishing His glorious purpose. He will finish His work, and it will be good! We can experience His goodness if we join Him in His work, rather than asking Him to join ours. Let Him change your will, and you’ll discover the resources to accomplish His will. Let’s get to work – His work!

Pastor John

With Fear and Trembling

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 13, 2018

Philippians 2:12 …continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…

Psalms 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.

 I was almost 17-years old when I experienced the combination of fear and trembling for the first time. I had been given permission to drive the family car to a high school hockey game in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. My two younger brothers were with me. After the game, as we were walking through an alley to the parking garage, we were confronted by three knife-wielding guys who forced us up against a building wall. I was literally shaking with fear. Did they want the car keys, our money, or our lives? At that moment, these men had all the power necessary to dictate the outcome of my life. I could generate no heroic thoughts. I felt weak and helpless. I was completely at their mercy.

I was scared of these men for three reasons: first, they were much more powerful than I was; second, I did not know their hearts and what they intended to do; and third, and most significantly, I did not trust my own ability to deliver myself from the situation. What a helpless feeling it is to be confronted by such power that all self-confidence is exhausted.

Can you see the spiritual application here? As sinners, we have been confronted with a Power that is infinitely beyond ours, and it has completely drained us of any confidence that we can rescue ourselves from our hopeless condition. We have our backs against a wall and there is no escape. But there is one difference between our confrontation with God about our sin and my confrontation with three guys with knives – we know the heart and the intentions of God. He is there to rescue us not to harm us. He is there to give us life not take it from us. He is there to fill us with value not take things of value from us. His heart is one of love, not hurt.

Because we know His heart and have experienced His love, our fear of condemnation has been eliminated. So why does Paul encourage us to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Hasn’t fear been eliminated by grace?

Yes, and no!

The fear of judgment for sin is gone. The fear of the wrath of God is swallowed up in the love of a Father for His children. But the fear of the awesomeness of God is not diminished in any way. It can only be diminished by an arrogant evaluation of self. Only when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think do we begin to diminish the level of fear of the awesome power of God. Only in pride of who we are does the fear of who God is shrink. This is not healthy. Let him who thinks he stands beware, because he is about to fall. God is a jealous God, and he will not share His glory with people who think they can compare themselves to Him.  We must maintain a fear of the awesomeness of God.

We also work out our salvation in fear and trembling because we distrust our ability to completely meet all of God’s requirements. When confronted with the power and holiness of God we are humbled. When challenged with the command to be holy as He is holy, we tremble, knowing our inability to accomplish it. Having been rescued from the hopeless situation of sin by the saving grace of Jesus, we are immediately put into another hopeless situation of striving after the holiness of God. That is why we work out our salvation with fear and trembling – because we know we are not capable of achieving the goal.

But Christ does accomplish the goal of holiness in us. The author of Hebrews said, “God has perfected forever those who are being made holy.” With our backs against the wall, in fear and trembling, we praise God that the Holy Spirit in us is perfecting us.

So how did the drama in the alley turn out. Come back Monday to find out.

Pastor John

Get In Shape

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Philippians 2:12 continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…

1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27  24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

One of the most necessary choices I need to make is also one of the most hated things I could ever choose to do. I need to work out. I need to get in shape. I’m afraid I won’t even be able to walk around 18 holes of golf this summer. I need to go into strict training. I need to force myself to get on the treadmill every morning and walk a couple of miles, gradually working up to being able to run again. But I hate running, and I have a lot of other things to do that are far more important to me than working out.

Last night I discovered some motivation. I realized that I have now reached an age where it is slightly possible that I have the potential to shoot my age on the golf course. But to do that, I need to be more flexible than I am right now, and in better physical condition so I don’t get tired as the round progresses. I am going to start working out…tomorrow.

Let’s talk about working out for a moment. Working out implies that you already have some raw material with which to work. My raw material has become weak and much of it has taken up residence around my middle. But I still have all the physical capacity to get in shape. I still have all my bones, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles – it’s just that they don’t function quite the way they were designed to function. When I start to work out I will not be working to create new bones or new muscles, but to fulfill the design of the original ones.

Paul says that we are to work out our salvation. He does not say that we are to work for our salvation – that would be like me working for a new body. No, I already have a body. In the same way, we already have spiritual life. We received it the moment we repented of our sin and asked for the forgiveness available in the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. In an instant, we were born again and our spirits were made in the likeness of Jesus Christ. We were given all the raw material necessary to live Godly lives and serve the King.

Look at what the Apostle Peter says in his second letter to the Christian church:

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

We did not work for any of this. It was by His divine power and His call, for His glory, that it was done. But just as God was responsible for the work of our salvation, we are responsible for the working of it. We need to get in spiritual shape.

There is an opponent who wants to ruin our spiritual lives. It’s time we get motivated and start working out our salvation so that every spiritual bone, ligament and muscle is finely tuned to experience consistent victory. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start. Do it now! The fact that you have taken the time to read this shows that you are serious and have already started.

Pastor John


Choose Your Color

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Philippians 2:12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Some Christians are like chameleons – they change their color. They may do it as a defense to camouflage themselves from an enemy, or they may do it to fit into a particular environment. Whatever the reason, they just don’t seem to be able to express themselves consistently.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about chameleons, and from them we can make a spiritual application.

  • The name “chameleon” means “earth lion” and is derived from the Greek words “chamai” (on the ground, on the earth) and “leon” (lion). Christians who change their behavior and appearance to fit in to their environment are living under the influence of Satan, the “earth lion.” They may not realize it, but their attempts to fit in to their environment are destroying their spiritual vitality. Because they fear being seen as Christians in an unGodly world, they have become earth lion’s themselves, changing their appearance and their behavior to fit whatever crowd they are in. They do not conduct themselves in a consistently God-honoring way. As a result, they do not stand firm and contend for the gospel, but instead are frightened of the people that oppose Christianity.
  • Many people think that the chameleon’s ability to change its body color is purely an adaptation to its surroundings. Although the surroundings play a significant part in determining what appearance will be put on, the motivation for changing appearance is not based on the environment, but rather is an expression of the physical and physiological condition of the lizard. The skin color is changed under influence of mood, light, and temperature. How true this is of Christians as well. We allow our physical status to determine our level of joy, and we allow our emotional state to dictate our external behavior and appearance. We make the choice to let the earth’s environment overwhelm the spiritual experience and we live as earth lions rather than children of the Lion of Judah.
  • One more interesting fact – the skin color of a chameleon also plays an important part in communication and rivalry fights. I have seen the faces of far too many Christians change in an instant from composed natural tones into hot-heated red when they are confronted by someone of a different opinion. I have stood in embarrassment beside Christians as they change their color to tell off-color stories because they want to be noticed or to fit in. I have been such a chameleon myself. We all have become earth lions at times because we were ashamed to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul challenged the Philippian people to not be chameleons, but to consistently obey God no matter what their surroundings or their group of influence. God did not save us from the earth lion and then leave us powerless against his influence. No, He saved us and made us more than conquerors over the earth lion through Jesus Christ, who is heaven’s Lion. If you’re going to change your colors, why not wear the Savior’s? Submit yourselves to God, and resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Choose a color, and then stick with it.

Pastor John