Profit and Loss

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Philippians 3:4, 7 If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:… 7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

I remember a wonderful trip my wife and I took many years ago. We swam in the ocean and snorkeled around the ruins of an old fort where lots of fish hang out. We collected sea shells and sand dollars. We sat on the beach and soaked up too many UV rays. We saw dolphins playing in the wake of our tour boat. We enjoyed the fellowship of people from our church and we enjoyed time alone. We had a wonderful time and we are so thankful for the opportunity to see a part of the country we had never seen before.

We also saw extravagant wealth. We stayed in a hotel that was schedule for demolition later that year to make space for beach front condominiums. There was nothing wrong with this hotel, but it would be destroyed for the sake of financial gain. When the condo towers are complete, the smallest unit of 1400 square feet will sell for $1.4 million, and the largest 4000 square foot unit will sell for $4.8 million. There will be over 40 units in all. The beach is lined with such housing options, and there are very few vacancies.

I was overwhelmed with the confidence that people are putting in wealth. I was not jealous of them; for I have a mansion that is being built for me right now that will exceed anything I could dream of affording on this earth. But I was heartbroken to think of all the people who have put their hope in what this world has to offer them. None of the problems of the world have been solved by their investments. None of their personal pain has been healed by their possessions. Their view of life has not been improved by their view of the ocean. The pleasures they experience have not released them from the bondage of fear of possible hurricanes. They try to build their kingdoms to withstand the destructive force of God’s creation, but they are willing to live that way because they believe the benefits of the immediate outweigh the risks of total loss. They have no hope that extends beyond the tangible. It is so very sad.

But then I think of the conflict in my own life between confidence in the flesh and the hope of glory. Even though the net worth of my earthly possessions is far less than those living on the beach, the temptations are the same. I also seek personal worth and value from what I do and what I have. I confess to putting confidence in the flesh. I confess to taking pride in what I can accomplish in my own strength. I confess to needing approval from people to feel valued. I confess to finding pleasure in my possessions and an unwillingness to sacrifice them for the cause of Christ. I confess to not really knowing what it means to sacrifice, because I have learned how to give only what I don’t mind giving to justify keeping what I don’t want to give up. Can you relate?

Have we, albeit in smaller proportion, adopted the philosophy of the rich and the famous that invests primarily in what the world offers rather than in the treasures of heaven? Have we erected memorials to our own accomplishments where the cross of Jesus Christ once stood? Have we made the pursuit of pleasure our god because we need immediate gratification? Have we tried to discover the meaning of life in the measure of worth?

God is calling us today to consider this: what the world offers and what we are able to accomplish is nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ intimately and completely.

Profit is what is left after all expenses have been paid. We have been duped into believing that all the bills have been received and paid, and what we have right now is ours to keep. But there is a hurricane on the horizon, and everything in this world will be destroyed. Only what has been invested in God’s kingdom will last. So whatever we have considered profit from this world is really not profit. Only what we will receive from Jesus at His coming will be ours to truly keep. All else is loss. Let’s start living that way.

Pastor John

In What Do You Boast?

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 21, 2018

Philippians 3:3 For we … put no confidence in the flesh—

Jeremiah 9:23-24 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

We all tend to fall into a terrible trap of depending on devotionals for our spiritual growth. How many times are we guilty of skipping over the Scripture passages just so we can read a short story or illustration of a truth and hopefully learn something from it? God’s Word is our teacher – not the writings of people. I remember when I used to read the Our Daily Bread devotionals. I didn’t open my Bible and read the whole passage of Scripture that was recommended. I just read the one verse they printed and then hurried on to the story. How wrong that is! We neglect the true Bread of Life and settle for crumbs that have fallen from the lips of someone else who is eating.

I know as a devotional writer, I would love nothing better than to get an email from you saying, “Pastor, I didn’t get to read your devotional today because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me out of the Scriptures. He taught me so much I didn’t need any more from you.” So, I hope you took the time to read all of the Scripture passages for today. If not, please do it now.

Now, if after reading them you still want more, here’s what God is saying to me. We have become enamored with our personal success. We have become addicted to the American lifestyle of prosperity. Just look at how much of our time, energy, and resources are spent on personal things. We must own a home, and then buy everything for that home that meets a socially determined standard. We justify it by claiming that we are investing in the resale value of the home, when it may be the pride of life that is our motivation. Much of what we pursue is culturally motivated and not spiritually motivated. We prefer being known by the world to being known by God. We prefer to boast about our wisdom, our strength, and our riches rather than how much intimacy we have with the Father. We prefer the safety and security of society to serving the Savior at all cost.

Jesus lived in a society that allowed wealth and prosperity. He could have used his wisdom to earn the respect of people. He could have easily bought into the social system of His day and even been considered righteous while doing it. He could have used all His power to rise to a position of leadership. He could have claimed all the riches of His day for Himself and He could have had the nicest home in the city of Jerusalem with a beach house at the Mediterranean. He could have demonstrated for us all how to get ahead in life and be successful. But He didn’t. He demonstrated something else – intimacy with the Father, modeling of the Father’s character, and obedience to the Father’s will.

In Jeremiah 9:24 we are told that the claim to fame is the same for all of us – “But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

In what do you boast? Your house? Your job? Your strength in the face of life’s difficulties? Your wisdom to manage life? Your wealth? Your success?

I want to be able to say, with Paul, May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 

Pastor John

True Worship

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 18, 2018

Philippians 3:3  For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

John 4:23-24 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Like any religious tradition, the activity of worship has the potential to become either a mere formality or a means of grace. One of the dangerous trends of evangelical Christianity in the last 35 years has been the creation of a worship liturgy, where music has become the means through which the “worshiper” gains access to God and garners approval for self. For many, the activity of worship in the church has become self-focused, with the “worshiper” seeking an emotional experience to validate their weak or even misdirected faith. If the emotional needs of the “worshiper” are not met, they simply look for a church with “better worship”, rather than looking at the nature of their own heart. It is a dangerous and spiritually unhealthy situation when a church places this kind of emphasis on their music ministry. It is to be criticized equally with all other religious activity that seeks to earn the favor of God.

First of all, for worship of any kind to be valid it must originate in a heart that has been transformed by the Spirit of God. Worship must be the expression of grace and truth, not the means to earn grace and learn truth. Worship is a response to the saving, keeping, and supplying power of God in our hearts. Worship is never an activity to earn grace from God, but is always an activity that expresses the character of God and our love and gratitude to Him.

According to Paul in today’s Scripture, worship is always the result of the circumcision of the heart. External religious activity that does not spring from a spiritually transformed heart is not true worship. When Paul wrote this passage in Philippians, he may have had in mind the word of the Lord from Jeremiah 9:25 – 26, which says, “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh—Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” I believe there are a lot of “worshipers” in our churches who are not truly worshiping. They are not expressing the nature of Christ in them, but are rather seeking an emotional experience to produce what is missing.

Secondly, once we understand that worship is an expression of love and gratitude from a heart transformed by Jesus Christ and filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, we can properly define worship as any activity or work, so long as it is done as unto the Lord. Scrubbing toilets at the church becomes an act of worship. Raking the neighbor’s lawn becomes an act of worship. Giving more than 10% of your resources becomes an act of worship. Prayer becomes an act of worship. Singing and playing any kind of music with any kind of instrumentation becomes an act of worship. Staying in your present church no matter how little emotional satisfaction you receive becomes an act of worship. Worship is not about what we get, but about what we give to God.

Evaluate your heart today, and make sure that you have not redefined worship into an activity from which you receive some personal benefit. Worship does not give you greater access to God, or emotional satisfaction, or self-validation. These are very real trends in today’s church and they are destroying true faith. Make sure that where you choose to attend church, you do so because it is where God has placed you to give back to Him and to others what He has already given you. Don’t choose a church based on personal preferences, but choose one based on God’s preference for where He wants you to truly worship Him.

Worship is first an attitude, then an activity. The attitude produces the activity. Don’t put the cart (activity) in front of the horse (attitude). If activity – the style or quality of music or preaching – is your focus, then you are really worshiping the activity and it has become your idol. True worshipers worship God alone, not the method of worship. Make sure your heart is right in this.

Pastor John

Watch Out for Dogs!

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Philippians 3:2 – 3  Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

 Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

Many years ago, I was on a two-day canoe trip with a friend. We packed all the necessary supplies – food, tent, sleeping bags, etc. – and headed for the destination to drop off one of the cars before taking the other one to our launch site. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so we had left a map with our wives that gave our approximate locations during the day and our camping site at night.

The first day went great as we enjoyed the scenery and the fellowship. But we woke up early the next morning to pouring rain. We packed up camp and got back on the river, but by 10:00 a.m. we were so drenched and cold and tired that we decided to end the trip. The problem was that we were miles from our car and had no phone to call anyone. We pulled the canoe up under an overpass and I walked up to the farmhouse that was near the road. That’s when trouble started.

As I walked up onto the porch of the house and knocked on the door, two things happened. First, a loud growl came from the doghouse on the porch. I had noticed it was there but had not seen the large Blue Heeler dog inside. Then I heard vicious barking and turned to see a very large Boxer coming racing across the farmyard towards me, with his short hair standing straight up down the middle of his back. I quickly checked the door of the house and found it locked – no one was home. I squeezed between the screen door and the door and pulled it as tight as I could for protection. I was much thinner then.

The Blue Heeler remained in his doghouse, but the Boxer came up onto the porch and stood at the top of the steps, blocking my escape. He growled and snarled loudly. What was I going to do? I was immediately calmed by the Holy Spirit and He reminded me of God’s power through the Name of Jesus and that we have been given dominion over all of creation. Now I don’t carry that to any extreme of believing that we can intentionally put ourselves in harm’s way and then claim the authority to not get hurt. But in emergency situations I know that God provides for our every need. So, I prayed, and asked Jesus to give me authority over the dogs at that moment. I slowly opened the screen door and stepped out from behind it. The Boxer growled louder and took a step towards me. I firmly shouted, “Sit!”, and the Boxer sat down. I then shouted, “Stay!”, and took another step toward the dog. The dog stayed. I walked right past him and down the steps, made my way around the corner of the house, and then ran as fast as I could back to the river where my friend was waiting. We paddled to the next bridge and found a house where people were at home and had no dogs, and we made our phone call.

Not only has God given us authority over dogs, but He has given us spiritual authority over unspiritual dogs as well. Paul reminds the people of God at Philippi to beware of the vicious dogs that teach false doctrine. The false doctrine he is specifically referring to is the teaching of certain Jews that the Greek Christians had to be circumcised according to Jewish law or they could not be saved. We can apply the principle of Paul’s warning to any religious activity that the church or a preacher requires in addition to faith to bring a person to salvation. The church or preacher may even try to disguise their false teaching by saying the activity is simply an expression of your faith, but if it is required for you to be considered saved, then it is the teaching of unspiritual dogs.

Paul says that as true believers in Christ, saved by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone, we have two responses to such false teachers:

  1. We must recognize them. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the ability to discern truth from error. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the downward spiraling whirlpool of false teaching by giving in to popular trends or emotional highs. Recognize false teaching by thoroughly studying the truth of God’s Word.
  2. We must resist them. We remain true to God’s truth by remembering the effects of the truth on us. Paul says that no matter what the false teachers were requiring, we who have been truly saved have experienced a spiritual circumcision of our hearts, and that’s all that is necessary. When false teachers are discovered, remind them of God’s truth: we are the true circumcision and we have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Put no confidence in the flesh, and resist them.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must take authority over the dogs and not stand in fear of them. We are the true followers of Jesus. Get out from behind your closed doors, tell the dogs to sit down, and walk right past them into the fellowship of your true family of believers.

Pastor John

Repetition Encourages Remembrance

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Philippians 3:1   To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Men are worse than women, at least in one area. We don’t seem to learn our lesson the first time. Things must be repeated over and over again before we finally get it. It starts when we are little, and mom has to tell us time and time again to stay out of the mud puddles. Even today, when I’m driving a car, I must make the biggest splash possible by driving fast through any puddles on the road after a rain. I also know my wife’s frustration level when she has to repeat herself to get me to listen or to finally comprehend and commit to what is being said. But that is still no guarantee that tomorrow she won’t have to tell me again.

Sometimes I get mad at her for repeating herself. But I must admit that I am really mad at myself because I still haven’t learned. Sometimes we get mad at God because we seem to keep hearing the same lesson time and time again and we wonder why we can’t move on to something else. God knows we still haven’t learned what He wants us to know.

Paul admits that he is repeating himself as he writes to the church in Philippi. The application is clear – repetition encourages remembrance. Peter does the same thing in  his second letter.

2 Peter 1:12 – 15 12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  13I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,  14because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  15And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

When those who influence our lives are no longer around to influence us, we will be glad for the repetition. We will be able to fully enjoy the lasting benefits of what they taught, and we will find that we have become repeaters of truth to others.

Here’s a quick list of the things Paul and Peter repeated (See 2 Peter 1:1-11). It would be good for all of us to repeat these things to ourselves every day.

 

  1. Rejoice! And again I say rejoice! God is always able to be praised as God, no matter what your circumstance.
  2. Our faith is precious. We have received salvation through faith because of the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
  3. Grace and peace are ours in abundance because we have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  4. Through His power God has given us everything we need to live godly lives in this present world.
  5. His promises never fail, and when we live by them we participate in the Divine nature of God and escape the corruption of the world.
  6. Through our knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ, we can grow up to full maturity, having these spiritual qualities in increasing measure:
    1. Faith
    2. Goodness
    3. Knowledge
    4. Self-control
    5. Perseverance
    6. Godliness
    7. Brotherly kindness
    8. Love
  7. When we grow up according to that pattern, we will never fall, and we will receive a rich welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Don’t get mad at God when the Holy Spirit seems to be repeating Himself to you. Be glad that God’s love is so strong that He wants to make sure you understand the truth and grow by it. He’s doing it as a safeguard for you.

Pastor John

No Doubt…Rejoice

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!

Have you ever doubted the reality of your salvation? Do you find yourself questioning your faith? Think about the times that has happened, and it is likely that at the time of your doubt you were experiencing some kind of stress, emotional hurt, or physical pain. It is when the circumstances of life don’t seem to be turning out to our satisfaction that we doubt our security in Christ.

Why is that? I believe it’s because we still don’t have an adequate understanding of the nature of God. The factors that determine the security of our relationships with people tend to become the same factors with which we measure our security with God. That is an error on our part. We feel secure in relationships when we receive emotional and physical benefits, with the added bonus of warm, fuzzy feelings. When conflicts arise and tensions mount, we feel less secure. Only rarely do we find that person who so completely loves us that our trust in their love overcomes any conflicts and tensions so that we always feel secure. But that is how our relationship with God is to be.

Times of doubt will arise. Doubt is a natural part of the human thought process. It is how we respond to doubt that matters. Doubt is the product of one of three things: emotional distress, intellectual ignorance, or human experience. Following the resurrection of Jesus, we saw all three modeled in different people. Mary doubted because she was emotionally distressed. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were ignorant of the Old Testament prophecies and had not intellectually put all the pieces together. Thomas had heard all the prophecies and had even heard Jesus declare that He would rise on the third day, but he chose to remain in the box of human logic and experience until it was proven to him otherwise. But Jesus met all these people at the point of their doubt and convinced them that there was something far greater than experience, emotion, or intellect upon which to base our relationship with Him – faith in who He is.

When times of doubt about our relationship with God arise, I believe our faith is being misdirected away from God and onto ourselves. At the core of our thought process is the false belief that we have to keep ourselves secure in Christ. We determine our success at keeping ourselves saved by examining our emotions, our actions, and our circumstances. If we wake up and find that we don’t feel in love, then we must not be. If we find that our friend or spouse has not called us or been close to us for a certain period of time, then our relationship must be falling apart. If our actions don’t produce the desired response in the life of our friend or spouse, then our relationship is questioned.

We do all those things with God as well. If we don’t feel spiritual, get positive responses to our spiritual activity, or experience negative circumstances, we doubt our relationship with Christ. We don’t believe we have done enough to make Him keep loving us. But in reality, what we doubt is the very nature of God and His promises.

 

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to be able to rejoice in the relationship we have with the Lord even when all circumstances and emotions are standing opposed to it? Yes, it is! I purposefully stated that in the present tense because that is my humble condition of faith right now. No matter what the circumstance or emotion, God is my God, and great is His faithfulness. Let the rain fall. Let the storms of life blow their hardest. Let evil abound and injustice flourish. Let the economy fail and let wars increase. Let persecution grow and let death knock at the door. All this will be only for a time, and then God, my God, will send the Son. The storms will cease. Evil will be destroyed. Justice will reign. Peace and prosperity will govern. Pain, tears, and death will be wiped away forever. All because God is God and He cannot and will not fail.

Doubt is the enemy of faith because it attacks the character of God. But remember these words of Peter – read them carefully and thoroughly, and let them be the basis of your faith which will result in rejoicing.

1 Peter 1:3 – 9 (NIV) 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,  5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Pastor John

Be A Minister

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 14, 2018

Philippians 2:25  But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus…whom you sent to take care of my needs.

There is one more step in the process of reaching full maturity in Christ, as it relates to our relationship with people. Using Paul’s description in Philippians 2 of Epaphroditus, we see that we start out as brothers in Christ; then we become workers for Christ; then we become soldiers of Christ; then we become messengers of the Gospel. The final step is to become ministers to people.

Epaphroditus was sent by his church in Philippi to deliver gifts to Paul so that his needs would be met. The phrase “whom you sent to take care of my needs” is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as “he that ministered to my wants.” The word “ministered” has deep and significant meaning. It goes far beyond simply delivering what someone else has provided. A minister is someone who works for the betterment of a group of people. We approach maturity in Christ when our primary work for Christ is to minister to people’s needs. It is the outward expression of love through involvement in people’s lives that fulfills the purpose of Christ in us.

James, the brother of Jesus, said it this way: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27).

Faith reaches full maturity when we go from being a messenger of the gospel to being a minister that meets people’s needs. The people of the church at Philippi were ministers to Paul by sending gifts to provide for his needs. This is commendable and highly spoken of by Paul. But it still goes deeper. Epaphroditus, in addition to delivering the gifts, ministered personally to Paul’s other needs that could not be met by the gifts. In Philippians 2:29 – 30 Paul says, “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” The gifts did not meet all of Paul’s needs, but Epaphroditus did.

What did he do? We are not specifically told what needs of Paul’s were met by Epaphroditus, but we can use good logic to come to some probable conclusions.

  1. Gifts are great, but nothing beats face-to-face time with a trusted friend. Paul could not go to his friends, so a friend went to him. This friend sacrificed all personal priorities for the sake of investing his life into Paul. In the 1960’s there was a hit rock-and-roll song that went like this: If you need me, call me, No matter where you are, No matter how far, Just call my name, I’ll be there in a hurry, You don’t have to worry, ’cause baby, There ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough, To keep me from getting to you. That’s what Epaphroditus did. That’s what mature ministers do. No matter what the obstacle or inconvenience, they invest their lives sacrificially into the lives of others.
  2. Epaphroditus got involved in doing the work that Paul was no longer able to do. Paul was under house arrest and probably chained to a guard, unable to go out to the community and preach the gospel and minister to the needs of the church there in Rome. We know there was a strong church there, but Paul was not able to attend or preach. My conclusion is that Epaphroditus got involved in doing the work that Paul wanted to do. Sometimes we have to step up to the plate and pinch hit for someone who has been placed on the disabled list. It may be way out of our comfort zones to do it, but being a mature minister is not about our comfort but is about meeting the needs of people.

I’m glad that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m excited about the work God has given us to do together. I’m proud to serve the King shoulder to shoulder with you as soldiers in His army. I’m thrilled to hear how the messengers are spreading the message of the Savior. But I am most satisfied and fulfilled when I know that we have reached full maturity in Christ by becoming the ministers of grace and love to people in need no matter what the cost to us.

Intentional and intimate intervention into the lives of people is the greatest gift we can give them, and allows them to see the reality of Jesus in us.

Thank you for being such a minister.

Pastor John