Our Boat is Bigger

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, June 29, 2018

Philippians 4:1  … stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Several years ago my wife and I were blessed to be able to invite our family and some friends to join us at a beautiful home on Stone Lake in northern Wisconsin. Fishing was a top priority for some of us, so every morning and evening we were out in the boats trying to land the big one. One of the guys had brought a big tri-hull boat with an inboard motor. This boat made a huge wake when it was on the move. We also had a small aluminum fishing boat with a 3-horsepower motor on the back. My brother’s son was using the little boat, and was on his way to his fishing spot when the big boat took off from the dock on its way across the lake. They came a little too close to the small boat, and the wake came dangerously close to swamping the little boat. My nephew said he was really close to capsizing. If he had been in his fishing spot and standing on the seat like he usually did when he fished, he would have been thrown overboard. If he had wanted to stand firm in the waves, he would have needed a bigger boat.

There are three big boats on the lake of our lives that are making waves in an attempt to capsize us and send us overboard. These boats are constantly driving by us, rocking our boats and causing us to lose our balance. We may have even been capsized by them a time or two, or we may even be in the process right now of trying to right the boat so we can climb back in. But these three boats just keep coming, circling us and laughing at us as we try to get stable.

If we look closely we can make out the names written on the sides of each boat – there’s The World, The Flesh, and The Devil.

The World is tempting. It’s a beautiful boat with all the latest equipment, and furnished in luxury. It exudes pleasure.

The Flesh is powerful. It has twin 250 horsepower motors on the back and is built for speed. It quickly moves from one side of our boat to the other creating a tempest that rocks us in all different directions.

The Devil is aggressive. This boat is built for destruction, and is capable of sinking most boats if they ever took a direct hit. It has cannons mounted on its bow to shoot flaming arrows that could burn boats up if they were hit.

Any one of these boats is capable of capsizing us, and at the very least causing us some major instability in our lives. How can we begin to stand firm? What chance do we have?

Paul says the key to standing firm is to put into practice what he has just written in Philippians 3. That’s why he starts this verse with the word therefore. Whenever we see that word in the Bible we must go back and review what has just been said because what is about to be said is an action statement based on the previous truths and principles. We can stand firm if we understand the truths that have just been stated. Here they are:

  1. We have a bigger boat than theirs. Paul says that all the equipment and luxury of The World is rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ. Our boat is bigger and better than The World.
  2. We have a more powerful boat than theirs. We have twin engines too – the power of Christ’s resurrection and the power of Christ to bring everything under His control. We have more power than The Flesh.
  3. Our boat is indestructible. One day our boat will be called in for refitting at the heavenly port. It will have faithfully served its purpose and it will be transformed into a perfect vessel for all eternity to match the glory of Christ Himself. The Devil may be aggressive and destructive, but he cannot sink my boat nor can he burn it up.

Stand tall on your boat. The waves cannot swamp you. Besides, you’re not the captain of your boat. Trust the One who is. He can calm the waves and bring you safely to shore.

Pastor John

The Joy of Intimacy

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Philippians 4:1  Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

The search for intimacy is destroying our society. It is destroying our lives. The cause is simple but the cure is hard. The cause is this – we have redefined intimacy according to self-serving terminology. The search for intimacy has become nothing more than the search for personal fulfillment through pleasure. The deep, clear and refreshing waters of true intimacy have become a shallow, stagnant slough of self-serving relationships, and it stinks! One look at the philosophy of intimacy presented to us in the media brings us to one conclusion – love only lasts as long as it feels good, and anything that feels good must be love.

How far we have fallen from God’s view of intimacy! In God’s system, feelings are the product of love, not the means to attain it. But we are bombarded every day with messages that convince us that feeling good must come first. For example, notice the extremely high percentage of commercials on television that promote personal fulfillment and feeling good. There are diet pills and diet plans so we can look better, because if we look better we will get other people to notice us, touch us, and love us so we can feel good about who we are. There are commercials about hair color, skin treatments, the latest exercise plans and equipment, and even drugs to enhance your personal pleasure and performance. Everything about intimacy is wrapped up in one word – GET! Get more attention. Get more pleasure. Get more satisfaction. Get more fulfillment.

Compare all of that to the number of commercials you have seen recently that present intimacy as a product of what you have given to another person. Can you think of even one? Can you think of a movie or television program that presents God’s view of intimacy? Can you find any really good examples in the world of how Paul expresses intimacy in Philippians 4:1? Here’s how he understands it:

  1. He has a personal relationship with them that goes beyond mere acquaintance. The connection Paul has at the heart level allows him to call these people his brothers. There is a depth to the relationship that involves acceptance, trust, and security. But being a part of a band of brothers (and sisters) can only be experienced if the other aspects of intimacy are also present.
  2. True love must be present. Not love as culture understands it – lustful and self-serving; but love according to God’s standard, which is sacrificial and serves others. It is not the product of an emotional attachment, but it is a decision that produces emotional responses. God demonstrated His own unique brand of love to us when He sent His Son Jesus to die for while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) We had done nothing to produce an emotional response in God, but He decided to love us and then act on that love regardless of the response He would get. This is the true foundation of all intimacy.
  3. True intimacy also involves a desire to spend time together, or as Paul puts it, he longs for them. But this type of longing is different from what the world feels. When a person of the world longs for someone they love it is primarily to receive from that person something they need – acceptance, value, or pleasure. But when a person of God who operates under His rules of intimacy longs for another person, it is to impart to them something that they have that will bring greater fulfillment to them both. In Romans 1:11 and 12 Paul says, I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. True intimacy involves mutual giving and response, and a deep desire to be involved in it with the person you love.
  4. True intimacy produces total fulfillment. Paul says that the people in whom he has invested his heart have become the source of his joy and the crowning achievement of his life. The same pride I feel as a parent when my children mature and become successful in society is multiplied many times over when I see the spiritual children God has given me grow to maturity and become successful followers of Jesus Christ. I can honestly say that you are the joy and crown of my life when I see the Holy Spirit finishing the work in you that was begun at the moment of your salvation. I am humbly thankful for the part God has called me to play in that process.

These are the things that should set us apart from the world. These are the true qualities of intimacy, and the world needs to see them modeled in us. The body of Jesus Christ called the church is to be the place where people find a band of brothers and sisters to accept them. The church is to be the place where sacrificial love and serving spirits bring emotional strength. Jesus has called us together into His body so that we can grow together to maturity through mutual encouragement and admonition. And when all of this happens, and true intimacy is expressed and experienced, there will be total joy and the church will be the crowning experience of our lives.

Is your church like that?

I’m glad mine is!

Pastor John

Power to Transform

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Philippians 3:21 … who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

They’re back! Those self-promoting and opponent degrading political ads are back. We must be getting close to an election again. Every candidate attempts to persuade the public with policies that are purported to transform America. Some focus on the economy, and believe they single-handedly can solve the debt crisis. Some focus on the war on terror, and believe their policies can bring peace to the world. Others don’t have any clearly defined policies; they just seem to hate what the guy stands for who is currently in the office they want. But all these candidates have the same problem – none of them has the power to bring everything under their control to accomplish any sort of true transformation. Their policies may sound appealing and their goals may be commendable, but their ability to implement them is limited by the number of people who are opposed to them.

What a contrast to Paul’s statement about Jesus. There is a day coming when the Savior will return to this earth. Like any previous conqueror, king, president or congressman, He has sent out promotional material to state His case. His platform and policy statement is called the Bible. In it He promises to do several things:

  1. Take all His supporters out of this evil system and deliver them to a new kingdom in a new world where all evil, suffering, fear, and tears have been completely eliminated.
  2. Transform all the bodies of His supporters into perfect replicas of His eternal body.
  3. Purge the present world of all people who have opposed Him.
  4. Cast out of this world the leader of the opposition party, whose name is Satan.
  5. Establish an earthly kingdom centered in Jerusalem where He will sit on the throne and reign for 1,000 years, with all His supporters assisting Him in governing the kingdom.
  6. He will destroy this entire world following a revolt of the people against His reign.
  7. Permanently and eternally send all who opposed Him to hell.
  8. Create a new heaven and a new earth for all His supporters – a place free forever from the influence and effects of sin.

Sounds pretty unbelievable from a human perspective, doesn’t it? But it is more than just another political ad. When Paul makes His statement that Jesus Christ will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be identical to His glorious body, he clearly qualifies the promise with this guarantee – by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control. Christ has been enabled by the unlimited power of God to accomplish everything He has promised.

All the promises in the Bible would be as meaningless as political advertising except for the power of God that backs them up.

  • It is the power that has been clearly displayed for all to see in the creation and sustaining of the world.
  • It is the power that has been historically documented by turning water into dry land so that an entire nation could escape from slavery.
  • It is the power that tore down the walls of a great fortified city named Jericho with the simple shout of His supporters.
  • It is the power that sent fire from heaven to accept the sacrifice of His supporter Elijah and destroy 400 hundred supporters of the opponent.
  • It is the power that became flesh and lived as one of us, walking on water, calming the stormy seas, healing the sick and the lame, restoring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and raising the dead to life again.
  • In the greatest recount in political history, that same power raised Jesus from the dead when the opponent thought He had won. He conquered for all eternity the power of the opponent to ever fully accomplish his rebellious agenda.
  • It is the power that makes the claim, “If God be for us, who can stand against us?”

But for me the most significant aspect of the power of Jesus Christ is this – He brings everything under His control so the transformation of my life will be perfect. When Jesus Christ enters our lives at the moment of our repentance from sin and faith in His sacrifice on the cross, He brings His power to bear on our lives so that absolutely everything can be transformed.

In His time, when He returns, He will permanently transform the physical. On that day our bodies will be made glorious. In eager anticipation of that day, we are now experiencing the awesome power of God to transform our spirits into the glorious likeness of Christ. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18, 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.

When Jesus returns, our physical bodies will be made into the likeness of His glorious body. For now, we have the power to have our spirits transformed into the likeness of His Spirit. Everything that stands opposed to the likeness of Jesus has been destroyed, and its only power is the permission we give it to exist. We can choose to reflect the attitudes and actions of the world, or to reflect the attitude and actions of Jesus. Absolutely everything about your life right now can be brought under the control of the power of Jesus Christ, and He will transform you completely. Why not fall to your knees right now and confess Him as your Savior and Lord? His power will change everything. His power fulfills every promise!

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Philippians 3:20 – 21 (NIV) 20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

It was October of my 9th grade year in school. We had been living in Oscoda, Michigan for 5 years, and I had made it through my middle school years because of a very strong youth group in our church. I had a very close group of friends, and we shared sports and music interests in and out of school. I was a pretty stable young man at the time because I had found acceptance from others for who I was. I was successful at sports and was exceptional in the band playing several different instruments based on the need of the director. Life was comfortable and fulfilling.

But things were about to change. We were preparing to move to a new home in a new state. We knew it was coming for several months, so I did not even bother to go out for football that year because I knew I would just have to quit the team when we left. It really bothered me to stand outside the fence and watch all of my friends at practice. I didn’t go to one game that year because it hurt too much.

My last day in school finally came. We were moving to St. Paul, Minnesota, and this would probably be the last time I would ever see any of those friends. I don’t remember any of the goodbyes that day, but I do remember crying myself to sleep that night, which is not cool for a 15-year old. But I couldn’t help it – we had not even left the town yet and I was already homesick. It didn’t matter what the new place had to offer, I knew life would never be the same because I was losing everything that was truly important to me. I wanted to hold on to it and not leave.

I have a realistic fear that many of us may feel the same way about our lives on this earth. We have found acceptance from others. We have become successful at our jobs. We have multiple opportunities to participate in recreation and hobbies. Life is comfortable and fulfilling. But for some time now we have known that we are going to be moving on. Life in this arena will not continue for much longer, and we are going to be called to a new home. We will be losing everything that has become important to us. Life will never be the same, so we try to hold on to it for as long as we can and at times we don’t even want to leave.

Mature disciples of Jesus have learned to shift their focus from the resources of this earth to the coming rewards of heaven. We are to be homesick for heaven right now. But how can we be homesick for a place that has never been home? In researching homesickness, I have discovered three basic factors that play a part in it – familiarity, friendships, and security – all of which build a comfort zone of emotional stability and connectedness for us. We are familiar with the rules and routines and have determined that they are for our good and they benefit us; we have relationships that provide emotional strength and identity; and we feel safe. In other words, our hearts have become attached to the place where we have found the treasures we need to live comfortably.


But in Christ, we have found new treasures. We are to become familiar with His rules and routine because they truly benefit us.

  • And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Our relationship with Him provides us with our identity and true emotional strength.

  • He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:8 – 9).

In Christ we are truly safe and secure.

  • We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19).

It is possible, and extremely desirable, to be truly homesick for heaven today because of the relationship we already have with Jesus. We are to be so in touch with what the new home will offer us that we won’t hold on to anything from this life when it’s time to move there.

When Jesus returns and calls us home, I wonder if any of us will be tempted to longingly look back at earth while we rise into the arms of Jesus. I doubt it. So that makes me wonder why we look so longingly at earth today instead of fixing our gaze upwards in anticipation of going home.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 25, 2018

Philippians 3:20 – 21  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Back in the days when all Ketchup came in glass bottles rather than plastic squeeze bottles, it took a long time to get the ketchup onto your burger. The Heinz Company used that to their marketing advantage by promoting the anticipation of great taste. Their television advertising campaign became famous and has been honored as one of the best marketing strategies of all time. As a man holds a bottle of ketchup over his freshly barbecued burger, Carly Simon sings her famous song Anticipation. Suddenly it appears – the ketchup has slowly started to flow, and right at the end of the commercial the first big drop falls onto the meat. What was for most of us an inconvenience that caused us to lose patience had become a selling point for Heinz. Now, instead of grabbing a knife and poking around in the neck of the bottle hoping to hasten the flow of ketchup, we waited and sang along with the song.  We anticipated  that the thick texture and taste would be worth the wait.

Back in the days when life was slower and harder, and we weren’t so technologically advanced and materialistically minded, there was a greater emphasis placed on the anticipation of Christ’s return in the clouds to call His followers upwards to heaven. But we live in a squeeze bottle world, where everything is being done to make the present experience the most pleasurable in the quickest possible time. Hardship is no longer viewed as a training ground for character but as something to be technologically eliminated. Tough times are no longer valued for the teaching of perseverance, but are despised as an indication of one’s failure to learn the latest self-help principles. We have bought into the evolutionary philosophy that all life is gradually moving towards perfection, and it is within man’s power to produce that perfection.

We have even allowed that philosophy to infiltrate our Christian world view. To many, Jesus is nothing more than a self-help guru. He has become a simple sugar daddy who exists only to make life easier and more satisfying from a worldly perspective. “Solve my problems.” “Make me rich.” “Keep me healthy.” “Give me more…” “Buy me a jet.” These have become the themes of preachers and parishioners in a culture that has lost its anticipation of Christ’s glorious return. Satan has perpetrated a great deception on the Christian church by convincing us that life goes on, and that because Jesus is love, all problems, troubles, trials, hurts and hardships are not of God and to be avoided and quickly solved. We hear evolutionary teaching from our pulpits that appeals to people’s itching ears desiring success and prosperity. Somehow, we have been convinced that God’s plan is for man to perfect this world and his life. Everything about God has been put into a squeeze bottle to be conveniently applied to every situation of our lives, simply to make them better.

I get numerous calls from people in trouble, and they believe that it is my responsibility as a pastor and follower of Christ to solve their problem and release them from the consequences of their own decisions. They believe I am obligated to help them because I represent God to them. What they really believe is that God is obligated to help them and to rescue them. Their spiritual eyes have been darkened to the truth by the deception of Satan. They believe that the flesh can be rescued from the effects of sin without the spirit being transformed from the influence of sin. Unfortunately, many of these people claim to be Christians. More unfortunate is that many Christians also believe that because their spirit has been transformed God is obligated to fix all their problems and remove all consequences of living in the flesh.

My friends, this is a serious issue in the modern church. We have fallen into the deadly trap of teaching the redemption of the body as a present reality. But the fullness of glory will not be fully realized in this life and in this flesh. I also believe that the fullness of glory will not be fully appreciated in heaven if we have not fully experienced the conflict between the flesh and the spirit in this life. That’s not to say that we do not have victory over sin, because we do. The flesh no longer has power over our spirit. But we still live in a corrupt body and in a corrupt world that exerts its corrupt influence on us. That’s why we should be living with an eager anticipation of our Savior’s return, because at that moment our corrupt bodies will be transformed into the likeness of His heavenly body, and we will suffer no more. Every hardship and trial we experience today is a test of our faith to strengthen us and remind us to look ahead with eager anticipation to the day when we will be physically rescued from it all.

Carefully read what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1 – 5, and have a great day of anticipation – maybe Jesus will come back today!

 1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,  3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Pastor John

Enemies of the Cross (part 2)

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, June 22, 2018

Philippians 3:18 – 20a (NIV) 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  20But our citizenship is in heaven.

Yesterday we started digging into the five behaviors that are clearly NOT to be a part of a mature Christian’s life. Here are some more:

Hopeless living. Paul says, Their destiny is destruction.” People who are enemies of the cross live hopeless lives. Jesus described the road on which they travel this way: “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”  (Matthew 7:13)

They appear to be successful and prosperous, but what good is it when they know in their hearts that their souls are being destroyed? How do they know, and why are they so hopeless? Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Every person has the capacity and the need to know and understand eternity, yet without Christ they cannot. They are hopeless. Mature Christians live with hope no matter what the circumstances of life are dictating.

Living to feed the appetites of the flesh. Enemies of the cross have fleshly appetities – their god is their stomach. They are people of pride, seeking to satisfy self. They are covetous, wanting for themselves what they believe has satisfied another. They follow after the lusts of the flesh to fulfill their sensual desires. They are gluttonous, seeking the pleasure of more and finer foods as a means of satisfying some craving for identity and worth. They are jealous of anyone getting attention and believe that through riches and success they can earn the favor of man and satisfy the deep longing in their heart for acceptance. For them, the meaning of life is found only in the satisfaction of the flesh.

Mature Christians live contented lives on earth because our satisfaction is in the acceptance of Jesus Christ, who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 1:24 – 25)

Honoring self for what dishonors God – Enemies of the cross take pride in what is shameful to God – their glory is in their shame. Their opinion of themselves for what they believe in is over-inflated and brings shame to them. They proudly and publicly display their love for evil because it brings them some sense of fleshly fulfillment. They campaign for gay rights, killing babies, and removing Jesus Christ from culture. They believe they are serving the betterment of mankind. They take glory in what they are doing, but it is shameful in the eyes of God.

Mature Christians live God-honoring lives according to God’s principles no matter how politically incorrect society defines them.

Living with their minds set on earthly things. Enemies of the cross fix their thoughts on the ways of the world and how the world can satisfy them. They lay on their beds at night plotting their next pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment. The eyes of their minds have been darkened to spiritual things. David describes such a person this way in Psalms 10:4 – In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Mature Christians live in constant connection with the mind of God. Yes, we can know the thoughts of God – He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name. Amos 4:13

Take inventory of your life, and make sure you are living as a citizen of heaven, not as an enemy of the cross.

Pastor John

Enemies of the Cross

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Philippians 3:18 – 20a (NIV) 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  20But our citizenship is in heaven.

 If we were to take a poll of a group of people and ask them about maturity, what do you think the number one response would be to the question, “How do you know someone is mature?” I think answers involving age would be numerous, but I think the number one response would involve behavior. The reason is that age cannot be regulated, but behavior can be. Age offers opportunity for maturity, but each individual has the freedom to choose whether or not to apply the principles being learned.

Paul describes the behavior of a spiritually mature person – behaving like a citizen of heaven. Paul does not say that citizenship itself is a mark of maturity. That would be like saying a newborn baby is mature, or that a 40-year old naturalized citizen of the United States who still lives with mommy, is unemployed, sits in a Lazy Boy all day watching television, and expects mommy to wait on him, is mature. Citizenship is a privilege primarily granted to those born in a particular country, and with it comes certain rights and responsibilities, which mature citizens take seriously.

Paul describes a contrast that should exist between citizens of the worldly kingdom and citizens of the heavenly kingdom. But that contrast will only be evident if the citizens of heaven are mature. In this case, maturity is clearly linked to behavior, and the spiritually mature citizen of heaven will not behave like a citizen of the world. Paul states five behaviors that are clearly NOT to be a part of a mature Christian’s life. We will deal with the first one today.

Living as an enemy of the cross. I don’t want to believe that any of you are being tempted right now to live as an enemy of Jesus. But then I also don’t have any reason to suspect my neighbors or co-workers of living as enemies of the United States either. Unfortunately, enemies of our country and our faith are living around us. We also, without realizing it, may be enemies of Jesus. We may not be standing on the corner condemning Christianity, but if we are not actively living our faith because we are ashamed or embarrassed to be identified as a follower of Jesus, are we not His enemy? Do you remember the words of Jesus about how we are to live in this world?

34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34 – 38

Mature Christians live as friends of Jesus, and are proud to be called His disciples. They are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The mature Christian does not live under a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of love that comes from a sound mind that knows the victory of the coming King and His kingdom. To the mature Christian, risk never overwhelms the coming rewards. Spiritual maturity corrects our focus from being culture-centered to Kingdom-centered. Risks and danger are minimized in the light of eternal glory. Living a public life for Christ to bring the Gospel to the world involves risk, but the risk never dictates behavior because we are not citizens of this world. Our spiritual citizenship dictates behavior.

Let’s all spend some time today evaluating our behavior, and ask these questions:

  • “What do my choices declare about my citizenship?”
  • “What do others see as the priorities of my life based on my behavior?”
  • “What does my fear level tell me about the placement of my hope?”

Let us not live as enemies of the cross.

Pastor John

Be An Example

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Philippians 3:15 – 17 (NIV) 15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  16Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

So far this week we have learned two things about being spiritually mature from what Paul writes in Philippians 3:15-16.

  1. Bring the pattern of your thinking into agreement with God’s Word, and then put it into practice by living up to what you already know; and
  2. Be patient to let God accomplish His work both in your own life and in the lives of others.

Let’s look at another mark of spiritual maturity in the next verse, which says, 17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  This is a very rich verse. Here’s how it reads in a literal translation of the original Greek: Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me, and specifically take aim at those around you who have patterned their lives after my example. There are two very important lessons we can learn from this passage:

First, we are to humble ourselves and admit that God has surrounded us with brothers and sisters in Christ’s family that are more mature than we are, and that we can learn from them. When Paul says take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you, he uses terminology that clearly defines what should be our mindset in regard to maturity – take aim at it. Make maturity your mandate, and carefully observe and imitate those around you who are making obvious progress.

The body of Christ is so rich with people who have been through the wringer and survived, and they have so much to teach us. There are people who are filled with hope even when life seems hopeless. We have brothers and sisters who overflow with joy even in the toughest of times. We have been blessed with living examples of Christ’s love that continue to serve others even when they are persecuted. There are countless role models of people who sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of reaching people with the Gospel. It’s time for us to take note of them, and take aim at them.

Unfortunately, we have some within the church who have very good aim, but for the wrong reason – they intend to shoot them down. They are convicted of their own shortcomings, and rather than invest the energy into their own maturity, they seek to destroy the maturity of others so they themselves no longer feel inferior. But Paul says that God has specifically placed the mature around us so that we can take aim at them to be like them.

Second, we are to become an example to others. While we have our focus on those ahead of us so that we might grow in maturity, we are to be mindful of those who are behind us and be setting a good example for them to follow. Paul does not make exclusive claim to being the only example to follow. He challenges us to become examples as well. When he tells the Philippian people to take note of those who were following his example, he is stating that there are others who are worthy of imitating. There were those in the church who had patterned their lives after Paul’s example of Christ’s lifestyle. Paul says, I gave you a pattern to live by, and some of you are living the pattern. Let the rest of you take note of them and follow the pattern also. The Greek word translated as pattern is the word used to describe a die that has been cast. Think about the plates that are used to print money. Every bill that passes beneath the plate becomes an exact replica of the plate. Paul says that he is the die that has been cast. He is the printing plate. Let your life become an exact duplicate of mine, because mine is becoming an exact replica of Christ’s.

We should all be able to say that. Our deepest heart’s desire should be to become an exact replica of Jesus Christ, and to let Him use our lives as a printing plate to stamp others with His image.

Two things to remember: first, there are those ahead of you in becoming like Christ – follow them. And second, there are those behind you who are following you – may they find in you a pattern to imitate. Steve Green said it this way in a song:

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

Follow a good example and be a good example – then you are becoming spiritually mature.

Pastor John

Stop Comparing!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Philippians 3:15  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

I have a tendency towards competitiveness. Some of you have just verbally addressed your screen and said, “That’s an understatement!” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with competition, there are times when it is wrong to be competitive. I have discovered the truth of that in grandchildren. I have eleven of them, and each one of them is the greatest grandchild in the world. It all depends on which one I am holding at the time I make my assessment. But each one of them is so different, and each one has developed skills and abilities at a different pace. Some crawled, and one never did. Some walked early, while one waited a long time. But that same one who wouldn’t crawl has an incredible ear for music and at age 2 could carry a tune. Each child is unique and gifted by God with certain skills and abilities that are not a competition with siblings or cousins, but are an expression of God’s great diversity. In His time, He will complete the work that was started at fertilization, and the timing will be for His glory.

We need to apply that principle to our relationships with people within God’s family. In Philippians 3:15, Paul urges all of us on to maturity, but then offers us the grace of God to grow at different paces. Notice I did not say to grow at our own pace. It would be tragic to turn over the ultimate control of our growth to ourselves. I know for myself it would be horrible. I know how easily distracted from long-term goals I get with the urgency of the immediate. If the process of spiritual maturity were left up to me, I would be equally distracted by the world’s influence. If not for the constant influence of God the Father on my life to push me toward the goal, and His loving discipline in my life when I get off track, I would be living the life of a junior high student all the time. The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way:

Hebrews 12:7 – 11 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness…it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

However, we don’t always recognize the hand of God shaping our lives. Think about it…God is constantly at work to complete the work He started in you when you were born again. You are growing, and God is shaping you and molding you into a vessel of His choosing to accomplish a glorious and eternal purpose. Praise God!

There are two lessons for us to grab a hold of in Paul’s incredible statement, “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

First, we are not to compare our growth with someone else’s growth. Our flesh seems to manifest itself in a competitive spirit which draws us into a comparison game with others. I see that sometimes in parents. When a child has accomplished something of significance, there is a tendency towards one-ups-man-ship with other parents. We can’t wait to tell a better story to bring more attention to our kids.

We tend to do the same with each other in the body of Christ, with an added deadly twist: we don’t just listen to their stories and then try to tell a better one, but we seem to have perfected the sin of finding fault with others to make our story better. It would be terrible to hear one of my children putting down one of their nieces or nephews just to make their child look better. How shameful that would be! Yet we do that to one another within the body of Christ. How shameful that is! When you want to know your current growth status, compare yourself to Christ, not to others.

Second, God is in control of each person’s growth. As a parent or grandparent, it is hurtful to require every child to learn new things at the same rate, and to judge their value based on their accomplishments. This especially applies to my ministry as a Pastor. I agonize at times over the people who just don’t seem to grow up and who don’t apply what they are learning. But then I remember Who’s in control of their growth. Just as each grandchild is developing different skills and developing some of the same skills on different timetables, so God has a unique skill set and timetable for each of His children, and He will not fail to complete His work. I know I need to let go and trust God with the outcome. How about you?

So, as mature believers, what can we do to help others grow?

  • First, surrender control of the outcome to God and acknowledge His control over their life.
  • Second, pray for them diligently.
  • Third, encourage them to listen to what God is saying.
  • Fourth, encourage them to observe what God is doing to shape their lives.
  • Fifth, keep encouraging them to grow.

It is the prize at the end of the race that motivates us. It is hope that makes us strong and gives us perseverance. All immature Christians need encouragement to press on towards the prize. Criticism and punishment don’t motivate. Be an encourager. God will make it clear to them in His time!

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 18, 2018

Philippians 3:15  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

In the summer of 1980, one year after the birth of my second child, I was actively pursuing all my sporting interests. I was playing golf two to three times a week, I was playing center field for the local amateur baseball team, and I was spending all of my “spare” time in my boat fishing.

The baseball team required two nights per week for practice plus one game per week. I was at one of those practices when God used my wife to get my attention about my priorities. As I stood in center field while several guys took batting practice, I saw my wife walk through the stadium gate pushing a baby stroller while holding the hand of our oldest child. My first thought was that she had brought our daughter down to watch daddy practice, but I was soon to discover that was not the case. She motioned for me to come over to her, and she said something very scary to me: “If you don’t start to spend time with your family and come home right now, I will not be there when you get home.”

Talk about a wake-up call. I signaled to my coach that I had to leave, and I followed my family home and we had a long talk. I made some important decisions that day. I never played another baseball game.

I learned a valuable lesson about maturity. It is the lesson Paul gives us in today’s Scripture passage: true maturity is to see and do things God’s way. To see them God’s way is not enough. I had all the knowledge of what a good family was supposed to be like. I had stated my vows clearly to my wife on the day of our wedding. I had made all kinds of promises about putting my family first…but I wasn’t doing it. I was not serving them. I was serving myself. I had continued to pursue all the things I had valued about my life prior to marriage. I gave no indication to my wife that I considered everything rubbish compared to the greatness of knowing and loving her and my children. I was very immature.

True maturity comes when we bring our knowledge and our actions into agreement with God. Go back and review what Paul wrote and take notice of the balance between knowledge and action in the life of a true disciple of Jesus. All the references to knowledge are in green, and all the references to action are in red.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

There’s perfect balance – there are seven of each. When Paul says, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things,” he means that we understand that balance. For far too long I lived only on the mental side of marriage, and it was a perfect picture of my spiritual life as well. It may be of yours, also. We have lots of knowledge about God and Jesus and the Bible, but is there a mature balance of application? Are we really putting into practice what we know? How can we claim to be in agreement with God when we don’t live according to what He says?

We know in our hearts how true this is, because the Holy Spirit is convicting us. He is convincing us that it is time to live no longer under the tyrannical rule of the flesh. He is revealing to us the way to be free – free from the guilt and shame of a double standard. Surrender to His work in your heart. Bring peace to your mind by bringing your actions into agreement with God.

Be mature!

Pastor John