God’s Time

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, August 31, 2018

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

WARNING! Do not read this devotional if you love your time.

This sounds an awful lot like yesterday. Let me explain. The context of Philippians 4:19 is that God will meet all our basic needs if we give Him the priority position in our financial management. But the principle of sowing and reaping applies to other areas than just money. What if we applied yesterday’s excuses people use to avoid giving money to the Lord to our decisions about using our time to serve the Lord?

  1. “If God would give me more time I would give Him more time.” We are so busy in our fast-paced world. I think everyone should be required to take a trip to a third world country where there is limited access to television, movies, internet, golf courses, summer sports leagues, lakes, and campgrounds. If you are brave enough, do an inventory for the next seven days of all the time you spend watching TV, movies, or getting involved in some form of recreation or entertainment. Compare that to how much time you spent intentionally doing the work of Jesus to reach your community with the saving message of His love and forgiveness. Then ask, “Is my Savior and Lord satisfied with my commitment to Him?”
  2. “But I have to take care of my own needs first, and that takes almost all of my time.” Maybe we need to reevaluate our priorities. Have we allowed selfishness to infiltrate our time management decision making process? We tend to give God only the leftover time we have, and usually there’s none left after we spend it all on us. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing and spending time refreshing yourself – Jesus did it. Life is about balance, but when a 2-hour commitment to a life group or Bible study each week cannot be fit into our “busy” schedule, then our lives are not balanced, are they?
  3. “When I get more organized and my calendar cleared, then I will give more time to the Lord.” We will never get our calendars cleared so long as we manage our time that way. We may get our current issues solved, but without a change our belief system it will keep happening. We will continue to add more things to our schedule and stay just as busy, unless we choose to make every minute God’s first. At some point we must take a step of faith to put God first in our calendar and build the rest of our schedule around serving Him. Don’t give Him what’s left – give Him what’s right, and that is your best!
  4. “But there have been so many unexpected demands on me lately.” Really? Is God the God of the good times but not the bad? God is ALWAYS God, and ALWAYS good. He is working even in the unexpected.  I understand interruptions. I bet I have more of them than any of you. But no interruption changes my commitment or my priorities. The real issue here is not inconveniences that interfere with our schedule, but about commitment to a cause that never changes even if we are interrupted. Don’t wait until you have more time to commit to something, because you never will have more time. Realize that the time you have is spent according to your chosen commitments. Make Christ and His purpose your first commitment.
  5. “I’ll gladly give more time if it means I will have more for myself.” Major “Oops!” Selfishness has once again reared its ugly head. Serving that demands more for self is totally wrong. God honors people who serve sacrificially expecting nothing in return. In our minds it is so hard to separate this because we know that He also promised to bless us if we serve. But we must remember that He only blesses serving if it is done from a pure heart that demands no return on the investment. Serving God is a product of our love for Him, not a tool to get more from God. The true test of a servant’s heart is their commitment to the Master and their willingness to do whatever He asks no matter what the cost or commitment.

Well, there’s another load to chew on today. Here’s the heart of what I am teaching: that everyone who is a disciple of Jesus would use their spiritual gifts and abilities to serve Jesus wholeheartedly.

Are you?

Pastor John

God’s Resources

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 WARNING! Do not read this devotional if you love your money.

God’s eternal principle of financial management is this – “Do my work and I will pay the bills.” However, the world’s principle of financial management says, “Work harder for me so I can have more to spend on me.”

That last statement sounds so selfish that we would never consider that it defines our own life. But I want to challenge that defense mechanism. Please consider the following statements that I have heard over the years as people make excuses for their financial decisions.

  1. “If God would give me more money I would give Him more money.” First of all, it’s not God’s fault that you don’t have more money, so stop blaming Him. God has promised to meet all your needs if you are seeking His purpose. However, we have changed the definition of need to be self-serving, not God-serving. The foundational principle of God’s Kingdom is this – “Whatever you sow is what you will reap.” Give God a greater portion of what you have already and then He will trust you to manage more.
  2. “But I have to take care of my own needs first, and that takes everything I have.” For many years I have done counseling for people who are in a financial crisis, and I have yet to find one of them that was not able to give to the Lord if they made better decisions about how to manage their money.  I am amazed at the ways people have tried to justify their spending habits. I have seen people who are emotionally addicted to buying and I have helped people who simply never learned good money management skills. But the one common flaw in all their thinking is this – Take care of my own needs first and then if there is something left, give it to God. Guess what? There’s usually nothing left to give to God, and there’s usually not enough to satisfy every desire they have for themselves.
  3. “When I get out of debt, then I will give to the Lord.” Believe me when I tell you that you will never get out of debt so long as you manage your money that way. You may get your current bills paid, but you will never change your belief system that has you convinced that every dollar you have is for you. You will continue to buy more stuff and incur more debt. At some point you must take a step of faith to put God to the test and ask Him to provide for you. Do you remember the poor widow that Jesus used as an example in Mark 12:41 – 44?
    1. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  

This woman knew what it was to manage her money with God as the priority and with faith in His ability to provide for her. She knew the principle of Philippians 4:19 and Matthew 6:33, and she lived it.

  1. “But there have been so many unexpected expenses and emergencies lately.” Really? Is God the God of the good times but not the bad? God is ALWAYS God, and ALWAYS good. He is working even in the tough times to bring the blessing of character development to us. The people in the prophet Malachi’s day tried to take away from God to meet their own needs, and God said this – “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” 
  2. “I’ll gladly give more if it means I can get more.” Major “Oops!” Selfishness has once again reared its ugly head. Giving that demands more for self is totally wrong. God honors people who give sacrificially expecting nothing in return. In our minds it is so hard to separate this because we know that He also promised to bless us if we give. But we must remember that He only blesses giving if it is done from a pure heart that demands no return on the investment. Paul commended the people in Philippi for their gifts because they gave themselves to the Lord first.

Let me encourage you with a story of sacrificial giving. While I was eating lunch after the funeral for a 5-month old baby that died, I was approached by a young woman. She asked me if the family had insurance to cover the funeral expenses. I told her they might not, and they were waiting to hear from their health insurance company. She then said this – “I have an open checkbook, and whatever the need I will meet it.” I told her that it may be several thousand dollars, and she said, “No problem!”

The parents of the baby girl are the benefactors of God’s promise in Matthew 6:33. Those parents had prioritized their lives around serving Jesus Christ – they are CRU missionaries.  God met all of their needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus, thanks to a sister in Christ who also decided to put the kingdom of God first in her personal finances.

Imagine what God could do in the local church if we all managed our money that way.

Pastor John

God’s Garden

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Philippians 4:18 – 19  I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

We must not give up hope that all people have a desire to know that they please God. For most people, that desire has been crushed and buried under a load of socially fertilized dirt, so what is visible growing in their lives are the plants and trees of fleshly desires and self-serving motivations.

But in the fall and winter seasons of life, when the leaves have fallen off their trees and they sit in the barrenness of their garden searching their soul for the true meaning of life, they discover a place where life seems to make sense. They start digging down through the years of dirt that they have piled onto themselves by their sinful choices. When they reach what appears to be the bottom they discover a packet of seeds called Truth waiting to be planted. Looking around, they find that they are in a new garden that has already been prepared by Someone. The soil is rich and fertile and there is plenty of water. The light appears brighter than any sun they have seen before.

There is a Man standing in the garden who appears to be the Gardener. He instructs them to pick up the seeds of Truth and by faith plant them in the soil He has prepared. When they do, the Gardener begins to water them and they immediately begin to grow. The Gardener instructs them to let Him do all the work in the garden and simply rest from all their work.

A peace that transcends their understanding overwhelms them. As the seeds grow in this newly discovered garden of peace they produce plants and trees that do not lose their leaves nor go dormant after producing a harvest. These plants continue to bloom and produce their fruit year-round, even during seasons of cold and darkness. It seems that the weather and circumstances of life do not affect the growth of the plants and trees. There is always a place of rest and security under the shadow of the Almighty Oak.

Life totally changes for the people who dig deep enough through the dirt of their lives to discover the garden of God. No longer will they allow social fertilizer to be dumped on their soil because they understand it poisons the growth. They have allowed no space in their garden to plant the seeds of sin because they know that the plants and trees produced by sin will choke out the life-giving plants growing there. This would force the Gardener to turn the work over to us, bringing back the long winter seasons of dormancy and drought with no harvest.

People who chose to live under the direction of the Gardener have discovered a wonderful secret in their new garden. Previously, they protected what they thought they had for fear of losing it. They built fences around their gardens to keep others out and kept all they produced for themselves. But in this new garden it seems that the more they harvest and give away, the more they produce. The Gardener has given them the right to take anything they want from the garden so long as it is used to benefit others. As soon as it is harvested and given away the Gardener plants more seed and makes that place more fertile to produce an even bigger harvest. The Gardener is pleased and overjoyed to do manage His garden according to this principle.  Out of the abundance of good that now grows they continually harvest gifts of love to be shared with others. This results in the multiplication of plants and trees so that they never lack for anything.

They also find that the more they open their garden to visitors, the healthier and larger their garden becomes. The Gardener expands the size and productivity of the garden to accommodate all the needs of the visitors.

People who live in such a garden introduce every visitor to the Gardener. The visitors are given their own packet of seeds of Truth and shown how to discover their own garden in which to plant them. This pleases the Gardener even more, so more visitors are invited into their garden and more seeds are provided for planting. It seems that the supply of seeds never diminishes, and the Gardener never tires of preparing soil. This motivates the people to not grow weary in well-doing and to continue to invite visitors into their gardens and show them how to plant the seeds.

Life is good in the garden of God. Storms come, but the Almighty Oak still stands. Darkness surrounds the garden at times, but nothing extinguishes the light of the Gardener. Circumstances that would have wiped out crops in the garden of self have no effect on the harvest of righteousness in the garden of God. Storage units that once held barely enough to provide for personal needs are now overflowing with provisions to meet the needs of all who come to the garden for help.

Many who come to visit are still living in the garden of self and can’t make sense of life. The people who have found God’s garden have found the real meaning of life. They love visitors, because they know the Gardener’s greatest joy comes from planting new gardens.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Philippians 4:14-17  Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

We all love good news. However, we tend to qualify news as good or bad based on how it benefits or hurts us. I have been challenged by this passage in Philippians to consider that news about what God is doing for others should have a deeper impact on my life.

Several years ago, people from our church responded to the needs of a young couple who lost a five-month old daughter to a serious heart condition. I saw them volunteer their time and resources to provide food and service for a meal to feed 300 people following the memorial service. One couple single-handedly furnished all the meat and potato salad. Then I watched as people responded to a request to help send this couple on a healing trip to Florida to be ministered to by another family that experienced a similar loss recently. Three people came forward to donate their frequent flier miles for the plane tickets. Two people were willing to pay for up to two nights each in a hotel. Cash gifts were received to help with meals. By the time they left the entire trip was paid for.

Let’s compare our response to news items that benefit us to news items that benefit others. Which one brings more joy to our hearts?  There will be joy for both, but why do we still find more joy in what we receive than in what God is doing in the lives of others?

That’s the context of Paul’s teaching today. The fleeting happiness we feel when we receive a blessing is not worthy to be compared to the joy that God brings when we sacrificially give to others. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

True joy comes from being a part of the caring fellowship of God’s people who love one another sincerely and deeply.  James wrote about that in his epistle and said, “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.” The Father grants us the greatest measure of joy when we do his greatest work, which is to care for the hurting and needy people around us by sharing what we have with them.

Paul commends the people at Philippi for their generous spirits. Again and again they gave, and according to 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 5, they gave not from a position of prosperity but one of poverty. Paul says, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”

What makes this kind of giving possible? Paul says it’s because the people had given themselves to the Lord first, and then they had given themselves to Paul’s ministry. The reason the Philippian people shared so much was because they had first determined to care so much.

It is the caring and compassionate heart of Jesus that makes sacrificial giving possible. There is a huge difference between the joy that is experienced by giving out of our surplus and the joy we experience when we make a sacrifice on behalf of another person.

That’s what Paul means in Philippians 4:17 when he says “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.”  Paul cared more about the heart of the people than he did the size of the gift. Paul knew that true joy in receiving comes not from the gift but from the heart of the giver. The caring that results in sharing is what is credited to our heavenly account, not the actual gift.

That’s what I saw in our church – God’s people caring deeply, then sacrificially giving to meet the needs of another person.

When I called the husband of the couple to inform him of how God’s people had responded, he broke down on the phone. He couldn’t believe that from our congregation, in addition to all the money that is currently being given to fund our church’s ministries and building project, that people would give so generously. He knows that we are not rich according to the world’s standards of financial wealth, but he now knows that we are rich in our love for Jesus Christ and for our brothers and sisters in the family of God.

The value of any gift cannot compare to the value of the giver when their heart is committed to Jesus Christ and expressing His love to others. That’s what fills me with the greatest joy – to watch God’s heart come through people as they care for others.

Keep it up!

Pastor John

God’s Strength to Be Content

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 27, 2018

Philippians 4:11-13 … for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 is one of the top ten quoted Bible verses in Christianity. I learned it as a young boy in the King James Version – “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We have been taught to apply it to just about every situation we have been in that has brought us hardship, trouble, challenge, and risk. Whenever we are asked to step out of our comfort zones we use the encouragement of God’s strength found in this verse.

But the one area of life that receives minimal, if any, application of the truth of this verse is the very context of Paul’s application when he wrote it. He was speaking specifically about learning contentment with our current financial position.

Our materialistic society has so influenced us that we have lost the concept of contentment. Instead we work harder so we can spend more on ourselves and improve our standard of living. The Christian church of our western civilization is generally not content, and we have prioritized possessions above the purpose of Jesus Christ, which will always be to seek and to save the lost at any cost.

I once heard a touching story about a poor woman with two children. They had no beds, and very few clothes. In the middle of winter, the house they rented was cold and drafty. The mother took the door off the cellar and set it up across the corner where they crouched to sleep, so that some of the draft and cold would be blocked. When the mother complained about their conditions, one of the children whispered to her, “Mom, what do other children do who don’t have a cellar door to put up in front of them?”

Jesus had much to say to us about contentment and not focusing on things. When Jesus had been in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights without food, He must have been extremely hungry when Satan approached Him! He said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus did not respond to this temptation, so Satan attempted to touch His pride. When that failed, Satan “upped the ante” and offered Jesus greater things than food; He offered the world. He said, “All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

With this statement, Satan finally arrived at the real issue for all of us: “Fall down and worship me.” When sin is stripped of its glamour and laid bare, it’s true nature is revealed. Sin is the dethroning of God to make things, (living or non-living), a god in our life.

Satan can offer you only things; nothing more. But things cannot bring true life and peace. But we are foolish. We look for life and peace in things. But Jesus says that we can have life and peace and joy with or without things. Contentment is the product of faith and trust in the provision of God to meet all our needs. Jesus makes each one of us an incredible and unmatchable offer – perfect peace as a result of pursuing Christ’s purpose.

Paul accepted what Jesus had to offer and said of himself, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Things are not the secret and cannot bring life and happiness, because they are temporary. Only a foolish person spends his life acquiring temporary things while neglecting the eternal life Jesus offers.

Jesus once told of such a man. The man acquired so many things that he had to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. With a sigh of relief, he said, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry.”  But God said of him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

We continue to buy into the “buy happiness” philosophy of our culture. We spend far too much of God’s resources that He has entrusted to us on things that we are convinced will bring us more social status, security, and satisfaction. God has made us rich according to the standards of the rest of the world so that we can build His kingdom, not ours. If our day-by-day life is consumed by acquiring things, we have accepted the lie of Satan that somehow things will fulfill our life. Why do we strive to build treasures for ourselves in this life when all of them will be destroyed, and only what has been stored as a treasure in heaven will last? Why do we work so hard and spend so much to impress our neighbors and improve our earthly status when those same neighbors are dying inside to know that Jesus will save them? What kind of witness to eternal life are we being when we spend so much on this temporary life?

The secret to contentment is this – no matter what our situation or condition, we can know the strength of God to endure it if we are committed to the cause of Christ. This means not only in word and thought, but in activity as well. Of what value is a declared commitment to Christ if there is no determination to do the work of Christ?

Only fools say they believe but don’t act on it.

Be content!

Pastor John

Personal Contact Needed!

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Philippians 4:10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

Think about the last time you got an unexpected card or phone call from a friend.  Do you remember how it encouraged you and made you feel refreshed? It’s a wonderful feeling to know that someone took a few moments out of their busy day to think of you. It’s great to know people care.

The Apostle Paul is in prison while he is writing this letter to the church at Philippi, and one of the reasons he is writing is to thank them for caring for him. When Paul first met the people who became the core group of this church, they had shown the caring nature of their hearts by giving financial support to him for his missionary journey. When Paul traveled around planting churches it was not easy to stay in touch with the people back in Philippi. He had no phone, no email, and no public mail service. By the time a personal messenger would get a letter back to the church he would probably be gone to another city. The church had no way of continuing their support for him. But as soon as they heard that Paul was confined to prison, they knew they had the time to get to him. They collected another offering and sent a messenger to deliver to him a wonderful gift of love. It is that expression of caring that Paul refers to in today’s Scripture passage.

How wonderful Paul must have felt the day the messenger arrived with the letter and the gift from the people whom he loved so dearly. He tells us that he rejoiced greatly.

I wonder what Paul had been thinking during the time he had not heard from them? I know what I would probably be thinking. “What have I done wrong that they don’t ever call me?” “Why are my friends deserting me?” “I guess I’m not worth really caring about?”

Can you relate to those feelings? I’m sure we have all felt rejected at times. But what I really wonder is, “How many people am I making feel that way because I haven’t contacted them?” It’s easy for us to go into self-pity when we feel rejected or alone, but it takes work to be the one who initiates the care-giving.

Paul makes it clear that he trusted the heart of the people of Philippi when he says, “Indeed, you have been concerned.” He knows that the physical expression of that concern was limited by distance and lack of technology. But as soon as they had an opportunity to show their concern they showed it.

I wonder how many of us are missing opportunities right now to show how much we care to another person. Are we up to date on our email responses to people? Have we sent cards to the people we know are hurting and in need?  And what about those people that we have been trying to avoid that God’s Spirit has suddenly put in our minds? Are we willing to show anyone and everyone that we really care and have the heart of Jesus?

Take some time today, instead of watching TV or posting to Facebook, to make a personal contact with someone who will rejoice greatly that you called. And if you can’t think of anyone – call me. Not only will I be overjoyed to hear from you, but I can make some suggestions of people who could use a little encouragement right now. The opportunities abound. All that is needed is a caring heart. Do you have one?

Pastor John

Be An Example

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Philippians 4:9a Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 

Today’s challenge from the Apostle Paul is rich with significance, both for our personal growth and for the relational life we experience in the church.

First, we have a beautiful picture of how growth takes place through the intimacy of Godly relationships. At first it may sound rather arrogant of Paul to set himself up as the example to the believers, but I don’t believe pride motivated him to do it. When he mentored young Timothy for the ministry he said to him, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 

One of the greatest benefits of being a part of a local church is that there are people of deep spiritual maturity who by their example can help us grow in our own walk with Jesus.

Paul says that there are four ways that we grow from such relationships:

  1. We learn – this means much more than just having a basic knowledge of the facts – it means to come to a complete understanding of the facts so that we come into agreement with them. Knowledge becomes the lens through which we look at the world and our lives. We adopt the principles and philosophies as our own, and they dictate our decisions and our motivations.
  2. We receive –growth Paul happens only through close intimate fellowship with another person. Jesus used this word when He said to us, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you unto myself, that you also may be where I am.” I’m sure you have heard the old saying, “It’s not what is taught, but what is caught that matters most.” However, nothing can be caught if we are not in catching range, and that requires personal contact and intimacy like Christ had with His disciples.
  3. We hear – we grow by listening.
  4. We see – we observe how others put their knowledge into practice.

According to the original grammatical structure of the verse, each of these growth principles are cumulative in their effect on us. First, we learn to learn. Second, we learn the value system produced by the knowledge. Third, we listen for new knowledge that enhances our value system. Then, through observation of others who are living by that knowledge, we learn to put into practice what we know.

When we understand God’s pattern of growth, then consistent commitment to relationships within the body of Christ become important to us. It is imperative that we are dedicated to our local church so we are constantly stimulated to grow and by our growth we are stimulating others to grow.

Second, unless we put what we have learned into practice, we are fools. Jesus spoke to that issue in Matthew 7 when He told the story of the wise and foolish builders who chose to build on either rock or sand.

There is an eternal chasm between two plateaus of truth that cannot be crossed by human effort.

On the one side are the people who claim to know Jesus but are still living by the mandates of their own will. Their knowledge of God has not changed their nature or their desires.

On the other side are those people who have been transformed by their knowledge of Jesus because they trust Him and have surrendered their will to the will of the Father. Their knowledge of God has become their value system by which they live and make their choices.

Those who have built the houses of their lives on the first plateau will be washed away, while those who have built their lives on the second plateau will stand for all eternity.

Whatever you have learned, received, heard, or seen in Jesus Christ – put it into practice or it is of no value!

The final thing I am challenged with in this passage is that we are called to be examples of these principles to others. This is very convicting.

  • Are others able to grow in Christ because of their relationship with me?
  • Do they learn to learn because they see the integrity of my understanding?
  • Do they catch the value system of a Godly life because of the integrity of my values?
  • Do they have reason to listen to what I say because I am a trustworthy messenger who lives what I teach?
  • Do they see in me the living reality of the transforming power of the truth?

It would be easy to disqualify myself at any of those points if I listened to Satan as he attempts to beat me down, but I will not! Nor should you! We have all been given the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, and Jesus calls us all to be examples to others of how to live that life today.

Don’t let Satan keep you focused on how you’re not living it, but allow Jesus to encourage you to live according to the measure of faith that you have today. Your growth will happen, and you will be used by God to bring growth to others.

Pastor John

Look for the Good

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, if anything is praiseworthy…think about such things.

In the last few days I have had two communications with people who have chosen not to attend our church. They are new to the community, and they came for a while, but now they have chosen to become a part of a different fellowship. As I talked to them I asked them what influenced their decision, and they told me. The reasons from both couples were the same. After hearing them I was discouraged, and I immediately went into my faulty fleshly response of finding a solution. I needed to fix the problem in an attempt to change their minds. This morning, when I began to study for this devotional, I was deeply convicted because I had not spent any time telling either of those couples how glad I was that God had led them to a place where they could serve Jesus Christ effectively. I was so wrapped up in my “loss” that I forgot to praise God for His gain. My flesh had won the day.

I am frustrated with myself. I am angry that my flesh, primarily manifested in my pride, continues to influence my thinking, especially about people.  Maybe you can relate.  We get so busy trying to implement our plans, get our work done, achieve our goals, and live our lives, that we alienate other people who don’t enhance what we’re doing. If someone doesn’t agree with us or makes suggestions for change we find fault with them.

We may keep it to ourselves and form a lasting opinion of them, or we may talk about them to others in disrespectful conversation. We believe such people are detrimental to our cause and we may completely push them aside. We take it personally when someone rejects what we are doing and has other ideas.

Our pride has convinced us that our way is the best way, which soon becomes the only way. Our pride then reinforces our position, all the while belittling the other person, and we destroy any opportunity we had to build a meaningful relationship. We very quickly lose any motivation to find good in the other person. Our only motivation is self, and all we really want from life is to achieve our personal agenda and its goals.

The last item that the Apostle Paul mentions in Philippians 4:8 in his list of things that are to transform our thinking and behavior is this – look for what is praiseworthy in another person. I remember what my mom used to tell me when I was young – “If you can’t find anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” That may be good for a young child, but as we mature we had better learn to find nice things to say about others.

The only people we should be talking about are those that we know well enough to know what is praiseworthy about them. If we don’t know them well enough to know their good qualities, what gives us the right to talk about their bad qualities? And even if we do recognize praiseworthy things about them, it does not validate our talking to others about what’s wrong with them. We have been duped by our pride into believing that we are somehow helping them by telling others what’s wrong with them. Gossip and defamation of character is never acceptable to God.

What is acceptable to God is for us to think about what is praiseworthy in other people. We must intentionally look for the good in others.

When the Apostle Paul got saved and moved from persecuting the Christians to promoting Christ, God sent a man named Ananias to him to pray over him and bring healing to his blindness. Ananias immediately makes excuses and began to tell God all about the horrible things he has heard about this man. But the Lord tells Ananias to look at Paul in a new way – from the perspective of his Savior. Ananias obeys. Later, when Paul is heading into Jerusalem to join the disciples, they were all afraid of him. But a man named Barnabas came to Paul’s defense and convinced everyone that he was truly a follower of Jesus.

The natural response of our flesh is to fear people with bad reputations. Pride finds fault with others as a defense mechanism to protect our self-image. But when our thinking is conformed to the nature and character of Christ, we will look for what is praiseworthy in others.

Jesus told Ananias to change his thinking. Barnabas had already learned to think correctly. I am still learning. How about you? Let’s agree that beginning today, we will magnify the good in others and minimize the bad. We will be people who focus on the praiseworthy.

Pastor John

Promote the Excellence of People

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 20, 2018

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, if anything is excellent…think about such things.

2 Peter 1:3  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

Let’s review. So far in Philippians 4:8 Paul has mentioned six things we are to be thinking about so that our lives are in line with the nature and character of God. As Paul lists each of those things, he uses the exact same phrase in each case – whatever. I’ve heard that word used a lot by the youth of our culture, but it seems to have a different context. It is usually used as an expression of disgust and disagreement. When someone is done discussing something and it appears they are not going to get their way, they end the conversation by saying emphatically, “Whatever!”

If I were to meet you personally today and tell you that I thought there was one of these six areas that was not being fully developed in your life, and you were not ready to listen to me, you would probably end the discussion by turning away and saying, “Whatever!” How ironic that the very word that means to open one’s mind to consider every item and option is now being used to express a closed mind that will not consider alternatives.

When Paul uses the word, he means we are to look for absolutely anything and everything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable. Then, in the middle of his sentence, he changes his emphasis from whatever to if anything. Why the switch? Why couldn’t he just go on saying whatever is excellent and whatever is worthy of praise?

I don’t think he changed just because he was tired of writing whatever. The reason is that Paul’s perspective changes from challenging us to think about the value of things and people’s actions, to thinking about the intrinsic value of a person.  When he uses the word whatever he is referring to things, which includes the actions of people. When he changes his word to if any, he brings the focus onto the very nature and character of a person.

Some translations state it this way – if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise. Why is this so important? Because God looks at the heart of people to validate their actions, so we need to look at people in the same way. Our thinking process needs to be more like Christ by moving from the things people do to the realm of the real heart of a person.

Paul states that the first thing about a person that we should consider is their excellence. The word excellent means manliness. Ladies, that is not to say that only men can be excellent. But in this context, excellence is illustrated by the use of a word that literally means the valor and strength of a man. It refers to the very nature of a man who is born to conquer.

Peter uses this word in our other Scripture reference above when he tells us we have been called to God’s own glory and excellence. The glory and excellence of God are first and foremost His nature and character, not His activity. That is to be how we think about other people as well.  It is obviously important for us to think about the actions of people, or Paul would not have listed the first 6 items as things to think about. But now he sets two items apart from the rest and emphasizes them as most important, and they both refer to the nature and character of the person. When our thinking is truly conformed to the way God thinks about people, we will be more interested in who they are than what they are able to do.

Unfortunately, it seems to be so easy for us within the community of Christ to look at the flaws and failures of people before we consider their excellence. As our thinking is transformed to reflect the nature and character of God, we will become more sensitive to the virtues of people and less offended by their weaknesses.

Every one of us has been given divine power to live life with Godly excellence. We have each been given unique gifts to complement our natural personalities so that the expression of God’s glory is as diversified as God Himself. It is our privilege as followers of Christ to focus our thoughts on the unique ways the glory and excellence of God are being expressed in one another’s lives. I suspect that our natural tendency to look at the flaws and failures of others is based on our need to validate our own lives by bringing others into conformity with ourselves. We have not been called to conform to one another, but to the glory and excellence of Christ.

So, if there is any excellence in another person’s nature and character, we are to think about that and not the negative. The highest form of God-like thinking is to dwell on the glory and excellence of God in a person rather than on their actions. You know what? Every person who is in Christ has the glory and excellence of God in them. So think about those things.

Pastor John


“Well Done”

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, August 17, 2018

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is admirable…think about such things.

Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!”

The Apostle Paul says that we are to conform our thinking and our behavior after the pattern of Christ, and the specific challenge today is that we are to think only about those things that are admirable. Like yesterday, the word Paul uses appears only here in the entire New Testament. It is a compound word that is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as good report. It literally means to speak auspiciously of another person.

One part of the word is used to describe the growing popularity of Jesus in His early ministry when Luke says that a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.  But all reports may not be about things that are admirable. Every day we hear reports of bad news. As Christians this should not cause us alarm. We are reminded in Psalm 112:7 that a righteous man will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. We have a wonderful privilege of choosing to focus our minds on things which are admirable rather than things which are of bad report, because we trust in the God of infinite power and good. Nothing of bad report can change the final good report that will be issued when Jesus returns and takes us all to glory.

The other part of the word Paul uses here in Philippians 4:8 is used by Jesus when He commends the faithful servants who invested their talents well and produced a commendable return for the Master. Jesus is describing the Kingdom of God in parable form. He tells the disciples that the citizens of the Kingdom will each be given specific talents, skills, and abilities. They are to use them to serve the Master and bring growth to the Kingdom. Two of the men in the parable do just that, and the Master praises them with the words,Well done, good and faithful servant!” The third servant in the story hides his gifts. His intention is to protect what he has and return to the Master only what he was given. He is condemned in front of all the others as wicked and lazy.

Each man in the story had a report issued about his life. Two reports were good, and one was bad. Good reports are admirable: bad reports are not.

What kinds of reports are being made about our lives? We could probably spend a lot of time looking at a variety of personal issues:

  1. What kind of report is the Master compiling about how I use my finances?
  2. What kind of report is the Master compiling about my work ethic?
  3. What kind of report is the Master compiling about my language and how I speak of others?
  4. What kind of report is the Master compiling about how I treat my spouse or my family?
  5. What kind of report is the Master compiling about my sexual preferences and purity?
  6. What kind of report is the Master compiling about my honesty and personal character?
  7. What kind of report is the Master compiling about the priorities of my life?
  8. What kind of report is the Master compiling about my commitment to His kingdom purposes above all else in my life?

It is this last issue that I want to specifically address for a brief moment. Each of us as born-again followers of Jesus Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and is equipped for specific tasks in the local church. We have been given talents, skills, abilities, and resources to invest primarily in the growth of the Kingdom. When the Master returns we will each have to give a report to Him of how our investments turned out. What will your report be? Are you using your gifts to serve Jesus Christ admirably? If He were to return today would His report about you be, “Well done!”?

I think for many of you it would be. You serve faithfully and humbly. You give generously and sacrificially. You have prioritized your lives around the things of God and you have remained faithful by sacrificing your personal goals for the sake of Christ’s goals. I praise God for His work in your life to accomplish that.

But for some, there is still a very selfish nature to the faith. God is a part of life, but He is not yet your whole life. You serve Him when it is convenient and comfortable, but the word sacrifice cannot yet be used in the report of your life. The report of your life is not yet admirable.

But it’s not too late. Start today. Be willing to invest every part of your life into the cause of Christ. Deep inside of you there is a still small voice that speaks to you. You can hear it right now, can’t you? It is the Holy Spirit graciously reminding you of the glory you could receive one day when Jesus says, “Well done!” That day is worth far more to you than anything you can accomplish for yourself today. Listen to Him and obey Him. Start thinking about what is admirable, and live your life in such a way that you are assured of Christ’s good report.

Pastor John