Friendship with God

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 28, 2018

John 15:13-15  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus continually challenged the world’s perspective on life. After thousands of years of misdirection, it needed to be challenged. Jesus literally turned the world upside down with his principles.

“Thou shalt not murder” became “Don’t even hate.”

“Don’t commit adultery” became “Don’t even look longingly.”

“Get ahead and be first” became “Help others get ahead by serving them.”

Jesus was constantly challenging us to think from the perspective of His kingdom and not ours.

One of the ways he shakes up the status quo of today is to invite His followers into upper management. The business world in which we live is structured for advancement and status. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Put in your time at the lower levels and prove yourself faithful and you may earn a promotion. Follow orders well enough and maybe you’ll make sergeant. But all the time you’re working hard, you’re doing so rather blindly, without any real knowledge of the inner workings of the company. You may know the corporate mission statement, but you certainly aren’t invited to the CEO’s office for consultation on important decisions. You are labeled as labor, and you are dispensable if you don’t like it.

Then along comes Jesus, who chooses 12 men and grants them full rights of leadership from the beginning. Even the one He knew would be unfaithful was granted the privilege of being the corporate treasurer. They had to go through a training program, but they were placed in their positions long before they completed it.

The business model of the Kingdom was totally opposite of the world’s. Jesus knew that turning laborers into partners was the best way to do business. No one in the Kingdom of God starts at the bottom. Everyone who applies for a position is immediately hired and granted a management position. There is never a need for promotion.

I am fascinated by the statement of Jesus when He says, “You are my friends.”  The model of business relationships that I worked under and under which I managed others for so many years was that management and labor were to remain separate. Labor would receive rewards for their work, but they were not respected or considered qualified to give input into corporate decisions. They were simply oxen yoked together to provide power for pulling the big shots around, who used them for their undisclosed purposes.

Jesus totally redefined corporate structure. The church is the place where we flourish as these principles are applied.

When anyone, no matter who they are, walks into the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ and is forgiven for their sins, they are immediately granted full access to everything the Father has to offer them. God’s faithful forgiveness makes them the friend of Jesus forever, with equal status to anyone who is already in the Kingdom.

Need proof?

Read on.

Jesus said, And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones… (Luke 22:29-30)

The Apostle Paul says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3) He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure… (Ephesians 1:9) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:6) So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. (Galatians 3:9)

We are not simply servants of the Master. We are not mere laborers in the Kingdom. We are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We are children of God with full rights of sonship. Everything the Father wills for His Kingdom has been revealed to us so that we are partners with Christ in accomplishing His purpose. We do not simply obey orders to receive a reward. We cooperate with Christ in ministry as friends. We are not motivated to serve so that we might earn a promotion. We serve and obey because of the joy of our present promoted position.

We are the friends of God, and He has intimately shared with us every detail of His Kingdom so that we might know Him and thereby serve Him faithfully. By faith we have been forgiven, and the Father makes us His friends.


We are the forever friends of God.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Colossians 1:10-12   And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Several years ago, when my brother stilled lived in West Chicago, I visited him and got to see the queen. No, not the Queen of England, but the queen of endurance. Anyone that has been around my family for very long knows that my wife thinks she is the queen of everything. But even she will admit that in this category the real queen is our niece.

While I was there, I attended a special breakfast for her at her school. She was receiving an award which recognized her as one of her high school’s students of the month. The teacher that nominated her did so because of her determination and endurance. It’s not so much the fact that she’s one of the top students of the school, or that she excels at competitive sports like soccer and track. What makes her the queen is that she is legally blind. She has Stargardt’s disease. It is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. As a result, she has no central field of vision and only limited peripheral vision. But that doesn’t stop the queen of endurance.

When I left Chicago she was loaded up with all of her stuff for school. The night before she had helped her mother bake a king’s cake for French class. I helped her carry it to her classroom. She also had her laptop computer equipped with special magnification programs to help her do her school work. She had her small duffel bag with her track clothes, because she had a track meet that afternoon. She had her book bag filled with homework. She carried everything but the cake, and led me through the halls of a crowded Chicago suburb high school without any assistance. She is the queen of endurance.

I called her when I got home from that trip to see how she did in the track meet. She took first place in two sprint events – the 55-meter dash and the 200-meter dash – and she was on two relay teams that took second place. Imagine a legally blind girl running around a track, staying in her lane, while receiving and handing off a baton to teammates. She is the queen of endurance. It was even more fun hearing about her soccer exploits as she was one of her team’s leading scorers.

Nothing has ever stopped my niece from pursuing her goals and dreams. Today she will rise early, walk several blocks in the dark to the train station, and travel to downtown Chicago. She will walk several blocks again through the traffic and pedestrians to her job, and then return in the evening. In her mind she has no disability. That’s because she knows that her physical abilities and disabilities are not what define her. Her inner spirit is what defines her. She has decided to endure any obstacle and to be her best. She is the queen of endurance.

In spite of her visual challenges, she sees far better than most of us. I know that there are worse things than Stargardt’s that can happen to people. But when anything debilitating happens to us, we think it’s the worst thing that could happen, and endurance isn’t the first word that pops into our heads after they happen. Anger happens. Blame happens. Depression happens. Quitting happens. All those things happen because our eyes are fixed on the immediate. We are so near-sighted. Yet the queen of endurance, who is the most physically near-sighted person I’ve ever known, has the best vision of anyone I’ve ever known. She sees the joy that is coming at the end of the race.

In Hebrews 12 we read these encouraging words. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Are you weary? Have you lost heart? Is your vision excessively near-sighted so that all you can see are the disabilities of life? Then refocus your eyes on the finish line. Someone who ran a much more difficult race is standing there waiting for you.  Start running your race of life with endurance. Jesus did. The queen does. You can.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

2 Corinthians 1:10   He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.

 In 1972, Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox starred in a movie that is still a classic. It was called Deliverance. The stars play the roles of four city men who decide to leave their golf clubs behind for a weekend and take a canoe trip down a rushing river. They weren’t prepared for who they would meet along the way. After a series of encounters with wildlife and wild men, which result in two murders, their nightmare is finally over, or so they thought. They may have been physically delivered from their enemies, but the mental terror of what happened will be with them forever, as depicted in the last scene of the movie. We are left with the notion that there is no real deliverance from evil.

Many Christians still live with that notion firmly fixed in their minds. They believe there is a day coming when we will be delivered from evil when we reach the glorious presence of God in Heaven. But for today we must live with it. What a contrast to the words of Jesus when he instructed His disciples to pray – “And lead us not into temptation, but DELIVER us from evil.” That doesn’t mean that there won’t be evil around us. It does mean, however, that there can be no evil in us. That means both physically and mentally. The spiritual deliverance from sin found in Jesus Christ can overcome both the flesh and the mind with the deliverance from evil, if we surrender to the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

The word deliver, or one of its forms, is used 195 times in the Bible. 53 of those times are in the Psalms alone. Probably my favorite use is in Psalm 91, because it was my mom’s favorite Psalm. It says, “Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”

Now that’s deliverance. God is with us in our trouble. He will deliver us from our trouble. He will honor us and satisfy us in this life. He will bring us to the completion of our salvation in eternal life. All this because we choose to love Him and acknowledge His Name.

The Apostle Paul knew the reality of that kind of a relationship with God. He stated clearly to the people in the church in Corinth that he had experienced terrible and tragic circumstances. He tells them, “I have been in prison, been flogged severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” But through it all Paul continued to trust in the deliverance of God.

At the beginning of his letter to the church at Corinth he had laid the foundation of deliverance. In chapter 11 he was giving the specifics, but he had already told them the outcome of it all. He said in chapter 1 verse 10,  “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” WOW! He remembered how the Lord had delivered him in the past. He was convinced that the Lord would deliver him in the presence. He had set his hope – his certainty – on the faithfulness of God to deliver him in the future. No current physical circumstance could change his emotional state because his mind was convinced that God would deliver him because of his spiritual condition.

That is a powerful statement worthy of remembrance and application to our own lives. No current physical circumstance can change your emotional state if your mind is convinced that God will deliver you because of your spiritual relationship with Him. If you are in Christ and have surrendered your life to Him for salvation, you have been delivered from sin. As a result, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you and is constantly delivering you from the influence of sin upon your mind and your emotions. Even though sin is around you, it does not need to affect you. Daily deliverance comes from listening to and surrendering to the Spirit of God. You are being delivered from sin and its influence today. Then one day, maybe soon, we who are in Christ will all be delivered from even the presence of sin around us when we meet Jesus face to face in God’s glorious presence.

Unlike the movie, there will be no last scene to your life leaving doubt as to the presence of evil. No more nightmares of terror. No more fear. God’s deliverance is complete. Start trusting it, live like you have been delivered.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ephesians 1:3   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

 Our word for today is one that elicits emotions ranging from disappointment to delight – it all depends on expectations. The word is CANCELLED.

The cancellation of events and activities that had expectations of benefit brings disappointment. Disappointment may even become anger when the weekend getaway is cancelled because of sickness, or the ski trip is canceled because of lack of snow, or when any anticipated escape from the stress of normal life is cancelled for any reason. We mope around and pout like little kids when the golfing or fishing day is ruined by thunderstorms, or the shopping trip is interrupted by car trouble. We hate cancellations of things that we anticipate will benefit us. We wish we would have heard the word postponed instead of cancelled, because that would at least leave us with the hope that our expectations will be realized later.

On the other hand, we love cancellations of things that hurt us or things we just can’t endure any more. When it snows, children, and maybe teachers, hope for the cancellation of school. How many AWANA and youth workers in our churches are excited when the weather forces us to cancel Wednesday night activities? What if – boy this is a stretch – as a part of a government plan to stimulate the economy, all taxes due for 2018 were cancelled?

The cancellation of things that contribute to our stress or hurt us in some way is seen as good, and we respond with delight. We don’t ever want to hear the word postponed in these situations. We want the cancellation to be final.

The Bible speaks of both cancellations and postponements. For those of us who are in Christ, the cancellations are delightful. For those who are not in Christ, the postponements are destructive. Let’s look at the postponements first.

We have been told in Scripture that the wrath of God is coming on all those who think they are getting away with sin (Colossians 3:5-6).  People will be going about their normal lifestyles thinking all is well, when the judgment of their sin by God is just being postponed (Luke 17:26-30).  Rich people who trust in their wealth may seem satisfied and secure today, but their destruction is only being postponed (James 5:1-3). It may seem like the wicked are succeeding, but their day is coming (Psalm 37:10-13).

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you on this downer for long. But the truth is that for those living according to the flesh, seeking to satisfy the desires of their sinful heart, their perceived success and security is false, and the ultimate consequences of their choices are only being postponed. Why? Because God is providing them additional opportunities to connect with Him and repent of their sins. Then, just as is true for us, when they come to Christ, their debt to God will be cancelled.

Christ’s cancellations are delightful. Let’s spend a few moments rejoicing in what God has cancelled because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The law that made us guilty of sin has been cancelled! When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled  the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

The first covenant of sacrifice was cancelled so that we could be made holy in Christ by His sacrifice once and for all! He cancels the first covenant in order to establish the second. And what God wants is for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time. (Hebrews 10:9-10)

Death has been cancelled so that we might have eternal life! Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed…Your covenant with death will be cancelled.” (Isaiah 28:16-18)

The debt of sin has been cancelled so that we can be made heirs in the family of God! Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus’ death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, cancelling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. He brought together God and his people in this new way. (Hebrews 9:16-17, The Message)

How delightful! Everything that kept me from a fully restored relationship with Almighty God has been cancelled. Sin is forgiven. Its debt of death has been fully paid by Another. Eternal life has been granted. Christ’s cancellations at the cross have confirmed me as a child of God forever. Hallelujah! Let’s celebrate cancellations!

Pastor John

Birthday Blessings

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ephesians 1:3   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Today’s word is BLESSINGS. Another “B” word that helps me to understand my greatest blessings is Birthday. Birthdays are fun. The older I get the less I want to count how many I’ve had, but they are still fun. The reasons for the fun change with age. When we were young it was all about presents and cake. Then it became more about friends and fellowship. Now, as we mature, it becomes more about the celebration of a life being lived well. I would much rather hear stories about how my life has touched others for Christ than to get presents. I guess I’m getting old, but the blessings of birthdays are in the celebration of a life more than in the receiving of gifts.

The same is true of our spiritual birthday. It is a combination of the celebration of life and the receiving of gifts. In fact, it is the gift of life that we celebrate. Real life. The life of Jesus born in us who by faith have received His gift of grace. His life is transforming. His life is eternal. His life is ours! His life is our greatest blessing!

Then, as if that gift wasn’t enough, we are overwhelmed with additional blessings. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He refers to them in Ephesians 1. Look at the list:

  • He chose us
  • He made us holy and blameless in his sight
  • In love He adopted as his sons
  • He redeemed us
  • He forgave us
  • He revealed His purpose to us
  • He planned for us to bring Him glory
  • He sealed us forever with the Holy Spirit

Are you feeling blessed yet? Need more? Here you go. We have been blessed with…

  • A heart to know God – I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. (Jeremiah 24:7)
  • Everything we need to serve Him – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
  • Rest and contentment – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
  • Peace – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. (John 14:27)

I’m going to have a serious time and space issue here if I don’t stop right now. Did you know that there are over 500 verses in the Bible that refer to the blessings of God that He gives us? So why are we so bummed most of the time? If you tried really hard, could you come up with 500 reasons why life is a burden? In the words of Psalm 42 – Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  

Why not take a good Bible concordance today and look up the words “bless”, “blessing”, and “blessed”. Then look up the phrase “give you”. You’ll discover for yourself that the life of Christ in you has brought every spiritual blessing to you. Spend some time counting your blessings.

It’s a whole lot more fun to focus on blessings than burdens. That’s what birthdays are all about, and every day is the right day to celebrate the blessings of your spiritual birthday.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 21, 2018

John 10:10   I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

My grandkids are smart…said every grandparent EVER! When my oldest granddaughter was five, she attended a wonderful pre-school in our city. Every Monday was letter day. They were learning more than just the alphabet. They were learning the sounds the letters make and words that begin with that letter. They were allowed to bring one item to school each day that represented the letter they were learning. I was so proud of her on “p” day. She brought a purple princess purse. She has the van Gorkom alliteration gene.

I have an idea – let’s do our own letter days. Each day let’s study a subject from God’s Word that starts with the letters of the alphabet. There are lots of possibilities for each letter, so I’m going to choose words that have significance in my spiritual journey. Obviously, we’ll start at the beginning, with the letter “a”. I’ve chosen Abundance as our subject.

There are many factors that influence our estimation of our abundance. Unemployment, debt, consumer prices, and spendable income are just a few. Fear captivates the hearts of people who place their hope for the future in the financial markets. Discouragement degenerates into despair. The desire to be delivered demands and authorizes increased debt. The promise of being bailed out appeals to the need for immediate gratification, when it really only prolongs the problem. When seen through the lens of personal prosperity, the picture can look bleak.

But the Bible speaks of unlimited abundance that cannot be taken away. It is an abundance that provides hope when all seems hopeless. It produces peace when all is in turmoil. It offers security that overcomes fear. It brings spiritual prosperity that satisfies more deeply than financial prosperity. It is the abundance of life in Christ Jesus.

Our problem isn’t that abundance is being taken from us – our problem is that we are looking for it in the wrong places. Physical and financial abundance never produce peace and joy. They don’t motivate perseverance and self-control. They can’t, because all those things are fruits of the Spirit of God in our lives. All attempts to use physical and financial abundance to bring security will fail, because everything physical and financial will eventually fail. Only the abundance of the life of Christ in us will never fail.

Jesus warned us about this when He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

However, just take a look at the abundance that is promised us in Christ.

  • An Abundance of Grace, Faith, and Love – The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:14)
  • An Abundance of Mercy – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
  • An Abundance of Peace – …peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
  • An Abundance of Joy – Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. (John 16:24)
  • An Abundance of Comfort – For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5)
  • An Abundance of Supply – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • An Abundance of Knowledge – “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”  (Matthew 13:11-12)
  • An Abundance of Answers and Power – Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
  • An Abundance of Acceptance – For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:11)
  • An Abundance of the Holy Spirit – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:5-6)

Now that’s a lot of abundance! That should change some attitudes about life. Hey, that would have been a great word to study today – attitude. Maybe another day.

Pastor John

Live In Peace

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Romans 12:17-21  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Sometimes it’s just not possible. Our best attempts at reconciliation are met with stiff resistance. We cannot help but wonder – “How far should I go to make things right?”

How far should we go to bring peace? I know for myself there have been times in my life when I just didn’t feel I had anything left to make things right. I think I struggle with this issue because I tend to believe that I am responsible for other people’s choices. As a result, I developed a dysfunctional need to fix everything. That’s okay when I’m working on a dryer or a dishwasher, but not with people.

I was challenged with this a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from a reader who shared how she misunderstood this aspect of reconciliation. She said, “As a very young child there was a lot of yelling in my family. I tried to be the peacemaker by making excuses for everyone’s behavior. If that didn’t work, I’d apologize for whatever was wrong just to stop the fighting.”

“What the Father pointed out to me was that I was reinforcing Satan’s lie that I deserved no better than to be treated this way.  My whole life I have, in effect, accepted responsibility for other’s actions so that they wouldn’t feel bad and would have a way to save face. I tried to keep the peace. I came to realize that I wasn’t doing anyone any favors and maybe doing more harm than good. It’s not up to me to make excuses for anyone’s transgressions. It is my place to say ‘That hurt’ and forgive them. Or ‘I’m sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me’. Just like the Father does for me.”

In an attempt to feel good about herself, this reader was actually prolonging a lie that made matters worse. The truth is that we are not responsible for the choices of others. We are only responsible for ours. When the Bible calls us to be peacemakers we are not to confuse that role with that of an enabler. Taking responsibility for another person’s choices and actions only enables the behavior to continue. That’s not God’s model of reconciliation. Reconciliation isn’t real unless both parties agree. Both parties must take personal responsibility for their own choices and actions. It isn’t peace if both parties in the dispute aren’t brought to a point of repentance for their own actions. We must stop sugar-coating our choices and the choices of others, and we must not fix the consequences until the full lesson has been learned. That should be true not only in our relationships as adults, but it’s a good guideline for proper parenting as well.

Our Scripture passage today emphasizes this point of personal responsibility. The Apostle Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” We are only responsible for our choices. We are charged with living in peace with others. We are not charged with forcing others to live in peace with us.

Sometimes people won’t respond with peace towards us. When they reject our attempts at peace, I see three possible responses we could have. First, we could retaliate. For an example of this and how God taught King David a lesson, read the story in 1 Samuel 25. Our Scripture passage above makes it clear that we are not to take revenge in any form.

Second, we might try to manipulate the situation to bring what looks like peace. This may involve things we’ve mentioned before like taking false responsibility for an action or by lessening the severity of the action or the hurt it caused. This type of dishonesty does not bring true peace.

Third, we can continue to love – not only in thought and feeling, but in activity. This is the only correct response to people’s rejection of our attempts at reconciliation. We must not deceive ourselves into believing that we are living at peace with everyone if that peace is in word only. There must be specific activities of good intentionally directed at our enemies if the evil is to be overcome.

Surrounding the story of King David in 1 Samuel 25 are two other stories of David’s relationship with King Saul. Saul had chosen to be the enemy of David. Twice, once in 1 Samuel 24 and once in 1 Samuel 26, David spares King Saul’s life. Read those stories. When you’re done, put the lessons learned from all three stories together and you will discover the truths of Romans 12:17-21.

We have not been commanded to do something impossible. By the grace of God in our lives, we can live at peace with everyone by acting towards them as if nothing is wrong, even though they may treat us differently.

Pastor John


Trust God’s Promises

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Genesis 33:10 For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.

It was a bad case of sibling rivalry. In their culture, the oldest male child was given the birthright, which meant he would not only officially carry on the family name and heritage but he would receive a double portion of the inheritance. It was understood and accepted by all the other siblings who were usually separated by a year or more in age. But in this case, two brothers were born just minutes apart. In fact, they were born so close together that the second twin had a hold of the heel of the first born as they were delivered. Poor mom. What is that like to deliver a baby with his arms pushed out first?

Even in the birth of twins, it is obvious which one is the firstborn. He would be the child of blessing and he would receive the birthright and the inheritance. Or would he? Mom knew the answer. Even while in the womb the two babies had been jostling for position. Their mother asked the Lord for an explanation. He told her that each boy would be the father of a great nation, but that the younger boy’s nation would be the greater, and the older boy would end up serving the younger one. Hence the sibling rivalry. But that rivalry was exaggerated by the parents. Dad liked the oldest brother best and favored him. Mom chose the younger brother and nurtured him. She even went so far as to try to assist God in the accomplishment of His plan for the boys.

When they were grown and prospering, word came to the younger son that his twin brother’s caravans were on an intercept course with his own. He was scared. He feared for his life and the lives of all his family members and servants. He knew that reconciliation was the only possible solution. So he devised a plan that would hopefully appease his brother and make peace. The foundation of that plan was the promises of God.

He prepared to meet his brother by dividing his entourage into two groups and designating a series of large gifts to be presented to him. Then he stopped to commit the outcome to the Lord. He prayed, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” The promise of God gave him the confidence to seek reconciliation.

Wrestling with reconciliation of people is hard work. It takes great endurance and perseverance. To test the younger brother’s resolve, God sent a man – I believe the Son of Man – to wrestle with him. The young brother is so strong and determined that the Lord has to dislocate his hip. Still he will not let go until he receives the blessing of God for his life. Not only does God bless him, but he changes his name. No longer would he be called Jacob, but rather Israel, and would become the father of the nation after his own name.

Immediately after the wrestling match, as the sun rose on a new day, Israel saw his older twin brother Esau coming towards him. He went towards his brother in brokenness and humility, trusting the promises of God. As he approached him with bowed head, his brother ran to him and embraced him. They hugged and they wept as their conflict melted into reconciliation. But that wasn’t enough for the older brother. He wanted to be completely reconciled, and his first words resulted in his introduction to all the members of Israel’s family. There would be no remaining animosity.

Israel believed that his gifts had paved the way for such reconciliation. But that was laid to rest quickly when Esau minimized their importance in the reconciliation by refusing to accept them. Israel insisted, but not because he considered  the gifts to be a bribe, but rather an expression of thanksgiving for the reconciliation that took place. Israel said, “Accept these gifts, for to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.”  Gifts cannot bribe reconciliation. Gifts are the result of reconciliation.

What did we learn? Among the many lessons the Holy Spirit will teach you, one thing is significant for me – by trusting the promises of God, I can persevere through any pain and be patient, no matter how long it takes, so that I might receive the blessing of God that comes through reconciled relationships. How about you?

Pastor John

It Will All Work Out

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Genesis 50:19-21 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

 It started with jealousy. “Why did dad love him so much more than he loves us,” they complained. So they hated him and treated him unkindly while dad treated him with kindness and gifts of love. Things got worse when this youngest brother began predicting that one day all the older brothers would bow down to him and serve him as their king. Now they hated him even more. How dare he speak in such a degrading way about them? Even his father was upset with this and rebuked him. The young man’s words were causing major family problems.

Then one day his older brothers took advantage of an opportunity to remove him from the family. In a remote place, with no witnesses, they had their little brother trapped. At first they were going to kill him and be done with it, but one of the brothers used his influence to persuaded the others of an alternate plan. Some travelers from another land were nearby, so they sold their brother to them as if he was a slave. Then they took that precious coat their father had made for their brother and they coated it with goat’s blood. The coat was delivered to their father and it was reported that he had been killed by a wild animal.

The brother was taken to Egypt by the travelers and sold there as a slave to a high-ranking government official. But the young man made the most of his situation. He didn’t let anger turn into bitterness, which would have destroyed his potential. Instead he trusted that God, in His sovereignty, would still bring good from all of it. He never got involved in payback. He spent no time devising a plan to be restored to his previous position. His new home and new position is where he would focus on being faithful to his LORD.

During the next few years his resolve to be faithful was severely tested. He was thrown in prison based on a false accusation of adultery with his master’s wife. He was neglected by two friends who had promised to help him after he had helped them. But through it all he remained patient and faithful to allow God to fulfill His plan. Finally his opportunity arrived, and he was restored to his position with his master. His faithfulness was eventually rewarded with a position of leadership, which eventually led to him being second in command of the whole country.

Meanwhile, his brothers and father were suffering from a severe famine in his former homeland. They traveled to their brother’s new land, not knowing that he is there or that he is in charge of what they need to survive. After a series of events that test them, their brother is revealed to them and they are filled with fear. They remember what they did to him, so he must also remember. They know how they would have born a grudge if what they did had been done to them. They realized that not only did their brother have the right to repay them for the wrong done, but he now had the authority and the power to repay them in kind. At best they saw that they would be slaves for the rest of their lives. At worst he would have them killed.

But that was not the heart of their brother. He had the heart of God, who did right even when wronged. Their brother saw the hand of God in control of all things and surrendered to God’s purpose and plan. He saw the bigger picture and realized that had it not been for what his brothers did to him years earlier he would not be in a position to rescue them now. He saw the fulfillment of his faith – that God is always in control, and what we see as evil is still a part of God’s plan to bring Himself glory and good. So rather than retaliate, he reassured them, and they were reconciled.

The story of Joseph found in the last 12 chapters of the book of Genesis is amazing. It is a story with false accusations, hardship, and hurt, all with the potential for great pain and revenge. But it is primarily a story of faith and forgiveness. It is a real story of reconciliation. I urge you to read the whole thing. I encourage you to listen as the Holy Spirit teaches you the lessons of faith in the sovereignty of God and the faithfulness of the follower of God. You will learn the power of perseverance. You will discover the fulfillment of forgiveness. You will revel at the reconciliation of relationships. But be careful as you read. You will see yourself in the story somewhere, and God will seek to change you. Let Him do it. You may see it as temporary hurt, but God intends it for good.

Pastor John

Everyone Has a Story

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 17, 2018

Romans 9:1-3  I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.

Everyone has a story. I’m going to tell you one right now. It happened during the Super Bowl in 2009. There were 18 seconds left in the first half. The score was 10-7. Arizona was on Pittsburgh’s three-yard line and preparing to take the lead. Kurt Warner released a pass headed towards receiver Anquan Boldin, when Steeler linebacker James Harrison stepped in front of Boldin and intercepted the pass at the goal line. He then proceeded to run past and over almost every Cardinal player on his way to a 100-yard touchdown. It was the longest play in Super Bowl history. It was phenomenal.

I was amazed. I was shocked. I wanted to see Kurt Warner win. But I was a boyhood Pittsburgh fan. I didn’t know whether to be angry or overjoyed.

Just as Harrison crossed the goal line the phone rang. It was my son Josh. He was having a youth group Super Bowl party. I thought he was calling to see if I had seen the play. When he answered there was no noise in the background. There was excitement in his voice. He proceeded to inform me that two of the unchurched girls in his youth ministry were at the party. They had also been in church that morning. They had lots of questions, and Josh and his wife Brittany had talked to them during the day. At the very moment that the officials ruled that Harrison had scored a touchdown, Josh informed me that both girls had just prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. God had just intercepted two lives and scored touchdowns in their lives. His story was better by far.

After rejoicing with Josh for a moment, I asked him if he had even seen the interception and touchdown run. He knew nothing about it. There was something much more important that he was doing. We rejoiced some more – after I told him the football story – and he told me he’d give us all the details at our staff prayer meeting in the morning. I anxiously awaited the details. There is no greater story than the story of reconciliation to God.

I have two things with which to challenge you. First, how many of us would be willing to sacrifice the first-hand experience of Super Bowl stories and even the funny commercials for the experience of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with another person? Would we have told them to wait until after the game? I am so proud of Josh and Brittany for sacrificing the temporary and insignificant for the sake of the eternally significant. We must all be alert to the distinction we must make between personal gratification and God’s call to be ministers of reconciliation, and we must choose the latter over the former every time.

Second, I want to share some stories of reconciliation with you over the next few days that will hopefully encourage you. Some will be stories like the one today – stories of reconciliation to God. Others will be stories of reconciliation between people. I must admit I have limited resources for stories of people reconciling with others. Maybe you have one or two and would like to share them. Please email them to me, or, if you prefer, post them yourself to this blog. I want us to see reconciliation in action.

In closing, let me challenge you to look carefully at your life and see what things, interests, goals, or activities take priority over being interrupted by God to be a minister of reconciliation to another person. Surrender them. After all, is there anything so great in our lives that it should be held on to at the cost of another person’s soul?

Pastor John