Give Everything

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 30, 2018

2 Corinthians 9:15  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

A man of God was traveling through the countryside in a time of extreme famine and poverty. It had not rained for months and there was very little food left. He stopped on the outskirts of a small village and saw a woman who was picking up sticks so she could make a fire. Her intention was to use the last little bit of flour and oil that she had to make a small cake of bread for herself and her son. It would most likely be their last meal. They had no income and no other family. Her husband had died sometime earlier and left her with nothing but the home in which they lived. Because of the extreme famine there was no market for homes, and even if there was there was no food to buy with the money. She had no hope of survival.

Boldly the man asked her to put her faith in his God, and said, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”

Would she do it? Would she give up her last bit of food to a stranger? Could she believe the words of the man who claimed that his God would provide for her and her son? Why did she have to give him the first cake of bread? Couldn’t she just give him the leftovers? Why did she have to come all the way back from her house to deliver the cake once it was done?

These are all questions that must have been running through her mind. But in an incredible step of faith she went away and did as the man had told her. She used the last of her flour and oil to make a cake of bread over the fire and brought it back to the man. He ate it in front of her as she watched.

She returned to her home more hungry than ever but with great anticipation. Would the promise of the man of God be realized? Would there be flour and oil in her jars when she had left them empty.

She was overwhelmed as she looked into the two jars and saw that they were full. She had been given an indescribable gift of grace. She went back and found the man of God and invited him to stay with her, and there was enough food every day for the man and for the woman and her family. The jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by the man of God.

This true story taken from the Bible and the life of God’s prophet Elijah is a picture of God’s indescribable gift to us of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. God has promised that when we surrender the last of who we are and what we have to Him, we are given sufficient grace to meet our needs every day. Every spiritual, emotional, and physical need we have will be provided for by God when we give up the control of our lives and our possessions to Jesus Christ His Son.

Are you concerned about your finances and how to provide for the basic necessities of life? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. (Matthew 6:33)

Are you concerned about your physical condition and your health? So was the Apostle Paul, and when he asked God to remove the problem, God said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Are you concerned about your emotional health? Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Are you wondering about your spiritual life? How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

God’s indescribable gift of grace for every need is yours simply by accepting it by faith that He will do what He says. Let go of the last bit of flour and oil in your life and receive the unending love of God found in His Son Jesus Christ. He will save you and give you eternal life.

And if you’ve already done that, give Him thanks today and every day for His indescribable gift.

Pastor John

The Gift of Peace

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 29, 2018

John 14:27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Fear.

Just the word itself produces it. Immediately our minds are taken to places we don’t like to go. The top of a tall ladder precariously leaning on the peak of your house while you stretch to fasten the Christmas lights. The dark alley in a major city that is the only pathway to the parking ramp where you left your car. The airline jet which has just arrived and is your next flight and could be one of the models of jets which crashed recently. The grapes you plan to purchase at the store today which could be carrying another black widow spider like the one discovered in Minnesota recently.

Fear.

Outside influences and events can demolish our sense of security and safety. The world’s answer to fear is to remove ourselves from all such outside influences. Don’t climb the ladder. Don’t go downtown at night. Don’t fly. Don’t buy grapes. The answer to fear is to avoid anything that causes fear. We withdraw into the presumed safety and security of self.

We also do that in our spiritual lives. How many more missionaries to unreached people groups would we have if those called would conquer their fear of persecution and death? How many more witnesses for Jesus would we have in our communities if we would overcome the fear of rejection? We are living under the bondage of fear, when Jesus promised us the gift of peace.

Jesus distinguishes His peace from the peace the world offers. The world’s peace is from the outside in. For the person who lives life from the world’s perspective peace depends on what is or is not going on around them. They are only at peace when there is no danger. While the plane flies smoothly they rest. When there is turbulence they worry.

But Jesus offers us peace that starts on the inside and is greater than any danger on the outside. God’s power cannot be overcome by terrorism. God’s sovereignty cannot be overruled by politicians. God’s promises cannot be overturned by evil. God’s love cannot be overwhelmed by hate. Do not be troubled or afraid. The peace of God, which surpasses all our human reason and understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds safe and secure no matter what the external influence. (See Philippians 4:7)

Peace is possible because of the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in our lives through the Holy Spirit, and our trust in His power, His sovereignty, His promises, and His love. What do we have to fear when we are living in the will of God, on mission with Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit? It is only when one or more of those three spiritual realities is missing that peace is threatened and fear is given license to influence us.

When we are walking daily in the will of God, accomplishing the mission of Jesus Christ, and enjoying intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit, fear is completely overwhelmed by the peace of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God when we are in Christ Jesus. Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35 – 39 NLT).

Peace.

The gift of Jesus that overcomes fear.

Pastor John

Quench Your Thirst

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

John 4:10, 14 10Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water…People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.  14But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Several years ago during the Wisconsin 9-day gun deer hunting season, I spent many hours with my sons and son-in-law in pursuit of the elusive whitetail. At one point during the hunt I decided to try and help the boys by walking through a couple of creek bottoms and thickets to see if I could jump any deer out in their direction. Besides being unsuccessful in my attempts, I became very hot and thirsty. I had no water with me, and where I ended up on my trek I was not near the fresh water in the creek or the vehicles. I had nothing to drink. All I could do was take off some layers of clothing and sit down in the damp grass and try and cool down. As soon as I had the energy, I went straight to the first source of water I could find.

Thirst is a powerful motivator, not only from a physical perspective but from the emotional, psychological, and spiritual perspectives as well. Jesus understood human thirst. We thirst for value. We thirst for meaning and purpose to our existence. We thirst for acceptance. We are driven to satisfy these thirsts by any means available to us.

The world offers several temporary thirst-quenchers. We believe value can be found in material possessions and career success. We believe the meaning and purpose of life can be found through scientific and philosophical examinations of our existence. We also believe that acceptance can be found through human relationships. We will go to any length to gain that acceptance, sacrificing security, careers, and health on the altar of sexual sin.

Jesus met a woman like that. She had attempted to satisfy her thirst for acceptance, value, and meaning in life in the arms and beds of men. She had come to the well to satisfy her physical thirst. Jesus offered her an opportunity to satisfy her real thirst. Jesus makes an incredible statement to her – the water I give…takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within…giving…eternal life. Every emotional, psychological, and spiritual need is satisfied completely and permanently when Jesus enters a life. His eternal life completely quenches the thirst for value, acceptance, and meaningful purpose in life.

When Jesus comes into a life, inestimable value is realized through the knowledge that God would send His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that He could bring us into a permanent and eternal relationship with Himself. Even when we were living in sin He saw our value and provided a way for us to become worthy of relationship with Him. No longer do we need material possessions and career success to define our value: our value is defined by the receipt of every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph. 1:3-8) God quenches our thirst for value for all eternity by giving us the value of His Son Jesus.

When Jesus comes into a life, unconditional acceptance is experienced through the surrender of self to the reign of Christ. God quenches our thirst for acceptance for all eternity by unconditionally accepting into His family those who come humbly to Jesus Christ.

When Jesus comes into a life, meaning and purpose are fulfilled through the understanding of God’s will and purpose for our lives. Back in Ephesians 1 again, verse 9 says, God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.

When we come to Christ and drink of His water of eternal life, we are brought into the inner circle of God’s will and purpose. Later in Ephesians Paul describes our purpose – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We have been called to a divine and eternal work – to accomplish God’s work. It is a work with matchless meaning and eternal worth.

So which thirst is driving you today? Drink from the living water of Jesus Christ, and thirst no more. Life will cease to be a pursuit of value, acceptance, and meaning, and will become instead an expression of the value, acceptance, and meaning you have been granted in Jesus Christ.

It’s refreshing to have your thirst quenched.

Pastor John

Gifts Bring Blessings

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In yesterday’s devotional we learned that giving is about expressing love. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God’s gift of Jesus to pay the price for our sin was the full and complete expression of His love for us. In His gift we see the nature of His heart.

Gifts that are given in love benefit the recipient. Jesus spoke of this when he said, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Good gifts are those that bring a blessing to people.

There are numerous benefits that God provides to us with the gift of Jesus Christ. I’m not sure which of them can be prioritized as most important or significant over the others, so I won’t try to convince you of my opinion. Over the next few days I want to enjoy the blessings that will come from looking at some of them. Today I am overjoyed to consider that in Jesus Christ I have eternal life.

I have been thinking about eternity a lot lately. Not that I plan to go there any time soon – unless that’s God’s plan for me. One thing I know for sure is that heaven will be the complete and perfect experience of life to the fullest as God intended it to be lived. There will be no confinements of time and space. There will be no experience of sin, sadness, sorrow, or suffering. We will know and understand all things even as God knows us now. We will not be distracted from the glory and fellowship of God by the cares and concerns of the world.

Heaven will never end. We will not know that it had a beginning, and we will not be able to foresee its conclusion. All the perfections of life will become the reality of the present. Every negative experience of this temporal life on earth will be forgotten. Every glorious experience of intimacy with Christ will be perfected into permanence. All that was done for self on earth will be lost and gone forever. All that was done for Christ will be immortalized and treasured for eternity.

What an incredible and indescribable gift! In one act of love all the negatives are abolished and all the positives are established. If only there was a way I could give a gift like that to everyone I love.

But wait…there is a way. I can give them the information they need to choose the gift of God. I can share with them the good news that Jesus forgives sin and abolishes death. I can give them the opportunity to receive eternal life.

And when I do, I have given them the greatest gift of all.

Pastor John

Love Gifts

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 26, 2018

Romans 5:12-17 (NLT) What a contrast between Adam and Christ, who was yet to come!  And what a difference between our sin and God’s generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God’s bountiful gift.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins. The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

It’s started. The holiday hype has begun. Every day the newspaper is filled with high quality color advertisements filled with ridiculous prices on several items to lure you into the stores and spend more money than you planned. The stores are filled with must have items, from gift ideas to the latest in holiday decorations for the home. Literally billions of dollars will be spent in America alone during the 37 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the season of giving gifts as an expression of love, or at least it’s supposed to be.

The emphasis that is placed on the value of the gift rather than on the heart of the giver makes me wonder if love has anything to do with Christmas anymore. We ask people for lists of what they want, but we spend very little time if any making lists for ourselves of what we think would be meaningful to them. Anticipation and surprise have been eliminated from the Christmas celebration. We know in advance what we are getting because our lists were specific. Why do I need to bother with buying the present at all? Just tell me how much it costs, and I’ll give you the cash, as long as it fits into my budget. Then I don’t have to go shopping.

If I do go shopping, I want to buy a gift that does two things –show you that I know you well enough to know what you really need and show you that I love you enough to spend whatever it takes to meet your need.

That’s how God first modeled giving for all of us. Adam sinned and brought death to all mankind. Adam was aware of his need, and even made a list of how he thought his need could be met. On the list were two things – a tree house for a hideout and some fig leaves.

But God saw his real need, and in His love He determined to meet that need regardless of the cost. And the cost was great! God met Adam’s need of forgiveness by giving the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, whom He promised to Eve when He said that her offspring would crush the head of Satan one day.

Then, in an act of symbolic sacrifice indicating the price Christ would pay for their forgiveness, God killed animals to provide the skins as clothing Adam and Eve needed to cover their shame. Everything God did was an act of love to meet the real needs of the ones He loved.

God’s gift of forgiveness through the gift of His Son became the expression of the unconditional love He had for His children. God showed He knew them well enough to know what they really needed and that He loved them enough to spend whatever it took to meet their need.

That’s what I want my gifts to show the people I love. I want to shop! I want to express my love by picking out gifts that show how well I know them and how meeting their need is more important than my budget. Yes, I will be practical and prudent…but I will not be selfish.

Be creative this year. It’s risky, because someone may return your gift. Your expression of love may not be understood or accepted. God took that risk. That’s what true love does. Let’s put love back into giving gifts at Christmas. That’s how it all started – with a true gift of love.

Pastor John

Nothing Black about Prayer

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 23, 2018

Colossians 4:2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Welcome to Black Friday. Shoppers all over the nation spent at least part of their Thanksgiving sitting with family members browsing store advertising, highlighting wanted items, cutting coupons, and planning a shopping strategy that will hopefully provide the best opportunity to achieve maximum shopping success. For many, today is the day that determines the quality of their Christmas celebration. Unfortunately, today is also the day that exposes the lack of quality in their character. Black Friday is appropriately named, because all the light of a thankful heart can easily get extinguished.

I thank God that getting any gift for the lowest possible price has nothing to do with the value of my life. I also thank God that the outcome of my shopping experience has no effect on the outcome of my faith.

So far this week, in our study of Thanksgiving, we learned about the attitude of gratitude, and the activity of being thankful for what God has done, what God is doing in our lives, and what God is doing in the lives of others. Today we conclude with thoughts about being thankful for what God is going to do.

Prayer is the place where we discover what God is going to do, and we are encouraged to engage in prayer with an attitude of Thanksgiving. There are two reasons for this. First, praying with thanksgiving demonstrates trust and confidence in God’s perfect plan even before we hear it. And second, praying with a thankful heart protects our attitudes when we don’t get the answer we expected.

Do you remember the two acrostics God gave us for the words TRUST and THANKS?

TRUST – Totally Relying Upon Sovereign Timing

THANKS – Trusting His Attributes Not Knowing Specifics

When viewed in the context of Black Friday, these two statements seem illogical. Which of you would thankfully get in your car this morning at 10:00 AM and drive to your favorite store without a shopping list, relying only on good timing? We would probably find you grumbling and complaining while stuck in a traffic jam, unable to find a parking place and frustrated that you didn’t get what you wanted.

Yet with God, we have a permanent parking place called prayer, where we can trust His timing to provide us with everything He knows we need, and we can be thankful even when we don’t get it because we can depend on His love and goodness towards us.

When we pray, we get to see life from the highest perspective – God’s. That makes us confident. That brings us joy. That gives us a deep and abiding sense of security and value.

Continue steadfastly in prayer but be careful to do it with thanksgiving that comes from a heart of trust in God. Show God your shopping list, but be thankful that His list is better, and trust that His gifts will arrive right on time.

Pastor John

Focus on Others

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Colossians 1:3-5  3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It is likely that for you, today will be one of the largest gatherings of family and friends during the year. I know it is for me and my family. We will hunt deer, eat turkey, and watch football. But mostly, we will rejoice to see how the family has grown and what God is doing to bring them all to maturity in their faith.

Traditionally in our family, we spend time at the meal thanking God for things he has done in our lives. This year, I am going to add a new twist to that familiar theme. It is based on Paul’s words to the Colossian church that are printed above. Instead of focusing on what God is doing for me, I am going to focus on what I see God doing in others.

Paul says there are three specific things that motivate his thanksgiving when he sees them in the lives of others:

  1. Recognizable faith
  2. Unconditional love
  3. Motivational hope

I see all three in members of my family. I see grandparents, parents, and children who are unmistakably living out their faith in their jobs, their families, their schools, and their relationships with others. I always thank God for their faith.

I see family members who are learning the irreplaceable joy that comes from sacrificing their own desires for the sake of someone else’s plans. I see children giving up their time, their toys, and their treasures to serve their siblings and their Savior with what they have. I see parents who are sacrificing their recreational preferences for the sake of fulfilling their children’s recreational opportunities. I see apologies met with forgiveness. I see rejection replaced with reconciliation. I see sibling rivalry turn into sibling reinforcement. I see unconditional love, and I always thank God for it.

I see family members who are motivated to live their faith publicly and love one another personally by the hope they have in Christ’s return and His coming glory. I see sacrifices of this earth’s fading treasures for the sake of building treasures in heaven that will never fade away. I see time spent by parents teaching and training their children about eternal values because they know our only hope is in what will never pass away. For this I always give thanks.

I challenge you, on this Thanksgiving, to change the focus of your gratitude from being about self, to what you see in others. Let’s make this Thanksgiving extra special by building others up and encouraging them with what we see God doing in their lives.

Pastor John