Scatter the Seed

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, August 30, 2019

Matthew 13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.

Jesus went on from this opening statement to tell the people a story about a farmer planting seed. You may have heard many teachings on this story, and most of them probably focus on the four types of soil that are mentioned. There are good lessons in such teaching. But today the Lord impressed two truths on me that I’d like to share with you.

First, in this parable there is no mention of soil preparation. Our human nature demands that we place value on our efforts, and we prioritize our efforts based on return and results. Where there is little chance of success there is little demand for investment. Yet in the example Jesus gives us of a true Kingdom sower, there is no concern for the type of soil into which the seed will be sown.

We tend to predetermine the worth of the recipient before we sow any seeds of truth in them. We make judgments about their fitness for fertilization and then hoard our seed until better soil comes along. Maybe we believe that the seed is limited when in fact there is an infinite supply. It could be that we believe the seed is too precious and cannot be wasted, when in fact the preciousness of it demands that it be spread all the more because of its power to produce fruit. Maybe we are more concerned than we should be about our image as a sower. We try to guarantee production so we can be declared a wise farmer, when the reality is that obedience is how God defines wisdom.

So the first point I make today is this – start sowing seed everywhere and to everyone with no exceptions. God alone is responsible for soil preparation and for results.

Second, nothing is ever said in the story about changing the seed. What if the story went this way? “A sower went out to sow…  After meeting together as sowers, the people decided that it would be more productive to produce seed that was resistant to birds, drought, and thorns, so they began to dissect the seed to see if it could be improved. They developed different varieties of seed to match the conditions of the soil and climate where it would be sown so that they could increase the harvest.”

There is one seed and only one seed – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who grants salvation to anyone through faith in His work on the cross. He has paid for our guilt of sin and His resurrection from the dead guarantees us eternal life. There is no way to improve upon that. There is no greater harvest to be realized than the one God produces by faithfulness to that message. We don’t need to change it, compromise it, or condition it so it is more acceptable to the hearer. The truth of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. It is NOT our responsibility to make the message acceptable to the hearer. We are only responsible to proclaim the message, and we are to do so with the compassion of Jesus, speaking the truth in love.

So the second point is this – Don’t try to change the seed you are going to sow. Just sow the truth, and sow it everywhere and to everyone, trusting God with the harvest. Every time you put your hand in your pocket or purse to remove keys, money, or anything else, just imagine that your hand is going into a seed bag hanging from your waist, and then scatter it on someone with words of truth spoken in a spirit of love with the expectation of a harvest.

Pastor John

Exhausted

LifeLink Devotional
Thursday, August 29, 2019

What exhausts you? For some it’s physical labor. Maybe it’s an emotional crisis. It could be the ups and downs of relationships. For many it’s just the constant struggle with the circumstances of everyday life. Whatever it is, we’ve all felt it. We’ve been at the end of our rope with barely enough strength to hang on. We consider that letting go might be the best option.
Maybe letting go is then best option when we intend to fall into the arms of God and be renewed with His strength.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Jesus knew that life would exhaust us. But he also knew that what exhausts us most is probably something we had not considered. When Jesus looked around at the masses of people who were His contemporaries in Galilee, he saw beneath the surface of their physical conditions, their relationship issues, and their political and financial turmoil. Jesus saw the thing that truly exhausted them – their constant struggle to earn the approval of God.

Living under the corruption of a godless political system was nothing in comparison to living in the chains of a corrupt religious system – a system that manipulated and controlled people with laws that could only produce self-declared righteousness. Jesus saw people being suppressed and enslaved with the constant labor demanded by the law with only a glimmer of hope that they could ever achieve a relationship with God. Around every corner appeared a pharisaical inspector of their lives to tell them how they had failed.

It was to these people that Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

It is to you and me that He still issues the invitation. We still carry the burden of the need for approval. It weighs us down. It exhausts us. If only we could earn the approval of our spouse, our parents, our bosses, or our employees. If only it was possible to finally be content with who we are, rather than trying to measure up to the expectations of others. If only we weren’t so addicted to the need for affirmation.

We are exhausted from trying so hard. We are at the end of our rope, with no strength left to hold on any longer.

Now is the time to hear the invitation from Jesus – “Let go!” Stop all your efforts to affirm yourself. Drop all the masks you wear to earn the approval of others. Flop on your face before God in complete weakness and discover His rest, His peace, and His strength. He will prop you up with His promise of grace that is sufficient for every need.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
As I write this, the Lord is reminding me of a song that I heard dozens of time while growing up. Never before have the words meant more to me. I pray that they touch your life right now as well. They truly describe the end to your exhaustion.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.


His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Who Is Your Master?

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

It is inherently true of human nature that we surrender to a ruler. We give someone the right to motivate and guide our lives. That ruler is either someone other than us, or, as is true in most cases, it is our self. We are addicted to doing what is right in our own eyes.

The temptation is to think that others are guilty of this but not us. None of us would be naturally so humble or so brave as to admit that what we are doing is only for our own good. We have developed lots of justifications for the choices we make, and each one has an element of good appearances, but at the very root of it the action is designed to enhance our own measure of self.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

In the last five chapters of Judges we read story after story of man’s choices based on the false assumption that we can be in relationship with God and yet make choices that satisfy our fleshly desires. It starts in Judges 17, with the story of a man named Micah (not the prophet) who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother. After her curse upon whoever stole it, he admits what he did and returns the silver to her. When she received it back, this is what she said – “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son…”  Sounds great, right? She is giving apparent worship to the Lord for the honesty of her son, and is even going to give her son a reward for his honesty.

But wait, there’s more that she said. She also declares, “…to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” She says she is dedicating the silver to the Lord but rather uses it to make an idol of false worship. Not only does the son do it, but he uses the rest of the silver to make other items of idolatry, and sets up a shrine in his home. He then appoints one of his own sons as a priest of their newly-founded religion.

The story continues when a Levite is persuaded to serve as a priest, giving even more human credibility to their false religion. The descendants of the tribe of Dan capture the shrine and idols and take them as their own to give spiritual support to their attacks of innocent people so they can capture more land for themselves. It eventually turns into an all-out war, and the book of Judges concludes with this statement – In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Four times in those five chapters we are told that Israel had no king. They had made the choice to appoint self as king and serve him wholeheartedly. Everything they did had a fake covering of faith, but it was all done for self-fulfillment.

It makes me wonder how true that is of us in this modern world. How many things do we say we are doing as an act of worship to the Lord, when in reality we are doing what we have decided is best for ourselves?

That’s a serious question to contemplate. Who will take the challenge of such personal and potentially life-changing self-evaluation? The bottom line is this – who is Lord of your life? Everyone has one and is eternally responsible for their choice of who it is. Will it be self, or the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ?

Pastor John

Get the Full Experience

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Which do you prefer – watching the big game on television or in person? Maybe you believe that watching on TV gives you a better chance of not missing anything because of the multiple camera angles available on instant replay. Or maybe you would rather sit in the stadium with friends and fellow fans as you scream your lungs out in unison hoping that it motivates your team to victory. Some would argue that the full experience of the game comes from knowledge of every detail of every play, so TV gives them the best opportunity to have that knowledge. Others argue that the real experience is in the live venue, so you can feel the emotional ebb and flow of the fans and be a part of a bigger crowd.

I’m not sure which I prefer in football, but I know for sure which option brings the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us from Christ – the live venue!

Some of you prefer to live out your Christian lives in the comfort and privacy of your own home, and you enjoy some of the blessings of relationship with Christ. But the Apostle Paul makes it clear in his letter to Philemon that there is only one way to experience the fullness of every blessing God has placed in us for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ – to become an effective witness for Jesus.

Philemon 1:4-6  I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

Jesus Christ’s mission was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). His death and resurrection satisfied and abolished the wrath of God for those who believe in Him (1 Thess. 5:9). Because of our faith in His work on Calvary and repentance from our sin, Jesus has blessed us with every spiritual blessing from the Father’s presence (Eph. 1:3), including the indwelling of His Holy Spirit who equips us to serve Him as witnesses (Acts 1:8).

Here’s a question to consider – “Am I satisfied with what I currently know of the goodness of God, or is there more to experience?” I can only conclude that there is more based on what Paul says to Philemon. The only way I could be satisfied that I have attained the full knowledge of all the good things God has given is to be confident that the sharing of my faith with others is having its full effect on them.

I’m not there yet.

Are you?

I wonder what we are missing. I think it has to do with the experience of being in the stadium, surrounded by people who are also enjoying the game. Who knows, maybe you will end up sitting next to someone who is cheering for the other team, and you will have the opportunity to experience the incredible strength and peace of God that comes from being public about your faith. After all, you wear your team’s colors proudly enough even when you are in the opponent’s territory. I think our Savior expects the same.

Pastor John

Finish Well

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 26, 2019

I saw it in his eyes before I heard it from his heart as it passed through his lips. It was a humble and yet amazing answer to a simple question, and it made a huge impression on me.

I had stopped by the apartment of a man that I knew back in the late 1980’s. He had reappeared in my life and requested a personal visit. After some catching up, I asked the question, “So what’s on your heart today?”

As he looked into my eyes, I saw the humility and sincerity of a heart that had been moved by the Holy Spirit. He simply said, “I want to finish well.”

He explained how he had wandered from Christ, been divorced, had a daughter that was told he was dead, and blamed all his medical issues on God. He was born with spinal bifida, but was one of the few that did not become paralyzed as a result. He had a shunt in his neck to drain excess fluid from his cranium, so his brain could function properly. He had torn ligaments in his knee and damage in his right wrist. He used a walker and/or cane to remain mobile, but there were days when all he could do is get into his wheelchair.

For several months he had been watching our church service on TV every Sunday, and after several weeks he decided to attend in person. I didn’t recognize him, but he knew me, and gave me a warm hug as the extension of his huge smile. He came back every week. Now, as we sat in his living room, with his Bible open on the table in front of him, he said, “I want to be found faithful when Jesus returns.”

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

You know me well enough by now to know that the tears welled up in my eyes. We talked about what faithfulness would look like in his life with his current physical limitations. His vision was well beyond my expectations. He listed two things:

  • I want to get into a Bible study that will help me grow, but it must be fairly simple because I have comprehension problems. It takes me a while to get it, but I want to get it.
  • I want to be involved in the church’s visitation program. I love working with older people, and would love to be able to visit shut-ins. After all, I’m almost one myself already.

I was blown away. As I reflected on his requests, I immediately thought of the parable Jesus told about the Master who gave varying talents to His servants to manage for Him until He returned. Two of the servants invested wisely and doubled the Master’s resources. But one man, out of fear, buried his talent and return only the initial amount when the Master returned. The two investors were rewarded not only with promotions but with eternal words of affirmation – ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ However, the one who had buried his talent was condemned.

Here I was, sitting with a man who I put in the category of buried talents, yet he was now ready to invest it for the Master. What an honor to be the one God called to come along side of him and help him finish well, so he can hear those eternally affirming words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Today, as I return from my sabbatical, I am contemplating how I will finish my race.  With all that I have been given, is it being invested for the Master or for self?

We all must consider our investment in the race Jesus has marked out for us. Everything invested in self is considered buried by the Master, and it will all be lost. Like the man in my story, today may be your day to repent of your past, surrender your present, and secure your future. It begins at the cross, where Jesus will forgive you, and help you dig up the treasure He gave you. He will clean off all the flesh that has tarnished it so that you can invest it in His service for His glory. Then and only then can you be assured that you will finish well and be found faithful when the Lord returns.

Pastor John

Tailgating the World

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, August 23, 2019

I tend to tailgate. Not at football games, but when I’m driving. My wife and my friends knows that I stay too close to the car in front of me. Speed doesn’t matter. When I’m behind the wheel of a car I’m an incognito NASCAR driver. Every trip, whether on the highway or around town, is a race, and the object is to get there as fast as possible and beat everyone else to that location. I must be first.

Pretty sad, right? Maybe more scary than sad. But thanks to the constant encouragement of my wife and friends, I’m doing much better controlling the urge to ride in someone else’s draft.

Not only is this a dangerous choice in driving, but it is extremely dangerous in our spiritual lives. The world is increasing its speed away from God, and many of us have sped up with them. We started out years ago at a very safe distance from the sin of the world. We were able to see the potholes that emerged from under the car in front of us in plenty of time to avoid them ourselves. We saw their vehicles swerve and spin out of control as they ignored the winter road conditions and for safety we even slowed down to increase the margin.

Ezra 10:11  Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.”

As the world has sped up and driven themselves farther and farther from the Father, we have travelled with them. We justify it by saying that we have maintained a safe margin, but little do we realize that we are now where they were just a few years ago. What we called a danger to holiness is now common among Christians. What we knew were potentially deadly choices before have now become lifestyle choices that are easily accepted.

We choose divorce over commitment, sexual expression over purity, materialism over trust in God’s promise of provision, and we choose the right to personal freedoms rather than considering others ahead of ourselves. This all comes with destructive consequences that ruin our testimony of faith in the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

We proclaim and pursue personal privileges at the expense of a humble heart, all the while preaching humility to sinners as the only way of salvation. We have earned the title of hypocrite. We demand the right to personal liberties at the expense of new believers who are trying to climb out of that pothole. We fail to realize that we may be the reason they stumble and fall back in.

We indulge in every opportunity for financial gain and social status at the expense of our own heart’s intimacy with Christ. We are not content with His choices for us. We claim to have maintained adequate separation from the world, but we look just like the world did a decade ago.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must increase our margin from the world. Do we not remember the words of God as applied to our lives by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18?  

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,  and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Let not the Enemy of our souls begin his attack on us with thoughts of justifying our position. Let us with humble hearts fall on our faces before God and realize that we are travelling through life much too close to the world. Let us put on the brakes right now, and if necessary shift into reverse, and return to a position of holiness as described by God and not by the world. Let us increase the separation as the day draws near when we will be permanently separated from this world at the return of our Lord. Only in this way will we be able to slow others down and bring them with us into glory.

Pastor John

A State of Denial

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, August 22, 2019

As we look around at our culture, it’s not hard to see that we are living in a time of huge spiritual crisis. People who call themselves followers of Christ are turning to lives of rebellion and sin and personal pleasure. Hardly a day goes by that my wife and I are not being asked to give advice or counsel to someone who is being affected by a spouse’s or friend’s decisions to serve self rather than God. These are people whom we have participated with in ministry and heard their testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe more than ever that these are the last days before the return of Christ. The once narrow gray line of personal choice between morality and immorality has become increasingly wide. That’s because Christians are participating with culture in redefining the truths that establish the standards of each position. Those who choose to redefine morality and embrace immorality justify it with the argument of the pursuit of personal pleasure and happiness. They are motivated by a deep and deadly desire to eventually destroy the position of immorality by turning everything gray for a time until it begins to appear not gray at all. Their goal is to move all the black and gray into the light of white and declare everything moral.  As this happens, they are becoming increasingly intolerant and abusive towards those who maintain a position of morality based on God’s truth. The attacks against truth are more consistent and louder than ever, and the attacks against those who hold a position of truth are gaining cultural acceptance at an alarming rate.

Here’s a thought that came to me as I prayed this morning – It is a good thing to live in a state of denial. In fact, it is an absolute truth that all of us do, one way or another.

Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

The follower of Jesus is commanded to live in a state of denial of self. This is where I see the evidence of the great falling away in today’s church. We are not living in this state of denial. Rather, we are living in a state of entitlement to self, with all its pleasures and prosperity. So many in the church today have a claim to faith without the following that is inherently generated by faith. How can one claim to have faith without obedience?

Those who compromise their faith and follow self are usually unaware that they are still living in a state of denial, but one with deadly consequences ahead. You see, if we are not denying self and following Jesus, then we are denying Jesus and following self. One way or another we are ALL living in a state of denial. It’s our choice which one.

Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul and from Jude, the brother of Jesus.

Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Jude 1:4  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

When I counsel people who are living faithless lives of disobedience, yet deny that they are, I asked the one question – Whom do you love? It hits at the root of the problem for all of us. Whom do you love?

Rarely is anyone willing to admit that they love themselves more than Christ. Yet it is obviously true. It is true of me in certain places of my own life. We must be on our knees every day gaining insight from the Holy Spirit as He guides us to deny self and take up His cross and follow Him – in EVERYTHING!

We must recognize that in every area of our lives, when we choose to pursue self for any reason, it can only be defined as denial of Jesus. But when we pursue Jesus we are in denial of self. The latter is the state of denial I want to be in consistently. We are always in one or the other. It’s our choice. Choose wisely, and do so with eternity in view.

Pastor John