Fulfilling Work

LIFELINK Devotional

Friday, July 24, 2020

Here’s a very quick thought to ponder this weekend. I hope you spend some time wrestling with it.

What kind of work brings you the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment?

As you consider your answer, read these words of Jesus.

“But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””  John 5:17

We must consider that the work for which the Creator designed us will be the most satisfying and fulfilling work to occupy us. The Father created us to bear His image and to share His love. By design we are fulfilled by doing His work.

So let me ask again, What kind of work brings you the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment? 

Pastor John




Don’t Go Back

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The proverbs have some interesting ideas.  I know, you wonder what happened to the study of John.  Follow me for a minute and you will understand.

Proverbs 26:11 says “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” I hope you aren’t reading this over breakfast. It’s not an appetizing concept. But the truth principle for us is this – Don’t go back to previous behaviors that might make things even worse than they were before.

Now, read what Jesus told the lame man whom He had healed earlier in the day.

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”” John 5:14

This verse can cause some misunderstandings. First, Jesus is not blaming the man’s physical disabilities on previous sin. We must not assume that health issues are the result of sin. They may be, but they also may simply be so the glory of God can be revealed. (See John 9:1-5). Second, Jesus is not saying that if the man ever sins again he will be made more lame than before. Jesus does not threaten people with harm for disobedience. Where’s the grace in that?

Here’s what it seems Jesus is saying. See, I made you well. Trust me. Believe in me. If you don’t, you will return to your sin, and the end result of that is worse than being lame, because it results in eternal death. 

There is a very important principle for us here about authentic faith – it always produces obedience to Christ and a sincere desire to not sin. We live in an age of cheap grace, where many claim to be followers of a Jesus but are simply putting spiritual polish on tarnished pursuits. Authentic faith transforms the heart. Authentic faith pursues righteousness. Authentic faith never sacrifices the eternal on the altar of the immediate. Authentic faith seeks the good of other even at the expense of benefit to self.

This is the lesson of faith Jesus wanted the healed man to learn.  He desires us to learn it also.

Pastor John


What’s Mine is Yours

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

John 5:5-6 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Once upon a time there was a rich man who lived in a huge mansion behind high walls and a secured gate. No one was ever allowed access, until one day the wealthy man had an idea. “I will go to the gate at four o’clock every afternoon and give one person a million dollars if they can prove to me that they need it.”

The next day he stood at the gate and asked people as they walked by if they needed a million dollars. Everyone said they did, but none could prove they needed it.

The next day, when he got to the gate, there was a line waiting to see him, each person offering some sort of reason or excuse why they needed the million dollars, but none sufficiently showed evidence that they had nothing. Having nothing was the proof necessary for the gift to be offered, and no one was interested in giving up everything they already had to become eligible.

On the third day, after refusing dozens of people in line, a man crawled forward, obviously unable to walk. He was dirty, barely clothed in rags, and reeking of a sickening stench from the inability to clean himself. He was the first person the wealthy benefactor had seen who truly had nothing.

He asked the crawling beggar if he wanted a million dollars. In a halting whisper of voice the man replied, “Sir, I have tried for years to make a way for myself, but with no success. I am today the most helpless and hopeless of men, with no ability to do anything for myself except wait for death to relieve me of my suffering.”

Moved with compassion, he did something far more gracious than offer the man a million dollars and send him on his way. He picked up the frail semblance of a man, opened the gate to his mansion, and took him inside. He bathed him, clothed him, fed him, and then said, “Whatever is mine is yours. You are a son to me.”

The next day, dozens of crippled, lame, blind, and helpless people somehow made their way to the gates of the mansion, waiting for the wealthy man to appear. And everyday, when he appeared, he would personally bring into his mansion anyone who truly had nothing.

This is what Jesus did for the man at the pool of Bethesda. This is what Jesus will do for you, if you will admit that you are helpless and hopeless to change the sin in your heart. He is waiting to make you His child.

Pastor John

The Law of Doing Good

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

“Who’s side are you on?”

It seems like that is the question that defines the year 2020. Everyone is being pressured to take sides. “What is your political affiliation? Who will you vote for? What do you think about the virus? Should schools re-open? Should we overthrow the government? Do we even need to obey the law anymore?”

One huge problem I see is that people are taking extreme positions on the issues of the day. The pendulum rests in its outermost positions, with very little tolerance for anyone in between. “Destroy everything” or “Preserve everything” seem to be the only valid positions to hold. And we will defend our right to our position until we die, or someone else does.

But it gets worse. When an element of spiritual superiority is added to the position, then all hell breaks loose – literally. That’s what was happening in Jesus’ time, and it continues today. Religious leaders take up positions, impose rules, enforce consequences for disobedience, and seek to control people’s lives, all under the guise of spiritual formation.

Jesus came to destroy such a corrupt spiritual system. He would do that, not by destroying the law, but rather by transforming the heart. Jesus came to fulfill the law by giving us the proper motivation for obeying it – love.

Remember the thought provoking challenge from yesterday?

The law of doing good always carries more authority than any other law.

That’s what fulfilling the law of God is all about. When Jesus transforms our hearts, we move from the corrupted law of doing good for self to the Christ-like law of doing good for others. Loving others, serving others, doing good for others is always the fulfillment of God’s law.

The man who was healed understood this. When he was questioned by the religious authorities for carrying his bedmat on the Sabbath, he acknowledged that he saw a higher law than theirs.

John 5:11  But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.”

My prayer for my life (and I hope yours is similar) is that I would be known for doing good, rather than for how well I obey the law. May my life be defined as Jesus was in Acts 10:38

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

You see, when we are motivated by doing good, we will be fulfilling God’s law, even when it may have the appearance of human disobedience.

Pastor John

Stir the Pot…PLEASE!

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 20, 2020

One of our family’s traditional foods is a soup. It is made with cream, bacon, potatoes, and dumplings that are called knepfla. The soup is named after the dumplings.

When the soup is cooking, it is necessary to stir the pot so the cream doesn’t scald and stick to the bottom of the pan. It is also necessary to stir the pot when serving the soup as the potatoes and dumplings tend to sink to the bottom. Who wants liquid when there’s bacon, potatoes, and dumplings to eat? So we stir the pot before ladling out our portions.

It is that very concept that originated the saying, “Stir the pot,” in reference to people who intentionally rile things up. Sometimes they do it in an attempt to improve things, but most often people “stir the pot” to cause problems. One of the best definitions of stirring the pot I found is this:

Someone who loves to proliferate the tension and drama between two or more feuding people or groups. They agitate others in public to get a raise out of them in hopes of starting a storm of drama and uncomfortable conflict, sometimes for personal gain but oftentimes just for the thrill of confrontation.

Can anyone say ”middle child”?

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus stirs the religious pot. He intentionally forces the Jewish leaders to confront their adherence to the law, and their motivation for doing so. In fact, when the pot didn’t get sufficiently stirred, He returned to make sure it did. Take a moment to read the story.

John 5:1-17 1  After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5  One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10  So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11  But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” 12  They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13  Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15  The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16  And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17  But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Jesus intentionally stirred the pot of religious obedience to laws, specifically the law of the Sabbath. He healed a lame man on the Sabbath. He instructed the man to break the Pharisees interpretation of the law by carrying his bedmat. Then, when the man forgot to ask who he was, Jesus went back later in the day so that He could be identified, causing an intentional confrontation with the religious leaders.

This week we are going to dig into this story, but for today, contemplate this principle that I believe Jesus was teaching:

The law of doing good always carries more authority than any other law.

What do you think? Have I sufficiently stirred your pot?

Pastor John

Reality Box

LifeLink Devotional
Friday, July 17, 2020

As finite beings, we have a limited perspective on the possible. That’s why we have the word impossible. Based on two factors of knowledge and experience, we build boxes of reality and we confine all of our possibilities to that box.

In John 5, Jesus met a man who limited his possibilities to the confines of previous experience. Let’s read the story.

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed, [waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.] One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.”   John 5:2-9

Granted, the lame man did not know he was talking to the Son of God. He certainly had no idea that there was any possibility of being healed unless it fit within the confines of his reality box.  His reality was that he had to do something to be healed, and every attempt to do it was met with failure.  Thirty-eight years of failure. So when Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed, he answered within the confines of his personal possibility box.

I have one of those boxes. But every now and then I am able to see outside of it, and then I get to watch God do something miraculous. Sometimes they are simple things. Others are even silly. But every one is outside the confines of my reality.

One time my windshield wipers quit working in a heavy downpour of rain. I was traveling from North Dakota to St. Paul during college.  It was a Sunday evening.  There was nowhere to stop for repairs.  As I struggled to see, I prayed outside my box. I hadn’t even said amen when the wipers began working again.

I will never forget the night Denise and I prayed outside the box of our reality for our son Joshua. It was the night before scheduled surgery on his feet to repair a birth defect. Reality said we were in for weeks of recovery. But outside our reality, we woke the next morning to discover that surgery was no longer needed.

The man in our story saw only the reality of impossibility. Jesus accepted his answer as a yes. Jesus told him to get up and walk, and upon uttering the words the man was healed. He rose, and walked. His reality box was shattered. He had a whole new understanding of possibilities. He had discovered that with God, nothing is impossible.

Have you?

Pastor John

Moving on the Promises

LIFELINK Devotional

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How much faith does it take to walk away with only a promise but without any evidence that anything has been accomplished?

That is the question that challenges me as I read in John chapter four about the man whose son was near death and needed to be healed, so he went looking for Jesus. Let’s read the story.

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.”

He was from Capernaum. Jesus was in Cana. He had travelled at least a day’s journey to cover the 16.4 miles between the two cities. Then he had to find Jesus. When he did, he asked Jesus for a miracle. That took faith. But the man’s authentic faith was on full display when he believed the words of Jesus and walked away without any evidence that anything had been accomplished.

Authentic faith takes Jesus at His word. Less than authentic faith demands evidence before moving on.  It was a long trip back home for the man without any proof that Jesus had done anything. The only thing he had was the promise that his son was healed. Wow! What kind of faith is that? I would have stayed there until a messenger came and told me whether or not my son was healed.  I would not have taken one step away from Jesus until I had proof. But not this man.  His faith moved him forward in full expectation of a fulfilled promise. Then came the proof. Before arriving home his servants informed him that his son had been healed at the exact moment that Jesus said he was. Authentic faith is always rewarded with perfect fulfillment of the promise.

I wonder how many of us are stuck waiting for evidence rather than moving forward, confident in the promises of God? Authentic faith moves forward. Authentic faith believes the promise without need for evidence. Authentic faith considers the matter settled even before we know it is, because Jesus said it is.

You will have to excuse me for a while. I need to let the Holy Spirit show me the areas of my life where I am stuck because I don’t really believe the promises of God. I may have taken too much comfort in knowing that I’m standing on the promises, when I should be moving on the promises.

Pastor John

My Eyes Have Seen The Glory

LIFELINK Devotional

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

For months we hadn’t been able to visit face to face. He was so lonely. His heart was breaking. Little did I know how literally it was.

On Saturday he had a heart attack. His heart was damaged and he struggled even to eat without pain. But he was in the hospital, where I was allowed to be his primary visitor and spend all the time I wanted with him. What an incredible gift. Little did I know how much I would appreciate those three days.

When I was with him, we talked about his health. We talked about managing his future. We talked a lot about how the world’s events were fulfilling the plan of God for Christ’s return. We talked about heaven and the joy there will be when we see Jesus face to face. Little did I know how soon that would happen.

When he was stable enough, the doctors decided to release him back to his apartment under hospice care. We finished the exit interviews concerning medications and his probable activity level, and then we got him dressed. I was going to miss our daily personal visits, but I knew it was best for him to go home. Little did I know he was really going home.

He rode through the hospital in the wheelchair to the entrance where I had his car – literally his old car, which I now drive – waiting to pick him up. He moved easily from the wheelchair to the front seat, and we began our journey to his assisted living apartment. Little did I know that his body would arrive there but he never would.

Our discussion on the trip covered items like lunch and what time the hospice nurse would arrive to finish all the paperwork. I asked him if the effort of getting dressed and the transfer from the hospital to the car had caused him any pain, and he said no. I can’t remember exactly what he was saying next, ( I wish I could) but in the middle of a sentence, while I was driving down the street, his arms lifted, stiffened, and started to shake. His last two earthly words garbled. I reached over and grabbed his shoulder and shook him and yelled, “Dad! DAD! Are you okay?”

There was no response. His head bowed. He sighed deeply. Then silence. I continued to drive, thinking quickly through all the options of where to go. I was clearly led by God’s Spirit to proceed to his residence. I felt for a pulse on his neck. Nothing. Then came the gurgled attempt at a breath. I yelled again, trying to wake him up. His head bowed further. I continued to drive as I reached for his wrist. No pulse. Then came one more long gurgling attempt to breath, and then silence.

As I drove, I cupped his head in my hand to both comfort him and keep him from tipping over in the seat. When I turned the corner to his apartment building, I saw a magnificent sight. There was an Eau Claire Rescue Squad ambulance in the driveway. I verbally shouted, “God, you arranged this.” As I pulled up and exited the car, the paramedics were coming out with a non-urgent patient on a stretcher. I announced that my father had died while I was driving. They immediately came to my aid and began to evaluate my father’s condition. He had not taken a breath for over four minutes. Their monitor indicated he still had a slight heart rhythm that was shockable. They saw the DNR (do not resuscitate) bracelet. They confirmed that with me. They stepped away, and dad moved into his eternal residence.

As I continue to reflect on the event, I am in awe of God’s timing and His attention to detail. Everything was planned to perfection. I am more aware today than ever that God directs every step of every day for those who love Him. I saw that promise perfectly fulfilled in countless ways as I witnessed my dad enter the glory of Christ’s presence.

I will miss my dad. He is not missing me. That’s hard to say, but I would never want him to give up what he now has just so I could see him again. I will see him again. It is so majestic and grand there that he would never ever consider looking away, especially not looking back.

There’s my lesson for life in this. Never look back. Never look away. The glory of the presence of Jesus is all we ever need to see.

Pastor John

Action Required

LIFELINK Devotional

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

It was January of 1987. My wife and I were living in Watertown, South Dakota where I worked full-time as a program manager of KWAT radio, and also served as a pastor of a small rural church of 120 people. Jesus had made it clear to me and Denise that He had prepared us to go into full-time ministry and let go of any dependence on secular employment for family support. We took the first step of obedience by traveling to Augusta, Wisconsin to evaluate a small Baptist church there and to be evaluated by them as a potential pastor.

After a wonderful weekend of ministry and meeting people, and seeing the potential for Gospel ministry, our minds started to think through the dramatic changes that would take place if we accepted this position. We would be moving from an urban to a rural environment, and leaving friendships that had developed over the previous eight years. Our financial situation would be dramatically altered. There was nothing from a human perspective that made much sense.

On the trip home, we were on top of the Knapp hill on Interstate 94, and I looked over at Denise, who with tears in her eyes, said, “We’re moving here, aren’t we?”

I responded affirmatively, even though I knew there would be two weeks before the congregation would meet to make the decision to call us. When they did, we accepted, and we have been in the Chippewa Valley ever since except for fourteen months of continuing spiritual development for me.

When Jesus says go, the response of authentic faith is to go.

“Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”  John 4:50

What step of faith is Jesus asking you to take, even though it makes no sense from a human perspective?

Pastor John

Authentic Faith


Monday, July 13, 2020

On Sunday Pastor Josh will be preaching on the subject of “Authentic Faith” from John 4:46-54. I would encourage you to study it this week. My devotional will be based on this same passage with insights God has given me, and then on Sunday we will learn more from Josh’s insights.

As Jesus travels from Samaria into Galilee, John tells us that the people welcome Him because they had been to the feast in Jerusalem and witnessed some of the works Jesus did. When Jesus arrived in Cana, where he had performed His first miracle, he was met by a man who had a very sick son who was near death.  The man asked Jesus to heal him.

Obviously the man believed that Jesus was able to perform this miracle. But Jesus makes a statement that digs into the heart of faith. Do we have faith because we have seen, or do we have faith so that we will see. Jesus said,

Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.  John 4:48

It would do us much good to consider our own faith in light of this statement. Do we require signs and wonders so that we can believe? Is it possible that we demand to see something spectacular from God before we will place our faith in Him? Does the level of our faith in Christ change with the visible evidence of God’s work on our behalf?

Challenging questions to consider. Yet consider them we must. Faith cannot and must not be the product of seeing signs and wonders. In fact, the Holy Spirit tells us in Hebrews that faith itself is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1) Faith doesn’t require evidence. Faith is the evidence.

To be honest, I don’t fully understand that.  I need to spend time contemplating the difference between faith that requires more visible evidence to grow, and faith that grows without the need for evidence yet becomes its own evidence. It’s mind-boggling, but essential.  If we don’t think about this, we will never know true faith. We will remain simple-minded people who will only believe if we see signs and wonders. Authentic faith requires no signs. We do not place our faith in the work God is able to do, but we believe in who God is, and that is always sufficient for us. Then we can say, as the man said to Jesus, “Sir, just come before my son dies.” 

Pastor John