Stay Behind the Light

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Hopefully I will be able to get out to the woods this weekend to start my fall deer hunting season. When I go, I will be prepared with everything I need for a successful hunt. Of all the things I will carry, none is more important to me than my flashlight. I carry three of them. One I wear on my hat so my hands are free when needed. One is a small light with a zoom lens so I can pinpoint spots without shining a wide beam. The third light is a compact rechargeable spotlight that lights up the entire woods. Each light has a unique application, but the basic function of all three is the same – they dispel the darkness so I can see where I’m going and what I’m doing.

When I enter the woods early in the morning, I use the small light to simply light the trail to my tree stand. When I’m getting settled in the tree stand, the headlamp allows me to use both hands to get everything situated. If God blesses me with a deer, and it gets dark at the end of the day, the spotlight assists me in finding my bounty. But there’s one thing each light has in common. It must be out in front of me to do its job. When the light gets behind me, my ability to see is greatly diminished. I cast big shadows on what I want to see when I get in the way of the light.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Many times I can’t see what God wants me to see because I get ahead of Jesus. In order for the Light of the world to keep me out of the darkness, He must be in front of me and I must be following Him.

I often think I know the way, and I run ahead of where the Light is shining. I begin to cast big shadows on the path and I end up tripping and falling. If only I had stayed behind the Light I would have seen what was on the path and avoided it. But instead I find myself lying face down in the dark. When I get up, I must turn around to see the Light again. He hasn’t moved. He’s waiting, and I can clearly see the path in front of me leading back to Him because He’s still shining on me. When I get there, He brushes off the dirt and invites me to follow Him.

Is your path covered in shadows? They are probably your own. Quick, before you trip and fall, turn around. Repent. Walk towards the Light. Jesus is waiting to forgive you for going your own way, and give you sufficient Light to go His way.

Pastor John

Telling the Truth

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Here’s a tough question to start your Tuesday…”Can everything you say about yourself be validated as truth by a reputable witness?”

As Jesus spoke about being the Light of the world, the Pharisees sought to renounce Him. According to the Old Testament law, no testimony could be considered true unless it was corroborated by at least one other witness.

Deuteronomy 19:15  “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”

The Pharisees publicly renounced as a lie what Jesus said about Himself. But Jesus responded that His statements are true for two reasons:

  1. Because His eternal nature as God would not allow Him to lie. John 8:14  Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going…”
  2. Because there is another witness to validate His statements. John 8:18  “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus had previously offered even more witnesses to the truth He declared about Himself. Let’s go back to John 5.

John 5:31-37  “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth… But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

Jesus validated His testimony by providing credible witnesses. Everything Jesus said about Himself is true.

Now, back to our through-provoking question for the day. ”Can everything you say about yourself be validated as truth by a reputable witness?” It really is an “OUCH!” question. I can remember far too many times that I attempted to make myself out to be someone other than I was. It NEVER ended well. Lies don’t EVER end well.

So why do we keep doing it? I think Jesus answered that for us when He said, “…for I know where I came from and where I am going…” The foundation for always telling the truth is to understand your identity and be satisfied with it.  Lies about yourself are the expression of insecurity rooted in an identity crisis.

Jesus knew who He was. Therefore, everything He said about Himself was the truth. He had no desire to be someone else. He had no need to improve His personal worth by earning the approval of people. Jesus was constantly the expression of His eternal nature.

How about you? Are you committed to being the consistent expression of the eternal nature of Christ in you? He is your identity. You have no need to lie to make yourself better than you already are. You have no need to earn the approval of people because you are eternally approved by God in Christ Jesus.

Let everything you say about yourself be validated by the testimony of Christ in you.

Pastor John

We Are Not Reflectors

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 26, 2020

On Saturday, as I drove to minister to a family who had lost a loved one, I heard an announcer on a Christian radio station make a comment about being a reflection of Jesus to others. I have probably used that terminology myself, but for some reason when she said it, it made me wonder if it was biblically accurate. Are we a reflection of Jesus?

After doing a lengthy word study, seeking to find the verses where the word reflection is used, I couldn’t find any references to us being a reflection of Jesus. There are multiple modern translations that use the word reflection to describe how they think we are to reveal the glory of God to others, but the usage is not supported by the best translation of the original language. In my limited study on the subject, I cannot find biblical support for the idea that we are reflectors of the glory of God.

Now before you start yelling at me, let me also say clearly that while we are not reflectors of God’s glory, we are bearers of His glory. The distinction is critical. There is a huge difference between a reflector of light and a producer of light. We are not designed to be reflectors. We do not reflect light from an outside source.  We shine with the Light of Jesus Christ in us.

In John 8:12. Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus gave us His eternal light, and it shines from within us.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had taught the crowds this truth. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.Matthew 5:14-16 

The problem with reflectors is that they don’t care what the source of light is, they simply let whatever light is available bounce off of them and give the appearance that they are shining. They don’t even reflect an honest image of the light they took in. They only shine with the color that is already in them. Some people may be good reflectors, but reflectors make bad lights.

Not so with those who are in Christ. We no longer reflect the light of the world because we carry in us the Light of the world. We emit true light. We shine with the glory of God. At least we are supposed to.

Don’t settle for being a reflector. The eternal Spirit of Jesus Christ dwells in you, and daily is transforming you into a brilliant source of Light in a dark world. Let the Glory of Jesus shine forth!

Pastor John

Take the Oath

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, October 23, 2020

I am convinced that I know very little about suffering for the cause of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ in western civilization has created sufficient comfort zones to protect us from the discomfort of persecution. We have compromised our citizenship in the Kingdom of God by becoming acceptable and pleasing to the Kingdom of this world. The day is coming very soon when we will pay a serious price for such choices. We will not be prepared for the suffering that is to come, and many will fall away.

It is time for those who have claimed Christ to begin  proclaiming Him. Without shame. Without embarrassment. Without fear.

In some Bible schools in India, graduating students take the Martyr’s Oath publicly during the commencement. At the climax of the ceremony, these graduates rise to their feet, raise their hand, and repeat similar words to these:

TODAY, I stand as a dead man. I declare that in Jesus Christ, I am saved by His blood, and thus I am dead to sin, and no longer dead in my sin. TODAY, I stand and declare that I surrender my will and my life, to His will and His life.

I shall go where He sends me, without asking questions. I shall go to whomever He sends me, without seeking fame. I shall preach to everyone, even if they hate me. I am an Ambassador of the Cross, and must deliver the Message. I shall pour my life out to reach my family, my friends, my neighbors, and my city.

I embrace the shame of the Cross, and I fear nothing but God. I welcome suffering, shame, persecution, beatings, imprisonment and death, but I will not be silenced.

If I am killed, I pray that my blood should be a harvest for souls. This is my city. I dare not do less.

After their oath, each student is given three items, and only three items. As they walk across the stage and receive their diploma, each graduate takes into his possession a new Bible, a new bicycle, and a one-way train ticket to their field of service. They have no “Plan B.”

Earlier this week I spoke with a man who is reading the book The Martyr’s Oath. He read the oath to me. I struggled with the apparent contradiction between my knowledge of the truths presented and their application in my life. I need to study it more, and make a determined, Holy Spirit empowered commitment to adapting every word as my life purpose. Maybe you would be willing to join me.

THE MARTYR’S OATH

I AM A FOLLOWER OF JESUS.  I believe he lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins, and was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures.  I believe he is the King of the earth, who will come back for his church.

As he has given his life for me, so I am willing to give my life for him.  I will use every breath I possess to boldly proclaim his gospel.  Whether in abundance or need, in safety or peril, in peace or distress, I will not—I cannot—keep quiet.  His unfailing love is better than life, and his grace compels me to speak his name even if his names costs me everything, Even in the face of death, I will not deny him.  And should shadow and darkness encroach upon me, I will not fear, for I know he is always with me.

Though persecution may come, I know my battle is not against flesh but against the forces of evil.  I will not hate those whom God has called me to love.  Therefore, I will forgive when ridiculed, show mercy when struck, and love when hated.  I will clothe myself with meekness and kindness so those around me may see the face of Jesus reflected in me, especially if they abuse me.

I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down.  I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that may end may come.  Should I die for Jesus, I confess that my death is not to achieve salvation but in gratitude for the grace I’ve already received.,  I will not die to earn my reward in heaven, but because Jesus has already given me the ultimate reward in forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul.

For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Grieving

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 22, 2020

After our church services last Sunday, my wife and I headed to South Dakota where we met my two brothers and their wives for a Monday morning committal service for my dad. Everything went as planned, except for the heavy snow that was falling. When Rev. Hank Roso finished his comments to the family, I placed the urn containing my dad’s ashes in the hole in front of his headstone and next to mom. As I did, emotions rushed over me, causing tears to flow from my eyes.

It has been three months since dad died, but I cannot get the images of his death in my car out of my head. Last Friday I drove to a local business along the same route that I had taken with dad on his final car trip. I was again overwhelmed with emotions resulting in tears as I remembered how I had cradled his head in my hands as I drove.

Grieving is hard. Grieving is healing. The tears I experience are not due to regret, but rather they come from relationship. Grieving represents all the good we knew, and the more we grieve the less the bad matters. Grieving heals bad memories. Grieving heals hurts. Grieving heals bitterness. I’m glad I am grieving.

As one author put it, “Grief is a journey, often perilous and without clear direction, that must be taken. The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely. It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love. It may be postponed, but it will not be denied.”

So, I let the tears flow. Psalm 30:5 says, “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Washington Irving put it this way. “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

It’s true. The more I cry, the more I know of love.

So don’t hide your hurts. Let them cause you to cry. Soon the hurts will be healed, and hope will return.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”  Anne Lamott

With tears of joy, Pastor John

MISINFORMATION IS LYING

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

There is one more point of emphasis about misinformation that needs to be made. Misinformation is lying. Manipulation is lying. The end never justifies the means when the means are sinful. The end is never justifiable if it too is sinful.

All of the above are illustrated in the way the religious leaders spoke about Jesus.

John 7:45-52 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

  1. They took the truth of Scripture, presented by the common people, that the Christ must come from Bethlehem, and they made it into a lie that no prophet can ever come out of Galilee. They saw an opportunity to use truth as the basis for a lie, hoping to accomplish a pre-determined goal – the rejection of Jesus Christ. How often do we embellish the truth (lie) to accomplish a pre-determined goal? Do we declare the fish was bigger than it actually was because we believe we will earn the affirmation we seek as a good fisherman?
  2. They lied about whether or not any of the religious leaders had believed in Jesus. Whether they knew about the belief of Nicodemus or not is irrelevant. They proclaimed misinformation when they could have verified the facts.
  3. They lied about the status of the crowd and about their own status. They declared the crowd to be worthy of judgment because they didn’t know the law. That was not true. They had already demonstrated that they knew enough of the law to declare that Jesus could be the Prophet, the Messiah, and that the Christ would come from Bethlehem. But the religious leaders had already determined that they alone could know the law well enough to interpret it correctly, so in order to maintain their status that had to demean everyone else. They lid about their own spiritual status, and to protect that lie they lied about the status of others.
  4. They lied about the need to uphold all the law. They chose to ignore the sections of the law suggested by Nicodemus, because it didn’t serve their purpose.

It would do us all well to consider whether lying has gained a foothold in our lives. I think the place to start is by evaluating whether anything we say is designed to benefit us or honor God. If we are motivated by personal benefit, we will probably lie.

Pastor John

MORE MISINFORMATION

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Taking a stance on an issue without all of the facts is somewhat excusable if all the facts aren’t available. But when all the information is available, and the choice is made to ignore it because it doesn’t serve a pre-determined agenda, corruption reaches its pinnacle.

Such was the case with the religious leaders in John chapter 7.

John 7:45-52  The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

The religious leaders had sent temple guards and officers to arrest Jesus. When they returned without Him, they were asked why they didn’t obey orders. There response is powerful.  “No one ever spoke like this man!” The officers, without an agenda, heard the authority of Christ as He taught the truth of Scripture, and determined that they would not arrest Him. They disobeyed an order of the religious authorities because those authorities were wrong.

In an attempt to defend their position, the religious leaders did several things.

  1. They accused the officers of being wrong. We tend to do this when confronted with truth, especially truth that requires admission of wrong. We accuse others of being wrong so we don’t have to admit we are.
  2. They arrogantly declared that they alone are able to know the truth and to make the right decision. They set themselves above the people, and claimed special knowledge of the things of God. This kind of demeaning behavior is used frequently to suppress not only new ideas but also people themselves.
  3. They even more arrogantly declared that anyone who disagrees with them is accursed, or doomed to punishment. The tragedy here is that the people were not declared to be accursed because of sin, but rather because they disagreed with the leaders who had set themselves up as being the only ones who could know the truth. People in power – control freaks – will always condemn those who don’t agree with them to protect their position of control.
  4. They manipulated the truth to manipulate people. When Nicodemus suggested that they should not judge Jesus without a proper hearing of the facts, they again ignored that section of the law and rebuked Nicodemus with another section. The problem is that their reference to no prophet coming out of Galilee is a lie. Jonah was from Galilee. Nahum was from Galilee.  When the truth of the law doesn’t serve their own purpose, people will lie and hope others don’t know any better. People in power tend to think others are uneducated, so they think they can get away with lying.

Again, as we did yesterday, make any and all applications to today’s culture and to your own personal life as necessary.

Pastor John

Misinformation

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 19, 2020

Misinformation. Not having all the facts and not honestly accepting all the facts can cause terrible disagreements and have serious consequences. It’s even worse when the facts are available but ignored because they don’t fit a pre-determined narrative.

That’s where we find the people of Israel at the end of the seventh chapter of John. They were debating and arguing the identity of Jesus. Their statements were based on misinformation.

John 7:40-43  When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him.

Each group of people had a differing stance on who Jesus was because they only considered a small portion of the information available. In the case of the religious leaders, we know that their motivation for misinformation was that their positions or power and authority were threatened by the truth. But in the case of the groups of common people, we are not told their motivation for the stance they each took. However, it is intimated that they each had their own expectations of who they wanted the Messiah to be, and used only the information necessary to prove their point.

The groups who said Jesus is the Prophet were correct.  Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.”

Those who claimed Jesus was the promised King, the Messiah, were correct.  God’s covenant with King David was that  “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”  2 Samuel 7:16

Those who claimed that the Christ would be a descendant of David and come from David’s city Bethlehem were correct, even though they were misinformed and believed Jesus was from Galilee. Micah 5:2  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Each group had some of the truth, but no group embraced all of the truth. They only believed what served their purpose.

Go ahead…make all the applications needed to our present culture, both spiritually and politically.

Pastor John

FLOWING WATER

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, October 16, 2020

I love rivers. Any size. Creeks. Babbling brooks. Streams. When water is flowing, I am captivated. I could sit for hours and watch the water surge over rocks and logs. The gentle gurgle of moving water relaxes me. Fresh, clean, pure mountain streams are my favorite because not only do they nourish my soul with tranquility, they also nourish my body with refreshment.

My mind is captivated by the seemingly never-ending flow of water in a river. Where does it all come from? Even when the rain and melting snow have ceased, the water still flows, albeit more slowly. I am fascinated with the almost eternal nature of a river, for I know not its beginning and cannot see its end.

During the great Feast of Booths in Jerusalem, while tensions are rising and tempers are flaring as people debate the identity of Christ, Jesus stands up and loudly proclaims an eternal truth.

John 7:37-38  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The behavior of the people at the feast was an indicator of their thirst for spiritual truth. Whether they rejected or accepted Christ, they had the same thirst, but different ideas of what water could quench their thirst. Those who rejected Christ sought to eliminate thirst by drinking of religious duty, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification. Those who chose to believe in Jesus as the Christ were about to discover the eternal water of the Holy Spirit of God. Only one group would never thirst again.

When the source of water we drink is man-made, we will always thirst for more. Human solutions to the soul’s thirst for meaning will never satisfy us. But when the source of water is the creator of water, we will drink of living water that revives our soul, refreshes our spirit, and satisfies our thirst.

When we recognize that our greatest thirst is for spiritual satisfaction, and we turn from human solutions to belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who becomes to us a river of living water flowing out of our heart.

Think about this further analogy of water. When water springs up from the earth as a spring and begins its journey as a creek, a brook, a stream, or a river, the water is only so pure as the ground from which it gushed. Water that originates in the soiled ground of man’s sin cannot ever become a river of life. It has its origins in death.

However, water that originates in the heart of God will be pure life, and will bring life to your heart. Your heart will become a source of living water, quenching the thirst of every aspect of your life. Rivers of life will flow from you and nourish others. Out of your heart your mouth will speak words of life to others. Your thirst will be satisfied, and you will eagerly desire to help others quench their thirst also.

Are you thirsty? Do you keep drinking of man’s water, and wonder why you always need more? Then come to Jesus. He will quench your greatest thirst, and you will never thirst again.

Pastor John

Realistic or Idealistic

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 15, 2020

As I sit in my office early on Wednesday morning writing this Thursday devotional, I am stuck in a battle between realism and idealism. From early spring until late fall, Wednesday is my day to join a dozen other men on the golf course for a time of fellowship and ministry. But this morning, it’s raining. The forecast says it will rain until after lunch. The winds are going to increase up to 40 miles per hour by mid-morning. I keep checking the radar to see if the rain will move out of the area by our 9:30 tee time.

Realistically, I won’t be going. Ideally, I will.

I tend to live life idealistically. I believe the best is possible. I am often reminded by people close to me that I need to be more realistic.

In John 7:25-31, I see a contrast between realism and idealism in the life of Jesus. Take a moment to read the whole context.

John 7:25-31 25  Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26  And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27  But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28  So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29  I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30  So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31  Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The people were debating whether or not Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah that had been promised. They were gathering evidence to justify their positions. Some said the inaction of the authorities against Jesus was proof that even they believed He was the Christ. Others said He was not the Messiah because they thought they knew where He came from, and the promised Christ would come from an unknown place. Still others said that He must be the Christ because He has already done all the works necessary to prove He is.

Each person was trying to be realistic. But what about Jesus? Realistically, using only human reason and the evidence available around him, He might have chosen to withdraw in fear. There was a warrant issued for His arrest. There was a potential for an uprising as people chose sides. Realistically, Jesus was in trouble.

But Jesus chose to view life idealistically. Why? Because He was totally in tune with the Father, who is totally in control at all times. Jesus declares that He came from the Father, that He knows the heart of the Father, that He has a mission from the Father, and the Father is in control of the timing of the mission. Every detail of His life was under the control of God the Father. Jesus did not live for His own benefit. He lived explicitly for the will of the Father. As a result, the reality of circumstances had no influence on His activity. Jesus lived in the idealistic realm of God’s presence and purpose.

How about you? Are you living in the presence of God with such confidence of Christ’s purpose for your life that the reality of circumstances cannot stop you from pursuing the ideal of representing Jesus with every decision you make and every activity you engage?

Pastor John