Endure Suffering

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 29, 2021

Here’s one final challenge for you this week concerning the faithfulness of God. It comes from 1 Peter 4:19.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

As I mentioned earlier in the week, we tend to sacrifice relational faithfulness because of low returns on our investments. But we also sacrifice faithfulness to God based on the suffering we may experience.

I’m sure we can all look back on our lives and remember internal debates we have had with ourselves about whether we should let our faith show in certain situations. Should I bow my head and give thanks for my food in the restaurant? Should I let the group of friends at school who invited me over for a movie night know that I have certain movie standards because I am a Christian? How much ridicule will I get at work if they saw me reading my Bible during lunch?

Unfortunately for many of us the threat of suffering was more influential in our final decision than the faithfulness of God to protect us. I would encourage you to read 1 Peter starting in chapter 3 verse 8, and get a renewed perspective on living for Jesus even if it causes us to suffer at the hands of unsaved people. Read all the way through chapter 4. The passage concludes with the words I have printed above. Let me repeat them.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

It is God’s will for us to be faithful. It is God’s will for us to serve Him above all other desires in our lives. It is God’s will for us to testify to His saving grace. It is God’s will to be Gospel-centered people. But we will never follow God’s will if we first do not make three choices.

  1. We choose to entrust our souls to a faithful Creator. This requires placing a higher value on our eternal reward than on any earthly benefit we think we can earn.  God is eternally faithful to protect us. Peter told us this is chapter 1. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  2. We choose to endure the sufferings of today because our hope is in the glory of eternity. We must never place a higher value on personal comfort than on faithfulness to God.
  3.  We choose to keep doing good no matter how much we suffer. We must not set aside the expression of God’s righteousness for the sake of human benefit.

1 Peter 2:20-21 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Pastor John

God Faithfully Forgives

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 28, 2021

This is going to be long, but it is heavy on my heart.

It seems like every day we are confronted with things that can cause us to doubt the faithfulness of God. Political turmoil can bring questions about God’s sovereignty. Financial crisis may make us doubt God’s promise of sufficient provisions for everyday life. Relationship issues might bring God’s love into question. Emotional distress certainly makes us long for real peace.

But one of the most tragic doubts of God’s faithfulness is found in our misunderstanding of God’s forgiveness. Before I give you specific examples of how severe this problem is, please read God’s own statement on forgiveness.

1 John 1:9   “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God is faithful to forgive us all our sins. I’m not sure we really believe that. Here’s why:

Sam Smith, a modern secular musician, wrote a song entitled “Forgive Myself.” It was written right after a breakup with a girlfriend. The main lyric line goes like this:

“And I can’t love anyonе else
‘Til I forgive myself”

The songwriter wrote this about the song:

“It doesn’t get sadder … than this song. This was the freshest one after my breakup. Two people can’t collide into one, they have to grow alongside each other. ‘Forgive Myself’ was the beginning of me understanding that and saying, ‘Okay, for me to feel better, I’m going to have to forgive myself for all the things I’ve done in that relationship, and for all the things that I’ve ever done in relationships that were bad. And I need to work on myself to feel better.’”

The world does not understand forgiveness. Yet somehow this false notion of forgiving ourselves has worked its way into the church as well. Gospel music group Three Bridges sings a song with a not-so-subtle contradiction.  See if you can discern a problem.

Every one of my mistakes has been buried by the waves
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness, He washed them all away
He looks beyond all I have done to the heart of who I am
And the One who saw me fall so hard gives me strength to stand

It’s time to forgive and forget
Mercy has no memory, grace has no regret
God took those sins and carried them far as the east is from the west
And if Jesus can forgive me, then it’s time to forgive myself

Here’s another example from a brand new song from Micah Tyler that is very popular on Christian radio stations.

If Your love is here to lift me

And Your blood says You forgive me

Show me how I can forgive myself

‘Cause Your mercies are new today

What a dichotomy of truth in these songs. There are powerful declarations of God’s forgiveness, and sad confessions of unbelief in its application to our life. It may be semantics to some, but to me it’s a significant issue. There is nothing to be found in the Bible about forgiving ourselves. God forgives the sin and its guilt.

Psalm 32:5  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Do we need to learn to let go of guilt? Yes. But that is not to be confused with forgiveness. Instead, we are to receive, accept, and apply the forgiveness of God and live in it. I know for some that’s how you define forgiving yourself, but that’s not the term to use. It isn’t Biblical. If you do not receive, accept, and apply God’s forgiveness, then in essence you do not trust His faithfulness to forgive. Instead of saying we need to forgive ourselves, we should speak the truth and say that we don’t fully trust that God has forgiven us. We must become discerning about how this false doctrine is infiltrating our lives and our churches through false teaching, articles, books, and music.

My friends, there is great freedom in trusting the faithfulness of God to forgive you. Maybe it’s time you do that. Then you can move on, not based on what you do for yourself, but rather on what God is faithful to do for you.

Pastor John

Trusting God’s Faithfulness

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Please take a moment and read this passage of Scripture. It puts forth important principles for us as we consider the faithfulness of God.

Jeremiah 42:1-6 1  Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2  and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the LORD your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3  that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4  Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” 5  Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us. 6  Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.”

Here is a group of people who are living in fear. They ask God’s prophet Jeremiah for help from the Lord. Jeremiah recognizes that they are true seekers of God because he promises to pray to the Lord their God.  Then some significant statements are made.

  1. Jeremiah would be a faithful witness to whatever God says. He promises to tell them exactly what God says and not hold anything back.
  2. The people make a commitment to listen to whatever the Lord says and to obey His directions. Even if what God says is counter-productive to their preferences, they commit to obedience because it is the word of God.
  3. The people declare that they want God to be the final judge of their obedience. They acknowledge that God is the true and faithful witness to how we all apply and obey God’s truth to our lives.

Hmmm. We need to consider whether or not we can make those three commitments.

  1. Are we willing to speak whatever God says, even if it may offend or hurt others?
  2. Are we willing to commit to obeying whatever God says, even if it is counter-productive to our personal values?
  3. Are we ready to fully submit to God as the final judge of our integrity?

Here’s one more point to ponder. Your response to the three questions above will reflect the level of confidence you have in the faithfulness of God.

Pastor John

Unconditional Faithfulness

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

There are times when it seems easy to give up on someone. Our repeated investments of time and resources are consistently met with ingratitude, causing us to ponder ending the relationship. Lack of appreciation becomes our justification for walking away.  And when anger, bitterness, and criticism are the only returns we get for our investment, we break all ties and end all involvement.

That’s the way of humanity controlled by the flesh. Apart from the Spirit of God we have no other choice than to break relationships with people who are not faithful to us.

Not so with God. Here are the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy.

“…if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  (2 Timothy 2:13)

What a promise! God’s activity towards is NOT conditional. It is not based on the level of our faith in Him.


May the Holy Spirit direct your thoughts of praise to Him for how you are experiencing that right now in your life.

Pastor John

Grandma’s Favorite

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 25, 2021

On Sunday, the people who make up the local church of Jesus Christ called Calvary will celebrate their annual Jubilee. It’s a time to look back at the year 2020 and remember how faithful God has been. Our theme this year is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” This week’s devotionals will focus on the faithfulness of God.

My paternal grandmother was an amazing woman. She was a lifelong student of the Scriptures. She graduated seminary and became the wife of a professor at Moody Bible Institute, and after the Great Depression she followed my grandpa into full time pastoral and evangelistic crusade ministry. She was a cancer survivor who lost a leg and lived with an artificial one for the last several years of her life. She was a living testimony to me of the faithfulness of God.

When my grandparents lived in Wheaton, Illinois, they had a young woman living with them as a boarder while she attended college. One night a young man showed up at the door to take the girl on a date. After hearing the curfew rules from my grandpa, the young man named Billy left with the girl named Ruth. Later, after they were married, they entered ministry. One of the men they invited to join them in ministry was a singer named George. Billy had heard him singing a new hymn on the Moody radio station. He wanted that hymn sung at his crusade. So George Beverly Shea began singing the song “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” at the Billy Graham crusades. 

That song became my grandma’s favorite song.  Let its words speak to you as we begin this week of celebrating the faithfulness of God.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Keeping Promises

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 22, 2021

The older I get – and yes I’m getting old – the more I recognize the importance of keeping promises. But I see a huge problem. We tend to make commitments that we don’t define as promises. For example, When I tell someone I will be at a meeting at a certain time, and then show up ten minutes late, have I broken a promise? Now if you are at once thinking of all the reasons for being ten minutes late, then you do not define a commitment as a promise. I think that’s a problem.

What if God did that. What if His promises were not ”Yes and Amen”  as we are told in 2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. What if the promises of God could not be trusted? What if His Word was changeable?

When Jesus responded to the attack on His life in John 10, He made a statement that got me thinking along these lines today. He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken.” What God has revealed to us in the Bible is the perfect expression of His perfection. What He has promised us in His Word is equal in trustworthiness as He is. The spiritual principles for life written in the Bible are eternally valid and cannot be changed. What God has spoken cannot be undone.

Unfortunately, my word is not so trustworthy. Neither is yours. We do not define promises the way God does. From the imperfection of our heart comes the imperfection of our word. We do not perfectly fulfill what we have promised because the promise did not originate in a perfect soul.

However, that must not be used as an excuse for our substandard performance. There is hope for improvement. It starts with recognizing that our words are promises. The problem is the source of our words, when they come from our human identity, are not trustworthy. However, if our words are the expression of the Living Word within us, then they are trustworthy. When the promises we make are sourced in the promises of God, then the Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill them for the sake of His own glory.

Take some time to evaluate the source of your words. If the commitment you are making to someone is based on the need for approval or acceptance, then you will not consistently fulfill your promise. But is the commitment you are making is centered in the Word of Jesus Christ, you will find the Holy Spirit enabling you to fulfill your promise because the promise is His.

Think on these things.

Pastor John

Two Hands

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 21, 2021

When our children were just learning to walk, Denise and I would position them between us so we could each hold a hand. No matter which way the child stumbled, one of us could instantly restore their balance. Soon, as their balance improved and their confidence grew, we took walks with them holding only one hand. It wasn’t long before they took the liberty to decide when they needed a hand. Rarely did they ever ask for both. One seemed to be sufficient.

How many hands does it take to hold you?

The reason I ask that question is because of the words of Jesus in John 10: 28-30.

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

Jesus says that we are in His hand and He holds us securely against all attempts to remove us. Then He says that the Father also holds us in His hand. So, we may assume that there are two hands holding us, right?

Read the next statement of Jesus. “I and My Father are One.”

Jesus draws out of His analogy of a shepherd and his sheep one of the most significant doctrines of Scripture – the absolute unity of the Father and the Son. “I and My Father are One” is as clear a statement of His deity as you will find anywhere in Scripture.

The word One does not suggest that the Father and the Son are identical persons. Rather, it means that they are one in essence: The Father is God and the Son is God, but the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. Jesus is speaking about unity, not identity.

The answer to the question of how many hands are holding you is TWO – the hand of Jesus and the Hand of the Father. But the answer alone is not satisfying unless we understand the reason for the answer. I am filled with awe and thanksgiving as I prepare to write the next paragraph.

The Father and the Son are in absolute agreement about your security. BOTH hold you equally and eternally. BOTH are in perfect unity about how to provide us the greatest confidence, hope, and protection. NEVER have they ever had a difference of opinion about what is best for us. NEVER have the Father and the Son disagreed on the direction we should take.  NEVER has one of them ever held back on their support of us. NEVER has the Father questioned our identity in Christ, and NEVER has the Son ever withdrawn His life from us.

When Jesus said, “I and My Father are One,” He declared to us a level of spiritual security beyond anything ever expressed before. The Father gives us to the Son. The Son holds us securely in His hand. The Son is in perfect unity with the Father. The Father honors the finished work of the Son to secure us. The Father joins the Son in securing us in His hand.

We can walk through life confidently knowing that it is not up to us to choose when we need a hand. The hand of God and the Hand of Jesus will NEVER let us go.

Pastor John

No Snatching

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Have you ever played the game of snatch with children? I understand that there are actual games for sale using the name snatch, but the children’s game requires nothing other than a coin.  It’s remarkably simple. The adult places the coin in the palm of their hand and extends it towards the child. The child is told to try to snatch the coin from the hand before the adult’s fingers fold around it to protect it. The coin becomes secure when the adult’s fingers grip it tightly. The adult usually wins.

I played this game with one of my grandchildren when they had reached the age of analytical thinking. After giving it some thought, rather than reaching for the coin, he quickly slapped upward on the bottom of my hand, sending the coin flying into the air. The race was on to recover it. He won. The coin was now his.

My grandson had figured out a way to beat the security system protecting the coin, something that cannot be accomplished in the spiritual realm. Jesus promised us that as His sheep we can never be snatched out of His hand.

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Thanks be to Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd for the eternal life He has granted to those He has called out of sin and into His flock. Great rejoicing flows from the lips those who have been given the guarantee of never perishing. All praise and glory to the power of Jesus whose eternal fingers are closed around me and can never be opened. Exalted above all other gods is Jehovah who in Christ grants His children eternal security.

With thanksgiving may you go forth into the darkness of the world knowing that Christ Jesus, who is one with the Father, has you securely in His hand so that no one and no thing in this world can ever take you out of His hand. Go forth and live securely!

Pastor John

No Bumps in the Dark

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Ten years ago, my wife and I spent a wonderful and relaxing couple of days camping with people from our church. The children that were there were great and stayed occupied with the sand and swings. The campfire was going throughout the days and into the nights. The conversation with friends was stimulating and enlightening. We had a great time.

When the first evening of campfire chat had ended, Denise and I realized we had not brought a flashlight with us to the campfire. It wasn’t a long walk back to our campsite, but it was very dark. I told my wife that it would be fine because I’m a bowhunter and I walk in the dark all the time when pursuing Bambi. After a subtle comment from someone around the campfire about me being in the dark all the time, we took off hand in hand to walk back to our camper.

When we got near it, I told Denise to follow me closely because there were obstacles in the path that could hurt if bumped into. She grabbed hold of my shirt and walked right behind me, trusting me to keep her safe. I didn’t lead her astray, and we arrived safely at the door.

The next morning when I got up, I opened my Bible and read these verses.  “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)

Now read the words of Jesus in John 10:27.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Rejoice with me in the knowledge of this truth. As a sheep in the flock of Jesus, the True Shepherd is speaking to you, instructing you, guiding you, leading you, providing for you, and protecting you.

Today, and every day, rejoice that while you walk in the darkness of this world, you have one going before you that can be trusted to be followed, because He knows the way.  

Pastor John

Speak Plainly

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 18,2021

Recently I was visiting with a friend who was explaining their position on a current social issue. They were being very emphatic. After several minutes of emotional conversation that almost turned into ranting, I interrupted and said, “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” It lightened the mood.

Sometimes people can speak very clearly but our filters don’t allow us to hear what they are really saying. Even after simple and clear explanations we ask them to repeat what they said, and to speak more plainly.

As we continue our study of the Gospel of John, we find Jesus taking a winter’s day stroll through Solomon’s porch in the Temple. He is surrounded by Jewish people wanting Him to speak plainly about His identity as the Messiah. Unfortunately, their understanding of the political Messiah’s role did not match with the mission of Jesus as their spiritual Messiah.

John 10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Let’s review.

  • Jesus turned water into wine, proving His authority over creation.
  • Jesus cleansed the Temple, calling it His Father’s house.
  • Jesus declared that He was the Son of Man who came to save people from their sin by offering Himself as a sacrifice.
  • John the Baptist testified to Jesus being the One sent from Heaven.
  • Jesus specifically told the Samaritan woman at the well that He was the Christ. Of course, as a Samaritan woman, her testimony was doubly doubted.
  • Jesus then healed an official’s son.
  • Jesus healed a lame man, following which He told the Jewish leadership that He was only doing the will of His Father who had sent Him.
  • Jesus fed over five thousand people from five loaves of bread and two fish, and afterward declared that He was the Bread of Life.
  • Jesus declared His eternal nature by stating that before Abraham was, I AM.
  • Jesus healed a blind man

These are just the things mentioned in John’s Gospel. Many other statements and proofs through miracles were done as written in the other Gospels. Yet here the Jews wanted Jesus to speak plainly. Their listening filters were their bondage. They only wanted an answer that fit into their current understanding. They were not able to hear anything coming from outside their insulated, sound-proof boxes.

What sound-proof boxes have you chosen to reside in? How have you insulated yourself from hearing the plain truth about Jesus? One of the biggest insulators is religious tradition. Another one is personal gratification. When we live in those boxes we refuse to listen to the plain truth that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, and has come to set us free from our boxes. He has come to deliver us from sin.

The Jews of Jesus day refused to listen. They refused to see the evidence. They died in their sin after putting to death the One who could save them. Don’t let that happen to you. Jesus is speaking plainly through His Word the Bible. Read it. Believe it. Believe in Jesus. He is your Savior.

Pastor John