UNSEASONED MEAT IS BEST

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 17, 2021

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian people, he was under attack. There were false teachers who were attempting to discredit him of teaching a made-up gospel. They were accusing him of being misled by other teachers who were unfaithful to the traditions of the Jewish faith. They did not believe that he was qualified to be an Apostle.

Paul does several things to declare his credibility as an Apostle:

  1. He tells them that what he is teaching did not come from other teachers,  He testifies that the truth he teaches was not made up by man, nor did he learn it from men. What he is preaching is of divine origin.
  2. Paul reminds them that his past was one of complete devotion to the Jewish traditions, but when He met Jesus his loyalties were immediately changed. The transforming power of Jesus Christ in his life resulted in a determination to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the rest of his life.
  3. He declares that he received the Gospel directly from Jesus Christ, in the same way all the other Apostles did. This means that after his conversion to Christ, Paul spent three years in the wilderness being taught the truths and principles of the kingdom of God by Jesus directly. His qualifications as an Apostle were equal to all the others.
  4. Then he renounces any idea that he was trained for the Gospel ministry by any person. No one could accuse Paul of being influenced by anyone other than Christ.

Here how Paul states it in Galatians 1:16b-17. 

…I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Here’s my application point for today:

Are we being trained for Gospel ministry by the Holy Spirit of God, or do we take pride in how people and their methods of Bible Study have influenced us?

It is so easy to become enamored with the way certain people teach and preach. We are better known as a follower of our favorite author than we are of Jesus. We post and quote human teachers before we quote Scripture. We even have Facebook pages and small groups devoted to teachers and preachers. But what if all those resources were gone except for the Bible? Do we not understand that the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God is absolutely sufficient to train you for Gospel ministry?

We must stop honoring people. Granted, there are great Gospel authors and commentaries. But the Holy spirit alone is the revealer of truth to us. All others are simply seasoning. Don’t focus on what’s on the meat or on who cooked the meat. Focus on the meat!

Pastor John

TRANSFORMED TERRORISTS

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

How many conversions to Christ must we witness to be convinced that Jesus Christ can transform anyone from a terrorist to an evangelist?

I ask that question because I think there is a level of doubt in our hearts about the saving power of Jesus. The evidence for such a statement is found in the contrast between the level of fear and the intensity of prayer I see in people’s lives. We are more prone to protect ourselves from threats to our faith than we are to pray for those who threaten us.

Even though we say we believe in the transforming power of Jesus to rescue anyone from sin and make them His servant, we do not necessarily allow that belief to influence our attitudes and actions towards those who would persecute us. The Apostle Paul tells us his own story to remind us that it’s possible to go from a terrorist to an evangelist.

Galatians 1:13-14   “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”

The reason we do not grasp the full value of Paul’s conversion and apply it to those who oppose Christianity today may well be in our misunderstanding of grace. When we believe that man’s methods are responsible for man’s transformation, then we have ever right to be afraid. But when we believe that God’s grace is responsible for man’s transformation, then we trust the power of God to save anyone in the same way He saved us. If we believe we assisted God in saving us, then we will doubt the ability of others to save themselves. But when we fully trust the blood of Jesus Christ to save us apart from any work we do, then we will believe that anyone can be saved.

My friends, we must not live in fear of those who stand opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must pray for their conversion to Christ. And if we have even the slightest doubt that they can be saved, then we must doubt that we are, for in God’s eyes we were all equally condemned by our sin and the cost of salvation was the same for all of us.

Start praying for the enemies of Jesus, especially those who claim to have religion.

Pastor John

First Choice

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

When I was a boy, I didn’t like standing in a line while two appointed captains looked us over and chose those who were good enough to be on their teams. First, the captains were chosen because everyone agreed they were the best players. Already I am feeling inferior. Then, one by one, players were chosen based on their ability to bring victory to the team. As each was chosen, my confidence sank. The closer I got to being the last one chosen the more I felt like a necessary addition to the team that would only subtract from the team’s chances.

I remember the first time I was chosen to be the captain. My first selection was a friend who was consistently chosen last. Everyone laughed at me. It didn’t matter. Everyone deserves a chance to be first.

Life can feel like we were chosen last. Daily routines and circumstances sink our confidence into the murk of mundane mediocrity. People’s actions and reactions drain our energy and damage our endurance. Quitting the team seems like a viable option.

But then the marvel of our Maker shines through the darkness with eternal Light. Here’s how Paul describes it.

Galatians 1:15-16a  But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me…”

Almighty, Eternal, Sovereign God saw me before I was ever in line and set me apart to be His.

He called my name, even though others seemed more qualified to be called. His call was not based on my qualifications, but was a response to His love and grace.

He revealed Jesus to me. He gave me His qualifications. He gave me His life. He gave me everything I needed to be a member of His victorious team.

WOW! My energy is restored. I am determined to endure to the end. I have been chosen first.

So have you.

Pastor John

WHAT SPEAKS FOR YOU?

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 14, 2021

“Speak for yourself.”

This phrase is often used to tell someone that we do not share their viewpoint on a particular subject. But it is also used to validate one’s own viewpoint. In fact, speaking for yourself is one of the guiding principles of living for self. When we choose to determine truth based solely on our personal experiences and preferences, the right to speak for ourselves is essential. 

The Apostle Paul was transformed from a man who spoke for himself to a man who let Someone else speak for him. He wrote about it in his letter to the churches of Galatia, which we are studying this summer. In Galatians chapter one, starting in verse 11, Paul declares that he never speaks for himself. I encourage you to read verses 11-24. 

We are tempted to let many things speak for us. Good works. Good looks. Our intellect. Our experience. Our talents. Our strengths. And while these things may suffice to speak for us to other people, they fall far short of achieving any recognition with God.

Yesterday in our worship service we sang a song that deeply moved me. It’s words resounded in my heart all day. It reminded me that I do not speak for myself. I cannot. I have nothing to offer to God that is able to rescue me from the condemnation of sin. I have only one hope. This is my declaration of what speaks for me.

Be still my soul, redeeming love out of the dust of Calvary is rising to the throne above. There is no vengeance in His cry while “it is finished, fills the sky. Forgiveness is the final plea. The blood of Jesus speaks for me.

My heart can barely take it in, He pardons all my guilty stains. Surrender all my shame to Him, He breaks the curse of every chain. My sin is great, but greater still the boundless grace His heart reveals. A mercy deeper than the sea, the blood of Jesus speaks for me.

When my accuser makes the claim that I should die for my offense, I point him to that rugged frame where I found life at Christ’s expense. See from His hands, His feet, His side, the fountain flowing deep and wide. Oh hear it shout the victory, the blood of Jesus speaks for me.

Worthy is the Lamb, Lamb for sinners’ slain. Jesus, Lord of all, glory to His name. Heaven crying out, let the earth proclaim, power in the blood, glory to His name. Jesus!

Oh let my soul arise and sing. My confidence is not in vain. The One who fights for me is King. His oath, His covenant remain. No condemnation now I dread, eternal hope is mine instead. His Word will stand, I stand redeemed. The blood of Jesus speaks for me.

Amazing love, how can it be? The blood of Jesus speaks for me.

WHICH GOD?

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LifeLink Devotional

Friday, June 11, 2021

We are nearing the end of a universal war that has been in progress since before the creation of the world. It is the battle between God, the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all things, and all His created beings that are capable of rational thought. The war is being fought over the souls of people on the battleground of belief. The conflict is between two belief systems. The first is that God is God and that He is loving and good. The second is that we are our own gods, and that we are better at managing our own lives to produce good.

The primary combatants are God and Satan. The battle is not over the knowledge of God’s existence; Satan and all his demons believe that God exists. The fight is about whether God is True and Good, and able to be trusted to rule in such a way that we are fully loved and accepted and fulfilled in life. Atheists and agnostics are not really striving to prove there isn’t a God, but they are seeking to prove that they themselves are god.

One of the tactics used by the enemies of God is to renounce the truth of the Gospel by discrediting all spirituality. Jean Meslier (1664-1729) served as a Catholic priest for 40 years, but after his death was discovered to have written the very first book-length philosophical essay promoting atheism.

Meslier says all religions are human inventions:

“All the laws and orders that are issued in the name and authority of God or the gods are really only human inventions… invented by shrewd and crafty politicians, afterward cultivated and multiplied by the false seducers and charlatans, then accepted blindly by the ignorant, and finally supported and authorized by the laws of the princes and rulers of the earth who used these human inventions to keep a tight rein on the community of men and do with them what they wanted.”

In contrast to that statement, the Apostle Paul states in his God-inspired letter to the churches of Galatia,  “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.”(Galatians 1:11)

Paul did not invent the Gospel, nor did he receive it from men; but he personally received the Gospel from Jesus Christ. Both his message and his apostolic ministry were divinely given. Therefore, anybody who added anything to or took anything away from Paul’s Gospel was in danger of divine judgment, because that Gospel was given by Jesus Christ from heaven.

The war for truth is being fought on many battlefields in the church today. Is Jesus God? Did Jesus rise from the dead into an eternal body? Is the Bible the inspired revelation of God without error? And the list goes on. But one thing is common in all the debates and deconstruction of Biblical truth: they are all an attempt to validate man as his own god and conform God to our imaginations. The single motivation behind man’s attempt to rediscover truth is to agree with Satan that we should be gods of our own lives.

Every one of us has a choice to believe in a god – either one of our own making or the One who made us. It is a decision with eternal consequences. Choose wisely.

Pastor John  

Don’t Negotiate

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 10, 2021

From early childhood we learn how to negotiate. Unless we put a bridle on it and reign it in, negotiation will soon gallop into manipulation. I have watched this far too often in children who are given permission at an early age to debate the decisions of a parent. By the time they are teenagers they are experts at getting their way.

When it comes to the truth of the Gospel, the Apostle Paul leaves no room for negotiation. When anyone brings false teaching into the local church they are to be immediately disciplined by removing them. There is to be no leaven in the pure bread of life.

Galatians 1:8  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Unfortunately, the church today seems to be embracing the reconstruction of the Gospel. I am currently reading a book written by a former member of the contemporary Christian band ZOEgirl, Alisa Childers. She describes her involvement in the movement called Progressive Christianity, and how by grace she was rescued from it. The book is entitled Another Gospel?. I recommend it to you.

The progressive movement’s agenda is not new. It starts with the deconstruction of all Gospel truth under the guise of removing any bias we have. Then the Gospel is reconstructed under the false pretense that it must fit into the parameters of our individual experiences and preferences. It is a deadly game of conforming the Gospel to man rather than conforming man to the Gospel.

Just as Alisa Childers was drawn into this movement by the persuasive words of a talented pastor, we too can be tempted to deconstruct our faith by the engaging eloquence of false teachers. They promise prosperity. They promise personal gratification. They promise a savior who separates spiritual life from the pursuit of pleasure. It is a modern revision of the ancient Gnostic philosophy which was so prevalent in the days of Christ and the Apostles.

Recently I was asked how we can learn more about these threats to the truth of the Gospel. My answer was simple. Study the truth so thoroughly that any deviation from it is immediately obvious. With our eyes fixed on Jesus with His unchangeable nature, and our minds transformed by the unchangeable truth of the Gospel,  we will not be conformed to the pattern of thinking so prevalent in the world today.

And when any…let me shout it…WHEN ANY TEACHING OR TEACHER PRESENTS ANYTHING THAT IS CONTRARY TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, DO NOT NEGOTIATE. CUT IT OFF AND REMOVE IT. We must stay faithful to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Approved Workers

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

There is a severe employment problem in America today. Thousands of jobs to be had but very few people willing to work. We could debate the reasons for this all day long and into the next election cycle, but at the root of the problem is the corrupt condition of people’s hearts. We feel entitled to more than we have, and we feel enabled to get more at no cost. The need for more is rooted in our pursuit of value and acceptance.

The intentionally unemployed believe that their value can be enhanced by high returns on minimal investment. They seek to please self.

The employed are tempted to seek the same returns with minimal investment. They do what is necessary to please their boss without a sincere work ethic that benefits the employer.

I believe the need to earn acceptance from people or earn value for self has a direct influence on our job performance. When we embrace God’s acceptance through Jesus Christ, we are free from the need to earn value for ourselves. When we know the value we have in Christ, we will not need to find more value by pleasing people. This is especially true in our job performance. The Bible speaks of this in two passages.

Colossians 3:22-24   “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Ephesians 6:5-8  “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

How do you do your job? That question cannot be honestly answered before we answer this one. WHY do you do your job? If you do it to earn personal value, you will fail. If you do it to gain acceptance from people, you will fail. But if you do it as a product of your value in Christ, and do it with thanksgiving in your heart to God who accepts you in Jesus, you will receive an inheritance worth infinitely more than any paycheck you receive.

We work because the Lord has been gracious to us to give us skills and strength. We work well because it is an act or worship to the Lord. We who are not seeking to please people and earn their acceptance should be the best workers our employers have ever hired. We work from strength not from weakness. We work for eternal rewards not for earthly benefits. We work to serve our employer not to serve self.

We who are in Christ should not be part of the employment problem.

Pastor John

NO MORE APPROVAL NEEDED

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Yesterday’s topic of seeking the approval of people needs more unpacking. The Apostle Paul understands that we need to know our value. We need to know that we are approved. The problem is that we seek value and approval in the wrong places. Humanity cannot provide what human nature needs. As created beings, only our Creator can supply what we need to be complete.

Paul knew that our nature seeks approval from people so we can declare ourselves to have value. But true value can only come from the approval of God through Jesus Christ. If our hearts are set on seeking the approval of people then we will always need more value. But when our hearts embrace the approval of God, we lack no value.

Paul knew that the key to running the spiritual race assigned to us by Christ is to keep our hearts firmly fixed on Christ and the coming glory of His presence. If our sense of personal worth shifts from an eternal perspective to an earthly one then we will struggle to endure the circumstances and the people of this life. But when we live in the approval of God through Jesus Christ, with our value defined by eternity, then with thanksgiving we will live to please God and not man.

Here’s how Paul describes it in one of the letters he wrote to the church at Corinth. I like the way Eugene Peterson expresses the truth of this passage in his paraphrase called The Message.

2 Corinthians 5:1-14  “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming. But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad. That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure. It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.”

God’s love has given us the value of Jesus, and granted us eternal approval. There’s no need to look anywhere else.

Pastor John

APPROVED

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 7, 2021

It’s very hard not to be a people-pleaser. From early childhood we learn to do and say the things that make other people happy.  We freely move between opposing viewpoints to avoid conflict and gain acceptance. We keep the peace by hiding what we really think and agreeing with the consensus around us. It is destructive behavior that produces serious consequences, including self-doubt, spiritual doubt, and distrust.

The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 1:10. He is about to confront a serious problem in the church of Jesus Christ, which will then expose certain people-pleasing leaders as false teachers. Paul knows the potential for people to be hurt and for people to reject him. He could ignore the issue and gain their approval, but that would mean being unfaithful to Christ. He verbalizes his inner debate in Galatians 1:10.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

One of the freedoms we receive as servants of Jesus Christ is the approval of God. His eternal commendation is of far greater value than any self-earned approval of people. As servants of Jesus we are free from the need to get other people to like us. We are free from earning value by gaining people’s approval. We are so confident in our spiritual identity that physical identity becomes insignificant. We are set free from constantly measuring up to other people’s standards because we are covered by the grace of God that requires no standards.

Freedom begins with the grace of God covering every flaw in us so that we never again have to cover any flaw. With our identity secure in Jesus, we are free from earning any identity from people. With our eternal value declared by Christ, we never have to earn value from any person.  With God’s approval stamped on our lives in the blood of Jesus, we never again need to seek the approval of people.  

That’s freedom.

Pastor John

GRACE AND PEACE

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 3, 2021

According to my grandchildren, I’m old! I can do nothing but agree with them. Yet I count it a privilege to have lived all these years in an age of innovation. I’ve seen a lot of things change. I grew up on party line phones, transistor radios, black-and-white TV, hand-written letters, and typewriters. Now we carry all those things in our pocket on one device. I wonder what the next great innovation will be?

Many of us are enamored with new technology. We want the latest and the greatest of what’s available. We have lost the ability to be content.

Unfortunately, the disease of discontentment has invaded our spiritual lives as well. We seek out new ways to worship because we are no longer emotionally gratified by our current experience. We look for churches that are innovative and modern. We seek out teachers who stroke our egos and leave us feeling good about focusing on self-improvement. We are no longer content with the Gospel, but seek social relevance that produces political activism. And when the next innovative preacher comes along offering an exciting new take on what the Bible teaches, we dive in headfirst and immerse ourselves in whatever is being taught.

Such was the case with the people in the churches of Galatia to whom the Apostle Paul wrote. They became discontent with the Gospel and were easily swayed to follow false teachers. Grace was no longer treasured, and was replaced with the works of their own hands. Peace with God, peace of mind, and peace with others was gone, and discontent prevailed.

The whole book of Galatians is the Holy Spirit’s admonishment of those who have become discontent with the Gospel. Every inspired word is directed at turning us back to grace and peace. When we treasure grace, we will know true peace. Grace is the grounds for peace with God. Grace is the solution for peace with self. Grace is the means of peace with others.

Paul begins his address to the people of Galatia with these words: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Galatians 1:3)

Why are so many professed followers of Jesus lacking peace? Why are we so discontent? Why are we constantly seeking new innovations in church ministry and new emotional highs in worship? Why are false teachers so popular?

There is one reason why: people have their minds set on the flesh and not on the Spirit of God. In Romans 8:6 Paul says, For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Discontent is caused by seeking self rather than the Savior!

We need a revival in the church today. We need repentance from pursuing the desires of the flesh. We need humble hearts that treasure the grace of God and not the treasures of the world. Then and only then will we find peace.

It starts with me…and you. Let’s check our contentment level. Is the grace of God sufficient for our every need, and does it satisfy our every need so we are at peace?

It should. It can. It will.

Pastor John