WHAT’S THE ATTRACTION?

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

I am so thankful to be the pastor of a church that wants to focus on the truth of Scripture and declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am concerned for the number of churches who seek to please people and claim numerical growth as the ultimate goal of ministry.

Read these words from the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4 verse 9.

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

This morning the Babylon Bee, a satirical news site, posted this.  It illustrates the sad reality of churches who are falling away from the Gospel.

Hey you! Yeah you, pastor! Is your church boring? Is your congregation leaving in droves to go to the cool church down the street that has hot worship leaders and laser lights? 

You gotta fix that. Here’s how to make sure your bored congregants come back next Sunday. 

1) Offer VIP backstage passes to meet the pastor: As the pastor, you are a celebrity and everyone wants to meet you. Offer exclusive VIP passes to the first 20 people! 

2) Challenge the pastor of the church across the street to a cage fight: Bible teaching is fine, but what people really want is bloody pay-per-view MMA fighting! The winner of the match gets to keep half of the other church’s members. 

3) Offer anyone who shows up a chance to play bass in the worship band: Make dreams come true. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell them the bass is always unplugged anyway. 

4) Replace boring wafer communion with Cinnabon cinnamon rolls: Irresistible. 

5) Everyone gets a Taboo buzzer to press whenever the pastor says something they don’t like: Nothing like some audience participation! If you’re low on funds, you can give them rotten cabbage to throw. 

6) Tie a string to their smartphone and slowly pull it toward the church doors: Virtually everyone on earth is emotionally and physically dependant on their smartphones. Isn’t it time they were emotionally and physically dependant on walking through your church doors every Sunday? 

7) Put CBD vape capsules in the fog machine to help everyone stay relaxed: Maybe add some nicotine for a little chemical dependence. 

8) Advertise a new “forgive any sin” promotion: We all know God can forgive any sin, (except the sin of voting Democrat) but it feels so much better if it’s part of a cool promotion! Print out coupons for extra interest. 

Please don’t go to a church like that.  Find a church that teaches the Gospel and uses only the cross of Jesus Christ the resurrected Savior to attract people.

Pastor John

To Know and Be Known

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Random thoughts from a crazy Monday all stimulated by the truth of Galatians 4:9.

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God…”

  • Knowing God is insignificant unless I am known by God
  • Being completely known by God and knowing that He loves me is ultimate freedom. No more need to cover up or hide.l
  • Being known by God helps me understand grace. God knows me…everything about me…and yet His love for me is never diminished nor is my standing with Him ever changed. 
  • Being known by God transforms my lifestyle from one that pleases self to one that pleases Him. Not because I seek to earn more from God, but because I already have received every spiritual blessing from Him.  He gave it all to me because He knows me as His eternal child.
  • Being known by God teaches me the grace I need to love others even when I know things about them that seem unloveable. I can sincerely love others because God knows me and loves me.
  • God knows everything about me, yet He loves me, accepts me, works in me, and is faithful to me. Knowing this compels me to love others, accept them, work with them, and be faithful to them.
  • Understanding the grace of God who knows me helps me to show grace to others rather than be critical and judgmental of them.

Don’t be satisfied to simply know about God.  Come to Jesus and be known by God.

Pastor John

CLAIM YOUR INHERITANCE

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LifeLink Devotional

Friday, July 16, 2021

Wednesday was the one year anniversary of my dad’s transfer to heaven. It was a hard day for me as I recalled the moment of his passing into the presence of Jesus. I tried to play golf with my friends, but I wasn’t in much of a mood to be relational. And, as circumstances dictated, I ended up riding in a cart all by myself for the entire round, sentencing me my own thoughts. I’m sure the men I played with wondered what was wrong.

When my dad died, I served as the executor of his estate. As an heir I received my share of what was left after all the bills were paid. I did not receive everything my dad ever had. I received only a portion of what was left.

As I thought about that, I realized the infinite difference between an earthy inheritance and our heavenly one.  As a son of God through faith in Jesus Christ, I am an heir of everything God has. It will not be divided. Have you ever thought about that? Everything that God has prepared in heaven is mine and yours. We don’t share it. We each get all of it. That boggles my mind.

The other astounding truth is that we already possess our inheritance. Now if you are thinking only in terms of material things this will not apply to you. But when we consider the spiritual blessings we have in Christ Jesus, we already possess everything the Father has promised us as our inheritance.

In earthly families, an inheritance may be promised to the children, but until they reach a certain age they have no access to it. But when we were justified by faith we were given the standing of a child of God. At the same time, we were adopted into the family of God. Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it in Galatians.

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:25-26)

“…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”(Galatians 4:5-7)

The Greek word for “son” in these verses is not the word for child, but the word for adult son. At the moment of our salvation, being declared righteous as children of God, we are also declared heirs as adults. That’s the doctrine of adoption. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing from on high. (Ephesians 1:3)

I was grateful to receive what I did from my dad’s inheritance. He worked hard to make sure I would get something. But I am overwhelmed with the thought that in Christ I inherit everything that God has prepared for all of us. And I already possess most of it.

So do you.

Pastor John

ADOPTED

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 15, 2021

He stood silent with head bowed before the judge. He never thought his choices would result in such tragedy. In all his 28 years of life he had never faced his own guilt, and had never admitted his own responsibility. Yet here he stood after his arrest, facing a judge who was asking him to declare his guilt or his innocence.

He had been arrested and charged with manslaughter for being responsible for the death of a 33-year old man. His drug and alcohol use had severely impaired his judgement. He will never forget the officer of the law shouting at him as he pointed to the dead man lying on the ground. “SEE WHAT YOU DID!?!” He will never be able to remove the image of the mutilated body he saw.

The young man replies to the judge’s question with one word: “GUILTY!”

Then something amazing happens. The judge stands from his seat as he pounds his gavel on the judicial bar in front of him. “FORGIVEN!” He removes his black robe and steps down from the bench. He moves in close to the young man who stands in fear wondering what is happening. The judge speaks.

“I forgive you and declare you innocent of these charges. There is no charge left for you to face. I can do that because I am the father of the man you killed. But I want to do more than just declare you innocent. I want you to come home with me and be my son. You can have everything my son had, including his inheritance. I want to be your father.”

The judge embraces him.

The young man cannot believe what he is hearing. But he also doesn’t understand what he is feeling. The guilt and shame are being released. He feels unconditionally loved. He is overwhelmed with the grace of the embrace.

His arms slowly raise and he returns the embrace, and as he does, he uncontrollably whispers in the ear of the judge, “Father.”

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”   Galatians 4:4-7

BENEATH YOUR PRIVILEGE

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LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

One evening in the winter of my freshman year at college, I sat in the front row of the packed gymnasium holding an orange landline telephone. On stage were the Imperials, with Joe Moscheo sitting at the grand piano in front of me. I was the intermediary between Joe and the Lighting Team in the sound booth. We were connected by telephone. Joe made fun of me several times that night for being on the phone, but every time he wanted adjustments to the lighting he would speak the directions to me and I would relay them to the lighting guys. It was a fun night.

About halfway through the show, the request was made to put a spotlight on Sherman Andrus. He was going to sing a song entitled “Jesus Made Me Higher.” During the song he stopped and gave a testimony, and as he did, I put down my phone. He spoke about all the things in life we use to qualify ourselves. Sex. Money. Drugs. Alcohol. Status. Relationships. Yet none of them ever gratify or satisfy. He said that there is only one thing that qualifies us – the life of Jesus Christ in us. And if we say we have Jesus, but still pursue all the things of the world, then we are living beneath our privilege.  

I will never forget those words – living beneath our privilege. So many of us are doing just that when we continue to use the law as I used a telephone that night. We use the law as our intermediary between us and God. We hear the law, we relay our obedience to the law, and we hope to see the right light. But the law cannot save us. Only Christ Jesus can save us. He is more than our intermediary. He is our mediator. He is the Promise given to us who believe so that in Him we have been given the Spirit of God and made eternal children of God.

Look at these powerful and transforming words from the Apostle Paul.

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

By grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, we are made the eternal children of God.

Stop living beneath your privilege.

Pastor John

BLOCKED

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 12, 2021

I now know what writer’s block is.  I have it.  My mind is filled with the truth of Galatians 3:14 where Paul says, “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”  But I am unable to produce any creative thoughts to present it. Yet the simple truth is that God made a promise to Abraham that He would bless all the nations of the world through an offspring. That offspring is Jesus Christ, and because He fulfills the promise of God, salvation has come to every nation. Greeks, Germans, Ethiopians, and even Dutch/Norwegians like me can be saved from our sin and be given the life-giving Spirit of God.  Because Jesus is the promise, I now have the promise.  

I am sure this simple truth is sufficient to hold me through my writer’s block.  In fact, I am in no hurry to get past it.

Pastor John

Miracles

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LifeLink Devotional

Friday, July 9, 2021

On my first trip to the Philippines thirty years ago I joined the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer over a three-year old boy who was sick. I stood with my dear friend Victorino as we laid hands on the boy snuggled into the loving arms of his mother. When we passed by her an hour later the boy was running and jumping. We had heard from the Holy Spirit, and by faith we became the instruments of His grace, and the boy was healed.

Twenty-four years ago I sat in my office with a college student who was questioning the existence of demons. Again, by faith, I joined the work of God in this young man’s life and he was delivered from the demonic spirit that was in him.

Over the years I have seen hundreds if not thousands of miracles. I have stood next to men and women who have been delivered from addictions. I have ministered with a man who was raised from the dead. I have experienced the Lord’s healing from disease and disability in my own family.

But you may have doubts that I have seen thousands of miracles. Let me prove it to you. You are one of the miracles. Every single person I have ever met who has been born again by faith in Jesus Christ is a miracle. The most important miracle Jesus ever does is to invade your life and transform you from a sinner to an eternal child of God.

When we read verses like Galatians 3:5 where Paul says, “Does he who…works miracles among you…” we tend to think only in the context of healings and resurrections. But that is not the context of the verse. God is working miracles daily in our midst as people come to Jesus Christ by faith for the forgiveness of their sins and the transformation of their lives. We focus on the external evidence when the greatest miracle of all happened in their heart.

Maybe you have been wondering why you haven’t seen more miracles. May I suggest that you spend time praising Jesus for the miracle of your salvation. Then praise Him for the miracles of salvation in all the others in your life who have been saved by grace through faith.

You are surrounded by miracles every day.

You are one of them.

Pastor John

BY FAITH ALONE

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 8, 2021

My most prominent philosophy of life that contradicts the freedom of grace is this: I tend to live in a work/reward system. For example, if I do nice things for someone they will in turn do something for me. If I please them, then they will do what pleases me. 

We all suffer from this at some level. We are motivated to work by the reward of a paycheck.  We choose to serve others because we want something from them. We act nice and friendly to people who we believe will benefit us and add value to our lives. We even obey the law of God in order to earn His favor.

Earning the work of God in our lives is a contradiction to the nature of His grace.  The Apostle Paul addresses this problem in his letter to the Galatians.

“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:5

We are stuck in the fleshly philosophy that our works and worth are rewarded with the activity of God in our lives. I am bothered by the preachers and teachers in our world who falsely proclaim that the reason you are not receiving the blessings of God in your life is because you are not working hard enough to earn them. They say prayers are not being answered because you haven’t completed your spiritual duties. They teach that God only responds to people who have earned the right to receive a response. 

My friends, don’t be deceived by such false teaching. The activity of God in our lives is not produced by our religious works. We receive the blessing of God’s work in our lives as a product of His grace. Grace can’t be earned or it is a wage and not grace. God works His will and purpose in our lives because He is good, not because we are. God’s Spirit was given to us freely by faith alone, and His work in us continues by faith as well.

You do not have to live any longer in the spiritual bondage of working harder to receive more from God. You are God’s eternal child by faith in Jesus Christ.  You have been given God’s Spirit by faith alone.  You may now continue to live in the abundance of life Jesus promise by faith alone.  Stop trying to earn more than the infinite love of God you already have.

Pastor John

NO NEED TO TRY HARDER

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Here’s another question burning in my heart.

Why do I feel the need to try so hard?

I don’t want to be guilty of a generalization, but there are basically three types of employees. One doesn’t care about what kind of work they do. Another works hard but only to achieve a reward. The third, and most valued employee, is the one who works hard out of a grateful heart to be able to work. Unfortunately, there are far too many of the first two types of employees.

It is the second type of employee that concerns me the most. They seek to earn more by performing up to a standard. They seek acceptance, affirmation, and acclaim through achievement. Their validation as a person of worth comes from their ability to accomplish tasks that earn favor from the employer. They are motivated by insecurities rather than loyalty: by greed rather than gratitude.

The reason this type of employee concerns me the most is because they represent many Christians today who do the same thing with God. The Apostle Paul saw it in the people of Galatia when he asked them a few more questions.

 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”(Galatians 3:2-3)

In other words, why do we feel the need to try so hard to measure up to a religious standard? Why do we expend so much of our own strength to try to please God? Why do we have a checklist of spiritual duties to perform so that we can keep the favor of God?

Eternal life is entered by faith alone. Eternal life is secured by faith in the power of God to keep us not by our ability to secure ourselves by our accomplishments or performance.  (1 Peter 1:3-5) And living for Jesus today and becoming like Him is not accomplished by our efforts alone, but by intentional cooperation with the Spirit of God in us. As Paul says to the people in Colossae, “Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord (by faith), so walk in Him.”

No more do I need to try so hard to measure up. No more do I need to validate myself. No more do I need to concern myself with achievement and performance so I can secure my life in Christ. I am motivated to serve Jesus, obey Jesus, and live for Jesus because I am already secure in Jesus through faith and not through my works.

That’s FREEDOM.

Pastor John

Fooled and Bewitched

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Why are we so easily fooled?

That is the question that was on my mind all day yesterday. Why is it that so many people believe so many things they see on social media? Why do we so quickly posture up in opposing camps and lob grenades at those with differing views? Why are so many people easily swayed to positions with no real validity and with which they have no real experience?

I did some research yesterday to help me answer these questions. I discovered an interesting fact. In many of the research papers I read, one fundamental reason was consistently given for why we are so easily fooled. It’s because we choose to believe things that support our pre-determined biases. We all lean towards bias validation, which refers to the selection of information that tends to support our existing beliefs. We are more likely to fall for fake news if we already agree with what is being said. Many researchers believe that bias validation is an evidence of a lack of critical thinking.

This same bias validation affects the way we interpret the truths of Scripture. It is exactly what happened in the churches of Galatia to whom the Apostle Paul was writing when he asked them this penetrating question.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?(Galatians 3:1)

A careful study of two words in this questions reveals the reason these believers were persuaded to adopt false teaching as truth.

Foolish is a Greek word used only six times in the New Testament, and refers to a person who is intellectually dull and does not think through things well, but rather he makes choices based on his sensual desires. Paul used the same word when writing to Titus and said, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures…” (Titus 3:3) The Galatian people were fooled by the fake teachers because they were not grounded in the truth of the Gospel and were subject to their sensual passions.   

The other word is bewitched,  and is a Greek word found only here in the Bible. It refers to being fascinated with false representations because they appeal to the need to fulfill sensual desires. These people were influenced by the fake teachings of immediate gratification.

These two words describe many Christians today as well. Many believers are spiritually dull, not grounded in the truth of the Gospel, and still driven by sensual passions. They are easily bewitched by teachers that offer them the pleasures and prosperity of the world. Just as they allow their political, economic, and lifestyle biases to be influenced by fake news, they also allow their sensual biases to be influenced by false teachers.

My friends, are you being foolish? Are you being bewitched? Are you making your decisions to follow certain spiritual teachers or teachings based on your desire to gratify your sensual desires? I implore you to return to the truth of Scripture, and build your life on the single and solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Do not be bewitched by anyone else. He is the ONLY truth.

Pastor John