“X” IS FOR XEROGRAPHY

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, August 5, 2022

It’s not long after our birth before we begin to attempt to copy the actions of people around us. It starts with a smile. Soon the baby is making noises that imitate what the parent is doing to imitate the baby. After a while there will be hand-waving. It’s not long before emotions are able to be expressed in tantrums and thoughts are able to be expressed in words. Suddenly, before our very eyes, stands a mirror image of ourselves. We don’t always like what we see.  

Today is the day for a word that starts with the letter “x”. Tough assignment. There’s not a lot of selection. But there is a word that connects with our Scripture passage today from Romans 12:2. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” It’s a word from which a major copy machine company chose their name, and in my early days of business and church ministry it was synonymous with copiers. The word is “xerographic”, and the company was Xerox.

The definition of xerographic is this – “a process for copying printed material in which the image of the original material is transferred by the action of light to an electrically charged surface to which the image attracts oppositely charged dry ink particles, which are then fused in place on paper, reproducing the original image.” Sounds complicated, but I see it as a spiritual analogy.

Jesus is the original. God is the Light. My life is the electrically charged surface. The Holy Spirit is the ink. Here’s how I see it working.

Babies are born with both a genetic nature that will dictate some behavior, like crying when hungry, and a blank slate of learned behaviors that will become the expression of their thought process. The same is true of newborn Christians. When we come to Christ, we are born into the family of God and are given the genetic nature of Jesus. His nature will dictate some of our behavior, like hunger for the Word of God. But other behaviors remain our choice, and we learn how to choose to express our thoughts in our words and actions. When we choose to expose our thoughts to the nature of Jesus under the light of God, the Holy Spirit duplicates His nature in us. We become a copy of the original.  We’ve been spiritually Xeroxed.

Unfortunately many of us don’t expose ourselves to the light of God. We choose the nature of the world over the nature of Jesus. We become copies of culture rather than Christ. From my own experience that doesn’t work out very well. I think you know that from your experience also. Copying the behaviors and customs of the world will lead to the end result of the world – destruction and death. But transforming our minds so that our lives become the copy of Christ brings the end result of God – the good and pleasing will of God for an abundant life.

Each one of us must decide who or what we will copy. We have all become the behavioral product of our choice to copy someone. If that choice has led you to become the copy of anyone but Christ, then it’s time for you to expose yourself to the transforming light of God and His truth. You can become the copy of Christ. Let the xerography begin today. Let’s copy Christ.

Pastor John

“W” IS FOR WINNING

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, August 4, 2022

It’s all about winning. Everything in life is about the experience of victory. From sports to business deals, everyone pursues triumph. Even when we diet, losing is really winning. We were created with an undeniable urge to experience the “thrill of victory” and avoid the “agony of defeat.”

Now before you react negatively to this, think about it carefully. It is not wrong that we focus on winning. The Bible speaks of winning, overcoming, and victory almost 100 times. “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” (Psalm 60:12)

Sports are one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors of the Christian experience. “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5) The passion to win is not a sin. It is only wrong if we think winning defines our worth and if we believe winning in this life is the ultimate victory. An exaggerated emphasis on worldly accomplishments results in ultimate loss, not gain. If a person’s worth is measured by their win/loss percentage, then ultimately at the point of death everything is loss. Even after all of our personal victories in life are counted, death still wins and none of our wins matter: UNLESS death itself can be conquered.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that death has been conquered, and everyone who comes to repentance and faith in Him will ultimately win. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The only victory worth training for is that one. The only win worth fighting for is eternity with Jesus Christ. The only true motivation to get up after a defeat and continue fighting for the faith is the knowledge that ultimate victory is ours in Christ. Look at these incredible promises from God:

1 John 5:4-5 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Luke 10:19 “I have given you authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” 

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Life will be filled with lots of losses. We will suffer rejection from our families and friends because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We will be criticized and even persecuted by our culture because of our stand for moral righteousness and God’s justice. We will suffer financial loss. We will experience emotional loss. There will be deaths in our families. Living life faithfully for Jesus is not easy, and we may experience very few personal victories.

Acts 14:19-22 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.  But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.” 

Paul was a great example of how to keep our faith and live it consistently even in the face of death. He was considered dead after the stoning he suffered at Lystra, but he got back up and went right back into the city that had rejected him, putting himself in harm’s way again. Then, after visiting Derbe and winning people to Jesus Christ, he went back to Lystra again to strengthen and encourage the people to remain true to the faith. He modeled to the people how to look beyond the hardships of today to the victory that was coming when Jesus returns.

Death was but the doorway to victory for Paul, and it must be that for us as well. When we see it that way, the fear of worldly loss is consumed in the fire of faith that Jesus Christ has conquered the world. So be encouraged. Do not fear what the world can do to you. Do not fear the loss of worldly gain and worth. Do not fear the people who stand against you because you stand for God. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) 

And when you do fall down in defeat, even to the point of death, know this: God’s people, the disciples, will gather around you and encourage you so that you will get back up and go back to doing God’s work. And when one of the faithful disciples you know falls down under the weight of persecution and loss, go to them and take your stand around them so they are encouraged to get back up also. We are not in this alone. God is with us, and God’s people stand beside each other. Remain true to the faith, and let’s fight until Jesus comes and we win!

Pastor John

“V” IS FOR VICTORY

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

1 Corinthians 15:57  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

I have come to realize that far too much of our time is spent in trying to gain victories over the issues of the world and far too little time is spent living in the victory of eternity. We exhaust ourselves seeking to enhance and extend this life when all effort to do so is futile. All we gain from this world will be lost. Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”  There is no ultimate victory that can be gained from the world. Jesus declared this truth to us when He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Victory comes at the end of the race of life to those who have lived by faith, not to those who have gathered the most goods. The Apostle John reminds us of this when he says, “everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”  Our faith is in the God who was victorious over death through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have a hope that is sure.

Unfortunately many of us run the race of life with the wrong focus. The track on which we run the race of life is filled with hurdles. Each hurdle has a name. There’s one called financial security. There’s one named success. Others are labeled as family, friends, and acceptance. Each of our races has different hurdles in a different order. But all our races have one final hurdle named death.

We run our races focused on the hurdles. We take a break from running after each hurdle is successfully jumped. We leave the track and spend time soaking up whatever glory we can get from bystanders, as if we have accomplished some great victory. Some never get back on the track and melt into the crowd of those who have no sight of the finish line and will never get past the final hurdle. While they think they are living, they never really do.

Some run the race with faith. Every hurdle is crossed with determination to make it to the next one, and the next one, until finally, with eyes fixed firmly on Jesus at the finish line, the last hurdle of death is navigated, and they cross into eternal victory.

“Dear Lord and Savior, let me run the race with my eyes fixed firmly on you, and not the hurdles. Let me pass each hurdle with a determination to run faithfully to the end. I determine to not be distracted by the temporary joys of hurdle-jumping, but to remain focused on the joy that is set before me at the end of the race, when there are no more hurdles to jump and I will rest in your arms. May I not be tempted to place value on the things I accomplish for myself while running the race, but to rather consider all things a loss compared to the excellency of knowing and serving You. May my life be filled with thanks – not for things, but for the victory I have in You. May I live every day in full confidence of the hope of glory, and that one day You will reward me for having run my race faithfully as Your servant. I pray this in Your Name, Jesus. AMEN!”

Pastor John

“U” IS FOR UNITY

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

 A story in a magazine caught my eye. A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

Psalms 133:1-3 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” 

Our word for today is unity, which requires personal sacrifice. In Exodus 28 and 29 we read the historical account of Aaron being ordained as the first high priest of Israel. This required a great sacrifice on Aaron’s part. He was giving up his rights to herds and flocks and personal wealth. He was giving up his right to ownership of land. He was surrendering his entire life to the service of God in the tabernacle. He was doing the same for each of his descendants as well. Why would he make such concessions? Because he saw the bigger picture of God’s plan for personal relationship with His people. He was willing to do whatever God asked him to do to bring unity between God and man. At the end of Exodus 29, after all has been accomplished and the precious oil has been poured on Aaron’s head, God says, “So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

If unity is to be accomplished in the church of Jesus Christ today, it must begin with the precious oil of sacrifice. Unity with God is possible because of Christ’s sacrifice for us.  It is at the point of His sacrifice where God bestows His blessing, even life forevermore. Unity is only possible among people if they are first united with Jesus in His sacrifice. We must be in tune with Christ to be in harmony with one another.

God’s Spirit is quenched where people are divided. A bone of contention has no place in the body of Christ. We are called to cooperate in a higher purpose than our own personal pursuits. Opinions are not options. Personal preferences are not mandates. Anything that satisfies self must be sacrificed to the singular purpose of God. True unity is found only in surrender to His Spirit.

Unity, however, does not necessarily mean uniformity. By that I mean this – unity focuses on goals while uniformity focuses on methods. We must all have the same goals – those given to us by our King. We are united in our passion to accomplish God’s goals. We must not demand uniformity of methodology. Just look around the world and take notice of all the examples we have, like team sports. Every team is made up of individuals with a common goal – win a championship. Each individual is united with his teammates in his pursuit of the goal. However, each individual has a specific function on the team. How many football games have been won by a kicker who comes off the bench as a David among Goliaths and becomes the hero? While all the giants are out there play after play banging heads and battering their bodies, a little guy does one thing and gets all the glory. But they won, and that’s all that mattered.

God has placed each of us as individuals on His team with unique skills and responsibilities. Unity requires that we share a common goal. Unity requires understanding of distinct methods. Unity is accomplished through sacrificial cooperation. Unity is not possible in a group of one. Remember the banana? Every time it leaves the bunch it gets skinned.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters in Christ live together in unity – all made possible by one sacrifice, which becomes the model for each one of us. When we turn our focus from self to Savior, the LORD will bless us with unity.

Pastor John

“T” IS FOR THANKFUL

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, August 1, 2022

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY PRECIOUS WIFE DENISE

I remember a birthday party thirteen years ago. I was sitting around our dining room table with my entire family and a birthday cake in front of me. Five of the six grandkids gathered around me (one wasn’t old enough yet) to help blow out the candles that had been arranged in two groups of five and six to represent my age. Then the kids delivered presents to me. They were all very well thought out and met a need I had mentioned in the past. One of them was especially fascinating. It was a rectangular box about ten inches long and three inches wide. I wondered what it was.

When I peeled off the wrapping paper I found something inside I had never needed before. I had previously talked about doing it, but had never really thought seriously about it because I didn’t have all of the equipment necessary, some of which costs hundreds of dollars. But thanks to my favorite hunting buddy – my son – I was now set up with the first piece of equipment. I took it out of the box and tried it right away. I was incredibly attracted to it. The sound it made resonated in my heart. For the first time in my life I owned a wild turkey call. Thanks to another hunting friend who will loan me a shotgun, and my son who has arranged for us to hunt together on a friend’s land, I was able to try my luck calling in one of those big Toms and having deep fried turkey in the spring. I was overwhelmed with a spirit of thanksgiving.

1 Chronicles 16:8-10   “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”

It’s never the wrong part of the year to be thankful. In fact, expressions of thanks are to be a prominent part of our communication. Why isn’t it? I’ve discovered a severe lack of thanksgiving in my personal life. Getting a turkey call for my birthday made me realize that. As I’ve learned the meaning of all the different sounds turkeys make, I’ve discovered that I’ve not even been a very good turkey. I’ve done a lot of cackling out warnings and I’ve gobbled in pride about my position in the flock, but I’ve done very little clucking of contentment. Even when others around me are softly purring their satisfaction with group life, I interrupt them with gobbles that draw attention to me.

The spirit of thanks is destroyed by the philosophy that everything is about us. I think that philosophy started with the very way in which we are taught as children to be thankful. I’m a victim of it, and I know I’ve done it with my kids and grandkids. We require them to say “thank-you” when they receive something, but we don’t take the time to teach them how to be thankful. We have taught them to say thank- you because it pleases us, gets us off their backs, and gets them what they want. But it doesn’t do anything to teach them the attitude of thankfulness. Maybe instead of telling them to say thank-you, we need to ask them how the gift made them feel. The attitude of thankfulness and its verbal response of thanks is generated only by a sincere appreciation for what was done. We’ve learned to say thanks without really being appreciative.

Thank-less-ness is an indicator of what we know about grace. We only really appreciate what we know we didn’t deserve. We are only truly thankful for what we never expected. That’s why we should be overwhelmed with thanksgiving for God’s unmerited gift of salvation. That’s why when I arrived at the office this morning and unlocked the door, it took me five minutes to enter because I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the day. I stood outside and looked into the blue sky and praised God for the birds singing. I thanked Him for the wonder of forgiveness. I cried tears of joy as I recalled all the expressions of grace in my own life that have brought me undeservedly to this point of ministry. I gave thanks unto the Lord.

As I entered the door, I found myself singing an old, old chorus. “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord, for making me whole. Thank you, Lord, for giving to me; Thy great salvation so rich and free.”

That’s the call I want this turkey to make all day every day.

Pastor John