Be the Light You Are

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Did you know that darkness does not exist? There is no tangible or measurable or scientifically provable element called darkness. Darkness is the absolute absence of light, and light is a tangible, measurable, and scientifically provable element. Before God created light on the first day of creation, darkness reigned. God did not create something that produces light until the 4th day of creation, yet he had already established periods of light and dark called day and night. From the very beginning of creation God was making it clear that without Him there is no light, and that He alone is the light of the world.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12) To those who understand Scripture this is one of His proofs of Divinity. He went on to say that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” It doesn’t say that we will be guided by the light of life, or that our path will be illuminated by the light of life, or that light will be available when we need it, but rather that we will have the light of life. The Light of the world makes us a light to the world. Our entire nature becomes light.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

What an incredible truth – we are the light of the world. We are so much more than just people who understand light or have a working knowledge of light or can explain light to someone else: WE ARE LIGHT!

But Jesus reveals that as people of free will, we can choose to hide the light. There is so much light being hidden by so many people. So many lights giving off so little light. So many lights choosing to blend into the darkness around them when they could be eliminating darkness by illuminating the world.

We might ask ourselves how the light shines through us to the world. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains how:

  1. Through pure hearts (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-30)
  2. By reconciliation of relationships (Matt. 5:23-26; 31-32)
  3. Through integrity in business and relationships (Matt. 5:33-37)
  4. Through people with self-control, humility, and a serving spirit (Matt. 5:38-42)
  5. When self-sacrifice and forgiveness define relationships with enemies (Matt. 5:43-48
  6. When generosity without recognition happens (Matt. 6:1-4)
  7. When a spirit of prayer is evident (Matt. 6:5-15)
  8. When financial decisions are based on Kingdom priorities (Matt. 6:19-24)
  9. When faith in Christ remains strong regardless of circumstances (Matt. 6:25-34)
  10. When critical and judgmental spirits cease (Matt. 7:1-6)

It would be good to review our lives in “light” of these truths and reflect on how much Light we are truly reflecting to the world.

Let your light shine before all men, so that all the attention is drawn to the Father in heaven and not to us.

Pastor John

Scatter the Seed

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 22, 2019

Some principles of the Kingdom of God seem to stand in contradiction to logical principles of everyday life. Take farming for example. Good farmers don’t scatter seed. If they have any concern for cost efficiency and productivity, they spend a lot of time trying to make sure that every seed has a chance to germinate and bring forth a harvest. The preparations for planting are costly and time-consuming, but in the end, they bring a profitable return on the investment. The farmer plows and cultivates the soil, adding nutrients when necessary. Then, rather than scattering the seed, he brings in another piece of equipment that buries the seed in the ground where it can get started on its growth cycle. After the plant is growing there is additional cultivation and competition control so that the plant has exclusive rights to the nutrients in the soil.  The goal is to produce the best possible harvest.

Jesus would fail Basic Agronomy 101 at the local technical college. He gave the disciples a spiritual secret of the Kingdom of God that could not be understood by the secular-minded people of the world. He told them to scatter the seed with no concern for soil preparation.

Luke 8:4-8 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

In His first parable of kingdom principles He provides His disciples, and us, with a foundational truth that we must understand and adopt – all the focus must stay on the power of the Word of God.

There is a lot of competition out there among seed companies to see who can produce the best seed. The goal is to convince farmers that there seed will produce the best crop. But not one of those seed companies recommends the scattering of their seed on unprepared soil with a guarantee of a hundred times harvest. In fact, if the farmer comes back with a complaint about the quality and production of the seed, the farmer will be asked to substantiate all his soil preparation and fertilizer applications, and he may even have to submit a soil sample for testing. There is no real seed guarantee without man’s responsibilities to give the seed what it needs to produce.

Unfortunately, we have adopted man’s farming principles into our evangelism efforts. We go to numerous conferences and classes and seminars to try to improve our soil preparation techniques so that when we finally get around to seeding the Word of God we have the best chance of getting a harvest. That is not what God called us to do.

The foundational principle of the growth of the kingdom is that all the power is in the seed, not in the farmer. It is the Word of God that prepares the soil. It is the Word of God that brings the harvest. As farmers we are asked to simply scatter the seed.

When God’s seed fails to germinate in the soil of someone’s life, don’t blame yourself. Don’t go looking for a fix from a “How To” book. Just go back to the source of seed – the Word of God – fill up the bin of your broadcast spreader, adjust the flow control to wide open, and start spreading more seed. God promised that some of it will fall on soil He has prepared, and it will produce an incredible harvest.

Pastor John

Partner Recognition

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, July 19, 2019

Have you ever earned an award? Have you ever done something that brought you special recognition and honor in front of your peers and the public? What kinds of plaques and trophies do you have in those special places of your home or office that commemorate your accomplishments? I still have trophies in my office because every once in a while, it’s nice to look back at something that identifies me as a winner in the eyes of other people.

In addition to awards that are earned for athletics or accomplishments, we tend to give special recognition to people who have done something highly unusual or who have taken a great risk for the betterment of another person. We give out medals to people for entering burning buildings to save puppies. We build statues and place them in town squares to commemorate the life of a hero. We immortalize names because of the incredible influence they had on our belief system or society, like Rosa Parks. But does it really take that much courage and risk to become that famous? Not in the eyes of God.

Luke 8:1-3 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

As the good news of the kingdom continued to spread, its effect on people was significant. The power of God was displayed in the forgiveness of sins, the freedom from spiritual bondage, and the healing of physical disease. Those who had been touched by Life were moved to deep intimacy with Jesus.

In today’s story, three women in particular are singled out for special recognition. What is it that made them worthy of this honor, when we are told that there were many who followed Jesus? Why were Mary, Joanna, and Susanna made famous? What had they done that caused the Holy Spirit to immortalize them to all mankind for all time?

The answer to those questions is astoundingly simple: they gave money to Jesus. Their lives had been so deeply touched with Life that their hearts overflowed with both gratitude and generosity. Out of their own pockets, using whatever means they had available, they personally supported the ongoing work of spreading the good news that Jesus and the disciples were doing. Their gifts made it possible for Jesus and the disciples to have their physical needs met so that they could focus on meeting the spiritual needs of others.

There is no greater accomplishment for any of us than to be a partner with Jesus in the spreading of the Good News, and that partnership is unique to each one of us. While we are all called to share the Good News when we have the opportunity, we can all partner with Jesus in a variety of other ways so that the greatest number of people possible hear the Good News.

These women chose to give their financial resources to the King.

If you want fame from the world, do something physically daring. If you want fame from God, do something financially daring: support the outreach efforts of your church and its missionaries. You may not be able to go to Timbuktu, but you can give Tim a buck to.

Be a partner in the spreading of the good news. “Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Pastor John

The Right Reputation

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 18, 2019

In the following story, Jesus is invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. His intentions were not the same as those of Jesus.

Luke7:36-39 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Let me speculate, based on what happened, as to what the Pharisee may have been thinking.

  1. “If I can invite this popular prophet (and I use that term lightly) to my home for dinner I will make some big points with the other guys down at the temple.”
  2. “Having Jesus over to my house for dinner will earn me greater respect from the people and will increase my sphere of influence.”
  3. “If Jesus comes to my house for dinner it will validate my belief system and confirm my position on the law.”
  4. “If I have Jesus over for dinner I’ll be able to better evaluate where He truly stands on the issues and be able to pin Him down if I see any problems with what He teaches.”
  5. “I’ll invite this guy Jesus over for dinner so I can see if He’s anything like they say He is. There’s got to be something wrong with Him?”

It appears that every motive of the Pharisee was selfish. He already had decided that nothing or no one was going to ever change his mind or belief system, and the best way to validate his own way of thinking and living was to discredit the one who brought guilt to his heart. The Pharisee was more concerned about remaining untouched by his sin than he was about touching his sin with salvation.

He was on a totally different page of the Spirit’s guidebook than was Jesus. This religious leader had no concern for this woman’s plight, no desire to lift her from her sinful life or to help her become a better Jewish woman. Instead, he judged her as a sinner, shoved her aside, and presumed that any other rabbi (and especially one who was a “prophet”) would do the same.

I wonder how you and I are doing in this area of outreach? Could it be that we have also drawn clear lines of separation from sinful people for fear that they will negatively influence us? Could it be that our faith is so weak that we believe that he who is in the world is greater and more influential than He who is in us?

Jesus had no problem putting Himself into intimate relationships with people who were considered scum by society. Jesus’ compassion and offer of forgiveness gave hope to people such as this woman. Jesus cared when no one else bothered. He did not fear that the flow of influence would be reversed so that she would change Him. Why do we fear that so much? Why, when Jesus Himself dwells in us in the power of the Holy Spirit, do we fear that sinful people will corrupt God’s character in us?

Or maybe we simply fear a tarnished reputation. Allowing ourselves to be seen in the company of sinners is one thing, but then actually letting their lives touch ours in some way – that’s preposterous! What would people think if they knew I had spent valuable time intentionally reaching out to the needs of those kinds of people? My reputation in the church would be shot.

Hey, I’ve got an idea – if your reputation in a church would be destroyed by spending time with sinners, then find a different church! Find a church that intentionally reaches out to sinners with the compassion of Jesus Christ. Get yourself a new and improved reputation!

We must not become like the Pharisee and shove sinners aside for self-centered and self-protective reasons. We must intentionally allow ourselves to be touched by the worst of sinners, because prior to our own salvation, that is what we were.

Pastor John

A Child of Wisdom

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Experts claim that in the first three years of life a child is not capable of understanding true sharing and sacrifice. They are self-centered and want what they want when they want it. At around age four, they begin to understand the concept of giving, but unless it is nurtured they will quickly decide to remain in their selfish ways. They will continue seeking to fulfill their lives by getting more for themselves. They will become little “devils” and soon alienate their peers. They will grow up to be teenagers who are hurtful and hateful, seeking to improve their own lives at the expense of others. They will become adults who are judgmental of others. If someone dares to point out their flaws and offer words of correction, they quickly jump on the defensive and attempt to discredit the criticism and solidify their own position. Such was the status of the people of Jesus’ generation.

Luke 7:31-35To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Jesus compared the people to children at play. When they would get together at their playground called the marketplace, they would imitate the adults having either a wedding dance or a funeral procession. One group of children would decide to have fun by pretending to play flutes in celebration of a marriage, and the other children would not be interested in that game. The same would happen when they tried to mourn and wail as if in a funeral march. No matter what games were chosen by some, the others would reject them.

Jesus said that the adults of his time were the same way. John the Baptist came with the seriousness of a funeral procession and preached repentance from sin or suffer death. He modeled the seriousness of the message with his lifestyle choices. This should have appealed to every person who was self-righteous, and they should have praised his choices and external appearance. But self-righteousness is a destructive bondage that refuses to admit wrong, so repentance was out of the question. They looked past the outward appearance and judged the condition of his heart to protect their own.

Jesus came with the same message of repentance, but wrapped in the clothing of grace and love. His emphasis was not on the external appearance but rather on the inner condition of the heart. But He too was rejected by the self-righteous people because they did not want to acknowledge the sin in their own hearts. They instead chose to focus on His externals, believing that if they could prove an action to be wrong then the message of the heart could also be rejected.

This brings us to one key point for today – wisdom does not judge others to protect self. God has called us to be children of wisdom: His wisdom. God’s wisdom is first and foremost humble, and humility never honors self. Humble people do not seek to build themselves up at the expense of others. Humble people do not cover their own sins and shortcomings by pointing out the defects in others. Humble people are not children who reject the suggestions of others, but surrender their own desires for the betterment of others. Humble people do not criticize other Christians because their methods are different than their own. Humble people expose their own weaknesses so that the grace and love of Jesus can have its full effect on their lives, which in turn will witness to others of His transforming power.

Ask yourself the question that stems from Jesus’ final statement in this passage – Does my life prove that I am a child of wisdom, living humbly and selflessly?

Now answer the question honestly.

Pastor John

Doubts Stimulate Growth

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The circumstances of life tend to affect our perspective of faith. This was true of John the Baptist, who by faith had made the declaration upon seeing Jesus that this was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Yet John’s perspective of Jesus was Messianic in nature, growing out of his faith in the “Expected One” who would deliver Israel from their national disgrace. When John was arrested for his preaching, doubts about Jesus began to overwhelm him. John was thinking that if Jesus truly was the Messiah than why is even the political leadership of the nation rejecting me. He had to clarify his faith.

Luke 7:18-23 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

 Notice several significant lessons from this story:

  1. Jesus understands that some doubts are legitimate. Doubt becomes sin when it questions the validity of God’s Word. John had not stopped believing in the Messiah; he just needed to know if Jesus was the Messiah or if they were to wait a little longer for His coming. John’s faith in the promise of God was secure. He needed faith to believe the timing of God’s fulfillment of His Word.
  2. John took his doubt to the source of faith. He did not seek input from even his own disciples. He sent them to talk to the One who knew the answer – Jesus. If his doubt was sinful he would have sought an answer from other sources in which he trusted. His contact with Jesus proved his faith. John was not questioning who Jesus was so much as he was questioning the process Jesus was using to reveal His kingdom to the world.
  3. John’s doubt did not stop the work of Jesus. At the very time of John’s questioning, the process of the Messiah’s revelation to the world was progressing according to God’s plan. Our legitimate doubts do not interrupt or delay the glory of God’s purpose. Do not let Satan lay guilt on you for having legitimate questions that strengthen your faith.
  4. Jesus gave John all the evidence he needed to totally trust Him. Jesus told John that things are progressing just as Isaiah promised – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  5. Jesus called everyone “blessed” who trusts Him rather than trusts their circumstances. When times are bad, God is still good. Place your faith in the Person not in the process.

Enjoy letting your faith grow today as you consider these truths.

Pastor John

Give Hope

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 15, 2019

It is increasingly dark around us. Normal, hopeful, peaceful life is dying. Dreams are dying, and with them the ambition to create new ones. Hope is dying, and with it the ability to believe in anything good. Peace is dying, and has taken security down the tubes with it.  We are surrounded by a large crowd that empathizes with our condition because it is so similar to their own. But instead of helping us carry out our dreams to fulfillment they come to carry out our dreams to a place of burial. We are left hopeless and helpless, with nowhere to go but to the graveyard of memories.

Luke 7:11-17 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”  This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

But Jesus comes along to resurrect the dream. He restores our hope and returns our peace. He says to them, “Get up!” and gives them back to us. That is my favorite part of this story – Jesus gives the son back to the mother. Jesus works to give us back what has been taken away. He does not do it for Himself; He does it for the one whom He loves. His heart goes out to us in our situation and He works His grace on our behalf to restore to us what has died.

This is how we witness to the world. We have the message of resurrection and restoration. We have the ministry of reviving dreams and hopes that have died. We get to come along and cross the paths of people mourning death and restore a spirit of celebration of life. Through Jesus we give them back their hope and their dreams.

What an incredible motivation to get up every day and get on with God’s work. We get to bring life to a dying world. News will spread quickly throughout our society when we become people who are known as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ who have been sent to help His people. People need help, and the help we have is Jesus Himself. Let’s bring His life-giving help to everyone in need.

We may not be much help in solving their crisis, but we can be their help in changing their perspective. It’s amazing how small and unimportant the problems of the world become when the focal point of life becomes Jesus Christ. The troubles of this world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us when we see Jesus face to face some day.

Deliver hope to someone today.

Pastor John