Grandma’s Favorite

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 25, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Promises

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think on these things.

Pastor John

Two Hands

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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

How many hands does it take to hold you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor John

No Snatching

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor John

No Bumps in the Dark

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor John

Speak Plainly

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 18,2021

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

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

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

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

Let’s review.

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

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

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

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

Pastor John

Willing to Die

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 15, 2021

The question has been asked many times. “For what are you willing to die?” With brave hearts, many are willing to die for freedom. Others put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of ideologies. Still others, maybe most of us, would put our lives in danger to protect our possessions. Most, if not all of us, are willing to die for our rights.

I see a common theme in all these scenarios. Each person is motivated to be willing to die by what they love. And what we love is far too often determined by what they believe will benefit us the most. The willingness to die for any reason can easily become an outworking of selfishness.

I know, that sounds cynical. But an honest examination of our hearts and minds may reveal that our priorities and preferences are most often dictated by the premise that it must benefit us. Rarely does anyone die because they wholeheartedly saw the need of others ahead of their own. The Apostle Paul said it this way in Romans 5:7. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” I believe that soldiers and officers of the law give us perhaps the best present-day example of sacrificial service to the point of death.

As Jesus spoke to the crowds in John chapter ten He showed us the proper motivation for being to die – loving obedience to God. Three times Jesus mentions that He is willing to lay down His life for the sheep.

John 10:15-18  “…just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

And yet, dying for the sake of Christ is a possibility avoided by most followers of Christ. Why would we consider dying for our faith when we avoid even a little suffering for our faith? Our priority seems to be the preservation of life, not the sacrifice of it. We diligently seek the comforts of convenience and compromise, hoping to avoid being noticed and singled out as a radical believer in Jesus. We hide the Gospel message of man’s sin and need of a Savior behind a curtain of self-worth and inner empowerment. We avoid talking about or even taking personal responsibility for wrong because we believe the Satanic lie that it would be judgmental. Could it be that we love personal comfort more than we love Jesus?

My friends, this may sound harsh, but the reality is that we are willing to sacrifice self for a lot of personal reasons, but we avoid sacrificing self for the One who sacrificed Himself for us. May the Lord Jesus forgive us as we repent. May our lives begin right now to reflect the willingness to die for Christ.

Pastor John

Get Out of the Kennel

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Many years ago my family was blessed with the gift of a purebred Yellow Lab puppy. We chose the name Dakota Bigfoot for his registered name to celebrate our heritage and his massive paws. Dakota was the most rambunctious puppy of the litter. He could not be still, but needed to explore and investigate everything around him. And yet he longed to have people pay attention to him, so his running around brought him close enough for brief moments of snuggles.

When we got him home, I built a kennel into the workshop cabinets in the garage which I hoped would become his home during training. The first night in that cabinet, he destroyed it. When I came out to the garage in the morning he was running loose in the garage, making messes everywhere. I opened the garage door and he ran rampant around the yard and into the woods, exploring everything as quickly as was puppy possible. When he returned to me he settled into my arms as I sat on the ground. Ten seconds later he was off running again, returning frequently for a little lick-your-face time. It was obvious that his exploratory nature combined with his relational desires were powerful forces that would drive the remainder of his life.

Dakota’s nature was a picture of mine…and maybe yours. We want to explore life, yet we also want the security of relationships. But we have been deceived into believing that boundaries provide security. We have built kennels for ourselves and determined that certain explorations are off limits. Now before you misapply what I’m saying, I am NOT talking about sin. I am talking about personal choices we make based on what we believe will be best for us and accomplish our goal of personal security.

The boundaries we set for ourselves soon become bondage. This is especially true in our spiritual lives. The traditions of our religion restrict the liberties of God’s grace. The rules we establish to qualify our own value based on our obedience to them are a demonic blindness that affects us all. We have put ourselves into kennels, and every day we are seeking to destroy them because we recognize they are contrary the image of God in us.

Read carefully what Jesus said in John 10. Read His words in the context of the healing of the blind man and him being released from the bondage of legalism.

John 10:9-10  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I will always have the picture of Dakota the puppy in my mind when I think about being set free and having abundant life. No more rules to obey to earn my relationship with Jesus. No more barriers to coming in and going out and finding pastures that satisfy my soul. No more kennels stealing life from me. In Christ I am free, and will live in freedom’s abundance.

How about you?

Pastor John

One Way Door

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Most doors are designed to allow entrance and exit to a room or building. There are knobs on both sides, and traffic flows in both directions.

In the summer before my junior year of High School I went to work at Merrick’s Grocery Store on the east side of St. Paul. One of my first jobs I was trained to do was to stock the dairy case. That required me to go down the stairs to the basement where the cheese cooler was located. I was instructed multiple times to not shut the cooler door when I was inside.

Several weeks into my job, near the end of the day, I went into the cooler to carry up boxes of cheese to stock the dairy case in preparation for the next day’s business. Without thinking, as I entered the cooler, I pulled the door shut. I immediately recognized my mistake. I may have literally gasped out loud. Exit from the cooler was impossible. The long push handle on the inside of the door was gone. There was no way to release the lock. I was imprisoned in a thirty-five degree cell wearing only my work pants and a short-sleeved white shirt.

I looked around the cooler to see if there was anything I could use to push open the handle. All I saw was boxes of cheese. I was already chilled, and couldn’t imagine spending the night in the cooler. I started yelling and banging on the door. I was in an insulated cooler in the basement of the store at closing time. What hope did I have? I wanted out.

This is the context of the teaching of Jesus in John chapter ten. He had just released a man from the imprisonment of blindness. But more importantly He had released the man from the chilling cell of religious bondage. Jesus announces to everyone that He is the Door through which anyone could be released from the captivity of spiritual bondage. It was the mission He proclaimed in  Luke 4:18-19.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus tells the people that He is the Door through which anyone can be set free. You can be set free from sin. You can be set free from the bondage of religious traditions. Jesus is the door through which you can move to fullness of life.

The very interesting and powerful truth about the Door is that there is no handle on the inside. Jesus allows only one way traffic – IN. When we walk through the Door into eternal life, there is no out. Why should there be. Everything we have ever wanted is in Christ. His love is perfect so we need not seek love anywhere outside of Him. His knowledge is infinite so there is no need to seek understanding outside of Him. His power is limitless so there is no need to seek solutions outside of Him. When we walk through the Door into the eternal land of forgiveness,  we never need to search for satisfaction in any other land.

After about thirty-five minutes of yelling and banging, someone heard me. They opened the door. I walked through the open door into the warmth and freedom which I craved.

What are you craving from life? There is a Door. His name is Jesus. Walk through Him and find abundance.

Pastor John

Recognizing Counterfeits

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

In February of last year a training meeting was held in Guam for the purpose of teaching business people how to quickly identify counterfeit currency. The meeting was conducted by Special Agents Joshua Fisher and James Ingram of the United States Secret Service, Guam Regional Office.

The half-day seminar began with a brief history of the security agency followed by an overview of the manufacturing process of U.S. Currency. The two agents then led an in-depth look into security features built into different currency notes. “By understanding how to identify genuine U.S. Currency, we can more easily detect counterfeit bills,” explained Special Agent James Ingram.

The Secret Service Agents passed out both counterfeit currency and genuine specimens and asked the group to spot differences between the bills. Within a few hours of training, participants quickly spotted illicit currency and identified various levels of sophistication between different counterfeit productions.

This principle of training applies to the spiritual realm as well. We are bombarded every day with counterfeits of genuine faith in Jesus Christ. Our only hope is to be so familiar with Jesus that fakes are quickly recognized.

Jesus said in John 10 that His followers are able to discern between His voice and the voices of strangers.

John 10:3-5  “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

There are three things to consider today:

  1. What voices are you listening to? We must discern the voice of Jesus and separate out all others as unnecessary.
  2. How well do you know the voice of Jesus? How familiar are you with His teaching? How intimate is your relationship with Jesus? The level of your intimacy with Jesus and your growing knowledge of Jesus will determine your level of recognition of all those who counterfeit His truth.
  3. How strong are you to resist the temptation to follow a stranger? The world is full of people with messages containing elements of truth but ultimately emphasize empowering self. Our only defense against following such strangers to the Gospel is to be grounded in the theology of the true Gospel.

Thieves and robbers of spiritual truth abound in the world today. Take the advice of the Secret Service. Spend your time studying only the original. You can know Jesus so well that any counterfeit is quickly exposed.

Pastor John