Clean the Lights

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Philippians 2:15  “…among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

Matthew 5:14 – 16  “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Maybe the extensive winter is finally over. Ten days ago, we had a big snowstorm here in western Wisconsin. I drove the 4-wheel drive so I could make my way around town with some ease and a sense of security. The snowplows were out early removing the snow from the road and leaving a layer of salt behind them to melt what was left. As I made my way to the various appointments I had for the day, the salty slush was sprayed up onto my bronze SUV and it began to look very white. Later that evening, on my way home, I wondered why I was having difficulty seeing the road ahead. It was as if my headlights weren’t even on. I pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed the towel I carry for such need, and proceeded to wipe the dried salt residue from my headlights. I knew I needed to remove the dirt from the lens so the light could shine through.

That is exactly what Paul is teaching us in Philippians 2:15. We have been filled with the Light of Jesus Christ, but until we remove the dirt from our lives it doesn’t get to shine very well. When our lives are on the path of purity, the light of God is visible in the darkness. When our lives are covered with the slush of the world, the light is hidden.

Take note of three important truths:

First, blameless behavior makes the light visible. Our behavior doesn’t produce the light – God is the light in us, and He is shining brightly all the time. Our behavior determines whether or not others can see the light. My headlights were on when they were dirty, and the bulb was producing a consistent amount of light, but the dirt kept it from being seen. God is at work in us and His light is shining. We are already bright; we just need to clean the lens.

Second, the light fixture isn’t supposed to get any of the glory – only the light itself. When I got back in my vehicle and headed towards home, I wasn’t thankful for the housing in which the light bulb was fixed, or for the lens that was now clean. I’m sure other drivers weren’t taking notice of the design of the reflectors in the bulb housing. We all just noticed the light, and we were thankful for it. I could see and I could be seen. But let those lights get dirty again, and all the attention is drawn to the cause, which focus all of the attention on the vehicle and not the light.

That’s exactly what happens spiritually. When we are blameless and without fault, we shine brightly and the world sees the light in our good deeds. According to the words of Jesus this causes people to praise the Light, not the vehicle. But let the vehicle interfere with the light’s brightness, and suddenly all the attention is drawn away from the Light and is focused on us.  Try this the next time you are driving at night: when a car approaches and the lights are bright, try to see inside the light fixture. Try to see the emblem on the front of the car so you know what make it is. Try to determine the color of the car. Try to see the face of the driver. You can’t, because the light is shining. Our lives are to be the same: the purer we become, the more the light shines and reduces the visibility of self.

Third, every once in a while the light fixture needs to be adjusted so the light is shining in the right direction. I just finished tightening a headlight on my car that was loose, and last night I noticed that it is not shining on the road any more. It is aimed too high and down the shoulder of the road. I can see the road signs really well. I will have to adjust the housing so that the light shines where it is supposed to. The lights looked great on the wall in my garage, but out on the road where they were needed they didn’t do the job they were designed to do.

God’s light is intended to shine in the darkness. Many of us have adjusted our lives so the light only shines in the confines of our comfort zones. We let it shine only when other light is around. We shine great when we are in the garage at church or in Bible studies, but when we are out on the road the light is not shining on the path God has us on. We direct it to shine where we want it to shine and where it benefits us. But Jesus said ”let your light shine before men,” because God wants people who are in the darkness to be drawn to the light of His love.

So, check your headlights. The light is on. Make sure it can be seen.

Pastor John

 

Claim the Promise

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Philippians 2:15 …so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…

No one likes a braggart who makes claims about himself and then fails to live up to them. It doesn’t take long for us to discern the dysfunctional nature of such a person who is attempting to make themselves out to be more than they truly are. We are all tempted to exaggerate at times, but there is something wrong in the thought process of a person who attempts to live an embellished life.

But there is also something equally wrong with a person who fails to claim what is rightfully theirs. It is not boastful to speak and live the truth, even if that truth seems extraordinary.

God’s Word has given us an identity with certain privileges. We have the right to claim it all. (Please see the note below)

As children of God, we claim eternal life and joint kinship with Jesus Christ that results in an equal inheritance with Him in all things in glory. But far too often we overlook the claims that can be made by us in regard to our relationship with Jesus. In today’s Scripture passage we discover the first of four incredible claims that can be made by the person who is living as a child of God.

We can claim blamelessness and purity.

Because the attaining of sinless perfection is not possible so long as we are living in imperfect bodies in this sinful world, some Christians have decided to accept their current level of worldliness as normal. But the Christian life is to be a process of gradual transformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says,And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Day by day we are to be reflecting more and more of the glory of Jesus, thus becoming more and more blameless and pure until one day we are fully glorified in His presence in heaven.

The Apostle Peter saw that final day of glory coming and used it to motivate us when he said, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14)

But becoming blameless is not our work, but rather the promised work of God in our lives to transform our wills and our actions according to His good purpose. Because it is God’s work in us, we can claim the outcome based on God’s character and promises. In 1 Corinthians 1:8–9 Paul says, “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

God has called us into fellowship with His Son, Jesus, who gave himself up for us to make us holy, cleansing us by the washing with water through the word, so that He might present us to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (see Eph. 5:25-27) It is God’s will for us and Christ’s work in us to make us blameless. He is faithful to finish that work. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 – 24)

Go ahead – claim what God has promised and what Jesus is seeking to accomplish in your life: be blameless and pure as you live your life in a crooked and depraved world. We have been made to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus – let’s live like it!

Pastor John

NOTE: I am not advocating a “Name It and Claim It” theology. I do not believe that we can name what we want and claim it simply because we say we have enough faith to make it happen. I do believe, however, that the fear of such distorted theology has driven us to not claim what has been promised. When God clearly states a promise that is confirmed by the whole counsel of God’s Word, then we not only have the right to claim it, but we must claim it as ours and live by it if we are to be found blameless before Him.

 

Stop Complaining!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing

 A conscientious wife tried hard to please her super-critical husband, but he could not be pleased. He was the most cantankerous in the morning at breakfast. If she fixed him scrambled eggs, he wanted poached. If she poached the eggs, he complained that they weren’t scrambled. One morning she scrambled one egg and poached another and placed them in front of him. Anxiously she awaited the long overdue approval she sought. Looking down at the plate, he snorted and said, “Can’t you do anything right, woman? You’ve scrambled the wrong egg!”

What is it that makes us believe that complaining solves our problems? Why do we think that the expression of displeasure produces pleasure? What has happened to our heart so that from it come words of criticism, fault-finding, and judgment? What are we really hoping to accomplish when we complain? Do we really believe it is possible to experience joy when we are finding fault with everyone and everything around us?

Paul makes an important point in today’s Scripture passage – to be found without fault by God we must not find fault with each other. In our short-sighted and self-centered nature, we are deceived into believing that complaining and fault-finding will bring self-fulfillment. We attempt to make ourselves look better and feel better by proclaiming the failures of others. We try to build ourselves up by breaking others down. Satan has convinced us that our value comes from comparing ourselves favorably to other people, and the best way to do that is to emphasize their flaws. And if we can’t find people to criticize, then we complain about the weather or the food or the customer service or the government, hoping that someone will applaud us for our position so we can feel good about ourselves.

Complaining, arguing, and fault-finding are symptoms of a deep spiritual misunderstanding of who we are in Christ Jesus. How can we say that we are fully qualified by God to be partakers of the inheritance of heaven, when we consistently seek to be qualified by the people of the world so we can inherit what it offers?

In the context of Paul charging us to do all things without complaining, he also says this will be the identifying mark of our relationship with Christ.  “…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

The Life of Christ in us should be visible by the way we behave positively in a negative world. The world is crooked and depraved, and unfortunately, at times, it is difficult to distinguish Christians from people living in under the world’s influence. Paul says there should be visible distinctions between children of the world and children of God. Paul says one of the most important distinctions should be that Christians don’t complain and argue. This distinction is the beginning point of becoming blameless and pure so that we are found to be without fault in the world.

My friends, we must let the Holy Spirit do some heart surgery today, and repent of our critical spirits. We must resolve our differences with others and stop behaving like people of the world who attempt to climb the ladder of personal value by climbing over others. Remember the words of Jesus? “Whoever wants to be great among you must be the servant of all.” Jesus said this to his disciples while they were arguing about which of them was going to be the best.

Children of the world think selfishly. Children of God don’t! Children of God are complete in Christ, and when you’re complete you don’t compete.

Pastor John

Storm Procedures

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 23, 2018

Philippians 2:14-16 14  Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Several years ago I received a belated birthday gift my daughter and her husband. They had arranged for us to have center section tickets in the 8th row at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison for the Casting Crowns concert. There was some question as to whether or not we were going to be able to attend the concert because of my mother’s health condition, but God made it possible. I am so blessed that He did. Over the previous two weeks my emotions had been on a roller coaster as I dealt with the news of my mom’s terminal cancer. I was confident of God’s perfect purpose, but I was also very aware of the emotional instability that comes during the storms of life.

God was using the circumstances of my life to force me to ask and answer some crucial questions.

  • What can we do when the pressures and problems of life diminish our confidence and increase our complaining?
  • How can we stay strong in our spirit when we are so weak in our flesh?
  • How can we be blameless and pure and shine like stars in the universe when the darkness seems to be in us rather than just around us?
  • How can we hold out the Word of Life when we are having trouble just holding on to it?

These were the questions I was asking prior to the concert.

All last week we learned to work out our salvation in our everyday experience, because it is God who is working in us to will and act according to His good purpose. At the concert that night, God put a huge exclamation point on that truth for me.

Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, told a story about a young girl named Erin that the group had met during their travels around the country. For several years this child battled with cancer until finally the cancer won. But the courage and confidence to continue to worship God that was modeled by Erin’s mother was an inspiration to Mark, and he wrote the words to this song. This was exactly what I needed, and maybe you do too. Read the words of the song carefully and let them touch your heart as they did mine.

Praise You In This Storm
Written by Mark Hall / Music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms
2005 Club Zoo Music (BMI) / SWECS Music (BMI) (adm. by EMI CMG Publishing) /Word Music, LLC (ASCAP) / Banahama Tunes (ASCAP) (adm. by Word Music, LLC)

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
And stepped in and saved the day
Once again, I say Amen, and it is still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
I’m with you
As your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find you

I lift my eyes into the hills
Where does my help come from
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth

I’ll Praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
You are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will Praise You in this storm

That’s how we do all things without grumbling and complaining. That’s how we shine like stars in the universe. That’s the key to keeping the darkness around us from invading us. That’s how we live blameless lives of confidence in a crooked and depraved generation. We praise Him in the storm.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18, 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 Read these words from Psalm 121 that were found in the song – 1    I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? 2    My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3    He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4    indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5    The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6    the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7    The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8    the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

God is always God, and I will always praise Him with confidence, because all things work together for His good purpose for those who love Him.

And I love Him!

Pastor John

Confident Living

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 20, 2018

Philippians 2:13  …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Luke 12:31-32 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

So far this week we have discovered what I consider to be some very important truths that produce confidence in us to continue on the journey to joy:

  1. We can be confident because we know it is God who is working in us;
  2. We can be confident because we know that God is merging our wills with His so that what we want and what we choose are in constant agreement with His heart and mind;
  3. We can be confident because we know that all our activity is empowered by His presence and that we are acting in ways that please Him according to our unique position in His body called the church.

Now today, we come to the last part of Philippians 2:13, where the question of why we serve God is answered. For some of us, this is the most important point. I am a classic “why” person. I want to know how everything works, but more importantly I need to know why it was designed to work in the first place. What is the purpose? If there is no definable purpose for an action, then why participate in the activity?

Paul says in Philippians 2:13 that the desired outcome of the work of God transforming our wills and our actions is to accomplish God’s good purpose. In the process of working out our salvation, as our wills and our ways are brought into compliance with His, we are motivated by knowing that we are accomplishing God’s plan.

Have you considered how incredible that is? Almighty Sovereign God, who needs nothing outside of Himself to sustain Himself and to fulfill Himself, has chosen to include us in the accomplishment of His eternal plan, to fully reveal His glory to His creation. WOW! I am called by God to serve Him so that His kingdom can be established in all the earth. That’s a “why” that motivates me.

Here are some thoughts running through my head this morning as I consider this incredible truth:

  1. All other pursuits of life are to be subject to seeking the kingdom of God.
  2. All my needs will be met when I seek first the kingdom of God.
  3. It has pleased God to include me in the kingdom and to make me a joint heir of the kingdom with His Son Jesus.
  4. Because I know the big “why” of the final outcome of the kingdom, I can endure the times when I don’t see the little “why’s” every day.
  5. Even when it looks like I’m losing, I am confident because God has made me more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!
  6. Even when things appear bad, all things are working out for good because I love Him, and I am living according to His purpose, because He called me to do so.

Are you lacking confidence in life? Are you questioning the purpose of your life? These issues are resolved in a personal surrender to the work of God in your life. Jesus gives you an eternally valuable reason to live, plus the guarantee of victory at the end. Be bold and be strong, for the Lord your God is with you!

Pastor John

Get Out of the Rut

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Philippians 2:13  …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone..

I love maps. I miss maps. GPS has ruined my life. Not really, but I love maps.

When I was in 4th grade, I remember spending hours drawing maps of Africa and South America, carefully putting in all of the country boundaries and major topographical elements like rivers and mountains. I loved imagining what it would be like to travel to those places. When I travel anywhere today I love to look at the map before I go, and discover in advance what I am going to see and what route I am going to take. I carefully evaluate every possible option, and depending upon the reason for the trip, I will determine which roads to travel – the speedy ones or the scenic ones. If it’s a route I have traveled before, I first consider if there is an alternate way to get there because I don’t like going the same way every time. I want to experience all the different ways to get to a final destination.

I understand that there are probably more people who like consistency than there are those who like change, but I am glad that I like diversity. I think this is an asset to leadership, especially in the church. Imagine what your church would be like if everyone wanted things to stay the same all the time. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Sorry. I believe it is incredibly important for leaders to be able to discover, understand, and empower all the possibilities that exist to accomplish goals.

That’s what God has done in all of us. Not one of us is identical, and not one of us is equipped for serving God in the same way as another. Paul tells us that it is God who works in us to transform our will  and to produce activity that accomplishes His good purpose (see yesterday’s devotional). God is putting forth His power in us to show Himself operative in our activity. Yet everyone’s activity is different. The destination is the same – God’s good purpose – but the route we all take is different. Our only concern should be that we are taking a route that is on God’s map. Be careful here – we are not talking about different routes to salvation; there is only one way, and it is Jesus. But we are speaking clearly about the incredible diversity God designed into the body of Christ to accomplish His good purpose.

I admit the church today has lost some confidence in God’s way because too many people are taking personal routes that are not approved by God. We have also lost a lot of momentum because too many Christians have demanded that everyone’s activity be the same. God has a map for accomplishing the mission of Christ, and He has placed on that map all the approved routes we may take to complete the course. Some of us may take the scenic route, while others will stay on the interstate system. I prefer to try them all, including the back roads – just ask my family. But if it’s not on the map, then I don’t take it.

I have great confidence in the body of Christ which God has asked me to lead, because I know they are always checking their map. I also appreciate them because they allow for alternate routes to be considered and taken by each individual. I wholeheartedly believe that this brings about the fullness of joy God intends for every church to experience.

How about you and your church? Do you get to see and experience the incredible diversity of God through the affirmation of people’s unique gifts and ministries, or are you stuck in a rut on a gravel road that’s been formed because it’s the road everyone is expected to travel?

Pastor John

More Than Clay

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Philippians 2:13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Psalm 141:3-4 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! 4  Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!

When we were without Christ, and living according to the desires of the flesh, our will was self-centered. We made choices based on personal preferences, and we hoped the outcomes would benefit us. But when we came to Christ for salvation and God began His work in us, as we discovered yesterday, our will became subject to His will. This truth adds yet another element of confidence to our lives as we journey towards joy.

To some, God’s work in us can be compared to a potter as he molds clay.  Scripture teaches that analogy.

  • Isaiah 45:9 Does the clay say to the potter, ’What are you making?’
  • Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
  • Jeremiah 18:6 Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.

But this comparison is not the complete picture, because to God we are more than just a lump of unresponsive clay. We need to be as surrendered as clay to the will of the Potter, but we are also called to be involved in the process of accomplishing the Potter’s purpose.

The Apostle Paul states that clearly in Philippians 2:13 when he says it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. God does more than just shape us and mold us into a vessel He can use: He leaves our will intact so that we can choose to serve Him. We are active participants in accomplishing His purpose.

I met a young man in the hospital one day who didn’t fully understand this. He was brought up in a spiritual tradition that emphasizes the sovereignty and will of God in all things. He believed that we really have nothing to say in any of it. He was enrolling in classes to move from being in the transport department at the hospital to becoming a chaplain. Every statement he made about the plans were always followed with “If it’s God’s will.” He seemed to have no active role in working out God’s will; he was just going through doors that seemed to be open and then hoping that they led to God’s will.

That’s not what the Holy Spirit had in mind when he guided Paul to write Philippians. There is something much more wonderful available to us. We can have the confidence to enter each new day knowing that God not only reveals His will to us but also invites us to join our will with His. He is at work in us to bring our wills into agreement with His will so that our desires become His desires and our choices become His choices.

This brings great confidence to our lives. Not only are we called to be involved in God’s work, but every desire of our heart is transformed by the indwelling work of God so that every activity of our lives is done according to His good purpose.

So today, evaluate the desires of your heart and ask God to continue His work in you so that they become His desires. We need to grow in our understanding that it is more than our wills being subject to His will. God’s work in us is not to subjugate our wills to His but rather to transform our wills so they are one with His. It is a liberating way to live in the total freedom Christ promised when we know that the debate between our wills and His will has ceased, and we are of one mind and heart with Him.

May you know such confidence today.

Pastor John