In Denial

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I tend to be a lot like the Apostle Peter. Here’s one example.

When I was in my third year of college, I joined with three other guys and rented an apartment not far from campus. The apartment complex had a swimming pool. One day, while swimming, a girl came to the pool. I started a conversation with her. She asked me if I was a student. After saying I was, she asked where I went to college. My brain quickly flashed through a variety of scenarios based on the answer I would give her. I assumed that if I said I went to a Christian College, that my chances to get to know her would be eliminated. So I lied. Not a good start, and the guilt caused me to walk away and go back to my apartment.

During dinner with His disciples, Jesus began speaking about going somewhere they would not be able to join Him. He was referring to the place of death on the cross. Peter argued with the Lord, and boldly declared that no matter what happened he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. He lied.

John 13:36-38 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Jesus predicted that Peter would fail. He told Peter to his face that within 12 hours he would deny that he even knew Jesus, let alone followed Him. Peter chose self-preservation and self-benefit over faithfulness to Christ.

I wonder how many times every day I do the same thing. I did it at the swimming pool. Do I continue to do it when I am in the company of people whom I believe will reject me if I am faithful to Jesus? Am I guilty of self-preservation or self-benefit?

Good questions to consider.

Pastor John

 

Serve Others

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Many years ago, while in the Philippines, I spoke to one of the most memorable gatherings of people ever – for me. There were 400 ECOFI (Evangelical Christian Outreach Foundation Incorporated) pastors and wives present, along with many other Christian workers and students from the Bible Colleges. I spoke on the servant heart of Jesus from the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in John 13.

Imagine this. Jesus has invited His closest followers to celebrate the Passover Supper with Him. They all arrive in the upper room of a home, where dinner has been prepared. No household servant is there to wash their feet as they enter, so they all recline at the table with dirty feet.

Jesus rises, and proceeds to wash all of their feet. Only one refuses at first, but He is quickly convinced that this is an important principle of Christ’s Kingdom. We need to understand that what Jesus does and says in this action is to be forever our motivating principle of faith. We are to serve one another.

John 13:12-16 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

At the conclusion of my message that evening, I had twelve college students prepared to bring out twelve basins of water with towels, and twelve chairs. I invited to the stage the twelve District Supervisors who guided the 300 churches in ECOFI. As tears of joy and repentance spilled from my eyes, I washed each of their feet. Tears streamed down their faces as well. Together we recognized that we had become proud of our ministries, and were asking others to serve us.

Each District Supervisor then went and washed the feet of the pastors for their district. Then pastors started washing the feet of other pastors with whom they had been in competition. Then pastors started washing the feet of their people. College professors were washing the feet of the students. Husbands washed the feet of their wives and children. For three hours the model of Christ’s servant heart was evidenced in this gathering of disciples.

That was over 10 years ago. Two weeks ago I received this message from one of the Filipino people who was present at that meeting.

i dont really forgotten wen yu speak washing the feet i was remember wen yu wash my feet i m so blessed

The greatest impact we can have on the lives of others is to serve them like Jesus served us. He gave His life for us. There is no greater love to be seen by the world.

No matter the cost, go and serve others.

Pastor John

At the Cross

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

It is possible that we are distracted from things of eternal value. Things of earthly value are becoming increasingly important to us as our security and health are being threatened. We must not allow the circumstances of life or the tenuous nature of things to dismay us. Discouragement is the product of placing faith in things that are not guaranteed.

However, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to give us eternal life is guaranteed. As we approach Easter, it will benefit us to study the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is His love for us that makes relationship with God possible. For the next two weeks we will study the things Jesus said leading up to the cross, and the seven things Jesus said while on the cross. My prayer is that you will be encouraged as you refocus your thoughts and attitudes on the future glory of our eternal life with Jesus.

As Jesus prepared to show us the nature of God’s love by becoming the sacrifice necessary to satisfy the wrath of God against sin, He spoke these words:

 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28  Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29  The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30  Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31  Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.  John 12:27-33

Two points to encourage us today:

  1. Jesus asked that everything he did would be for the glory of the Father. The Father’s response was that it already has been, and He would be glorified in everything that was to take place. God the Father is glorified by the sacrifice of His own Son Jesus for our sin. God’s grace is on display at the cross. The Father’s love is fully expressed at the cross. God’s redemptive purpose is accomplished at the cross.
  2. Jesus declares that there is victory at the cross. Victory over every spiritual enemy. Victory over the judgment due sinners. Victory over death by defeating death. Jesus endured the full wrath of God against sin, and died. His death on the cross makes it possible for us to be drawn to Him for salvation.

As we prepare to celebrate Easter in a unique way this year, let us remember that the source of our praise is still the same. God’s glory has been revealed in the work of Jesus on the cross, and God’s redemptive purpose to draw people to Himself is accomplished when Jesus is lifted up.

Let us proclaim more boldly and loudly than ever before that Jesus is the only hope for the world.

Pastor John

The True Vine

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, March 23, 2020

One day, during the time of the year when the branches of the grape vines produce blossoms, the Master of the vineyard went about inspecting the vineyard. He came upon a branch that had no blossoms. He asked the branch why it had no blossoms. The branch replied, “I am not fully attached to the main vine. There is enough connection to provide nourishment for leaf growth, but not sufficient flow of nutrients to produce blossoms. I will bear no fruit for you, even though I have every appearance of health.”

The Master removed the branch from the vine.

As the Master of the vineyard proceeded, he noticed another branch with no blossoms. Once again, the Master asked the branch why it had no blossoms. The branch replied, “I cannot understand why I don’t have blossoms. I am fully connected to the main vine, but I don’t seem to be getting the correct nutrients required to produce the fruit of my choosing. It is my preference to produce apples for you, because they are more important to me than grapes. Please help me understand why the main vine will not provide me with what I need to satisfy my own desires.”  

The Master removed the branch from the vine.

Once more the Master made his way along the long rows of grapevines, until he noticed a branch with only a few leaves, and a small cluster of blossoms. He asked the branch why he was producing so little. The branch replied, “I am fully connected to the main vine, and I am receiving all the nutrients I need to bear fruit. However, between my blossoms and the vine are other branches that have sprung out of me which are draining my energy so I cannot bear much fruit. Can you help me?” The Master spoke gently and lovingly. “I am so thankful for your desire to bear much fruit. I will help you, but it will require that you be pruned. We must remove those branches that are not producing and stealing all of the vine’s resources. I will cut you back so you will grow new leaves and next year, you will produce much fruit.” Even though he knew it would hurt, and that for a time he would not produce any fruit, he trusted the Master’s love. He knew he would remain attached to the vine. He knew the Master would do what was best so he could fulfill His purpose of bearing much fruit.

The Master pruned the branch so that all the vine’s resources went into fruit production.

The branch smiled.

John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Pastor John

ONE WAY

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 20, 2020

Statements of absolutes are not popular. If fact, absolutes have been labeled as intolerance. However, without absolutes, life would cease to exist. The very science that seeks to disprove the absolutes of God’s creation is in fact regulated by the absolutes of math and scientific law. Without the absolutes of chemistry and biology, life could not exist.

Jesus taught absolutes. He did not qualify nor quantify truth to be adjustable to our individual preferences. He spoke simply and plainly, but with absolute authority to declare absolute truth.

One such absolute truth is highly offensive to our sinful world. Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Jesus did not say He was one of the ways to God. He did not say He was one of many equal truths. He did not say that He offered one of many options for experiencing life to the fullest. He clearly stated an absolute – I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.

Then Jesus added this absolute truth – No one comes to the Father except through Me. He offered no other options. He didn’t say some could come through Him and others could find their way to God by another means. He clearly said that no one can come into an eternal relationship with God EXCEPT through Him.

We are all in a place of great need, and we have been offered an incredible gift that eliminates the need once and for all. But it is the only option. We cannot produce an alternative that meets the need. We will never find another way to have the need removed. But God, according to His incredible love for us, has provided for the need to be eternally removed.

The need we all have is for the forgiveness of sin and the removal of its consequence of death. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) God has met that need once and for all in Jesus Christ. For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is no other way known to man or invented by man that can eternally remove the judgment of God against sin. Only by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross can we be saved and forgiven.

This is an offensive message to many. It is declared to be narrow-minded and restrictive. But those statements are only true when considered from mankind’s perspective. When viewed from God’s perspective, the cross of Jesus Christ accomplishes everything necessary for eternal life. It is the broadest invitation possible, available to whomever will believe. Unbelief makes it narrow and restrictive. Belief produces the biggest perspective possible.

Have you thought about what will you do about your sin? Have you considered how will you exchange your guilt for eternal life? If you conclude that you can do nothing, then you are ready for faith in Jesus Christ, who already did it all for you. Trust His absolute truth. You can come to the Father through Him.

Pastor John

The Resurrection and the Life

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 19, 2020

I had an eye-opening illumination of truth the other day. It got me thinking about many areas of my life, but specifically one big one. Based on this truth, I must now declare that I am NOT a golfer. Don’t get me wrong, I love to golf. I spend a lot of time thinking about golfing, even when I’m not. My brain reviews my swing and makes mental adjustments that hopefully translate into improved performance on the course. But those very mental and mechanical adjustments prove I am NOT a golfer.

Here’s the truth I contemplated the other day. My nature always dictates my activity, but my activity cannot transform my nature. You see, we humans are stuck in a tragic performance-based lifestyle where we seek to change who we are by engaging in more activity. We hope that ultimately enough practice will transform our nature.  We have placed our faith in our activity, believing it will eventually make us worthy of an identity change.

The thing that caused me to contemplate this in my life is the statement Jesus makes to Martha after her brother Lazarus had died.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus says, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” He doesn’t say he does resurrections. He doesn’t say he helps with life, or practices life. He says I AM the resurrection and the life. His nature is resurrection. His nature is life. Every activity of His eternal existence is an outflow of His nature. His works do not define Him. His works are an expression of His nature. Everything about Jesus is resurrection and life. Our hope is not found in the event of His resurrection: our hope is found in the Person who is resurrection.

If I were a golfer by nature, then everything I thought, spoke, or did would be golf. And, I might add, my golf game would be perfect. But no matter how much I wish that were true, it isn’t. Yet everything Jesus thinks, speaks, or does is resurrection and life. When we by faith come to Jesus for forgiveness, we become completely new. His resurrection power overwhelms us with eternal life. We are now, by nature, the children of God – ETERNALLY.

When we understand that, we are delivered from our performance-based dysfunctions. We are now free to think, speak, and act as an outflow of who we are, rather than remain in the bondage of trying to earn our identity. When Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life,” He delivered us from the need to find life anywhere else. Jesus does far more than just give life because He has it to give. He gives life because He is life. He doesn’t just tell us we will experience resurrection; He guarantees resurrection because it is His nature, and His nature is now ours through faith.

I am so thankful that my confidence is not in the activity of Jesus, but in the very Person of Jesus. And because that’s true, my confidence is no longer in my activity to define me, but in the identity of Christ in me.

Pastor John

The Good Shepherd

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I have a good friend in North Dakota who tried to raise sheep for a while. They were kept on a farm thirty minutes from his house. He grew to hate his decision as much as he hated the sheep. No matter how well he installed and repaired fences, they always managed to escape. He spent far too much time chasing sheep. The only way to ensure that sheep don’t wander is for them to be managed by a shepherd who is always watching.

Sheep could not survive without a shepherd. The wolves and coyotes would get them. Thieves would steal them.  Prone to wander, they would soon be lost and even more susceptible to danger.

The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Man is like sheep. We wander around blind; we get lost. We’re lost from God. We’ve strayed from God.

Jesus says in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

The duties of a shepherd are many. They live with their sheep. They must find good places for the sheep to eat. They must look for sheep that have wandered. They must protect the sheep from danger.

Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls in the same way. The twenty-third Psalm says it this way:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

When we come to Him for salvation, He lives in us. He is constantly directing us to nourishing food from His Word. He protects us from the dangers of sin and false teaching that would lead us astray. And when we do stray, because we will, He searches for us until He can restore us to His fellowship.

But Jesus does one more thing for His sheep. He gives His life for us. He came to earth on a mission to rescue us. His rescue could only be accomplished if the ultimate enemy of life was destroyed – death. He died so that we might live.

Are you a lost sheep? Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. He loves you and He’s searching for you. He will be your permanent shepherd if you repent of your wandering ways and trust Him to rescue you from sin. Why not do that today?

Pastor John