Drop Your Burden

LifeLink Devotional

September 8, 2017

Psalms 81:6  “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.

Have you ever seen a carabao? No, I didn’t misspell caribou. The carabao is a domesticated sub-species of the water buffalo, and is the oxen of the Philippines. The first time I traveled to that country I saw the way Filipino men cherished there carabao. I was told by my good friend Victorino that a farmer would protect his carabao before he protected his wife. You see, the carabao was his means of productivity and income. He used it to plow, plant, and harvest, and then carry the load of the harvest to market. Vic said to me something that broke my heart. He said, “The farmer’s wife can be replaced, but not his carabao.”

One day when we were traveling through the countryside, I saw a man riding in a wagon being pulled by his carabao. Another man sat in the back with the materials that were being hauled. The man sitting in the back had a huge basket filled with wood strapped to his back and shoulders. He had been walking and had been offered a ride by the man in the wagon. But when he got in the wagon, he refused to release the basket from his back and set it down in the wagon. Even though he got to rest from his walking, he was still straining under the weight of the wood on his shoulders.

How foolish, I thought, to be offered total relief from a burden and not fully accept it. The wagon and the carabao were already bearing the full weight of the man and the basket of wood, but for some reason he had decided he still needed to carry his share of the load.

Then I got the point God wanted me to understand – I behave the same way with Him. I remembered the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 where He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I imagined carrying a huge load for a long distance and being weary from the walk and the weight. Then I saw Jesus standing with His arms extended inviting me to come to Him and let Him carry me. I surrender to His powerful right arm that lifts me up and holds me tight. But as His left arm reaches to take the burden off of my back and carry it for me, I refuse, and cling to it, afraid to trust anyone else with the cargo.

It’s not that I doubt His strength, but I am concerned about losing control. It was mine. I worked hard to create this load, and I would see it through to my predetermined destination and conclusion. When we finally arrive at the destination and Jesus puts me down, I wonder why I am still so tired.

What a fool I have been, to not fully release my burdens to the one who will carry them completely. Jesus wants to remove the burden from our shoulders and release our hands from the basket. He will carry the cargo of our cares and He will control the outcome.

Once again today I hear Him calling for me to come and rest in Him, and let go of the basket.

Maybe you can hear Him too.

Pastor John

The Faithful Shepherd

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Psalms 80:1  Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.

The imagery of a shepherd is used consistently throughout Scripture to describe the nature of God’s care and leadership of His people.

When blessing his sons Jacob declared that God has been my shepherd all my life to this day.

Moses proclaimed that the Lord would faithfully lead the people of Israel so that they would not be like sheep without a shepherd.

King David, a man after God’s own heart, was a shepherd, and when called to be the King God said to him, You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.

The prophets of God use the imagery of a shepherd some 35 times as they write about the leadership of God and the responses of the people to His leadership.

When Jesus was born, it was shepherds who were given the privilege of first hearing the good news of His birth. In His ministry on earth, Jesus saw the lost people of the earth as sheep without a shepherd, and became the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for them.

The writer of Hebrews declares Jesus to be the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

When declaring the return of Jesus for the saints Paul calls Him the Chief Shepherd.

And in describing the scene in Heaven when we arrive, John sees the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

One of the many attributes of a good shepherd is faithfulness, and in Psalm 80 Asaph is contemplating the faithfulness of the Good Shepherd. Let me illustrate it for you.

Paul Gerhardt was a hymn writer in the 17th century in Germany. John Wesley translated some of his hymns into English and we still sing them today.

Gerhardt’s family was very poor. He was the shepherd boy who cared for a small flock of sheep and goats on the edge of the forest. One day a hunter came out from among the trees and asked the lad how far it was to the nearest village.

“Six miles, sire,” he replied, “but the road is only a sheep track and can easily be missed.”

“I have lost my way, and I am very tired,” replied the hunter. “Leave your sheep and show me the way. I will pay you well.”

“No, sire,” said Gerhardt. “I cannot do that for they would stray into the forest and be stolen or eaten by the wolves.”

“Never mind; your master would never miss one or two, and I would pay you more than the price of one or two sheep.”

“But sire, my master trusts me with these sheep, and I have promised not to leave them.”

“Well,” said the hunter, “let me take care of the sheep while you fetch me food from the village and a guide.”

“I cannot do that either, sire. The sheep do not know your voice and would not obey you.”

“Can you not trust me? Do I not look like an honest man?” asked the hunter with a frown.

“Sir,” said the boy slowly, “You tried to make me break my master’s trust, and my word to him. How do I know that you will keep your word to me?”

The hunter could not help laughing. “I see you are an honest lad, and I will not forget you,” said the hunter. “Which is the path? I will have to find my way for myself.”

But young Gerhardt would not let the man depart hungry, so he gave him the humble contents of his pack which was to be his own lunch. Just at that moment several men came hurrying through the forest uttering shouts of delight as they caught sight of the two of them. It turned out that young Gerhardt had been talking to the Grand Duke, and these were his attendants who had been much alarmed at his disappearance. This was the beginning of Gerhardt’s future career of honor and success. Pleased with the lad’s honesty and faithfulness, the Duke had him well educated and thus gave him a good state in life.

O that we would be as faithful to the Master as that young shepherd. But consider this – Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, sits enthroned between the cherubim because He was faithful to the Master’s task of saving the sheep, and He will continue to be faithful to the Master’s task of leading and caring for His sheep.

What peace that brings to us, knowing that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, is faithful and true, and can be trusted to never leave the sheep.

Understanding His faithfulness adds new beauty to the Shepherd’s Psalm. Read it in a fresh light today and be blessed by the words of faithfulness I have highlighted.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2    He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

3    he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4    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.

5    You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6    Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

Pastor John

Where Is Their God?

LifeLink Devotional

September 6, 2017

Psalms 79:10  Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”

When God created the world and everything in it, He did so as an expression of His nature and glory. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20 that since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

But God’s relational attributes are specifically and exclusively revealed in Jesus Christ, and subsequently seen in the lives of people who have been transformed by His grace. When those who know Him fail to live out the grace of God in their lives, the world is justified in asking the question, “Where is their God?”

I do not intend to place all the total responsibility for the world’s rejection of God on Christians, for the unsaved people of the world have made their own choices and are responsible for their own responses to the knowledge of God. They will be held accountable. However, we as Christians must admit that we play a role in this to some degree.

The nation of Israel had fallen into sin and rebellion against God. They had chosen idolatry and pleasure over the pursuit of holiness. In His eternal paternal love for them God disciplined them to draw them back into right relationship. But while the discipline endured, the nation was shamed before the world, and that brought shame to the name of Jehovah. Asaph cries out to God to end the punishment for the sake of His glorious name.

God knows the perfect timing to restore His fame, and eventually he did, but it is the attitude of Asaph that fascinates me. What is our response to our culture and to God when the very existence of God is being brought into question? When the world is saying, “Where is their God?”, we should respond as Asaph did in this Psalm.

First, our hearts must be broken by the attitudes of the world towards God. How can we who love Him so dearly not be utterly conflicted by the lack of love for Him by the world? Our hearts and minds cannot be at peace when we know that the world is being convinced that God is not relevant or necessary. We cannot find rest while we know that others around us are being led to their eternal destruction by the philosophies of secular humanism. We are driven to our knees before our Father in heaven and cry out for Him to display His power and glory to the lost people of the world for the sake of His glorious Name.

We would never allow anyone to unjustly accuse and belittle our spouse or our children. We would quickly rise to their defense because of our love for them. How much more should we be willing to rise up against the false accusations of the world against Almighty God whom we love.

Second, we must come before the Father and acknowledge that it is our own sins that have, to a large degree, caused God’s shame in front of the world. Asaph says, Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. (Psalms 79:9)

Two things have happened as a result of our choices to live according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit of God: one, we have ceased to live in the power and deliverance of the Name of Jesus; and two, we have brought on ourselves and our nation the discipline of God against sin. When we, the children of God and witnesses of His transforming power, cease to be the living examples of that power, then the world has the right to ask, “Where is their God?” When the sins of God’s people are dealt with by a holy and loving Father who disciplines His children, the world interprets our struggles and suffering as the absence of God.

“O Father, forgive us for our sins and for bringing shame to your name. Restore unto us the fullness of your presence so that our lives may be the living example of your power and glory.”

Finally, we must acknowledge to the Father that we will live differently from this point forward. No more will we choose sin and self over surrender to the Savior. We will seek to honor and bring praise to self no longer. We will, with Asaph, declare that we are the sheep of God’s pasture and we will praise Him forever. We commit with every ounce of our being and every aspect of our lives to bring glory to His Name alone.

Then the question of God’s existence and His personal involvement in human affairs will be moot, and all those who asked it will be mute. The power and salvation of Jesus Christ will be seen in us, and the Name of God will be glorified.

Pastor John

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere with God

LifeLink Devotional

September 5, 2017

(Before I begin, a reminder of my goal. I am working my way through the Psalms one-by-one, and picking out one highlight from each that the Holy Spirit uses to continue the process of producing the character of Christ in me. We are just past the half-way point.)

Psalm 78:35-38  35  They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. 36  But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. 37  Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. 38  Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.

In ancient Greece, the politically crafty philosopher Aristippus had learned to get along in court by flattering the tyrant Denys. Aristippus looked down his nose at some of his less prosperous fellow philosophers and wise men who would not stoop that low. One day Aristippus saw his colleague Diogenes washing some vegetables and he said to him disdainfully: “If you would only learn to flatter King Denys you would not have to be washing lentils.”

Diogenes looked up slowly and in the same tone replied, “And you, if you had only learned to live on lentils, would not have to flatter King Denys.”

Like Aristippus, the people of Israel had not learned to live in contented trust of God. They had fallen for the Satanic deception that God was nothing more than a means to their own selfish ends. They knew in their heads the truth about God’s nature and character, but they used that knowledge to satisfy the desires of their own hearts rather than to transform their hearts. They could say with their lips that God was their Rock and their Redeemer, but their hearts were not loyal to Him and they were not faithful to keep His covenant. They turned to God only when they needed deliverance from affliction, not realizing that their own selfish hearts were the cause of those afflictions.

It may be true that we get caught up in the same cycle of selfishness. We lose patience with God’s purpose and want more immediate results. We lose strength to endure the hardships of this life and want relief, having defined relief as prosperity. We want God to make our lives better according to our perception of better. And because of our knowledge of His nature and character, we put on the appearance of loyalty and faithfulness with elements of praise and worship hoping that God will grant us what we want.

We have to some degree become flatterers. We use our knowledge of God to tell God what we believe He wants to hear so that we can receive from Him what we want to receive. But our selfishness has blinded us to the reality that God knows the intent of our heart regardless of our words.

I ran across a simple definition of a flatterer – a flatterer is a person who tells you your opinion and not his own. That’s what the people of Israel were doing, and it may be that’s what we do also. It would be spiritually healthy for us to evaluate the true condition of our heart.

The knowledge we have of God is intended by God to transform our fleshly hearts into spiritual ones where the Spirit of God resides with full authority and access to every part of our life. At times, however, our knowledge of God is used to strengthen to position of our flesh and to seek the desires of our fleshly hearts.

This is dangerous.

Be careful not to take advantage of the mercy and forgiveness of God. Yes, He was merciful and forgiving to the people of Israel, but He did not withhold judgment. Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t stir up any wrath at all. He did not utterly destroy them but He did discipline them.

Maybe the difficulties you are experiencing right now are the result of your own sin. Maybe you have been using God to accomplish your own goals.

Maybe the time you spend in Bible study and devotions is primarily to discover more things God should be doing for you rather than just learning more about who God is so you can love Him more completely.

Maybe your participation in worship at church is to enhance your sense of spiritual well-being rather than to humble yourself before Almighty God and seek His face.

In humble repentance, do we dare say that anything we do that we hope will please God so that God will be pleased with us is flattery, and it is done from a selfish heart?

If only we would learn to trust that God is our Rock and our Redeemer, and let that truth transform our hearts. Then we would be content in the sovereign care He promised in verse 72 – With upright heart he shepherded them, and guided them with his skillful hand.

Terrific Theatre – Tricky Theology

Terrific Theatre – Tricky Theology

A Personal Review of THE SHACK

The journey to arrive at this point of writing a review of the movie The Shack has been very difficult for me. There are many people with strong opinions about the movie and how it has helped them in some way. It is not my desire to debate how God might be using this movie to heal your heart.  It is my deep desire to humbly represent the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means of true healing and help. I want to both commend noteworthy projects that help people with real hurts, and at the same time address the sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious deceptions of the enemy of God that are built into the help that is provided.

In this blog, I am going to give a summary of what I observed as I watched the movie. This reviews requires some pastoral teaching on theology that is so very essential in today’s culture of whitewashed belief systems. I would encourage you to contact me personally if you would like further explanations.

I am writing primarily for the sake of disciples of Christ who want to be discerning and helpful to people who come out of this movie with questions about God. And they will come out of the movie with questions about God. Many will be honestly seeking to know Him. It is our privilege to lead them to the truth. Please recognize that some of your friends may believe that they understand God better because of this movie. Please engage them in truth conversations based on the Bible and lead them to true salvation and healing.

First, let me tell you that from a purely theatrical perspective, this movie is very well done. It engages the audience dramatically and emotionally, and sincerely touches on one of the real issues of people’s hurts. That is commendable.

I also saw value in the teaching that came from the personification of wisdom who explained the need for mankind to stop judging others. I thought this was handled very well.

The movie also does a good job of expressing three truths that are foundational to Christianity: God is by nature three-in-one; God loves us; and His love can bring powerful healing to hurting hearts. This can be a great opportunity for disciples of Jesus Christ to begin a conversation with people who are drawn to God through the movie. That is commendable.

The way these three truths are presented impacts every part of our being – our hearts, our minds, and our emotions. So deeply does the healing power of God affect people as they watch that dry eyes are uncommon. That is commendable.

But with each of the commendations come several cautions. We live in a world governed by consistent appeals to our emotions so that they become our personal validation of truth. That is one of the great deceptions of Satan, who seeks to lead us to base our understanding of eternal truth on nothing more trustworthy than human reason, human experience, and human emotion. If we allow the emotion of this movie to influence our understanding of the truth of God, then we open ourselves up to falsehood. We must be cautious.

“Some defend The Shack by saying it’s only a work of fiction. But if you’re going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters, The Shack is clearly indicating that it’s talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about Himself in Scripture, and much of what’s in this novel contradicts that.” (quoted from GotQuestions.Org/The-Shack-Review)

Before I list the cautions so you can address them with people who truly seek the truth, I must issue a spoiler alert. The only way to truly evaluate this movie is to reveal the ending, so I am about to do that.

The entire context of the representations of God in this movie are the product of a man’s imagination while he is in a coma of who he wants God to be. After seeing the end of the movie, I concluded that the teachings about God in this movie are nothing more than man’s desire to define God in a way that is acceptable to our way of thinking, rather than an attempt to declare the truth of who God is and then conform our thinking to that truth.

That logical conclusion drawn from the end of the movie reveals then, in my opinion, the author’s desire to so emotionally involve us in the story that we will accept conclusions about the nature of God that are not true even though they are very appealing. I will address in detail only three major cautions, and then end with a list of other concerns that you need to be prepared to address with people who are interested in conversations about God.

Caution #1 – Be prepared to share with your friends that this movie should not be the basis of our understanding of the nature of God. It presents a flawed view of both the nature of the Trinity and the perfect nature of God’s attributes.

Scripture teaches that there is a hierarchy of authority and submission within the Trinity. The “God” character tells Mack that authority and submission are a result of sin, and the Trinity is a perfect circle of communion.

“Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or ‘great chain of being’ as your ancestors termed it. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us.”

But Scripture teaches that authority and submission are inherent to the Godhead and have existed from the beginning. Jesus was sent by the Father (John 6:57), and Jesus says it is his intention to obey the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). The Holy Spirit obeys both the Father and the Son (John 14:26, John 15:26). These are not the result of sin; they are the very nature of the Godhead in which all three persons are equal in essence but exist within a hierarchy of authority and submission.

Regarding the nature of God, many will argue that the movie is not intended to reveal the full nature of God, and I agree. However, the primary aspect of His nature that is addressed in the movie – God’s love – is presented in a context of love being the totality of His nature so that other aspects of God’s nature are directly denied. Any presentation of God that shows only one side of His nature is wrong.

For example, the movie clearly teaches that the love of God completely excludes any possibility of the judgment of sin. The character representing God declares that God has nothing to do with wrath against sin, and that sin is its own punishment. This is a huge problem, yet it appeals directly to our desire to understand God only in the context of love.

Here are some Bible verses that the movie denies as truth:

  • Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
  • Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
  • Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
  • Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
  • Colossians 3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Is God love? YES! Does God love sinners? YES! Does God forgive sinners? YES! Does God’s love negate any other aspect of His nature like justice? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Caution #2 – Be prepared to talk to your friends about Divine justice against sin. This movie teaches that God’s love eliminates His need for the punishment of sin. It clearly states that after we have experienced the human consequences of guilt and shame, our punishment is complete and we will all be saved and enter the presence of Christ.

No matter how this belief is explained away by the author of the book and movie, who describes his belief system as hopeful universalism, it denies the truth of Scripture that only those saved by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will be granted eternal life, and all others will be sentenced by God to eternal damnation.

The not-so-subtle representation of unsaved people all being saved and observed in the movie in the presence of Christ as eternal lights is false teaching. The words of Jesus tell us clearly that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)

Be very careful here with people’s word skills. The false doctrine of universal salvation is clear in this movie, and the wordsmithing that is taking place is a great deception with eternal consequence. Be prepared to help people to understand this by balancing the love of God with the perfect justice of God against all sin. Only then will people be able to understand the magnificent grace of God for salvation available because of Christ’s death on the cross. Help your friends understand the truth.

Caution #3 – Leading your friends to the cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection is vital after seeing this movie. Nowhere in the movie is our personal accountability to God for our sin presented. It is not even hinted. Nowhere is repentance from that sin and faith in Jesus Christ offered as the only way of salvation. This movie does not teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an entertaining movie, but it is my fear that the average unsaved person will walk away with an underlying philosophy of faith that gives them a false hope. My fear is that they will believe that in the end, no matter what they have done and whatever sins they may have committed, they are automatically forgiven because God suffered for those sins and will never punish them.

The depiction of God with nail scars in “her” wrists is not only an offense to the truth, but it validates the belief that God the Father will never pour out His wrath against sin. This is the false teaching of patripassionism, another ancient heresy that teaches that God the Father suffered on the cross. In the book upon which the movie is based, the “God” character says this about the scars: “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.” God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not speak themselves into human existence; only the Son became human (John 1:14). And while He was human, He was still fully God. The Trinity did not lower themselves to the limitations of humanity.

We live in a world that demands that there be many ways to eternal life. This movie validates the fundamental belief behind such demands – that God is only love and will never punish anyone for their sin. That is so very dangerous.

Well, there are several other things that I could mention, but I will only mention two of them:

  1. Be prepared to talk to your friends about the near-death experience and vision of heaven. It is Mack’s vision that gives assurance to the family that their daughter and his father are safe, and this is not in agreement with Scripture. There is no substantiated truth from Scripture that anyone ever dies and sees heaven and then returns to earth. This is based solely on man’s desire to declare personal experience as absolute truth, which is a false premise.
  2. Talk to your friends about the danger demanding an experience to validate faith. The representation of God as a human may be a good theatrical device but should be recognized for its errors. First, God the Father has never revealed Himself as a human except in the person of Jesus Christ. Never! He is the eternal Spirit. We tend to like this device in the movie because of our desire to define God in human terms. But God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Second, faith that saves people from their sin is not based on human experience but rather on God’s Word, even when it cannot be explained in human form. Here’s how the Bible defines faith: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) Be careful not to base your faith on what is seen. In reality, faith leads to seeing rather than seeing producing faith. Help your friends understand that.

Hopefully this has helped you to become more discerning about Biblical truth. My goal is that as you see the movie with your friends, you can engage in spiritually healthy conversations that result in hearts, minds, and souls becoming grounded in the truth of who God is and His redemptive purpose for mankind.

Deception is always subtle at first, and usually appeals to our emotions. It is my goal to help you move beyond emotional gratification.  Do not fall victim to the philosophy presented in the book that Scripture is not sufficient to communicate with God. (This was done when Mack’s seminary teaching about the Bible was mocked.) I encourage you and your friends to study the Word of God so that you may be approved by God, so that you are not ashamed of the true Gospel because you correctly understand and interpret the truth of God’s written revelation of Himself to us. It is ALL in the BIBLE. (2 Timothy 2:15)

I encourage your comments.

Pastor John

Here’s the Problem

Okay, I know, it seems like forever since I wrote anything for this devotional blog. But today I  am motivated by a constantly growing problem. It frustrates me and breaks my heart, so I can only imagine what the Savior Jesus Christ must be feeling.

What is the problem? Let’s see if you can discern it from excerpts of this news story on Fox news:

“Actress Anjelah Johnson-Reyes first shot to fame in the viral MADTv skit “Bon Qui Qui.” The former NFL cheerleader continued to make a name for herself in the world of comedy with both her stand-up and TV and movie roles.

Now the 34-year-old is starring in the faith-based film “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” While faith has been an important factor in Johnson-Reyes’ life since she was a teenager, it’s always something she’s kept in her personal life until now.

“I do a joke in my stand-up where I say I’m a Christian, but I’m not a Christian comedian,” Johnson-Reyes told us. “I think that’s definitely how I see my acting. I’m an actor who happens to be a Christian.”

The California-native said she has been reluctant to take roles in Christian films because she doesn’t “want to be known as a Christian actor.” But in 2014, she agreed to a small role in “Moms’ Night Out” because it was “funny and not a typical Christian film.”

So when she was approached about “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” Johnson-Reyes was hesitant to take the role so as not to be branded as a Christian entertainer.

“Before I read the script [for ‘Gavin Stone’], a producer reached out to me and asked if I was interested, and I said no because I didn’t want to be known as a Christian actor. And then I read the script, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how authentic it felt and thought I can get on board with this.”

That’s not to say the star’s faith hasn’t played a role in her career before she delved into the world of faith-based entertainment. Johnson-Reyes said she had turned down many opportunities because they conflicted with her beliefs.

“There’s been roles that I have turned down,” she revealed. “There’s no rule book or handbook… It’s just… whatever I’m comfortable with…

“I live my life not to please my pastor or my church or fellow Christians,” she told us. “I live my life according to my own convictions and morals and core values and principles and a lot of times that’s not going to add up to other Christians.”

So here’s the problem. “…whatever I’m comfortable with…I live my life according to my own convictions and morals and core values and principles.”

Where do people who say they are followers of Christ get the audacity to believe that they get to live according to their own convictions and morals and core values and principles? Where do people who, if they are born again believers in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, get the arrogance it takes to say they make their decisions based on their own comfort levels and not on the direction of the Holy Spirit? Do you see the problem?

I am not going to go on, because this is the root problem of today’s so-called “Christian” community. Following Christ is not following Christ, but rather it has become nothing more than putting a spiritual justification on self-centered living.

It is time we ALL repent of such attitudes and return to the truth. Our convictions, morals, core values, and principles are clearly defined in Scripture by the God who saves us from sin and self. Let’s give Him ALL the glory for what He has done, and then let’s actually live that way.

Pastor John

What Defines Me?

LifeLink Devotional

March 15, 2016

Psalm 77:10  Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

(Before I begin, a reminder of what I am currently trying to accomplish in these devotionals. I am working my way through the Psalms one-by-one, and picking out one highlight that the Holy Spirit uses to continue the process of producing the character of Christ in me. We are just past the half-way point.)

Birthdays carry the potential of discouragement. They also carry the possibility of celebration. It is quite probable that both are experienced. The outward celebration could be only a mask for the inner realities of fear, doubt, and depression. Aging can be scary. Getting old brings the doubt of worth based on the reality of reduced function. And what makes it even worse is when the memories of the productive years are gone. It is such a shame that we spend so much of our lives convinced that our value is based upon our abilities. Then we reach an age where we lose both the abilities and the memories of what we did. The result is we have nothing upon which to base our personal worth.

Now in case you are concerned, that is not what my birthday did to me yesterday. The assumption might be that I live in a state of denial about my age, and I will do everything possible to prove my abilities. That is also not true. Well, at least partly not true. I still think I can do many things that I did when I was younger, so that could be considered denial. However, I do not gain or lose personal value based on my ability or inability to continue to do those things. My performance does not dictate my worth!

In the 77th Psalm, written by Asaph, there is a verse that in the last week has become very significant in my life. It comes after Asaph has confessed that he is trying to restore the good old days. He is trying to remember how it used to be, and it’s messing up his mind. He gets so discouraged that he even blames God for not caring anymore and for withholding His love.

Have you ever really thought about what causes us to get discouraged when things can’t be the way they used to be? I have, and I have reached the conclusion that it boils down to one simple thing – I still consider the best times of my life to be the times when I was in control and things worked out for my benefit. You too, right?

When things go bad today, our default is to remember the times when things were great. We then assign ourselves the credit for them being great. This in turn reinforces our desire to take control again because we believe that since we made things great once before we can do it again.

But look at what Asaph concluded. After trying to remember the days of old (verse 5) he reaches this conclusion in verse 7 – Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

Every one of us must come to the point when we realize that the best times of our life were not defined by the good or bad circumstances we enjoyed or endured, but rather they were defined by the reality of God working in and through every one of those circumstances to produce the character of Christ in us.

Listen, there is no possible hope for the present in trying to remember what we did in the past. But, as Asaph says, I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember YOUR wonders of old. (Verse 11 – emphasis mine)

Asaph also declares that the key to understanding the past and the present is this – Your way, O God, is holy. (Verse 13) You see, through the good and the bad of the past and the present, God is at work according to His holy nature to produce the character of Christ in us. What that means is this: the circumstances of life do not define God any more than they define me. Instead, and this is a powerful truth that will transform our lives –

God designs the circumstances of life to reveal His definition of me.

So when things get tough – even unbearable – remember this: we can appeal to the years of the right hand of the Most High. His right hand upholds us, sustains us, shapes us, carries us, nurtures us, and provides for us.

But maybe most of all, His right hand assures us that we are His – not defined by life, but declared possessors of eternal life. It has to be true, for God could not hold in His hand anything that does not measure up to His holiness – a holiness we have in Christ Jesus His Son.

Pastor John