WHO, NOT WHAT

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 2, 2021

If you want to have some fun today, ask the next person you see to define truth. Okay, maybe that isn’t what you call fun, but it certainly would be eye-opening. I predict that you will find multiple people who believe that truth is determined and defined by one’s individual experiences. Truth has become relative to most people, which serves the purpose of validating one’s own choices.

Things haven’t changed all that much since the days when Pilate asked Jesus about truth. We read about it in John 18.

John 18:33-38  So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Pilate had the same problem as people today: they ask the wrong question. Asking “What is truth?” may serve our immediate need to validate our current choices, but it does not reveal truth. The correct question we must ask is “WHO is Truth?”

It appears that Pilate only asked his question about truth to end his conversation with Jesus because he immediately goes outside to talk to the Jewish contingent.  Pilate had no real interest in knowing the truth. He seems satisfied to define truth only within the context of his own experiences and for his own benefit. If he genuinely wanted to know the truth, he would have waited for Jesus to answer, and Jesus would have revealed Himself to Pilate because Jesus is the Truth.

In John 14:6 Jesus told His disciples that He is the Truth. He went even further in his conversation with Pilate by revealing that the only way to define the truth is by being in the truth. Jesus said,  “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The only way to answer the what is truth question is to first be in the truth, and Pilate was not. Neither were the Jews. Neither are most people today who are trying to define truth. The determination of truth can only be made once we are in the truth, and that means being in Jesus.

It is futile to engage in debate about truth with those who have rejected the truth that truth is a Person not a position.  Praise God that we know the truth because we are in the Truth. Go and proclaim Jesus to others who want to know the truth. He is the only answer to their search.

Pastor John

THE PASSOVER LAMB

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LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Personally, I do not believe there is anything more heartbreakingly sad than to watch someone performing spiritual duties which they think will improve their standing with God, but in fact are destroying it. I grieve for the masses of people who believe that adherence to the law will save them.

That is how I feel when I read the next section of John’s Gospel describing the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. My heart breaks for religious people who are deceived by what they believe will save them.

John 18:28-32   “Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

Those who rejected Jesus had a two-fold agenda. They wanted to eliminate Jesus as a threat to their way of life. But while doing so, they also wanted to keep the appearance of religious piety.  They did not recognize that their focus on keeping religious laws blinded them to the spiritual truth that was right in front of them. They believed that obedience to religious duty would produce the validation of God. The darkness in them was great. They wanted to kill the Passover LAMB but not be defiled so they could kill the Passover lamb.

For fifteen-hundred years the people had celebrated the Passover to commemorate the LORD’s deliverance from bondage. The Old Testament prophets, which the people read and studied, declared that the Messiah would be like a lamb led to slaughter. The people were described by Isaiah as sheep which had strayed into the bondage of sin. They had every opportunity to understand that the Lamb of God would die for the sheep and save them from their sin. No more sacrifices of lambs would be necessary.

Yet the people were determined to uphold the laws and traditions as their means of earning the approval of God. They were so blinded by their desire to validate themselves that they planned to kill the very One who could save them. They refused to even enter the home of a Roman official because it would disqualify them from eating the Passover and thereby earning their status before God.

My heart breaks for the multitudes of people in the world today who are blinded by the same deception. Every day they carry out their religious duties, hoping that it will earn them the favor of God. Every day their darkness gets darker. The deception of religious duty binds them more tightly.

But Jesus is the Light that shines in the darkness. His death satisfies all the demands of the law. His resurrection guarantees eternal life. We who know the truth must share the truth. Jesus has once-and-for-all paid the price of sin by dying on the cross. Jesus has once-and-for-all gained access to the Father on behalf of all who believe on Him for salvation. Not by works which we have done, but by His mercy and grace He has saved us.

Go and bring the deliverance of Jesus to people who are walking in darkness.

Pastor John

A NEW DAY

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Last week I was asked why my connection to people in the Philippines is so important to me. After I explained my history with the mission work there, they understood. Well, almost. I finished my conversation by telling them about roosters. I will never forget the very first night I spent at the Bible College outside of Davao City. It was thirty years ago this month. It was so hot, and I had a difficult time sleeping. Then, at around five in the morning, the first rooster crowed. It touched me deeply in my soul. I was not angry for being awakened. In fact, it was just the opposite. I fell in love with the morning greeting because it reminded me of the story of Peter.

John 18:25-27   “Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26  One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27  Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

When that first rooster crowed, I was overwhelmed with the joy of the Holy Spirit. I realized in that moment that I had not denied Jesus. Every morning when the rooster crowed I was reminded of the previous day’s faithful service to the Lord. I would pray for the Holy Spirit’s presence and power to be faithful in this new day. Now, thirty years later, I still consider that to be one of my favorite connections to the Philippines.

I prefer my memory of a rooster crowing to that of Peter’s. Roosters mean faithfulness to me. Roosters meant denial of Jesus to Peter. However, I am convinced that the forgiveness of Jesus that Peter experienced on the shores of the sea erased the shame and guilt of a rooster crow. I am certain that from the moment Jesus told Peter to feed the sheep, a rooster crow was a reminder of God’s faithfulness not his failure.

We have reminders of our failures right along side of reminders of God’s faithfulness. Sometimes, like a rooster crow, they are the same reminder. However, the choice of memories is yours. We can choose to respond to the reminder by fixing our eyes on Jesus or by focusing on self. One choice brings joy; the other produces shame. I choose joy. I choose to let the reminders of past darkness be absorbed into the daylight of God’s grace. Don’t let the rooster remind you it is still dark. Every rooster crow is a reminder of a new day beginning.

Pastor John

LEAD ME TO THE CROSS

Summary

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Transcription

LYING TO FIT IN

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

I wanted to be accepted. I was fearful that as the new kid I would be rejected. I wanted to impress my new friends. My desire to fit into this new group was so powerful that I lied about who I was in front of witnesses who knew the real me. It was a disaster.

Peter found himself in the same situation in today’s Scripture passage from the Gospel of John.

John 18:12-17   So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13  First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14  It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. 15  Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16  but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17  The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

Have you ever lied about who you were in front of someone who knew the truth?

Jesus has been arrested. He has been taken to the high priest. Peter and another disciple follow Jesus. The other disciple, John, who never uses his own name in his Gospel, was allowed to go inside because he was known to the high priest. Peter stayed outside. But John wanted Peter inside. He went to the door and asked the servant girl to bring him in. As Peter enters, with John present, he denies that he is a disciple of Jesus. He lied right in front of a witness.

Of course, Jesus knew he had lied even though He may not have heard it. But John certainly heard it. Peter was living in such fear that he believed it was more beneficial to be accepted by a servant girl than tell the truth. He stood right next to another disciple and lied.

Fear of not fitting in is a powerful motivator. Fear of personal consequences based on reputation is another force that drives our decision-making.  Peter succumbed to both. He chose to lie hoping it would gain him entrance into the house. Yet right beside him was another disciple who was known as the disciple of Jesus and was already inside. Fear causes irrational thinking and illogical choices.

Are there fears driving your choices in life? Are you lying about who you are because you think you know how others will respond to the truth? Are you in any way denying relationship to Jesus because you think it benefits you in some way?

More people than you think know the truth about you, yet they still accept you and love you. In fact, when you admit the truth of who you are, they will love you even more. It’s time to start being real.

Pastor John

LEAD ME TO THE CROSS

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, March 29, 2021

As we prepare for Good Friday and Easter later this week, I think it would be beneficial for us to read the Apostle John’s account of everything that happened prior to Christ’s crucifixion.  I will provide you with the passage of Scripture. I will also point out some significant truths about Jesus. It will be up to you to find more and make personal application to your life. Let the Scripture speak to you. Our journey begins in John 18.

John 18:1-11 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2  Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3  So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4  Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5  They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6  When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7  So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8  Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9  This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

  1. Jesus had a favorite spot to meet with His disciples for prayer and personal time. (verses 1-2).  Where is yours and why?
  2. Jesus knew all the details of what was going to happen, yet He didn’t hide. In fact, He initiated the contact. (verse 4). How often do we avoid tough things? Can our faith in God’s purpose and power grow to the point of courage to confront rather than cower in fear?
  3. The words of Jesus spoken with the authority of God cause the soldiers and religious leaders to fall to the ground. When Jesus says, “I AM HE’” all earthly standing is destroyed. (verses 5-6). Have you surrendered your earthly standing to the authority of Jesus?
  4. Jesus volunteered Himself to the authorities, but not without assuring that His disciples would be safe. Having just endured the intense spiritual battle of submitting His desire to the will of the Father, Jesus showed His unending love and concern for His people. His surrender to God’s will meant a denial of self and an unwavering love for others. (verse 8) Has God’s love so captured your heart that you place the needs of others ahead of your own?
  5. Jesus corrected the impulsiveness of Peter by healing the cut off ear of Malchus. Jesus then tells Peter that we are not to fight against what God has ordained for our lives. (verse 11) How often do we try to change the circumstances of our lives when they are in fact God’s ordained cup from which we are to drink?

Enjoy your personal time with the Lord.

Pastor John

NOW I UNDERSTAND

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LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 26, 2021

Confusion is the fastest growing relationship in my life. My brain function is changing. I am struggling with the reality of oldness. I simply don’t catch on to things so quickly as I used to.

Yet even in their comparative youth, the disciples of Jesus also had trouble understanding things. For example, why would Jesus, as a King, ride a donkey in His great processional into Jerusalem?

John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.”

I find great hope in how the Apostle John tells us about his own lack of understanding. Here are three principles that help me to press on even when I don’t seem to know why?

  1. Be humble and admit we don’t get it. I love the way the Scriptures honestly show us the weaknesses of people so we can relate to them. We must not try to cover up a lack of understanding with a fake appearance of knowing more than we do. Just admit what we don’t know. It is the beginning point of learning.
  2. Focus on the glory of Jesus. Our understanding comes only after we see Jesus for who He is and worship Him in all His glory.
  3. Listen to the Holy Spirit. He is our teacher. He is the One who was sent to us by Jesus after His glorification. The Holy Spirit will lead us into an understanding of all truth. Trust Him. As I mentioned yesterday, He will put all the little pieces into the big picture.

Even though confusion is insisting on walking through the rest of life as my partner, I know that the Holy Spirit is working all things out for the glory of the Father through Jesus Christ. I know that I am part of His redemptive purpose, and whatever I don’t understand will be revealed in His perfect timing. I trust the promise the Apostle Paul gave us in 1 Corinthians 13:12. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Face to face, we will see Jesus. We will understand the big picture. For now, I’m happy with the little pieces God gives me.

Pastor John

SEE THE BIG PICTURE

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Recently my wife spent some time putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It sat uncompleted on the dining room table for days as she would occasionally look for the next few pieces to put in their proper place. Every once in a while she would grab the cover of the puzzle box and examine the big picture to get a context that would help her visualize what to look for on the next piece. Having the big picture in mind helped her find the little piece she needed next. Without the big picture, the little pieces can become overwhelming.

The people of Israel became overwhelmed with the little pieces. They chose to not see the bigger picture that had been presented to them. When they went out to celebrate the Messiah’s arrival in Jerusalem, they had a little piece mentality. They called Jesus the King of Israel.

John 12:13    “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

If they had seen the big picture, they would have seen Jesus the Savior of the world. Compare what they declared on Palm Sunday to what the Apostle John saw in His vision of Jesus in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 19:11-16“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Our frustrations with all the little pieces of life can be better managed if we would stop and consider the big picture. Jesus is coming, and when He does, He will conquer everything and everyone. He is much more than the King of Israel; He is the King of Kings. He is far more than Lord over my life; He is Lord over all other lords. The big picture reveals how all the little pieces fit into one eternal redemptive plan – JESUS REIGNS!

When you get overwhelmed with all the little disconnected pieces of your life, remember this: they all fit into God’s big picture, and when Jesus returns the picture will be complete.

Pastor John

Blessing and Cursing

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

What I have always known as a funeral or a memorial service now has a new name – Celebration of Life. It is a good change. As families and friends gather, the healing of their grief is aided by positive memories of their loved one’s life. At some point of the service someone delivers an official speech that commemorates the person’s life. It is called a eulogy.

The word eulogy is a Biblical word. In the Greek language it means “to speak well of.” In the Bible it is translated as the word BLESS.

When the crowds gathered to welcome the Messiah into Jerusalem, they eulogized Him. They cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”(John 12:13) The people understood that Jesus was worthy of being praised and honored. They spoke well of Him. They commemorated His words and His works. They celebrated His life while He was still alive.

The word “bless” is used some 375 times in the Bible. It sometimes refers to speaking well of someone, and other times it refers to cursing and complaining about others. I find it very difficult to conduct a funeral for someone whose life is not celebrated but cursed by the family.

Even worse is when people bless and curse the same person depending on the circumstances. Jesus experienced that in the five days prior to His crucifixion. The same people who eulogized Him as they waved palm branches loudly cursed Jesus just days later when He didn’t fulfill their expectations.  The same people who blessed Jesus by declaring that He was the King of Israel became accomplices in His death.

How sad that we do the same. Out of one mouth we spout blessing and spew cursing. The half-brother of Jesus, James, knew this was a big problem for us. He wrote, “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” (James 3:9)

My friends, there is a severe problem in the church today. We can stand and sing the praises of God on Sunday and then sit in judgment of one another the rest of the week. We can rise from devotions and prayer where we sought the Lord and worshipped Him only to criticize, belittle, and hurt those the Lord loves. We can claim unity with Jesus only to segregate ourselves from His people who don’t serve our best interests. We must seek the power of the Holy Spirit to control our tongues. We must become people of blessing not cursing.

Please evaluate your life. Is it being lived as a living blessing to Jesus and to His people, or do you justify the coexistence of blessing and cursing? Let’s pray together for healing.

Pastor John

USE THE RIGHT WORD

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

I struggle to understand conversations with my grandchildren. They use words that I do not know, and they use words that I know in new ways. I am constantly asking them what they mean by what they say. But the biggest frustration is when they deny that the word means what I know it means. They refuse to stop using it in the wrong context, and they defend how they use it even if it’s wrong.

We all do it. We allow culture to change the meaning of words, and we adopt the new context even if it’s wrong. For example, there is a synonym for “bright and happy and radiant” that is used in the King James Version of the Bible in James 2:3.  “And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing…” That word cannot be used in the same context anymore, and we have adopted the new usage.

When the people of Jerusalem heard that Jesus was coming, they chose to celebrate by using a word out of context.

John 12:13 “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

As Jesus approaches, the people shout out a quote from the Psalms.  The English translation of the Greek gives us the word “Hosanna!”  The original reading in the Psalms is “Save us, we pray, O LORD!” (Psalm 118:25) I believe the people understood the meaning of the word, but they were using it in the wrong context. Let me explain.

The people of Israel knew the Messiah was coming, but they only envisioned His arrival in a political context. They believed He would save by delivering the nation from political bondage. They saw the Messiah as only a national deliverer. In that context, their use of the word “Hosanna” was correct. Unfortunately, that was not the Messiah’s intended context.

Jesus did not come in the Name of the Lord to deliver from political oppression. He did not come as a warrior against opposing governments. The Messiah did not come to set nations free. The Messiah came to save people from sin. If only the people had cried out for the Messiah to save them according to the redemptive purpose of God.

I wonder how often we cry out to God to save us, yet we do it in the wrong context. We ask God to save us from everything except our sin. We ask God to deliver us from every trouble when He has designed the trouble to express His grace and enhance our faith. How often do we inappropriately use the words of Scripture to ask God for things by taking them out of their intended context?

The Messiah, Jesus Christ, has come to set us free from our sin. When you shout “Hosanna” you are asking the Lord to save you. When Jesus Christ fulfilled His Messianic purpose on the cross by paying for our sin, He made it possible for your prayer for salvation to be answered. So on this upcoming Palm Sunday, when you shout “Hosanna!”, do so with a thankful heart that He has. No other deliverance is needed.

Pastor John