We Are Not God

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

School is almost done for the summer. Students are rejoicing. Parents are preparing for the growth of sibling rivalries lived out in the home.  Then, in less than three months, they will return to school as parents rejoice. Some students will anticipate the joys of renewed friendships and meeting new friends. They have hopes of accomplishment in sports and extra-curricular activities. But how many of them have high expectations of finding fulfillment in learning? So many of them feel that most of what they learn is unusable and inapplicable to their lives and their goals. It is a societal stipulation and a parental prerogative but not a personal passion.

Then, to make matters seemingly worse for the student, the first few days or weeks are spent reviewing what they learned the previous year. Teachers understand the importance of this, but the students are bored with it. Teachers know that all the new lessons will only make sense if they are built on the foundation of the basics taught in previous years.

We as Christians sometimes get bored with the basics. We are always looking for the new and exciting. We want the Pastor to tell more stories or teach new revelation. We want the new land or the new building, so we can have new ministries and new opportunities to experience new activities. The Israelites were the same. They were about to enter the Promised Land and experience the fulfillment of their lives in materialistic measure. Sacrifice would be replaced with success. Suffering would give way to supply. Unfortunately, self-sufficiency would also replace spiritual submission.

In his farewell book to the Israelites, Moses reviews God’s basic building blocks of success for the people and reminds them to never forget them.

Deuteronomy 4:12-14, 23-24 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Moses begins with a warning against idolatry and an encouragement to maintain a proper view of God. Moses emphasizes that when all the people heard the voice of God they saw no form. God is beyond the limitations of space and time. He is beyond our human comprehension. He has chosen to reveal Himself to us in creation, in His Son Jesus, in His Word, and in His activity in the world, but we cannot know His ways or His purpose unless He chooses to reveal them to us specifically. That is a good thing, for if we could understand all of God in our finite mind, then that would make God finite or us infinite. Either way it makes us equal to Him. That is exactly what caused the rebellion in heaven in the first place: Satan attempted to be equal with God.

That is why idolatry is so dangerous. When we minimize God by making Him visible, touchable, and understandable we have made ourselves equal with God. Moses states that the basic building block of our faith is this:  God is a jealous God who will share no glory because there is none that can compare to Him. The consuming fire of His holiness and perfection will be released against any and all who attempt to share His glory.

Have we taken any credit for what we have and what we have accomplished? We must be careful to heed the warning of Moses in Deuteronomy 8:17 where he says, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.”

If God does not receive all the glory for our lives, then we are guilty of idolatry. This is a foundational building block of faith.

Pastor John

The War of Silence

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The last few devotionals have been good for me. I needed an oasis in which to rest and let the things I have observed on my journey with Moses sink in and make a difference in how I live. The hypocrisy of learning and not doing is offensive to God. I want to make sure I apply what I learn so that I please the One that I love.

It has not been without opposition from the enemy. Satan made it clear in his attacks that he hates the damage born again Christians will do to his kingdom when they start living out their spiritual DNA. He opposes a world filled with people who have the overall qualities of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. He cannot stand by and let people truly love one another as Christ loves them. He vehemently fights against those people who then overcome their emotional responses to circumstances and develop Christ-like attitudes, knowing that when they do they will thrive in relationship with one another. Marriages will be restored and revitalized. Parents will pass on a heritage of love and faith and be both present and participating in their child’s development. Children will grow in the Lord, respecting and obeying their parents, being nurtured and disciplined by the truth. Employees will respect their employers and give them an honest and full day’s work. Employers will be fair to their employees and look beyond the bottom line of profit to the production line of people.

But Satan’s most vicious war is being waged against the final stage of maturity as our spiritual DNA transforms our lives. There is a serious problem in Christian circles today with people who talk a good talk but don’t walk a corresponding walk. Their actions don’t match their testimony.

But there is another serious issue that is on the flip side of this coin, and that is when people whose lives have been transformed into the character and activities of Christ refuse to tell people why. The world has gotten rather adept at imitating the characteristics of Christ. We all know people who are compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, forgiving, and loving. They are good husbands and wives, good parents, good employees or employers, and have no visible issues that should disqualify them from being called a Christian – except one: they have never by faith received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord because no one told them they needed to.

This is where Satan is winning a huge albeit temporary victory against the Kingdom of God and His people. We have somehow become convinced that our good neighbors are good enough and that the good life we are living will not soon end. We think somehow that there is plenty of time to continue to enjoy benefits of this world before we must deal with the consequences of eternity. Satan has done a superior job of stopping the spread of the Gospel in far too many of our communities and churches.

Colossians 4:2-6  Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Paul tells us that the final stage of our spiritual transformation occurs when our character and our words come together to witness to the lost world of the saving power of Jesus Christ. He calls us to prayer, and says that we are to be praying for open doors of ministry so the Gospel message of Jesus can be clearly proclaimed. But not just by others. He specifically tells us to be wise in the way we interact with those who are unsaved so that our speech is always filled with grace and we are prepared to answer anyone who wonders why our lives are so consistently uncharacteristic of this world’s value system. The influence of Christ’s DNA in us is most obvious when we seek to reproduce it in the lives of others.

We are in a spiritual war. Our enemy wants us to be silent. The Holy Spirit has come upon us to be witnesses. Win the war of silence. Demolish the strongholds of Satan in your life. Liberate your tongue to speak the praises and provisions of God to a lost world. Let’s get people saved!

Pastor John

Attitude Adjustment

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 27, 2019

So far in our study of Spiritual DNA we have primarily focused on the personal characteristics that identify a born-again person and the resulting activities that will define their life. In the next section of Colossians 3, Paul moves from discussing aptitudes to defining attitudes. It is time for an attitude adjustment.

Colossians 3:15-17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

All the teaching Paul is going to do in the rest of Colossians 3 and 4 hinges on these verses. He will teach us that without a Christ-like attitude we will not be able to model the spiritual humility and submissiveness that is necessary for a fulfilling marriage. Instead we will pridefully seek our own way at the expense of our spouse. We will learn that without an attitude of gratitude, we will not be able to maintain a servant heart toward those in authority over us. Instead, we will grumble and complain against them and seek to rebel. Paul will show us that without an attitude of praise, we will not be able to manage our households well. Instead, the everyday pressures of life and children will bring bitterness to our spirit.

The attitudes of our heart determine the aptitudes of our lives. Chuck Swindoll has said it this way:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.

Attitudes are our choice. That’s why the Holy Spirit led Paul to begin this paragraph with the word “let.” We are to be in constant control of our attitudes. Why is it that we have turned over the control of our attitudes to our emotions? Why are so many people so crabby all the time? Why is there so much discouragement? Why are people so disheartened and disillusioned?  It’s primarily because they have empowered their emotions to be the ruler of their attitudes. Emotions were never designed by God to be the motivator of activity. I believe this is the main reason so many people who decide to be a follower of Jesus Christ fall away and never grow in their faith: they were motivated to decide by emotion.

The choice of attitude is to be the product of our spiritual DNA. The life of Christ in us determines which attitudes we will “let” be in control of our lives each day. Those attitudes include:

  1. Peace, so that we seek to minimize differences and maximize unity.
  2. Thankfulness, so that we give God the praise for being sovereign. An ungrateful heart reveals an untrusting spirit and a self-centered outlook.
  3. Humility, so that we serve one another by encouraging each other with the Word of God which dwells richly in us. Even when correction is necessary, we do it in love seeking the best for the other person.
  4. Grace. The Greek word for gratitude is the word grace. Grace is that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. Whatever we do in word or deed is to be done so that it gives God joy and pleasure and delight because we did it for His glory.

I know I have some work to do on my attitudes. Let’s help each other by modeling peace, thankfulness, humility, and grace, and by being willing to be reminded when we’re not.

Pastor John

The Skin of Love

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 24, 2019

My body is a wonderful thing. It’s not any more wonderful than yours, but it is wonderful. It doesn’t always look wonderful, feel wonderful, or work wonderfully, but it is a wonder. There are 206 bones protected by cartilage and connected with over 600 muscles and ligaments to form a functioning skeleton. Over the top of this incredible living machine is the body’s largest organ called skin. It holds everything together and has some incredible functions. Let’s use skin as a metaphor for the spiritual characteristic of love.

Colossians 3:14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love holds together all the virtues we have been studying in Colossians 3:12-13, much like skin does on our body.

The outer layer of skin is called the epidermis, and holds everything together while protecting everything inside from damage. It resists water and dirt and is equipped with a UV protection system that is designed to keep us from getting burned. It is constantly being renewed. Every day we lose 30,000 – 40,000 skin cells that are replaced by new ones that are constantly growing. Every 2-4 weeks we have a completely renewed layer of skin cells to protect us.

When we allow God’s love to cover all the characteristics of our wonderful spiritual body, it holds them all together so that they can function properly in perfect unity. Love protects us from the dirt of the sinful world, and keeps us from getting burned by people’s actions. Love guards our entire being so that compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, endurance, and forgiveness are all able to work together to accomplish God’s purpose.

The middle layer of skin is called the dermis, and contains the nerve endings so we can touch and feel, the blood vessels which bring nutrients and oxygen to the growing cells, the oil glands which produce sebum so that your skin is waterproof, and the sweat glands which help regulate body temperature. When the oil and the sweat mix on the surface of the skin they make the skin tacky so that we can actually pick things up and accomplish work. Without both working together our skin would be very slippery and we wouldn’t accomplish much.

When love is the covering of our spiritual characteristics we fully empower compassion to work so that we can truly feel the hurts and the joys of people and reach out and touch them in kindness. Love brings us all the food we need to grow so we are constantly being renewed against the toughness of people’s actions and we are able to bear with them. When love anoints us with the oil of the Holy Spirit we are resilient to the attacks of sin. Our emotions are regulated by the water of God’s Word as it brings holy consistency to our responses. When the oil of the Holy Spirit mixes with the water of God’s Word it produces the ability to accomplish work for God’s glory.

The third layer of skin is the subcutaneous layer, made up mostly of fat, of which I have too much. It primarily functions as a shock absorber and a heating blanket.

When we get fat on love, the rest of our spiritual characteristics stay warmer and ready for action, and they are protected from the shocks of other people’s attacks on us.

As I said, our bodies are wonderful, and our spiritual bodies are equally magnificent. Love is what holds all the spiritual characteristics together in perfect unity. What is this love like? Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for a description.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now, let’s put that kind of love on as the skin of our lives, and let the world see the wonder of a spiritual body.

Pastor John

Bearing and Forgiving

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 23, 2019

It’s much easier to speak in generalities than it is in specifics. This is also true when we are being spoken to. When we listen to a sermon by a pastor or sit in a class hearing from a teacher, we would much rather have them talk in broad applications than feel like they are pointing their fingers at details. There is a self-protectionist mechanism in our human nature that keeps us from feeling blame and shame. When we hear generalities, we can feel pretty good about ourselves in general. None of us enjoys the pain of looking at specific shortcomings.

But what if we applied the same principle to our health needs? What if doctors only spoke in generalities and never gave us the specifics? How many times would you return to the doctor that said, “Overall you’re doing pretty well”? No, we want specifics. We ask for details. “What’s wrong, and how can we fix it?” “How long will it take to get better?” “How long do I have?”

In Colossians 3:12 that we studied yesterday, we are given the generalities of our Christian existence. Those 5 qualities of Christ-likeness that we are to put on as the clothing of our spiritual lives are pretty broad in their application and may have left you feeling pretty good about your condition. Today we get much more specific. Get ready – this may hurt.

Colossians 3:13-14 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

We are given two specific applications of Christ-like behavior in verse 13 – bear with each other and forgive each other. Now at first reading this doesn’t seem to dig too deeply. But maybe there’s some hard ground down deeper that needs to be loosened up.  Our hearts may have become hardened against the real truth of what is being said here. For example, we choose to put up with some people in our lives and exclude others. We bear with the inconsistencies of some but not all. We overlook the personality quirks of some but not others. We have decided to forgive some but not others, and that a little forgiveness for some covers a lot of unforgiveness for others. We classify people into categories of those that are worthy of forgiveness and those that are not. We have not fully put on the clothing of Christ.

The word bear in this verse has a twofold meaning: first, to hold up, as if to lift up another person who has fallen; and second, to hold oneself up and endure, no matter how many times the other person falls and needs to be held up. This is how we treat others in real community. We lift up others, and we keep lifting them up no matter how many times they fall.

The second characteristic is even harder – forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. The word grievances is a Greek word meaning to have a complaint against someone whom you blame for a wrong. It’s not hard to come up with a list of people who have wronged us. Unfortunately, the list of those people we have chosen not to forgive is almost as long. Notice, however, that the responsibility to forgive is on the victim. Yes, if I know that I have wronged someone I am also responsible to go to them and seek forgiveness, but we all know that most of the time the people against whom we have complaints are not aware they have offended us. In all cases of wrong and grievance, we are to initiate all acts of forgiveness.

The word forgive is interesting, because according to Thayer’s Dictionary of Greek Words it means:

  1. to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
    1. to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent
    2. to grant forgiveness, to pardon
    3. to give graciously, give freely, bestow
    4. graciously to restore one to another

Now that is convicting. To forgive someone means to do something pleasant to them. Forgiveness is an action. We cannot claim to have forgiven someone if we have not restored a giving relationship with them. We are to be humbly giving them compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience – all the general qualities we talked about yesterday. And we are to be treating everyone who has ever wronged us with this kind of love, just as the Lord does to us!

What a challenge it is to realize that we are held accountable to the same standard of forgiveness that Jesus modeled. Can we do it? YES! By the power of the seed, God’s DNA in us, we can. Let’s start doing it.

Pastor John

Clothing Reflects the Person

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

People are fascinated with DNA. One hundred two million people have submitted their DNA to a company to try and discover their ethnic background and attempt to find people to whom they are related. We all seem to want to know who we really are.

The Bible speaks about a spiritual DNA that makes all those who are believers in Jesus Christ brothers and sisters. It is the life of Jesus Christ that has been born in us. The Apostle John says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him.” (1 John 3:9) When sinners come to Jesus Christ for salvation, they are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In an act of re-conception, God’s seed, or spiritual DNA, becomes the genetic code of our lives. Just as a young boy grows up to physically, emotionally, and psychologically resemble his father because the father’s seed, or DNA, is in him, so we as children of God the Father have His seed in us so that we will resemble Him.

Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:12 – 4:6 defines for us the qualities of a born again believer. The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of clothing to show us what our appearance should be when we have the life of Christ in us. Clothing is what people usually see first about us. Unfortunately, in today’s immoral society, we tend to notice the lack of clothing. We see far too much skin. But that’s also true of the average Christian: rather than being covered with the clothing of God’s choosing we are showing far too much of the flesh. When the world sees us, it should see the very nature and character of God because His seed is in us and is generating a new life.

The clothing that people should notice on us as children of God consists of the following items:

  1. Compassion – the ability to understand and relate to the hurts and needs of another person.
  2. Kindness – to employ oneself in the actions of meeting the needs of another person.
  3. Humility – to have a deep sense of one’s moral lowliness; to take no pride in one’s own abilities, but rather to give all the credit and honor to God for one’s life and accomplishments.
  4. Gentleness – to keep all power under the control of the Holy Spirit and use all abilities, whether personal or spiritual, for God’s purpose only.
  5. Patience – to persevere in God’s purpose no matter what the obstacles or objections.

Please take some quality time today to reflect on each of these characteristics of God that have been given to us in our spiritual DNA. Discover their seeds in your heart. Water them with the Word of God by looking at other references to them in the Bible.  Then let each characteristic bear fruit in your life by putting them on. Let them become a part of your normal routine of relationships and responsibilities. After all, you were born again to look that way.

Pastor John

Model Morality

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

You have probably heard the adage, “what one generation does in moderation the next will do to excess.” We’ve not only heard it, but we are living it in our culture. Tragically, we are living it within the church as well. Just ask the older members of your congregation to tell you what the moral status of the church and country was when they were young. To be sure, there was still sin, but it was an embarrassment to be caught in it. No longer is that the case. In fact, we have developed new terms for sin so that it doesn’t have the moral implications of the previous generation and so that we can reduce the guilt factor. We have even come up with genetic justifications for our behavior so that we do not feel condemned by our conscience.

How did we get into this mess? Moses knew in advance how it would happen to the Israelites, and his warnings are relevant for us today.

Deuteronomy 4:9-10  Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.

Moses warns his people, but the warnings are for us today as well:

  1. Be careful – the Hebrew word here means, “to guard by putting a hedge around”. Hedges do two things: they keep outsiders out and they keep insiders in. We are to keep ourselves inside the moral code of God by building a hedge that separates us from the immoral code of the world. “Be on your guard” and “Don’t let your guard down” would be appropriate translations of this phrase.

Check yourself right now – what hedges have you built to protect yourself from moral failure? Do you have Internet security software that eliminates all immoral websites? Do you guard yourself from the lust of the eyes in your television, movie, video, and magazine choices? Do you have a hedge built around your activities and relationships to guard your heart from the lust of the flesh? Do you guard your tongue from the expressions of the pride of life? Put those hedges in place, and be careful.

  1. Watch yourselves closely – the Hebrew expression here is “to guard with abundance of force”. It takes energy to be on guard all the time. Just think of the energy and determination it takes to be a guard outside of Buckingham Palace: always alert but never flinching. That should describe our determination to remain morally pure.
  2. Do not forget the things you have seen and do not let them slip from your heart – Here is the slippery slope of moral decay in a nutshell. First, we forget in our minds what God has done and what He requires. Second, our hearts become hardened to the truth because the mind no longer cares. Moses even warns that when the heart becomes hard, it is hard for life. This should awaken within us a sense of urgency to correct the moral decline of our current generation, or they will be lost for life.
  3. Teach them to your children – the Hebrew word here means “to ascertain by seeing”. What a challenge for us today. We are to teach by modeling the truth in how we live so that the next generation sees it in us and mimics us. I believe the greatest curse upon our current generation is the hypocrisy of the previous generation that says one thing and does the opposite. How can we have any hope for our youth when their parents and role models are justifying immorality for the sake of personal pleasure and gain? No wonder the latest social statistics are shocking to those who care about God’s morality in society. The divorce rate among Christians is now higher than among non-Christians and the percentage of teens involved in pre-marital sex and drug and alcohol use is the same in Christian and non-Christian peer groups. How heartbreaking. How sad. How convicting this should be on our generation. We must be the models and teachers of God’s ways or we will completely lose the next generation.

Moses knew that these things were vital and indispensable to the survival of the nation. They are the same indispensable truths that are vital to the survival of the church and our nation as well. May we take seriously the command of God to teach the next generation to fear God and serve Him, not just with words, but with the example of our lives.

Pastor John