Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Chuck Lindsey

I Am: True Vine • Devotion #6: Abide

Fall (the season, not the activity) is something I eagerly wait for all year. I love everything about it. It is the warm days and cool nights, the uniquely fall breeze coupled with sweaters, slippers, campfires, and the decrease in mosquitos that make it one of the best times of the year to be outside. It is that magical time of year when cider mills come alive and fill up with people ignoring diets and looking to “fill up” on cider and fresh warm donuts. It is also at this time that everywhere you look, nature seems to be vying for our attention in what appears to be a two-month beauty competition. The trees in every sense, stand above it all in a staggering display. Their canopies high in the air, proudly show off their coats of many colors. However, the thing I love most is the fruit of that season. Stone fruit of any variety is a particular favorite of mine. Peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots are at the top of my list, but of course, the God-given gift of apples cannot be ignored. Even now, I can taste the pie, warm with its fall spices. 

Think about that perfect peach in your hand, do you realize how much has gone into it? The work began many months ago, and what we enjoy is the culmination of an extensive process. The farmer carefully worked the ground, breaking up the soil, removing weeds, and prepping it to receive seed. He then planted, watered, tended, pruned, and continued to protect those trees from anything that would take their vital nutrients, all in an effort to produce the peach that you and I will enjoy. 

That said, it is interesting to think about the peach’s responsibility in this process. As the tree grows, it shoots forth limbs and begins to bud. In time, these turn into flowers and eventually become a piece of fruit. It is truly a miracle of God’s design! It is not overly dramatic to say that from this point on, the most important factor, is that the fruit remains connected to the tree. For we all know, that if a growing piece of fruit is severed from its tree, all growth stops. Did you catch that? Fruit cannot grow on its own, it must be connected to the tree. The tree provides what is needed for growth. To say it simply, no connection = no fruit.

Jesus said this in John chapter 15 when He said in verse 4 (NKJV), “Abide in me.” These words simply mean “stay connected to Me.” He goes on, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” Jesus is using a picture that we understand. A branch cannot produce fruit on its own. It must be connected to the tree to produce fruit. He then tells us plainly that this is not about fruit trees at all, but about us and our growth as Christians. Verse 5 (NKJV) makes it clear, He says “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” Jesus is the “tree,” steady, strong, and the source and supply of all that we need. We are the “branches.” Connected to Him, the promise is that we will “bear much fruit.”  However, the warning is just as sure. If we are separated from Him, we will accomplish nothing. You might think, “how does this happen?” It happens when we think we are able to bear fruit on our own. It happens when we think we are more capable than we are. In short, it happens through pride. When we think we are able, capable, and strong, we will not see our need to be connected to Him to grow. In our arrogance and independence, we are convinced that we already have what we need in ourselves. However, this is not true. Jesus says so. Hear the words, “without me you can do nothing.”  In the Greek language, it is literally, “not one thing.” 

However, when we are convinced that we do not have what we need “inside” ourselves, then we will look to Him to supply our need and that is the thing He promises to do. Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) says, “And my God shall supply all of your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

The whole thing can all be simply summed up by saying: we grow in every way because of Him, through Him, and by Him.  

I Am: The Way, Truth, Life • Devotion #6: Jesus is Everything

Jesus is everything.

He is everything we need.

That is the summary of something Jesus says to one of His disciples in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. To understand what is said there, we have got to back up a little. The chapter begins with Jesus telling His disciples that He would soon be leaving them. He tells them not to be troubled and assures them that they would eventually be with Him. He says that He is going to prepare a place for them to be with Him forever. Then He says, “And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:4 NKJV). Now, what Jesus meant by that was simply, “I am going into heaven and the way you will go into heaven is the same way everyone does, through physical death.”

Thomas, no doubt speaking for the rest of the guys, does not understand. None of them did. They do not understand that Jesus came to die, they cannot comprehend that He would rise from the dead, and they never expected Him to leave by ascending into Heaven. It is safe to say that they have no idea what He is talking about here. This is why, when Jesus finishes speaking, Thomas immediately pipes up and says “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5 NKJV). The long and short of what Thomas said, “Jesus, we have no idea where you are going and we do not know how to get there either!” They were all thinking it, Thomas just said it.

It is to this confusion and question that Jesus says one of the most potent things that has ever been said. In verse 6 we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6 NKJV). Volumes have been written on this single verse, but we will do our best to summarize our Lord’s words here. 

First, He says, “I am the Way.” These are words that mean, “I am the way for or to everything.” So simple, but so rich. In this Jesus is saying, “I am the way a person is saved. I am the way a person is happy. I am the way a person gets through difficulty. I am the way a person makes the right decisions. I am the way a person makes the most of their lives. I am the way a marriage is healed. I am the way a relationship is restored. I am the way sin is overcome. I am the way to know God.” Jesus is the way to every good thing. Practically speaking, this means that Jesus and His words are like north on a compass. We check our direction based on everything He has done and said. If we are off, we must adjust back to Him and His ways to get back on course. 

Next, He says, I am “the Truth.” Again, words which mean, “I am the way you know what is true in life.” In this crazy world that is so full of deception, half-truths, and outright lies, it is hard to know what is really true. Yet, Jesus is always true. What He says is always true. His Word is the definition of truth. Practically, this means that we look at what He has said about any given subject and we can be sure that He is the truth concerning that thing. To use the previous illustration, it means that we actually have a “north” on the compass of life to compare everything to. Just try to imagine what life would be like if there was no absolute truth at all and you will begin to see how important these words are from our Lord Jesus.

Lastly, Jesus says, I am “the Life.” These words mean, “I am the way that a person truly lives here and the way that a person lives forever.” How do we avoid wasting our earthly lives? It is through being in a relationship with the One who made us. We find purpose, meaning, and fulfillment as we carry out His will and purposes for our lives. Life becomes beautiful as we walk with our Lord doing what He wants us to do. In this way, we become people who are truly fulfilled. 

It is not just physical and earthly life that Jesus refers to here. He is also referring to the eternity that is to come for every person. As people, we have been created in the image of God and as such we are eternal beings. This means that we will exist forever. There will never be a point when you and I cease to exist! The Bible tells us that we will exist in only one of two ways. We will be either eternally dead and separated from God in Hell or eternally alive in Heaven with Him. Here, Jesus makes it clear that He is the way that a person can live forever in Heaven with the Lord. It is received through the confession of our sins, in repentance to God, and the receiving Him as Lord of our lives. It is through Jesus and His work that a person lives forever. This is why the passage goes on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” It is through Jesus that we not only come to the Father but live forever with the Lord. 

Where are you at today? Would you say with Thomas, “We do not know how to get there?” Or, have you found that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life?” Have you come to see that He is everything?

I Am: The Resurrection and the Life • Devotion #5: The Why of Death

Death surrounds us. Try as we might ignore it, it is always there staring us in the face with a piercing and unbroken gaze. Everywhere we turn, we are confronted with its reality. However, there are times in life, when we are forced to deal with it head-on. There are times when we must stare back into its cold eyes. The loss of a loved one, the diagnosis we never expected, or the reality of another crisis in our world are examples of death interrupting life. As people, we do not deal with it well. I guess this makes sense since we were not originally designed to die. Death is the tragic and painful result of sin coming into our world. Since our ancestors took that fateful bite into the fruit we have lived in a universal dichotomy of dying every day that we live. Yet, it is when we confront death, that we must have answers.

This is powerfully illustrated in Martha’s encounter with Jesus in John chapter 11. Her brother had just died and with eyes full of tears she stares back into death’s face and screams, “Why?” Then she turns to Jesus and asks the same. Maybe you have asked this question? She asks, “Why Lord, why weren’t You here? You could have stopped this! You are stronger. You could have stopped death.” In her voice, you can hear the searing pain of someone who was not ready. Are we ever really ready? Death had interrupted life. However, it is Jesus’ reply to her that changes everything! 

Initially, He simply says, “Your brother will rise again” (verse 23 NKJV). This is a reminder, that her brother was not gone forever. We as people are eternal. Jesus was reminding her (and us) that this life is not all there is, that there is life after we die here and that she would see her brother again. Martha knew this. Though, in her pain and for a moment, she may have forgotten these great truths. His words brought her back and she replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection (of the dead) at the last day” (verse 24 NKJV). Yet, it is what Jesus says next that tells us everything we need to hear concerning death. 

He says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (verses 25-26 NKJV). To understand what Jesus is saying we must understand that according to God, death is not when our bodies stop functioning and we breathe our last. That is only physical and temporal death. According to God, real death is separation from Him. It is death spiritually and eternally. When we understand this, then we understand how Jesus can say, “Though he may die, he shall live and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”We all die physically and temporally, but we do not have to die spiritually and eternally. In fact, the promise that Jesus makes to Martha and to us is that by believing in Him we can “live” after we have died. You could say, we will not die after we die. The promise is that we will not be separated from Him after we pass from this life but rather, will live with Him forever! That is the blessed assurance that the King of Heaven makes to any and all that would turn to Him to be saved.

Therefore, it ends with a question. A question that is asked to every single person who has ever lived. “Do you believe this?” Martha answers in verse 27, “Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Christ (Savior), the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” How about you? 

I Am: The Good Shepherd • Devotion #4: Facing the Wolves

I take care of our chickens. My 6-year-old daughter loves them. I make sure they have food. She makes sure that they know they are a part of our family. I give them food and water so that they give me eggs. She saves her food for them so that they know she was thinking about them. 

According to Jesus Christ, the distinguishing mark of a “good shepherd” is their love for their sheep. He said this in John 10:11 when He said that a “good shepherd” is one who is willing to die to protect the sheep from harm. It defines the love that the shepherd has for the sheep. I must confess, there is not a chance that I would die to protect my chickens. Die for my kids? Of course! My chickens? Not a chance! 

Now, in saying that, I am actually more like (in regards to chickens) what Jesus refers to as “a hireling.” He says that a “hireling” (someone who is hired to take care of sheep) is not willing to die for the sheep, but rather, “Sees the wolf coming and (in order to protect himself) leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them” (John 10:12 NKJV). So in striking contrast, He says that the defining mark of a “bad” shepherd (if you will) is that he “flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:13 NKJV). In other words, they are self-centered, self-concerned, self-seeking, and do not truly care about the flock. Their interest is primarily concerned with money, not with the health and safety of the sheep. Oh, how many modern-day “pastors” fall into this “hireling” camp? Unfortunately, many are self-seeking, self-centered people whose primary concern is a name and a paycheck!

Then, Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd” (verse 11 NKJV). 

In that, He is telling us chiefly, that He loves us. In fact, He is saying that He loves us so much, that He is willing to lay down His life for us. Of course, this was not hypothetical. He would do what He says a “good” shepherd must do. Our Lord Jesus would see the wolves of sin, death, the devil, and hell coming for us. Vicious and hungry in their approach, He would not leave us alone. He would not flee. He would not let the cup pass from Him. Rather, He walked knowingly towards those “wolves” and in love for you and me, He allowed them to tear Him and kill Him. This made it that we might be free. Jesus said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18 NKJV).

Pause for a moment to thank this “Good Shepherd” Who defeated the wolves that would have savagely torn us apart. Stop to honor Him. Take a moment to sing His praises, to lift Him up, and to lift your voice in praise of His great work and name. He is so good.

I Am: The Door • Devotion #3: Door of Protection

“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’” John 10:7 

“Did you remember to close the door?” That is the question we ask our kids nearly every night when they (hopefully) secure our ten egg-laying chickens into their coop. I have explained the danger to them more times than they have wanted and am always ready to explain it again. They could, no doubt, recite the words, “The door is what keeps them safe from everything that wants to eat them, and everything wants to eat them!” It is true, everything wants to eat our chickens! Because of this, I built them a home. It is not just any home; the thing is a veritable Taj Mahal. It is complete with vinyl siding, Pella windows, an elevator, finished basement, recessed lighting, and central air. Ok, I may be exaggerating slightly but the thing is a fortress. The one questionable area in its armor is the door. They exit that door in the morning and they go through it at night. If we do not close it, anything can and will get into the coop and devour our flock. So I ask every night, “Did you remember to close the door?”

In John chapter 10, Jesus is giving us a similar picture, but not in regard to chickens. He is speaking in reference to sheep. He says in verse 7, “I am the door of the sheep.” What He says is a familiar picture that everyone listening easily understood. Shepherding was a common occupation in Jesus’ day and the picture here refers to something Shepherds did often. Each morning, just before the sun was up, the shepherd would lead his sheep out to pastures where they could eat. Several times a day, the shepherd would lead his flock further and further out to find grass to eat.

At night, unless the shepherd was close to home, he would need to sleep out in the fields with his flock. As the sun began to set, the goal turned from feeding His sheep to keeping them safe. In the Judean wilderness, everything wanted to eat sheep! To keep them safe, he would gather bramble, thorn branches, rocks, and tree limbs to create an enclosure; it was a make-shift sheep “pen.” It was nearly a circle except for the opening the sheep needed to enter the pen. The opening was its door. This entrance is where the shepherd would sit at night and watch for predators. It is where he would sleep, lying across the opening so that anything that wanted to come into the fold must first pass over him. In this way, he himself became the door. He became the way into the fold and the protection from all the dangers outside.

Here, our Lord Jesus says that He is this “door of the sheep.” In this, He is saying that He is how we enter the fold. We enter His fold by accepting and receiving Him. It is not by turning to religion or morality. We enter through Jesus. We enter by Him and by what He has done. We come to Him for life and He admits us into His fold. He is the door. He then laid down His body for us. He did this, first of all, at Calvary. That is where He laid Himself down to be attacked by every predator that would have devoured us. He was attacked so that we would be safe.

In verse 11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”That is what He did. Even now He lays down at the door to the sheepfold for you and I. Anything that would harm us, must pass over Him. He is our door of protection. Jude 1:24 (NKJV) says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” 

Our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, is our protection. He keeps us safe from all harm. He is the door into the fold and the way that we are eternally safe. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved [safe], and will go in and out and find pasture” (verse 9 NKJV). 

Have you entered by the Door? Are you a part of His fold? He is the door through which we must enter to be saved!



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