Nothing to Fear

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

I am going to take a big risk. It’s a big risk for me because I like to plan things out. I like to know that when I start something I will be able to finish it, and I like to have a completion date scheduled. I am going to start a series of devotionals today that will hopefully lead us into Christmas. The theme is going to be “Favorite Christmas Memories.” The problem is that I don’t know if I can come up with enough personal stories to get us all the way to Christmas. So to help me, would you mind sharing with me some favorite Christmas memories that I can use to complete my project?

Let’s Begin. I remember large parts of this story, but I have added other details that are probably true based on my knowledge of who I am.

I don’t ever remember a Christmas without an emphasis on Jesus as God’s gift of love to us. My earliest memories of Christmas are centered in Cleveland, Ohio at my maternal grandparent’s home. It was a small brick house with two stories plus a third story attic that was partially finished where I and my two brothers would sleep. At the head of my bed was a small door that led into the unfinished part of the attic. 

I remember the first night I slept in that bed. I was six years old. I was terrified. My two brothers were across this small room, but I never felt so alone and so scared. My imagination ran wild with thoughts of what was behind the door next to my pillow. I dove under the blankets. I cried with fear. My mom came to my rescue. She sat down on the edge of the bed and assured me that I was not alone.

I looked over at my brothers, and wondered what help they would be to me if a monster truly came out of the door. My mom noticed my fear, and began to explain to me the meaning of the word Immanuel. She quoted Matthew 1:23 to me. 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

She told me that Jesus is Immanuel. She reminded me of the decision she had helped me with one year earlier when I repented of my sin and confessed that I believed in Jesus as my Savior and received God’s forgiveness of my sin. She told me that because I had believed in Jesus, He had come to live in me in the power of the Holy Spirit. She told me that Immanuel was always with me, so I had nothing to fear.

After she left the room, I looked at that door, and decided that in the morning I would go in there and see for myself if there was anything to fear. Suddenly my fear that kept me from sleeping became excitement for an adventure, which also kept me from sleeping. But the fear was gone. I completely trusted what my mom had told me about Jesus. I understood the peace that comes from personally knowing Immanuel. I have always remembered that God is with us because He sent Himself to live with us and die for us so He could live in us. God is not only with me, but He is in me. What have I to fear?

Pastor John

COMMUNICATE LOVE

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 30, 2020

Thanksgiving is under the belt, or in my case, under the stretch waistband jeans with no belt. The nine-day Wisconsin gun deer hunting season is over with varied success. Black Friday deals are packed away for Christmas giving and the next wave of exciting deals is here on Cyber Monday. The commercialization of Christmas is in full swing. It’s the way we have learned to communicate love.

When God chose to communicate love, He gave Himself. He had given many gifts to mankind in the first four-thousand years of human history, but when God wanted to show the fullness of His love to the world and meet our greatest need, He gave Himself.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Of course, other gifts also come from God, but they cannot be realized without God. How foolish we would be to attempt to buy all the latest and greatest accessories that come with a new car without actually purchasing the car. That may sound like a dumb analogy, but think about it. How many times do we demand from God the things that God has promised without any intention of receiving the gift of God Himself? God has promised that peace and joy are fully available to us, but not separate from Him. There is no peace without the presence of the Giver of peace. There is no joy apart from the Savior. None of the other “gifts” that come from God are of significance unless they are the result of receiving the one true gift of Love – God Himself.

God gave us Himself when He gave us Jesus.

John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 1:1-3  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:9-10  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Love is communicated best when the only thing given is full access to who you are. It is only then that the benefits of relationship can be truly experienced. That is how God loves us. That is how we are to love others.

1 John 4:11-12  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Beloved, commercialization does not communicate love. Christ alone is the ultimate communication of love. And if Christ’s love has captured your heart, then you can communicate love as God did – by giving yourself to others.

Pastor John

SHOUT LOUDLY

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 20, 2020

The city was in shambles. There were no more walls of protection. The house of worship had also been destroyed by the invading armies. The people had been taken captive and made slaves in other lands. But God was working to rescue and restore them.

The new king of the world power at that time issued a decree that the people could return to their homeland and rebuild their city and their temple. A man named Ezra was put in charge. When they began the work, and finished laying the foundation for the Temple, they held a worship service. Here’s how it is described.

Ezra 3:10-11  And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

As you enter into your weekend, think about these principles of praise.

  • Praise and worship are a response to what God is doing in your life.
  • Praise and worship invoke others to respond to your thanksgiving with praise of their own. Did you notice that the people sang responsively? We don’t do that in church anymore. We used to have responsive Scripture reading. The new worship song by Chris Tomlin is a great example of responsive singing, and I have heard many people say how much they hate it. Yet when we publicly praise God with thanksgiving it will cause others to respond with praise of their own.
  • Praise and thanksgiving are to be enthusiastic. The people shouted with great shouts when they praise the Lord. Don’t let anything stop you from being more enthusiastic about God than you are about any other favorite thing in your life. If you can shout at the TV during a game, you can certainly shout praise to the Lord during a sermon.

So grab a trumpet, a symbol, or any other noisemaker, and start shouting your praise to the Lord. He has laid the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ in your life, and you are being built into a spiritual house in which His eternal presence dwells. You have every reason to shout thanksgiving.

Pastor John

Surprise Ending

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 19, 2020

How would you respond if the United States was threatened with war by a powerful and seemingly overwhelming enemy, and the first people the President mobilized to defend us was your church worship band?

Take a look at that exact scenario in 2 Chronicles 20. The nation of Israel is being invaded by a powerful conglomerate of three nations. In fear, King Jehoshaphat set his face to seek the Lord, and commanded all the people to fast and also seek the Lord. As they prayed they reminded God of His past victories on their behalf. They also asked God how it would honor His Name to allow these nations that had been spared when they entered the Promised Land to now capture them and take away God’s promised inheritance.

Then the Spirit of the Lord speaks through Jahaziel and says, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

Immediately King Jehoshaphat fell to the ground in worship, and all the people iof Judah joined him. They took God at His word and immediately started praising Him for His promise of victory.

The next day, as they went out to battle, Jehoshaphat reminded the people to believe what the Lord had said, and then in an act of incredible faith, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD to go before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” The worship team led the army into battle, and they sang loudly as they went.

Meanwhile, as they sang and marched, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. The battle was over before the army even arrived.

There’s a great lesson here for all of us. When we praise God, and give thanks to the Lord for His promises, the fulfillment of those promises is already accomplished before we even know we need them. Praise and thanksgiving initiate the power of God to fulfill the promises of God on our behalf.

So the next time you are afraid, set your face to seek the Lord. And when you hear from Him, begin to praise Him and give thanks that His promise will be fulfilled. Your march into battle will have a surprise ending.

Pastor John

SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY MISSING

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

There is something seriously lacking in the current church of Jesus Christ. Jesus declared it to be one of the most significant identifying traits of His church. When Jesus prayed for all of us in John 17 He asked that we be one in Him. The church is to be identified by its unity. Unfortunately today, the Body of Christ is not in unison. We have become critically critical.

When King David died, and Solomon became King of Israel, he was tasked with the building of the Temple as the central place for worship of God. When the temple was finished, it was time to bring the Ark of the Covenant, representing the Presence of God, from its temporary place in Zion, the City of David just outside of Jerusalem, to the inner sanctuary of the new Temple. We read about the move in 2 Chronicles 5.

2 Chronicles 5:2  “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.”

Following the example of his father David, Solomon made the moving of the Ark into a national day of worship. Verse six says, And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.” When the Ark was in the Temple, the Levites led in a time of worship. Verse 13 describes it.  “It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD.”

Please notice the word UNISON. The worship of God is to be a display of unity. That’s what is missing in the modern church. We are no longer identified by our willingness to work in unison but rather by our segregation into groups that are critical of those who don’t agree with us. I believe the cause of such disunity is this – we choose to exaggerate the insignificant. We prioritize principles and preferences that are non-essential at the expense of the eternal. We choose to defend rights rather than righteousness. We love self competitively rather than loving others compassionately. The church of Jesus Christ is off track.

Notice in our text today that the reason the worship of God was conducted in unison was that they all had the same song to sing in praise to the Lord.

“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Then also notice that the result of their unified worship of God, the glory of the Lord was revealed.

“the house of the LORD was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.”

My friends, the glory of the church is NOT to be found in its political position. The glory of the church is NOT in its response to COVID. The glory of the church is NOT on display in its mission statement or worship style or building. THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH IS ON DISPLAY WHEN THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS VISIBLE THROUGH PEOPLE WHO WORSHIP HIM IN UNITY.

Let’s seriously chew on that today.

Pastor John

The Song of the Soul Set Free

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 12, 2020

Yesterday we started a journey through some of my favorite stories of thanksgiving in the Scripture. When King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem he organized a one-time worship service followed by a permanent assignment of daily worship for members of the Levites. Not only did the King appoint thanksgiving to be the theme of the songs used in worship, but he also wrote a new song and ordered that Asaph and his brothers add it to the daily worship music. You can read the lyrics to the new song in 1 Chronicles 16:8-34. Here are the highlights of thanksgiving that stand out to me.

  1. Thanksgiving must include the re-telling of the stories of God’s mighty deeds.  (verses 8-13) We could all make a list of the wondrous works God has done in our lives and then thank God for at least one of them every day.
  2. Thanksgiving also includes remembering God’s promises to us. (verses 14-22) Start a list of the promises God has made to you and then thank Him daily for never breaking one of them.
  3. Thanksgiving includes singing that is motivated by our salvation. (verse 23) As I write this the Holy Spirit is reminding me of a song to sing. It’s an old hymn that I haven’t heard for years. It’s the song of a soul set free. Even if you don’t know the melody, the lyrics express the reason we sing of our salvation.

Fairest of ten thousand, is Jesus Christ my Saviour,

The Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,

He is all my glory and in this heart of mine,

Forevermore I’m singing a song of love divine.

Once my heart was burdened, but now I am forgiven,

And with a song of gladness, I’m on my way to heav’n;

Christ is my Redeemer, my Song of songs is He,

My Saviour, Lord and Master, to Him my praise shall be.

‘Tis the song of the soul set free,

And its melody is ringing;

‘Tis the song of the soul set free,

Joy and peace to me it’s bringing,

‘Tis the song of the soul set free,

And my heart is ever singing

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The song of the soul set free.

Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)

4. Thanksgiving culminates in the worship of the glory of God. (verses 24-34) Every day we should be praising God for Who He is. He is great (vs. 25). He is the Creator of all things (vs. 26). He is strong and majestic (vs. 27). He is holy (vs. 29). He is Sovereign (vs. 30). He reigns over all (vs. 31). He is good (vs. 34). God’s love never fails (vs. 34).

Now, let the thanksgiving begin.

Pastor John

Praise His Presence

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 16. 2020

For the next two weeks I want to share some of my favorite stories of thanksgiving from the Bible. I will share just a synopsis of the story but I will give you the Scripture passages where it is found so you can read the whole story for yourself.

When God called Moses to the mountain to give him the Ten Commandments, Moses was saw the Presence of the Lord. The glory He saw changed his face. Some time later the nation of Israel was instructed to build a container in which to carry those tablets of stone. That container was known as the Ark of the Covenant, and it represented the Presence of God with His people.

During one of the many wars fought for Israel’s independence, the Ark of the Covenant came into the possession of the Philistines. When King David rescued it, his desire was to return it to Jerusalem, symbolizing that God was once again present in Israel and blessing them.

When it came time to transport the Ark of the Covenant to its new home, King David knew that it must be a time of pure worship before the Lord. Take a few moments today and read the story in 1 Chronicles 15 and 16. Here are some highlights for me.

  1. King David was careful to do everything in accordance with God’s commands and in such a way that God was honored. He appointed the descendants of Aaron and Levi manage the transport and lead the worship. But David did not trust their family heritage alone to qualify them for the task. Each one of the people assigned was to consecrate themselves to the Lord for His purpose.
    1. 1 Chronicles 15:12  “Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.”
  2. King David made sure that the celebration of the return of the Ark would be a massive worship service designed to raise the sounds of joy. I believe that God is offended when we apathetically worship Him. Our praise and thanksgiving to God is to be filled with enthusiastic rejoicing. King David appointed every known musical instrument to be played, including harps, lyres, and cymbals. He told them to raise the sounds of joy. He appointed singers to sing loudly with joy. And he assigned trumpet players to blow loudly before the Ark. Then he told everyone in the processional to shout loudly. This was the worship of the Presence of God.
    1. 1 Chronicles 15:28   “So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.”
  3. Then, after the Ark arrived, David made sure that the worship didn’t end. Every day, multiple times a day, the musicians and the singers were to burst out in songs of thanks to the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:1-7). We should be constantly rejoicing in the unending Presence of the Lord.

However, in the midst of this great story of thanksgiving, there is someone who rejected what was going on. Maybe she was jealous of David’s enthusiasm for the Lord. Maybe she was angry because she wasn’t getting any attention. Maybe she was frustrated that the worship was too enthusiastic for her liking. Whatever the reason, she made it known that she was not happy with the proceedings.  1 Chronicles 15:29  And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating, and she despised him in her heart.

The choice is yours. You can praise the Presence of God, or you can persecute those who do. Please choose praise.

Pastor John

The Great I AM

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 13, 2020

Have you ever been told something that so riled you up that you lost control of your emotions and lashed out at them? Have you ever wanted to eliminate someone that offended you? Has your perceived right to defend your personal belief system caused you to use words or actions to harm someone who disagrees with you? That’s exactly what happens to Jesus at the hands of His people.

At the conclusion of His dialogue with the Jews, Jesus declares that He is the Eternal God of Abraham. Jesus makes a statement that drives the Jewish religious leaders to the brink of committing murder. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” In that one statement Jesus declares that He existed in eternity prior to Abraham being born. Jesus declared himself to be God.

We do not believe in a Savior who is subject to any limitations. He is not a mere prophet who lived and died. He is not simply a great man with good ideas. He is not confined to a finite existence within the boundaries of time and space.  Jesus Christ is eternal. He is the great I AM.

As I thought about that this morning in my personal devotions, I was led by the Spirit to read the following Psalm and praise the eternal nature of God. May it also encourage you.

“The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭93:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Abraham Saw Jesus

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The conversation between Jesus and the Jews in John 8 fascinates me. It is a study of contrasts between the One with a spiritual mindset and those with hearts of stone. Jesus sought only the honor of the Father. The Jews sought to defend their traditions. They even went so far as to honor a fellow human above the Messiah.

Here are two principles I glean from their conversation with Jesus as found in John 8:52-57.

  1. John 8:52-53  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”

The hearts and minds of the Jewish leaders were totally captivated with the admiration of Abraham’s faith while ignoring the object of  his faith. They were more satisfied to honor Abraham for his faith than they were to acknowledge the One in whom Abraham believed. In practical terms, they placed their faith in their religion rather than in their Savior. This is far too common today. People choose to be identified by their religious systems rather than by their relationship with Jesus. They even claim that any kind of faith is valid. But faith is only so valid as the object in which it is placed. Any faith placed in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ is futile. Religious tradition cannot save from sin. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can.

2. John 8:56-57 “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

The people with whom Jesus spoke were blinded by their desire to protect their religious heritage. Look at the dialogue. Jesus said to them,  “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” But rather than have the same perspective of Abraham, which would have caused them to see Jesus as their Messiah, they chose to ask Jesus if He had seen Abraham. Imagine that. The people were given a chance to understand what Abraham saw when Isaac was born, and when Isaac was rescued from sacrifice, and when the covenant was established that an offspring would be a blessing to all the nations of the world. They had a chance to join in the fullness of joy that Abraham experienced when he saw the coming of the Messiah to save the world from its sin. Yet they were so blinded by their tradition of exalting Abraham that they actually asked their Messiah if He had seen their spiritual father. How sad that we also seek to bring Jesus down into the realm of human tradition and experience. We want Jesus to validate what we choose to believe, rather than believing in Jesus and bringing all other beliefs into subjection to Him. We would rather be seen by Jesus than to see Him.

I challenge you to ponder these two truths, and see if there is anything in your heart or mind that is of greater importance than pure and simple faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Pastor John