Safe and Secure

Connecting Points

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Today’s Topic: Safe and Secure

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 54:10  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

In Isaiah 54, God is speaking through the prophet declaring the promise of a restored nation of Israel after their fall into sin and captivity. He illustrates the barrenness and shame of the nation by referring to the life of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who was without child and shamed by her people. She was desolate, just like the nation of Israel would be. We know this passage speaks of Sarah because of Paul’s words in Galatians 4:26-27, where he quotes Isaiah 54:1 in reference to her and his picture of the New Jerusalem.

Isaiah understands the emotions Sarah must have felt, and he relates them to the emotions the nation of Israel will experiencing in its time of shame. He then declares how the Lord Almighty meets and ministers to us in those times of need. Yesterday we saw how God met the specific needs of Sarah. Today in the remainder of the chapter, Isaiah declares the victory that comes from the Lord for His chosen people.

I was thoroughly blessed by the promises of God for His people as I began to read what He was going to do for them. Remember, these are people who have made Him angry. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer. (Verses 7-8)

Yet these are people on whom He will have compassion. This is the story of salvation – the undeserving receiving grace. Look at what God is going to do for them, and us, as a heritage for the servants of the Lord. Verse 17 says, This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. Maybe you should read the whole chapter first to get the big picture, and then read the broken down list – Isaiah 54.

Here are God’s promises for His people:

  • The removal of shame and humiliation – verse 4
  • Redemption – verse 5
  • Reconciliation to God – verse 6
  • Perfect Peace – verse 9 and 13
  • Unfailing love – verse 10 – what a fantastic verse for today – go back to the top and read it again.
  • The heavenly city built with beauty and strength – verses 11-12 (compare Revelation 21:10-21)
  • Perfect Righteousness – verse 14
  • No fear – verse 14
  • Conquering power over sin – verse 15
  • Powerful weapons and armor from the Lord – verses 16-17
  • Powerful words from the Sword of the Spirit – verse 17

Such is the heritage of those who serve the Risen King. Such are the promises for the Children of God. Welcome the teaching of the Holy Spirit into your heart and mind to make the personal applications to your life.

Pastor John




Connecting Points

Monday, December 05, 2011

Today’s Topic: God Is Exactly What We Need

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 54:5  For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

I’m running late this morning. I hate being rushed when I get to the office, but the snow had to be shoveled and the ice chipped away from the door. Then I had the privilege of helping a missionary prepare a Bible Study he needed right away and because of the time differential I needed to do that first. Now I have 15 minutes before Monday staff meeting to write something profound. HELP!!!

I imagine Sarah cried “HELP!” many times as she struggled with her barrenness. Even though she had the promise of God to Abraham that they would have a son, time kept ticking away, and there wasn’t much of it left. But as she cries out, the Lord answers her with these incredible words, re-written from the original according to my understanding of what God is saying –

“I am your Maker, and I am your husband. I am the Lord Almighty, and I am all you need. I have all things under control, and no matter how lost you feel in the darkness of your despair, I have redeemed you.”

I am overwhelmed with this thought – Whatever my need, God is exactly what I need at that time.

If I am lonely, He is my love.

If I am struggling, He is my strength.

If I am needy, He is my nurturer.

If I am discouraged, He is my deliverer.

If I am poor, He is my provider.

God is exactly what I need at all times.

He made me. He loves me. He has a purpose for me. He provides for me. He never leaves me. He never fails.

Sarah discovered it.

How about you?

Pastor John

Stifling Shame

Connecting Points

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Today’s Topic: Faith Overcomes Shame

 Today’s Text:  Isaiah 54:4  “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.”

It was dreadful. It did great damage to my family, many friends, my ministry, and my heart. There are times when I wonder if I’m still beyond all the pain of what happened seventeen years ago. It was my fault. I was selfish and insecure, and I covered it with shameful behavior. It caused a church to split. What had begun as a marvelous new relationship between pastor and congregation soon turned ugly because I didn’t take the time to really listen to the people God had called me to shepherd and instead demanded my own way. The church’s response was to remove me, so our family was forced to leave that place. I felt the deepest shame I have ever experienced. I had publicly embarrassed my Lord, and felt totally unworthy to ever serve Him again.

After two long years of recovery, thanks to the help of a Christian businessman who gave me a job and a small church that took me in and affirmed my gifts, my wife and I accepted an invitation to candidate for the position of Senior Pastor at the church I currently serve. Throughout the interview process the nagging shame of my past ate away at my heart and kept me in the bondage of fear. I told the search committee that I would not consider full-time ministry again, believing that I needed the security of secular employment to fall back on in case I would fail again.

Then, on the last night of interviews, as my wife and I drove to the meeting place, God interrupted us in the car. I looked at my wife and she looked at me, and we agreed that our fears were not of faith, and that God had called us to step out in faith and enter full-time ministry again. We prayed, and arrived at the meeting. The search committee was prepared to offer a part-time position, but I interrupted them and told them what God had said and done in our hearts. We were afraid, but our faith in God’s promise covered our fears. We stretched out the tent curtains and did not hold back. Now, almost 16 years later, here we are, and God has proven Himself faithful again – as if He needs to prove Himself.

The shame of the past shatters the success of the future. Shame produces the fear of ongoing disgrace and humiliation. Our enemy the Devil seeks to hold us in the bondage of past failures. I see it in my own personal life, and I see it in the church. Past experiences of failure resulting in shame immediately build self-protection defenses in us that we implement every time we are asked to take steps of faith. Go back and read that last sentence again. Think about it carefully in your own life, or in the life of your church. How many times has God spoken and we resisted because it reminded us of another time and another place where we experienced failure by trying?

God has promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Sarah has been humiliated by her peers because of her barrenness. They have been disgraced because of their attempts to solve the problem according to the flesh. Now, when God tells them to move forward in faith, He reminds them of their shame and how debilitating it will be if they don’t fully trust His Word. In essence He says to them, “I know how much you are hurting from your past, but do not let that stop you from receiving my future for you. If you will let go of the past, and by faith accept and act upon my promise, you will be set free from the bondage of that shame once and for all.”

Many of you today are living in the bondage of a past failure. You are stuck in the shackles of shame. You are not moving in faith because you are mired in fear. Today, seek the heart of God. Ask Him to reveal His will to you – He wants you to know it. And when you discover it, do it! Everything that caused shame in the past because you did it your way will be erased and replaced with the glory of God.

As I wrote that last paragraph, an email arrived from a good friend, Scott Soden, owner of Elliott’s Automotive. Please take the time to read this. I share it with his permission.

Pastor, I’ve been wanting to talk and with the busyness of everything going on I haven’t found time to, but after reading your devotion today (from December 1) I thought it’s time to just email you. I wanted first of all to encourage you that since you retuned from your trip I’ve seen an amazing difference in you, in a good way. You have heard the calling of God and clearly understood it and accepted it. I have always liked your boldness but when you have the love of Jesus with it, it seem to flow though the people like the loving water of God should. Back to your Thursday devotion – I feel Elliott’s Automotive was in the same place as Calvary is, bursting at the seams trying to figure out what corner to use next for that storage spot or to stuff a child – I think you know what I mean. As Elliott’s Automotive we felt God’s calling to this new location but could not figure out how we would pay for it. God put us in a place where we had to do something, so we started moving forward. God instantly provided an answer and here we are moving. As I sit here in tears I see God’s hand all over this place, and it’s an awesome feeling! PRAISE GOD! As I sit here in this little building for the last day, I can’t wait for the day that it will be Calvary’s last day in its building. From what you said in your devotion I’m sure you know what the next move is, so let God do his thing whether we understand it or not.

The shame of the past must not be allowed to shatter the success of the future. When God speaks – MOVE!

Pastor John


Connecting Points

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Today’s Topic: Vision

 Today’s Text:  Isaiah 54:1-3  “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

On September 16, 2003, I was in a meeting of the Chippewa Valley Evangelical Ministerial Association being held at the WWIB Radio studios in Hallie. As the meeting began, one of the most precious women I have ever met led us in devotions. Mabel Louise Steward had been the wife of the founder of the radio station until he went home to glory with Jesus. Her work for the Lord continues as she ministers God’s grace to countless numbers of people.

As she talked, I opened my Bible and it fell open to Isaiah 54. I have written notes in the margin as a reminder of what God spoke to me. I began reading – sorry Mabel Louise, but God was speaking to me and using you to help. I read about Abraham’s wife Sarah, the barren woman who was promised a son. I read of the faith she was challenged to put into practice by enlarging her tent and not holding back in preparation for the day the son would be born. Even though she had nothing more than God’s word to go on, she was told to act as if it had already happened.

At that time God had started to plant a vision in the hearts of the people of our church that it was time to start thinking about a bigger building to meet the ministry demands of a growing congregation. I recognized God’s hand moving us, but the challenge to act had not yet come. We were standing still and waiting, which was wise at that time.

Then three things happened nearly simultaneously. It was almost more than my mind could handle all at once. First, God spoke as plainly as I have ever heard Him and said, “That’s what Calvary is supposed to do. Enlarge your outreach by not holding back. Spread out to the right and the left, and settle in a desolate place.”

Second, as God spoke to my heart, Mabel Louise said to the group, “We serve a big God who can do more than we can imagine.”

Almost as she was saying it, a retired missionary named John Schone, who was sitting next to me at the meeting and who attends Calvary, leaned over to me and said, “We should buy that abandoned grocery store for our church.”

God gave a clear vision that day. I was pumped. The church leadership and congregation understood the vision. We proceeded to do what God had said. We organized a building team at went to look at the store. It was perfect. Plenty of parking. Plenty of room. It was exactly what God had for us. We asked the realtor to find out if the building could be purchased. Within a week the realtor came back to us with the news that the building could be purchased – for 2.1 million dollars. Our hearts sank. We hadn’t even started fund raising yet, and there was no way we could afford that. HUGE MISTAKE! God had not asked us to afford it; He told us to buy it. I praise God that He has continued to be faithful to our church, but I must humbly admit that since that day my faith has been hindered by a fleshly spirit of practicality.

Sarah would be in her nineties when her first child would finally be born. Practicality could have and should have conquered her faith, but it didn’t. She began doing what God had said. She accepted God’s promise and received God’s provision. Until we make that choice, I don’t think we will ever be able to afford a building, because we are letting practicality rule our faith, and that keeps us from experiencing the miracle of God’s provision.

I am sorry, Lord, for not having more faith. I am sorry for that first crash in the waves of worldly vision that sank me into the waters you wanted me to walk on. I am sorry for all the times since then that you have offered another plan and I have succumbed to the practical wisdom of the world that said it couldn’t be done. Never again! Speak clearly again, and I will follow, no matter the opposition. It is time to enlarge, stretch out, and not hold back. Let us go and settle in a desolate place. Your humble and obedient servant, John.