The Sham of a Goodly Outside

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Psalm 51:6a  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being…

In Act III of The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare writes,

The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

An evil soul, producing holy witness,

Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;

A goodly apple rotten at the heart.

Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath.

Let me repeat that last line. Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath.

We have become professionals at putting on a goodly outside while the intent and integrity of our heart is suspect. Some of our religious upbringing taught us how to behave as Christians but did little to address the true condition of our heart. Some of us are still living according to the standards we have been taught rather than as an expression of the heart we have caught. We know that we are hypocrites. We know that the goodly outside is a lie.

Long before Shakespeare, in 550 B.C., Aesop wrote something that is not a fable – Outside show is a poor substitute for inner worth. Lies originate in the heart of a person who is unsure of their value. Lies are designed by such a person to protect what little value they believe they have. Yet the outcome of the outside show is to further enslave the person because it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the necessary external image to protect from an accidental revealing if the inner truth.

There is only one answer to this serious condition – Inner worth is only possible through the surrender of self to the Savior. This takes true humility and transparency, and many of us are not willing to open our lives up to that extent to anyone, including God. Instead, we choose to live dualistic lives.

According to author Melvin F. Wheatley, “We are split spiritual personalities. We swear allegiance to one set of principles and live by another. We extol self-control and practice self-indulgence. We proclaim brotherhood and harbor prejudice. We laud character but strive to climb to the top at any cost. We erect houses of worship, but our shrines are our places of business and recreation. We are suffering from a distressing cleavage between the truths we affirm and the values we live by. Our souls are the battlegrounds for civil wars, but we are trying to live serene lives in houses divided against themselves.”

We are deceivers, not of others but of ourselves, believing that the outward appearance will somehow overcome the inner sin. But in Psalm 51, David came to know, as must we, that God desires truth in the inner parts. Augustine said it this way – Before God can deliver us from ourselves we must undeceive ourselves.

In 1495 King Charles VIII of France conquered Naples and imported from Italy a new fruit. It was a very large pear that was crisp, sweet, juicy and aromatic. But of all the qualities of this delicious pear, there was one that stood out above all the rest and from which the King gave it its name. The pear is called le bon Chretien, which translated means the good Christian. The reason it was given this name is because they say the pear is never rotten at the core.

How is your core? What is the spiritual condition of the inner parts of your life? Is the outside of your life a show or is it the life of Christ showing?

We do not need to fear becoming honest before God about who we really are. What we need to fear is the consequence of not being honest. If our heart has not been invaded by the truth of who we are and been transformed by the truth of who God is, then eternal death is the consequence.

But humbling oneself before God in absolute honesty brings the mercy and grace of God that forgives completely.

Sacrificing self brings the sacrifice of Jesus and His salvation.

What joy there is in knowing that every outward activity is an expression of who we really are.

We are free from the guilt and shame that was produced by the deceptions we were maintaining.

The civil war in our souls has been settled once and for all by the appearance of the King, and we are no longer divided against ourselves.

We are true to the core.

We have been taught wisdom in our inmost places.

Now we can live proudly as the expression of who we are because we are one with Christ.

Free at last from the bondage of maintaining a goodly outside.

Everything is an expression of the Godly inside.

Joy has returned to life!

Pastor John

Why Do We Prefer Complaining?

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Psalm 50:23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.

I must admit something up front. The very foundation of my devotional today is contradictory. I have thought long and hard as to how to make it not so, but I cannot figure it out. The premise of my argument is sound, but the application refutes the premise. Oh what a quandary I am in.

The 50th Psalm, written by Asaph, is built on this premise – God accepts only one form of sacrifice from people who seek Him – the sacrifice of thanksgiving. But how do I address the lack of thanksgiving I see in my own life and in the life of the average Christian without it coming across as thankless? How do I promote thanksgiving while being unthankful for the current status of our thankfulness? Do you understand the dilemma?

But then the Holy Spirit breaks through the cloud, and reminds me that we are never to be thankful for sin, especially the sin of ingratitude. So here is my challenge to us today.

Look at the breakdown of Psalm 50:23

  • We cannot claim to be living a life that is pleasing to God unless we are doing what glorifies Him.
  • We only glorify Him when we bring to Him thanksgiving as a sacrifice.
  • Being unthankful offends God and falls short of His glory.
  • Thankfulness is the proof of a life that is ordered rightly and has seen the salvation of God.

Asaph lays out quite a contrast between unthankful people and those who are focused on praise. Here’s what an unthankful person looks like according to verses 17-21:

  • They hate discipline. In fact, some may be ready to stop reading this right now.
  • They throw away the words of God as insignificant and irrelevant.
  • They keep company with other sinners, not to influence them, but for the perceived benefit they may receive from them.
  • They speak about sin as if it is normal and acceptable, and they will lie to accomplish their own agenda.
  • They speak evil about those they should be loving the most.
  • The have reduced God down to the level of man, thinking that because He has not corrected or punished them for what they are doing, He must be okay with it.

These are serious things. If we care enough to be honest with ourselves before God, we can all relate to one or more of these sins in our own lives. But then Asaph says this: The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.

The thing that stands out the most to me is the word sacrifice. Thanksgiving is a sacrifice because it makes a statement that I am letting go of all the trouble about which I consistently complain, and prefer instead to trust God to handle it all. Thanksgiving is an act of letting go of my control and my desire for human solutions, and turning it all over to God with verbal statements of trust in His faithfulness, His love, His grace, His mercy, His compassion, and more.

Thankfulness is the expression of faith and trust in the nature and character of God, which frees us from the chains of complaining and criticism. This glorifies God. To not be thankful glorifies self. Thankfulness is the visible sign of a rightly ordered life. Not being thankful is the visible mark of a self-centered life.

Let us become thankful people. Believe me, if we would start to focus on the greatness of God rather than the seeming greatness of our problems, we would naturally express our gratitude for God and His salvation.

Pastor John

 

P.S.  Psalm 50:23 might be a good verse to commit to memory as you pursue the challenge of one of last week’s devotionals to hide God’s Word in our hearts.

The Heart of the Gospel

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 28, 2015

Psalm 49:12  Man in his pomp will not remain.

In the midst of trouble, we tend to fall on man’s ways to solve it. We seek to understand it according to expertise. We search for human resources to apply to its resolution. We are very self-sufficient people, and unless we are intentional about our faith, trials tend to drive us deeper into it.

The 49th Psalm is the diary of a man – one of the Sons of Korah – who was intentional about resisting the urge to look inward for the resolution of problems. Here is a summary of the teaching I received from the Lord as I studied this Psalm today:

  • When we are oppressed by people who don’t believe as we do, and they cause us trouble, we can respond without fear or frustration. (vs. 5)
  • Instead of depending on human resources to solve the problem, which would make us just like them (vs. 6 and 13), we have the privilege of meditating on understanding, listening to and speaking wisdom, and soothing our emotions with praise. (Read verses 3-4)
    • Side note – the very first proverb I thought of when I read verse 4 was Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Then as I studied the rest of the Psalm, I discovered how appropriate it was that the Holy Spirit put those verses on my mind because they are the perfect application of what the Psalmist is teaching.
  • Then I came to the fundamental truth of the Gospel in verses 7-9. Here they are: Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.
  • No human resource can save anyone. Verse 12 says, Man in his pomp will not remain: he is like the beasts that perish. There is NO PRICE that we can pay for ourselves or for anyone else that will save them or us from the trouble we are in. (see again vs. 7-9)
  • But when we recognize the reality of our condition, and the incompetence of human resources to fix our problems, then and only then will we turn to God, who will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.” God’s salvation is our only hope.

As you go along life’s path today, reflect on these truths:

  • You will have trouble.
  • People may be the cause of your trouble.
  • No human resource can fix the trouble.
  • Your attempts to fix the other person are nothing more than an incompetent human resource being applied to a problem that can’t be solved with such methods.
  • God alone has the resources available to solve any and all problems.
  • Turn it all over to Him, and trust in Him. Do not lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge God in everything, and submit to His ways. Then and only then will your paths be made straight.

Pastor John

Take A Tour of Your Life

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 24, 2015

 Psalm 48:12-14  Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers,  consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation  that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.

I have a terrible tendency to forget, and it’s getting g worse. If not for the brain that I carry in my pocket I would be lost. This little black device with a glass screen is amazing. It allows me to talk to people all over the world by voice, by text, by messaging, and even by video. It keeps a record of everyone with whom I have communicated. It tracks my steps throughout the day. It can provide me with detailed instructions on how to get somewhere. If I need to know something – anything – I can just ask the device to look it up for me. It keeps track of all my appointments, so long as I remember to enter them into my calendar. And this is just the beginning of what it will do. Who would have ever imagined that 5000 Commodore 64 computers would fit in my pocket?

But I still forget stuff. Some stuff. The inconsistency of my forgetfulness frustrates me. You see, I remember some stuff very well. Now before I get off on another long tangent, let me get right to the point. The reality of my (our) forgetfulness is this – we tend to forget the good stuff and remember the bad. Right? At the forefront of our thinking most of the time are memories of hurts and tragedies, and the memories of joys and victories have been shoved into a deep hard to reach corner of our filing system.

This ought not to be. I am learning one very important lesson in this study through the book of Psalms – Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised!

My problem is that I tend to remember the times when in my opinion the LORD wasn’t so great, and I forget that fact that He is always great and always good.

The Sons of Korah knew the tendency to forget as well. So they wrote the 48th Psalm as a reminder of the consistent greatness of God. At the end of the Psalm they challenged us to consider all the symbols of His greatness and keep a record of them and pass along that record to every generation.

In the Old Testament, the city of Jerusalem was spectacular, and represented the dwelling place of God. Now, in the New Testament era, we as individual believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, are the dwelling place of God. So, in the language of the Sons of Korah, here’s my prayer for all of us:

Lord, I will consider my life, walking around all of the events of the past that I am able to remember. I will record the number and details of all the towers of defense you built to protect me. According to your promise you were present at each and every trial and tragedy. Forgive me for not remembering that you saw it and oversaw it from the strong tower you were in. As I look back on those events, may I see you in your tower.

And Lord Jesus, may I recognize the mighty ramparts you have constructed around me. These great walls of protection that surround the city of my life are impenetrable by the Enemy unless I choose to open a gate. May I surrender gate-keeping duties to you completely, and reside in peace and surety behind your defenses.

And as I walk through the streets of my life, I will continually enter into the citadels you have built for me. These palaces are my place of residence, filled with all of the provisions I need to live.

From your towers you have seen everything that has happened in my life. You have placed me behind the ramparts of your protection. And inside those walls, you have given me a lavish place to live in the abundance of your love. May I constantly remember your greatness and goodness in all of those times, for in them I have learned that you are God. May I pass on the stories of your greatness to the next generation so that you may be their guide as you have been mine. AMEN.

Pastor John

It Is ALWAYS True

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

 For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. 

He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. 

He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah 

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 

For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! 

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.  

The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!                   Psalm 47:1-9

After the events of this morning, I have chosen my word for today to be convergence. The fundamental meaning of converge is to move toward one point and join together. That’s exactly what happened this morning as several individual circumstances converged at a single point and made a point.

Event #1 – I spent a few moments early this morning praying for a family going through a serious medical emergency. As I prayed, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the promise of God that says  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10) So I prayed that for the family, that they would know God’s abiding presence that controls all things according to His unfailing love. I prayed that they would recognize that the Lord reigns, and His purpose is being accomplished, as Psalm 57 says – Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.  I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Event #2 – After my morning workout, I opened up Facebook on my phone and the first post I saw was this from a pastor friend of mine. It is a quote from A.W. Tozer. God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God. He made heaven and earth. He holds the world in His hand. He measures the dust of the earth in the balance. He spreads the sky out like a mantle. He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father, and you are His child. He sits in heaven, and you are on the earth.

Event #3 – Two minutes after reading that post, I opened up my Bible on my phone to begin preparing my devotional thoughts, and turned to today’s Psalm – the 47th. As I read it I almost shouted out loud – OUR GOD REIGNS!

Convergence. Three events all meeting at one point to make a point – OUR GOD REIGNS!

In the midst of the most tragic of circumstances – OUR GOD REIGNS!

As we walk through the everyday events of life that can seem mundane and pointless – OUR GOD REIGNS!

Regardless of the political climate of our day and regardless of who claims to be in power – OUR GOD REIGNS!

Go ahead – say it out loud. OUR GOD REIGNS!

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

OUR GOD REIGNS!

Pastor John

Living Water

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Psalms 46:4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

Several years ago I was invited by one of my sons to go along on a trout fishing trip he was taking with his friends. I distinctly remember the anxious enthusiasm I felt as I prepared for the trip. It would be a total “roughing it” experience. No plumbing of any kind was available. No electricity. No modern conveniences at all. Just three days of camping in a tent alongside a rushing river and cooking over an open fire.

I think I looked forward to it so much because it took me back to my childhood days. I love the water. I grew up on the shores of the Great Lakes. As a young boy I swam and fished in the St. Mary’s river while the ore boats made their way to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

As a middle school student I canoed, fished, and camped on the Au Sable River making my way downstream to the mouth where it emptied into Lake Huron at Oscoda, Michigan.

As a high school student I camped beside the Thompson River in Estes Park, Colorado and fished for trout.

Give me a tent, a fishing pole, and a stream, and I am happy, although now in my latter years I do like to have a boat along. But there is something incredibly peaceful and restorative about camping beside the water.

When God wanted us to understand the fullness of eternal life and visualize the peace and prosperity of heaven, he used a river to describe it. Here’s how the Apostle John saw it in Revelation 22.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The source of this river is God Himself. The prophet Jeremiah declares “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Later in Jeremiah he says, “All who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.”

This living water has the power to transform the earth. The prophet Zechariah declares that when Jesus returns to the earth as King and puts His feet down on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, that living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The water’s effects on the earth are miraculous.

Here’s a summary of the description Ezekiel gives us of what will happen to the Dead Sea on the day the river of life flows out of Jerusalem to the east:

This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah (the Jordan Valley) where it enters the Sea (the Dead Sea). When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea (the Mediterranean Sea). But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing (Ezek.47:1-12). The River of Life flowing out from God will miraculously transform the earth.

But that’s not the greatest power of the living water. Jesus invites us to drink of this water and have our lives miraculously transformed. Just as no life can exist in the Dead Sea because of the concentration of salt, so no life can exist in us because of the consequences of sin. But the Living Water of God found in Jesus Christ our Savior will make all things new.

Jesus offered this water to the woman at the well in John chapter 4. He said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks the water from this well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

We can have eternal life rather than death. We are dead because of the salt of sin. We are thirsty from drinking the salt of sin. We look to quench our thirst in all that the world has offered, and find that it is only more salt that makes us thirstier. But then we heard the voice of Jesus saying, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.

We repented of the ways of sin and drank of the Living Water. Our thirst has been satisfied and our lives have been transformed. We have streams of living water flowing out from us so that others may drink and have their thirst satisfied as well. Our lives have become the holy place where the Most High dwells, and the stream of living water makes us glad.

REJOICE! You have tasted the water, and you will never be the same again.

Pastor John

A Ready Response

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, September 21, 2015

Psalm 45:1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

If all access to the Word of God was denied, how much of it would you still be able to meditate on from memory?

Are you satisfied with your answer?

I’m not! I do not believe for one moment that I have hidden enough of God’s Word in my heart. My thought life is proof of that, and from my thoughts comes sin. Sin is the product of my word in my heart, not God’s. I need to memorize His Word more. My heart is too often stirred by sinful themes, not noble ones. I spend far too little time reciting my verses for the king.

I think you will agree that the Word of God is not the basis for most of our conversations with God or with other people.

Several years ago I conducted a funeral for the sister of a member of our church. A man from Africa who had befriended this Christian woman while she was in the hospital asked if he could speak. Before he began, he prayed. I was deeply challenged and moved by his connection with God in prayer, and I instantly knew why – he prayed the Word of God. He began every sentence of his prayer with this statement – “We are persuaded from Scripture which says…” and then he would quote a verse from the Bible, followed by a request of God using the verse as his basis for asking. He knew what the Word of God said so he could pray with faith and authority.

I desire all of my conversations with God and with people to be the same. The Apostle Paul said “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” My desire is to proudly practice and proclaim the principles of God’s Word in every part of my life.

But it seems we have a long way to go to reach the point of using the Word of in our everyday conversations with people. Why is that? Either we don’t know it well enough or we choose not to use what we do know. Both are sad confessions of our self-centered lives.

We may use principles we have learned from God’s Word in our conversations with people, but how often do we acknowledge the source of those principles?

We quote sports heroes, political figures, weathermen, and famous Christians but fail to quote Christ Himself.

We read and recommend all the latest best-sellers from Christian authors but spend little time reading the original source of all spiritual truth.

We buy the latest self-help books to deal with the issues of our lives, but ignore the Book that teaches self-denial as the foundation of abundant life.

Even some of our churches have changed their philosophy of Christian education. The ratio of God’s Word to entertainment and man’s philosophies is way out of balance – almost to the point of the total exclusion of God’s Word.

Entertaining videos for children have replaced the direct teaching of the stories and truths of the Bible.

Youth ministries have turned from personal Bible study designed to know God and integrate His truths into everyday living to trusting a stranger to teach lifestyle management skills on DVD.

Adult Bible studies use very little of the Bible and a lot of books containing man’s opinions of what the Bible says.

I am not advocating the banning of books and videos from church ministry – they are useful and have their place. But when they become the end in themselves rather than being simply a springboard into a deeper study of the Word of God, then they are being used incorrectly.

I propose to you that an enthusiastic teacher who knows, lives, and talks God’s Word will garner more attention and have a greater impact on children and adults than the best produced video. To say that a media presentation is more effective because we live in a media world is to deny the very foundation of our created existence, which is relationship.

People do not relate to videos – they relate to teachers. Videos have their place and can be used effectively, but they can never replace the truths that will be caught by people of all ages as they see it taught and modeled by their mentors.

I am especially concerned about the lack of Scripture memorization that takes place in our personal lives. When was the last time you intentionally studied a verse or passage of Scripture so that you could memorize it? When was the last time you sat down with your children and reviewed their Bible memory verses from AWANA that week so that you could be assured they were truly committing it to memory? How many additional verses do you learn together with them during your family devotions during the week?

My friends, this is serious. The reason that we are being sucked into the world’s philosophies and secularized lifestyles is because we have not memorized God’s principles and do not know His truth.

What will we do about it?

Our first priority must be to memorize God’s Word and then use it in every aspect of our lives. Let its truths guide every decision we make. Let the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be pleasing in God’s sight because they are based on His truth. We must use the Bible in our everyday conversations. Be unashamed to give credit to God for our beliefs and opinions. Put everything about our life into the context of God’s truth, and put God’s truth into the context of everything in our life.

We are to be the living proof of God’s living Word. Let His Word come to life in you and in how you live. Let your heart be stirred by its noble themes.

May my heart overflow with a pleasing theme as I address my verses to the king.

Pastor John