The Accessible Rock

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Psalm 61:2  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…

If it has happened once, it has happened literally hundreds of times. I can think of at least three times it has happened just in the last month.

You see, I’m in way over my head most of the time when it comes to helping people resolve their issues. I am not a trained counsellor. I do not have a working knowledge of psychological issues nor do I profess to know all of the proper response techniques to draw those issues out of people. I certainly don’t claim to have any personal wisdom that can lead them to finding a solution.

But I do know this – when I listen to someone, I am nothing more than an earpiece of the Holy Spirit so that I might become His mouthpiece of wisdom. I cannot begin to count the number of times that I feel overwhelmed when a person begins to share the details of their experiences and troubles. Yet I also cannot count the times that I am overwhelmed with words of wisdom that have only one possible Source – the Holy Spirit of God.

Every one of those experiences is an illustration of what the Psalmist declares in Psalm 61:2 –

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…

The obvious meaning of this verse is that God is higher than we are. BUT, the more subtle truth that really gripped my heart is this – God will lead us to a place we could never have reached without Him. One translation states it this way – thou wilt lead me on to a rock which is too high for me.

Ever since I read this early today, I have been overjoyed to realize that God is constantly leading me to places that are beyond my reach. No longer do I need to be satisfied with the results I can accomplish. No more do I need to try to generate a sense of security based on my abilities. Never again do I have to try to solve a problem based on my limited experience or my inadequate knowledge of the situation. God is leading to a rock of refuge and strength that is beyond my abilities. It is a place that will completely bring the solutions and the satisfaction I seek.

But this place of refuge is beyond my personal reach. Not to worry, for my LORD is leading me there. All I need do is to release from my grip any of my personal resources, and grasp His hand. Nothing that I have trusted to solve the issues of life can compare to what He will do for me in the place He is taking me. He is the Rock that is higher than I.

Oh friend, do you not long to be led to a place where the promise of provision and protection will be completely fulfilled? It may seem to be out of reach, but listen. God will lead you to the Rock that is higher than you. Just let go of all you have tried to do, and take hold of His hand.

Pastor John

The Great Fixer

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Psalms 60:1 You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry—now restore us!

Some people make messes; some people clean up messes. I’ve been told I’m good at both. However, my heart is most fulfilled when broken things get fixed.

I was always looking for creative ways to make things work better or even work differently. When I was in 6th grade I wanted to play golf, but we had no golf clubs. I took my dad’s saber saw and cut off the ends of all our croquet mallets at different angles and made my own clubs. Dad said I was destructive. I thought I was creative.

The desire to fix and restore things has never ended. In my younger days, so very long ago, I was a manager of retail clothing stores. I was specifically transferred from North Dakota to Iowa to clean up a mess in a store and get it back on the profit track.

The first three churches I pastored were struggling ministries that needed restoration. It is so fulfilling to watch God take what was declared dead and resurrect it to life. It is so humbling to be called to be the instrument of his grace.

Such was the call of David to succeed Saul as the King of Israel. Saul had made a mess. David was asked to clean it up. Because of Saul’s rejection of God, God had withdrawn His power and protection from Israel. In the latter days of Saul’s reign the nation of Israel was decimated by sin and military defeats. The people were despondent. Trouble was overwhelming them. Their hope was severely dimmed.

Then David arrives on the scene to begin the restoration process. The steps he takes can be applied to our personal and business lives as well as we seek to restore broken things or people.

First, evaluate the situation and look for a cause. Don’t allow this to become a blame game, but there are real reasons why things break and unless we know the cause we can never really fix anything. The cause of Israel’s mess was their own sin which resulted in God’s rejection.

David first addresses the cause of Israel’s brokenness in Psalm 60, and then proclaims the truth that for those who fear God, He has raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. They were not being victorious over their enemies because they had stopped fearing God. Humbly returning to God would restore their national dignity.

When things are going bad in your own life or business, evaluate the presence of sin in your life as the first potential cause.

Second, David calls out to God in prayer and confesses the nation’s need of His intervention. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. David didn’t try to be the super hero. He didn’t arrogantly proclaim that he was the savior sent to rescue and restore the people. He humbly called out to God.

As you develop your strategies for fixing the broken things in your life, make sure God is the source of all your information. Saul’s pride is what caused Israel’s mess. David says in verse 11 that the help of man is worthless. David made sure that God was the source of all wisdom for the restoration project. The mess you have to clean up in your life has been caused by pride and self-sufficiency. Don’t multiply the problem with prideful motivations. Make sure God gets all the credit and not you.

Third, David looks outside of the nation and evaluates what forces are working against them that need to be handled. Shechem, Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim, Judah, Moab, Edom, and Philistia were all evaluated based on their positive or negative influences upon the people, and their fate was determined accordingly. Tough decisions had to be made, but the negative outside influences had to be eliminated.

We need to consider what outside negative influences are hurting our lives or businesses and then eliminate them.

Finally, David casts an achievable vision for the people to grasp and pursue. With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies. David understood the importance of keeping people’s eyes focused on the finish line and not on all of the hurdles in the way.

Satan loves to send us sprawling by overwhelming us with obstacles. We don’t make much progress while we are laid out on the ground, and we don’t feel like getting up when all we can see from down there is the next hurdle and everybody else running past us. We must realize that God goes before us in every race and has already personally approved every hurdle and verifies that we can jump it.

We’ve made some pretty big messes of our lives in some areas, haven’t we? It’s time to clean them up. You don’t have to stay in your current situation. Cry out to God and surrender to His plan. He will restore you.

Pastor John

Two Choices

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Psalms 59:13that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth.

It may seem overly simplistic, but life boils down to a choice between two objectives – we either live to make ourselves known or we live to make God known.

These two objectives are the result of a choice between two preliminary desires– to know self or to know God. Those who long to know self will live to make self known. Those who long to know God will live to make God known.

King Saul was a man who desired to know self and make himself known. In contrast, King David was a man who desired to know God and make God known. We see that contrast expressed in Psalm 59.

Saul’s fame is being threatened by David’s popularity. Saul orders David to be killed. Undercover agents set up a stake-out at David’s house, waiting for the right opportunity to kill him. David knows they are there, and he’s aware of their intentions. He calls out to God to rescue him. His call to God includes three very important things that demonstrate his desire to know God and to make God known.

  1. He makes sure his own life is pure and holy before asking for the threat to be removed. For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Psalm 59:3-4

We cannot expect trouble to be removed from our lives if God has designed the trouble to reveal our sin to us. At times, trials are a test of our faith and the purifying fires that remove our sinful desires. Those who desire to know God will first ask what God is trying to teach them before they ask for the difficulty to be removed.

  1. He makes sure that his request fits within the nature and character of God and is able to be universally applied. You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Psalm 59:5

David prays not only for his own situation but that the principles he wants God to employ on his own behalf are also applicable to all people. Whatever we ask of God for ourselves we should be willing to ask of God on behalf of others. Whatever we want God to do for us we should believe that He will also do it for others. We must not customize God to our own specifications. Our lives must be conformed to His nature and character.

  1. He makes sure that this is not just a quick fix for himself, but an opportunity for God to be made known to all people. Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield! that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Psalm 59:11, 13b 

Having his enemies killed would have solved his immediate problem. But David’s main concern was not to know God for the betterment of self, but to submit to whatever God would do to make Himself known to all people. Many of the trials we endure are not about us, but rather they are about God using us to make Himself known to others. Those who truly want to know God and make Him known will submit to God’s solutions.

So much more could be said about each of these three principles, and I trust that throughout the day today you will listen to the Holy Spirit as He teaches you to apply these truths to your life.

Pastor John

The Music of Grace

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 26, 2015

Psalms 58:4 – 5 Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be.

On April 16, 2007, a student at Virginia Tech University went on a shooting spree, killing 32 people and wounding 16 others before killing himself. The first person he killed was a former girlfriend.

What causes a person to feel so desperate and alone that his only solution is to inflict pain and death upon others before ending his own life? Is there anything that could have been said to him to change his heart?

At the risk of sounding extremely pessimistic and fatalistic, the answer may be nothing. It is a sad truth that evil has invaded the human race and so totally deceived and depraved mankind that from birth our hearts are desperately wicked. So wicked, in fact, that it cannot be understood in human terms.

Psalm 58 is a description of the condition of the sinful heart, and it is not pretty. In our natural, sinful, depraved state, we devise injustice, and mete out violence on the earth. We speak lies and our hearts have become so hardened by sin that we cannot even hear the voice of the One who could change it all.

The Psalmist describes our condition by using the analogy of a cobra – you know, the snake that appears to stand up and dance when it hears flute music. We are like cobras that have stopped up their ears and will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be.

Mankind is in a totally deplorable condition. There is no escape, even in death…EXCEPT through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin. But man is not listening to the Eternal Charmer of his soul, who is playing the sweet music of redemption.  Our sinful state we are not capable of hearing unless God’s grace penetrates our heart. Even though we are in a totally sinful state deserving of death, God’s love initiates contact.

God’s love is unique and distinct from what we understand. His love is demonstrated in this – while we were still in our sin, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Then Christ sent the Holy Spirit to the earth to convict us of their sin and draw us to God so that we could be saved.

Imagine that – God touched the untouchable. He loved the unlovable. He died for the dying. Not because we earned it or deserved it, but because He is love, and the full expression of His love is the gift of His own Son Jesus to die our deserved death. The grace of God is truly amazing.

How awed we are at the marvelous grace of God. How can we ever take for granted what God did to rescue us from the humanly inescapable grip of sin? May our ears never be stopped up with the wax of worldliness so we cannot hear the Holy Spirit speak the words of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

I cannot help but repeat the words of this great song of worship.

Marvelous grace of our loving God,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt!

 

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss.

Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,

Points to the refuge the mighty cross.

 

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,

What can avail to wash it away?

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide;

Whiter than snow you may be today.

 

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?

 

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within!

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin!

 

Grace that is greater than all our sin! No matter what the level of discouragement or despair, turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face. The things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Pastor John

Come In From The Storm

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Psalms 57:7  My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.

In October of 2007, a huge storm called a nor’easter hit the east coast of America. Heavy rains, high tides, and strong winds destroyed homes along the coast and flooded coastal towns. From Florida to Maine people living near the Atlantic Ocean were affected. Even professional sports took a hit. The final round of the PGA golf tournament in Hilton Head South Carolina had to be cancelled because the winds made it impossible for the golf balls to stay in place on the greens. Several golfers were blown off their strides as they walked, and crashing tree limbs injured the tournament Marshall and put spectators and players at risk. Everyone had to come in from the storm.

Living part of my life in the Dakotas, I know what strong winds are. I’ve been on the golf course while the winds blew at 35-40 miles per hour. I’ve actually had to adjust the line of putts at the hole just to play the wind. I’ve had to lean heavily to one side or the other as I walked just to stay standing. But while all external forces from above and around me were attempting to knock me off of my feet, I knew that the ground under me wasn’t going to fail me and that I had a solid foundation upon which to stand.

That may have been true of the part of South Dakota where I lived, but it isn’t true everywhere. Imagine what it must be like to live in an area prone to earthquakes. When the ground itself begins to shake, where can we stand? At such times, how can we consider ourselves to be steadfast?

Soon-to-be King David must have felt that way when he was pursued by King Saul in an attempt to eliminate the apparent successor to his throne. God had promised David that he would be King, but here he was, hiding out in a cave in the rocks seeking to avoid detection. While deep in the cave, struggling to find meaning and purpose for this latest attack on his life, David wrote the fifty-seventh Psalm – a Psalm filled with confidence in the steadfast love of God. David was so convinced of God’s faithfulness that he said, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.

I dare not pretend to have reached that point in my life yet, where I can sing and make music when under attack. Yet when the storms of life begin to influence us and shake us to our foundation, we can say with King David that we are steadfast.

The Hebrew word that God chose for David to use here to describe his spiritual condition is the word kun, which means to stand erect. I know there are many times in my life when I am not feeling very steadfast and I am certainly not standing very straight. But one thing remains constant – the foundation upon which I stand cannot be shaken or moved.

No matter who is pursuing me or persecuting me, God’s love is greater and reaches to the heavens.

No matter what falls apart or fails in my life, God’s faithfulness reaches to the skies.

No matter how shaken my emotions and how uncertain I am of my ability to stand against the forces that oppose me and hurt me, my heart can remain steadfast because it trusts in God who is exalted above all else.

When storms hit, we seek refuge. Wise people seek refuge in storm-tested places of security. When the waters rise, only fools go into the valleys. When tornadoes strike, only fools go to the top floor. Only a fool builds a tree house and calls it a hurricane shelter. Wise people know where to go for the greatest security.

The same is true spiritually. When the storms of life hit and a crisis occurs, only fools climb into the tree house of their own knowledge for solutions. No matter how well-equipped the tree house is with all the latest innovations of man to solve man’s problems, it is still only as strong as the tree to which it is nailed. Someday a storm is coming that will destroy your tree.

Maybe your tree is being shaken pretty hard right now. Be wise. Climb down from your precarious perch of pride and run to the Rock that cannot be moved. God is the refuge that cannot be penetrated. His love and faithfulness are unending and unfailing. While the winds howl and the trees are broken apart, our hearts can be steadfast – we can stand upright when all else around us is being blown away.

Our ability to stand depends in part on what we decide to exalt in our lives. If we exalt self and our solutions, then we will be shaken and stunned to silence. But if we exalt God in our lives just as He is exalted above all the heavens, and if we live for His glory on the earth, then we will sing and make music because we are steadfast.

The choice is ours. Let’s cancel our plans, and come in from the storm.

Pastor John

No Tear is Wasted

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Psalm 56:9  “…This I know, that God is for me.”

My thoughts this morning are captivated by a profound truth – God is for me!

I don’t have a story to tell to stimulate your interest. I just want to dive in and declare to you a marvelous truth – God is for you!

We would be demonstrating serious spiritual lifelessness if we did not come to that conclusion after reading the fifty-sixth Psalm. Not because it is stated bluntly in verse 9, but because of the compassionate and caring tone of the whole Psalm.

Before I share with you what struck me powerfully this morning, take a moment to meditate on these marvelous words:

  • When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (verse 3)
  • In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. (verse 4, and similarly in verses 10-11)
  • For you have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. (verse 13)

Now, let me share with you the powerful point that the Holy Spirit made to me this morning.

It is not hard for us to remember the people and things that have hurt us so deeply that they caused us to cry. Nighttime reveals the intensity of our stress over the hardships of life as we sleeplessly toss and turn. Our emotions are raw, and every salty tear we shed drips into the open wound and increases the sting. Is there no solution? Does God not care?

The answer is found in verse 8:

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.

I must confess that I am having a very difficult time figuring out how to express to you the personal impact this verse is having on me right now. The Eternal God, Creator of all things and Sovereign Ruler of all events and circumstances, is personally and intimately invested in my life.

He is so invested that He is keeping a detailed record of everything that causes me stress and pain. He records every one of my tossings. He knows every fearful thought that results from the hardships of life. He is there when I can’t sleep. He is there when I can’t shut off my mind as I try to solve the issues of life. He is intimately collecting every tear I shed and keeping them in a personalized bottle on His lap. Not one single tear has ever been wasted. God knows the reason for every tear. He knows the emotional and physical result in my heart of every tear. He has in His mind the perfect timing for the removal of that which has caused them to fall from my eyes. He has kept a record of every detail of every event, and has not missed even the smallest one.

God is for me!

Therefore, I can put my trust in God and not be afraid. I can walk before the Lord every moment of every day in the light of life, knowing that He is faithful to work out all things for good because I love Him. (Romans 8:28)

God is for me!

God is for YOU!

Trust Him, and be not afraid.

The Cure for Discouragement

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Psalm 55:22  Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Last night, during the annual pastoral review conducted by the Elders, I was asked a question: “What discourages you?

I only had to think about two seconds to have an answer: I get discouraged by the complaints and criticisms of ministry that come from brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not speaking of valid, grace-filled suggestions that come from a person who loves Christ and His church, but rather those complaints that are motivated in large part by a person’s desire to have their personal preferences satisfied. I find it frustrating that people can so easily take their eyes off of Jesus and speak so harshly about what others who love Jesus are doing to serve Him.

The reason I share that publicly with you today is because that is exactly how King David felt when he wrote the fifty-fifth Psalm. Take a moment and read it. (Psalm 55)

David admits that he is restless because of the attacks of the enemy. He confesses that he is in anguish, and is afraid, even horrified, with what the enemies of God are doing to him. He wishes he could fly away and get lost in the wilderness, away from all the attacks.

I’m sure we can all relate to that. It doesn’t feel good to be attacked by enemies. It wrecks our day, and can carry over into weeks.

But David admits to something even more painful than the attacks of enemies: the attacks of a friend. Read again his words in verses 12-14:

For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him.   But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.

It is indeed a sad and painful thing when individual members of the Body of Christ, who are called out for all eternity to come together in unity to worship and serve the risen Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, decide to attack other members of the Body because of a prideful desire to have their personal preferences gratified.

King David discovered that the very worst kind of attack is not the face-to-face confrontation of a friend: that can actually turn out well. It is rather the hypocritical, hidden agenda type that pretends to be friendly while being motivated by hate not love. Look at what he says in verses 20-21:

My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant.  His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.

As I read through this Psalm, I was drawn into it. I could relate to at times being the companion who broke the covenant of Christian love, and it brought me to my knees in confession and repentance. I could also relate to being the victim of such friends, and I relived the pain of those experiences.

But then I read verse 22, and my heart was calmed. My spirit was refreshed. My hope was restored. My discouragement dissipated.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you;

He will never permit the righteous to be moved.

God sustains me! When I remain in His righteousness, God will never move me from His personal care. I do not need the wings of a dove to fly away, for I am safely hidden underneath the wings of His love.

I am reminded of the verses from the prophet Isaiah that my Grandfather gave me as a college student – “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off;  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 41:9-10)

Pastor John