Hold My Hand

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Psalms 91:14 – 16 (NIV) 14“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Psalms 23:4 (NIV) 4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

When I was around 12 years old, I was on vacation with my family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We were traveling around that beautiful part of our country seeing the sights, like Tahquahmenon Falls, the Porcupine Mountains, Lake of the Clouds, and so many more. We had traveled up into copper mining territory on the Keewanah Peninsula and dad decided it would be fun to tour a copper mine. He went to the ticket booth and came back to the car with five tickets. My math brain quickly figured something was up because there were six of us. Dad said he was staying behind to watch the car while the rest of us all went on the tour. At first I thought he was making a sacrifice. Only after some questioning did I discover his claustrophobia. No way was he going down underground in a small cave in the dark. I was still too young to realize that I had it also. That was about to change.

The tunnel down into the mine was wide and well lit. So far this was fun. I was fascinated by the rock formations and the information the tour guide was giving us. As we got deeper and deeper into the mine, the tunnel narrowed. I looked back and the lights that has been on as we came down the passage way were now off. I could not see the entrance to the mine. I looked ahead and the people on the tour were now all in single file, and the walls of the tunnel were closing in. Then, just as I was getting scared, the tunnel opened into a large opening where mining had taken place.

For a short time, we stood there in peace as the guide told us about the process of mining copper. Then he told us to grab the hand of the person next to us. He didn’t say why, so I didn’t do it. I was standing next to my two brothers, and I wasn’t about to hold their hands. At that instant, the lights went off. The guide told us he wanted us to experience total darkness.

I couldn’t see a thing. I touched my nose to see if I could see even a shadow of my hand, but there was nothing. I couldn’t run because I had no idea where the exit was. I was scared! I remember yelling, “Mom!” She was just on the other side of my brother and I probably shoved him as I reached out to try to grab her. More than anything else I needed to know that a person I could trust was with me. I grabbed her hand just as the lights went on, and I think I held on to it even as my brothers laughed at me. I didn’t care – I needed to feel safe.

As I shared yesterday, I am spending time in the 91st Psalm this week because it was my mom’s favorite. It was almost 12 years ago that my mom was in bed unable to get up because of the ravaging effects of cancer. But I watched as she reached out to hold on to the hand of the One who can be trusted.

I spent several days with her during her last week of life on earth, and I observed something wonderful: she didn’t reach out for dad’s hand, or for mine. She didn’t call out for the doctor or the nurses. She didn’t show any signs of dependence upon people or the need to have her suffering relieved by people. She never complained when we had to turn her and change her sheets. She simply whispered the name Jesus. In the darkest time of her life she had already reached out her hand to the one she knew she could trust.

Her love for Jesus was rewarded with the His personal presence. So complete was her trust in Him that she didn’t cry when friends came to visit and she had to say goodbye to them for probably the last time. She didn’t even cry when I said goodbye to her on the day I left, never to see her alive again. She simply smiled and hugged me, knowing that we would be together again in the presence of our Savior.

In Psalm 91:14, the Lord says that He will protect us. The Hebrew word for protect literally means to set on high so as to be inaccessible. Mom understood that and lived that truth as she laid on her bed. The Lord has set her on high. Disease, destruction, and death have no access to her. They may have access to her physical body, but her physical body does not define her existence. Her soul and her spirit define her, and they are already experiencing the presence of God.

That is how we are to live our lives every day. We must stop defining our existence by our physical experiences. Instead, we must walk in the Spirit of God. The flesh is not our identity. We have been shown the salvation of God, and no matter what trouble comes to the flesh, His presence is always with us. When we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then fear is destroyed. The Apostle John said, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

When trouble comes, your true love is revealed. When in financial distress do you call your banker or Jesus? When your marriage is falling apart do you call a counselor or Jesus? When stress overwhelms you do you call your friends or Jesus? When sickness invades your life do you call your doctor or Jesus?

It’s ok to call any or all of these people when in need, but not first. Your first call is to Jesus, so that you are assured that your spirit and soul are at peace in His presence. Then, no matter what the outcome of the physical circumstance, you will know you are inaccessible because God has placed you on high.

If you truly love the Lord, then this will be true – you will call on Him, and He will answer you and be with you in the trouble. He will hold your hand in the dark, and you will be safe.

O the glory of His presence!

Pastor John

Cash the Check

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Psalms 91:1 – 2 (NIV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

You will notice that I am in spending extra time this week in the 91st Psalm. There is a reason for that: it was my mom’s favorite Psalm, and it has special value to me.

Now, bear with me as my imagination runs wild.

In my wildest dreams I could never expect this to really happen, but I can pretend. Bill Gates, the founder and CEO of Microsoft, has been searching the internet for a place to drop five million dollars to a charity. He happens across our web site at www.calvaryeauclaire.org and sees the pictures of our building and becomes enamored with the outreach of our church. He authorizes a check, and three days later, by certified mail with a return receipt requested, the staff and I open up a personal letter from Mr. Gates with the check enclosed. After we get done jumping and shouting, we fall to our knees in prayer as we weep before the Lord for His provision. We then take the check, this promise of resources, and place it in the safe, where it will stay as a memorial of God’s goodness.

Wait a minute…stop the dream…it’s become idiotic. Wouldn’t we take the check to the bank and deposit the funds to our church account? Of course we would. We never get a dime of that money unless the promise is cashed in. We believe the issuer is able to fulfill his promise, and he wouldn’t have written the check if he didn’t want to fulfill his promise, so we cash the check and enjoy the benefits of the promise.

I am convinced we have just as foolishly not cashed in some of the promises of God. When I read the 91st Psalm, I find myself saying I believe them, but not cashing them in. I put them in a safe place in my heart to remind me of God’s goodness, but I never enjoy the benefits of the promise today. I have allowed my circumstances to dictate the validity of the promise, which in turn causes doubt about the Author of the promise.

Can you relate? Here’s a test. Read the following promises from today’s Psalm, and evaluate your first response to them…

  • He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Are you resting?
  • Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. Are you trusting Him for your daily protection? Do you thank Him for all you did NOT encounter today that could have happen had He not been your protector?
  • He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Do you feel safe and secure and comforted, walking in peace and not fear?
  • If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. OK, did you just try to explain this promise away, or do you truly believe God’s promise? Do you understand that no human circumstance can be called a disaster. Why? Because nothing can separate us from His love, and everything that happens allows God to draw us deeper into His heart?
  • For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Are you aware of God’s ministering servants called angels whom He has commanded to guard our lives?

WOW! What a check we have received. But no check is valid unless it is signed by the one who makes the promise of payment. Fortunately for us, God Himself has signed this check…

 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Twelve years ago I watched as my mom spent the last portion of this promise she had cashed early on in her life. She is now dwelling permanently in the presence of the Benefactor. While here on this earth, she lived lavishly as she spent every spiritual penny of this Psalm. It was the theme of her life. She could have simply read it, seen the signature, and then put it in a safe place as a memorial of God’s goodness. But that would have been to live a life of doubt. She lived a life of faith – faith in the One who wrote the check, that He could pay it and that He wanted to pay it now. She was living the lavish lifestyle of a spiritually wealthy person.

Isn’t it time you cashed some of God’s checks?

Pastor John

Under His Wings

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Several years ago, I was on a family fishing trip, and my brother was there with me. While we were fishing, we noticed a mature bald eagle settle in a tree at the edge of the lake. We maneuvered into a position in the boat where we could get pictures, and then with a little noise we forced the majestic bird to fly out over the water as we snapped pictures.

During his ascent one of his tail feathers fell out and floated downward to the water. We drove over to it and picked it up. It was huge! I was impressed not only by its size but be its design. It was strong enough to not break, bend, or tear under the stress of strong winds while in flight, yet it was delicate enough to feel soft and comforting to the touch. It was completely waterproof and obviously ultraviolet safe because the colors showed no signs of fading.

A feather is a marvel of God’s creation. No wonder the Psalmist chose the feather as the symbol of God’s comfort and care for us. When the storms of life rise up against us, God has us covered with His feathers providing protection from the wind and the rain. When enemies mount an attack against us we find refuge under His wings. When we are tempted to cower in fear His faithfulness gives us confidence to stand strong because he is our shield and our rampart. (The word rampart means to be totally surrounded. God totally surrounds us with protection.) No matter what the circumstances of life, in Christ we are covered and confident.

One of the songs my mom used to sing when I was younger was an old hymn called “Under His Wings”. Let the words cover you with confidence today.

Under His wings, I am safely abiding;

Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,

Still I can trust Him I know He will keep me;

He has redeemed me and I am His child.

 

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!

How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!

Often when earth has no balm for my healing,

There I find comfort and there I am blessed.

 

Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment!

There will I hide ‘til life’s trials are o’er;

Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;

Resting in Jesus I’m safe evermore.

 

Under His wings, under His wings,

Who from His love can sever?

Under His wings my soul shall abide,

Safely abide forever.

God is faithful! Nothing can separate us from His love. He is our refuge and our strength, and an ever-present help in time of need. Let Him cover you today with comfort so you serve Him with confidence.

Feel the Burn

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 25, 2017

Psalms 90:17 (NIV) May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

Last night I followed my weekly routine of taking out the garbage. I pushed the container to the end of the driveway and then took a little stroll up the road to look at the stars. What a glorious evening it was, especially considering the calendar date.

This morning, as I write, I am symbolically taking a walk through the 90th Psalm. The morning air is refreshingly sweet today. As I step out of my home and the comforts of my dwelling place, into the presence of God, I am immediately reminded that the Lord is my true dwelling place. (verse 1) He is the everlasting God, with no beginning and no end, dwelling outside the confines of time and space. He created this magnificent morning, and as the sky lightens in the east and the first few sunbeams hit the trees their colors come alive. The wind awakens the leaves into songs of praise to the One who sovereignly controls all things. (vs.2) Everything, including the very length of our lives, happens according to the righteous and loving plan of God to accomplish His glorious purpose.

It’s amazing where the mind wanders when the body is walking. It’s so refreshing and invigorating. It’s so easy to open our hearts to be renewed by the Holy Spirit when we take a walk with the Lord. Let’s keep going, even though the next part of the walk pushes us to the wall of endurance where we will need that “second breath.” It would be easy to turn around now and go back home, but it’s the next few steps that will begin to burn fat and get us in shape.

The fat that needs to be burned is deep within us in places we try to hide. We cover it up with intentionally chosen fashion. We change our posture before people so they don’t see it. But God is showing it to us on our walk today. His light is revealing those secret areas of fat called sin. Verse 8 says “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. The Holy Spirit is asking us to take out the garbage.

Can you feel the burn? Keep walking. Let God purify your system as you confess your sin. Take cleansing breaths of the Holy Spirit. Throw aside the sin. Leave it on the side of the road. Soon you will be running. (Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Heb. 12:1)

WOW! I am energized to walk further. A weight has been lifted. I actually feel like I am getting in shape. The further I go from the comforts of my home, the more my perspective changes. I see things I have not seen before. Different things take on greater significance to me.

I’ve become more serious about what is truly significant in life. My eyes are being opened to the bigger picture of God’s priorities. I am learning to waste less time on frivolous activity that does nothing more than gratify some flesh-driven need.

Our time is short upon this earth, and we need to make every moment count. I think that’s a key element in the wisdom that comes with age. (vs. 10) So I need to make the most of every day, and that means choosing to use each one for the honor and glory of the One who gives them to me. (vs. 12) Then I will have the favor of the Lord my God resting upon me.

This is a stopping point on my walk. Not because I am tired, but because I need to fully grasp this truth before I move on. It is imperative that I understand that God will not establish my work if it is done for my benefit. But all the work of my hands that is done for Him will be established, and I will find fulfillment in that work. (vs. 17)

Oh how I have tried to find fulfillment in work and play that benefits my flesh-driven need for value and identity. How broken my spirit is that I have put my plans and pleasures ahead of God’s purpose. Even after such a long walk, I realize I am still loaded with fat – the fat of pursuing fulfillment my way. I think this is where I will stop for today. I will pitch my tent at this point of my walk and let the Holy Spirit convict me and cleanse me. It is my deepest desire to have the favor of God rest upon me, and for Him to establish the work of my hands.

Pastor John

 

Sing in the Dark

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 21, 2017

 Psalm 89:1  I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

Do you have a “go-to” place in the Bible? You know, that one passage of God’s Holy Word that centers you, stabilizes you, refreshes you, and restores hope?

I have several, depending on the need. But when it comes to a declaration of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, Psalm 89 is high on the list.

The first 29 verses of Psalm 89 are one of the most encouraging and uplifting passages of praise in the Bible. It has been the theme for songs that we love, like the one written in 1977 by James Fillmore that goes:

 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.  I will sing, I will sing.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.  I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth, will I make known thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness.

With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.  I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

There, for those of you who know it, I have successfully planted the melody in your head for the rest of the day. It will keep you company and you will find yourself praising Him as you go about your work and play. That’s the way every day should be lived.

Unfortunately, we allow life to get in the way of praising God. We are so quickly distracted from the character of God by the confusion of our circumstances. When the storms of life hit us and we are plunged into emotional darkness, as we wrote yesterday, we too easily forget that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness have been established forever (verse 2).

I find it interesting that at 5 AM today the power went out at our house, and was off until 7 AM, leaving me in darkness as I used a flashlight to have my devotions. God gave me a practical illustration of Psalm 88 and 89. You see, the same Levite who wrote Psalm 88, the dirge of darkness, is the same composer of this Psalm of rejoicing. He demonstrates for us that no matter how dark the circumstances of life, God has not changed, nor will He ever change.

  • When the skies go black, God is still praised in the heavens (verse 5).
  • When the winds whip up the seas into a frenzy, God still controls the waves (verse 9).
  • When enemies attack you, God is your Defender (verse 10).
  • He is strong and mighty, righteous and just (verses 13-14).

Even when, at the end of the Psalm, he again brings up the darkness of his situation (verses 38-51), he ends with a statement of praise – Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.

I have personally experienced the emotional darkness of allowing circumstances to dictate reality. Yet in every one of those times, God has been loving and faithful. He has revealed to me the truth of Psalm 89:21 – My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.

I want you to know that no matter what you are going through, GOD IS GREAT AND GOOD! He has anointed you with the sacred oil of His Holy Spirit (vs. 20). You will experience His arm that is endued with power and His hand that is strong (vs. 13).  You will discover that when you see the reality that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is constant behind the inconsistencies of life, you will be able to praise Him. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. (verse 15)

So today, regardless of the circumstances of life, join with me in proclaiming the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. In Him there is never a power outage.

I will sing of the LORD’S great love forever;  with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.

I will declare that your love stands firm forever,  that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Pastor John

How Dark Is It?

Life Link Devotional

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Psalms 88:1 O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you.

What a potentially disappointing day this started out to be. I love the sound of thunder as much as anyone, but when it wakes me up on a day when I have specific outdoor opportunities available to me then I tend to react negatively. Come on…admit it…you do the same.

But then, after investigating the evidence called weather radar, my hope was buoyed. The rain was already clearing, and the rest of the day holds a high chance of outdoor opportunities.

So, I opened the Bible in a spirit of praise and began to read today’s Psalm. It is interesting that Psalm 88 is the only Psalm out of 150 that doesn’t end with some degree of hope. Instead it ends with man’s friendship with darkness. What tragedies had he experienced that he felt his only comfort was to enjoy the blindness of darkness so he wouldn’t have to face them. What storm had so disappointed him that he entered such a state of discouragement.

Whoever this author named Heman was, he had obviously been through the pits. When he wrote these words he was at the brink of death, overwhelmed by waves of wrath from God, without friends and loved ones, and totally hopeless.

OK, God, I get the first point – my life is not that bad just because of a rain storm that potentially interrupts my plans. Yet Satan wants me to believe it’s that bad by distorting my perception of reality. I must choose to look at the facts and not be governed by my emotions.

Notice how the Psalm starts. This despairing man makes an opening statement of faith that tempers all the rest of what he will say.

You are the God who saves me!

Now my mind is flooded with His promises –

  • Nothing can separate me from His love…
  • No one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand…
  • I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of my inheritance with Jesus Christ in glory…
  • My inheritance is being kept for me by the power of God and is not affected by what happens in this life…
  • God has saved me!

Then I noticed verses 10 through 13 – a series of rhetorical questions for which the author knows the obvious answer is NO! God is in the midst of the darkest times of our lives. He realizes that he has not yet reached the point of hopelessness because he is still able to cry out to God for help.

The Holy Spirit reminds me of the truth of Hebrews 12:3-4 which says, Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

I still have breath, and that means He is still working in my life. All of the dreariness is a part of His plan to teach and train me. I just wish I would see the light at the end of the tunnel a little sooner. But true faith is tested best in the dark.

As I contemplated the significance of this Psalm, I glanced at the introduction to the Psalm and realize it’s significance. This dreary dirge became one of the worship songs in the Temple of God. At some point after the events that motivated its writing, Heman addressed this dark journal entry to the musicians and had them put it to music.

It is obvious that even though he could only see darkness when he wrote it, God had brought him through and back into the light. The example of his life became the ending to the song. The Lord who saves also delivers – Hallelujah!

So no matter how dark and dreary it appears today, remember this – God has saved you; it’s not as bad as it could be; and you will be delivered.

Embrace the One who even in the darkest dark has promised to never leave you or forsake you.

Pastor John

Restoration

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

 Psalms 87:4 – 5 (NIV)  “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush— and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.”

The 87th Psalm is at first a challenge, followed by – at least for me – an incredible opportunity to see the restorative power of God’s grace.

Yesterday, as you read through the 86th Psalm, you came across verse 9, which says,

All the nations you have made  will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

In prophetic language the Psalmist tells of the glory of the church age when the gospel of Jesus Christ will infiltrate every Gentile nation. Now, in Psalm 87, full degree of the restoration of the nations is revealed. From Egypt (poetically called Rahab here) to Babylon and Philistia, the Psalmist emphasizes that the entire known world will be impacted by the glory of God. We are right now living in the age in which the message of God’s grace is going to the whole world.

I am fascinated by the prophecy of verses 4 and 5 printed above. When any person from any race or nationality other than Jewish comes to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they are said to have been born in Zion. That is so very significant. The former enemies of God and His people are now declared to be worthy of membership in His chosen family. That is the reason the sons of Korah wrote into this song, Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God (vs. 3).

In the modern day, John Newton echoed the splendor of God’s restoration of His enemies when he wrote this verse in his hymn entitled, appropriately, Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God;
’Tis His love His people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, His solemn praises
Each for a thank off’ring brings.

The saving grace of God was revealed to all of us in the person of Jesus Christ, born a Jew, to redeem the whole world. I am humbled to know that Jesus Christ died for me, a descendant of Dutch, German, Norwegian, French and English ancestors. He did not come for the Jews alone. Every one of us who has been born again is counted as being born a Jew – the chosen people of God. As Paul puts it, we have been grafted in.

Just as God established the Jewish nation as His chosen people and will fulfill all of His promises to her in the future, so He has established us as His own for all time and will fulfill His promises to us as well. Verse 5 reminds us that the Most High himself has established us.

Every day of our lives we should be thankful that we have been recorded by God among all of those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Every day of our lives we should be praying for those who still do not acknowledge Him.

Every day of our lives we should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit who will lead us into relationships with people so that we may tell them about Jesus.

Every day of our lives we should be prepared and willing to share our love for Jesus and encourage others to come to Him for salvation.

And all this should be done with no regard for race, nationality, or previous history. The enemies of God became nations that acknowledged God. Our past experiences with people should not influence our desire to see them saved from their sin. In fact, the knowledge of their sin should only motivate us more to share the Gospel with them.

So whether it’s in our local community or across the world somewhere, we have been called and empowered to be the witnesses of Jesus Christ to every person in the world. Who will you tell today about Jesus?

Pastor John