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

Whole-Hearted Thanks

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 18, 2017

Psalm 86:12  I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

It is in the midst of our biggest trials and tests that we are able to grasp the greatness of our God.

To grasp this truth, you are invited to open your Bible to the 86th Psalm. It is a prayer of King David, who admits in verse one that he is poor and needy. His soul needs some gladdening (verse 3). Enemies who do not honor God have risen up against him in an attempt to take his life (verse 14). Yet in it all, David declares the trustworthiness of God’s steadfast love (verse 13).

Before I highlight the verses that impacted my heart this morning, let me share with you a letter I received years ago from a dear sister in Christ. She writes in response to a sermon series I was doing at the time on the Names of Jesus.

Pastor John

When you started this short series on the Name of Jesus, I just had to praise Him. You see, I just learned that I had to have another MRI, this time on my neck. As you may remember, I am exxxxtremely!!!!! claustrophobic. I had 4 days to get really worked up about it. Except, this time after reading about the Name of Jesus and what it stood for I decided that it was time “to put up or shut up”. Did I Really believe that Jesus was with me all the time? Would He really stand by me? Would He really help me get through this? Did I really trust His word and His Name and all it stood for? So I put myself to the test! I got my Bible out and reminded myself in Psalm 86 that He was with me in all kinds of things. I read that He really did care about such things as MRIs. Then I got my journal out and wrote down my prayer. I remembered that He does not give the spirit of fear but the Spirit of Peace, Comfort and Security. I renounced the fear and confessed it as sin. I told the Father that I was counting on Him to once and for all win this battle and all the little squirmishes of claustrophobia and claimed it in the Power and all Truth that is Jesus and His Name. I tell you PJ, I’ve never in my life had such 4 days of peace, calm and contentment as I did from last Thursday through Sunday morning when I walked in for the MRI. I sat down on the table and closed my eyes like I was going to take a nap! 20 minutes later I came out feeling refreshed and relaxed. You know the best thing? Two days later I’m still enjoying the same peace and quiet joy of answered prayer. My faith has grown by leaps and bounds, because finally after 45+ years, my head knowledge has finally gotten into my heart. Praise God and the NAME of Jesus!

I love it when people I am privileged to shepherd make the application of spiritual truth to their personal lives. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

Now, let me share some highlights from this marvelous Psalm that I pray will infiltrate your heart, regardless of how poor and needy it may be. Consider each truth, and make the application to your life that will result in the giving of thanks to God. (The bold highlights are mine.)

2  Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

 5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

  8  There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. 10  For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

11  Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

 

13  For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

 15  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Pastor John

 

The Kiss of Life

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Psalms 85:2, 10 (NIV) You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins…Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

I never grow weary of hearing about the forgiveness of my sin. When I think of God’s grace, sweet melodies are played by the orchestra of my heart. When I consider my eternal adoption as His child, joyful lyrics are added by the duet of my spirit and soul.

In Jesus, love and faithfulness have met together. His love for me sent Him to the cross. His faithfulness secures the gift of eternal life.

In Jesus, righteousness and peace have kissed. When God’s righteousness demanded judgment, Jesus became my righteous substitute in death so that I might be made the righteousness of Christ and be reconciled in peace to God.

My sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. I have been forgiven for all my sin, and God remembers them no more. O the wonder of that song that continuously loops through my soul. Love and faithfulness have met at the very point of my deepest need, and as a result righteousness and peace have kissed in me.

The current song of salvation that is looping through my spirit was written by Charitie Lees Bancroft in 1863. It is titled Before the Throne of God Above. It is rich with the love and faithfulness of God to save us from our sin. It is overflowing with the kiss of righteousness and peace. May its words bless you today as you bask in the splendor of your salvation.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
a great High Priest, whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart,
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God the Just is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me,
to look on him and pardon me.

Behold him there! the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless righteousness;
the great unchangeable “I AM,”
the King of glory and of grace!
One with himself, I cannot die,
my soul is purchased by his blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ my Savior and my God,
with Christ my Savior and my God.

Pilgrims Making Progress

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Psalms 84:5 – 7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

I grew up on music. Church music. My mom played the piano and organ and flute and had the singing voice of an angel that still resonates in my heart. My dad is an accomplished pianist and organist, and his voice blended in perfect harmony with my mom’s as they sang to the glory of God. My dad’s twin brother played the trumpet and sang, and his wife also sang. I remember the times when the two pastoral families would get together in one or the other’s church for a night of music. I remember my first trumpet solo, then my first baritone solo, then my first trombone solo. I remember the first duet I sang with my cousin. Music has always been the way I worship and connect to God.

Musical styles have changed since then, but some of the old time songs still deeply touch my heart.  One of them from 1965 written by Albert E. Brumley goes like this:

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Chorus
O Lord you know I have no friend like you
If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

(Now I will have that melody rattling around in my brain all day. If you don’t know it, call me and I’ll sing it for you. Then it can be in your brain too.)

That song describes a pilgrim. Our Psalm today also describes a pilgrim. It was originally written when construction began on the temple, and celebrated the people who would come and worship there.

It also has special significance for us today. We are pilgrims on a journey to the temple of God in heaven. We have set our hearts on that pilgrimage. We have determined that one day in the presence of God is better than a thousand anywhere else. We would rather live as abject servants in the house of God than in the wealth of wickedness. We have found our strength in God alone, and have set our hearts on heaven, not on earth.

This world is not our home. We are just passing through. Our treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. We do not feel at home in this world anymore.

But as we journey through this life with our hearts firmly fixed on the finish line of faith, we are to leave God’s mark on every place and person we pass. Sometimes we pass through valleys, described in Psalm 84:6 as the Valley of Baca. Baca refers to a large shrub covered with thorns, and the Valley of Baca, according to Celsius, was so thick with these bushes that he described it as “embarrassed with (such) bushes and thorns, which could not be passed without labour and tears”.

But look how pilgrims respond to such valleys.

 

First, they pass through them. I have heard it said, “This too shall pass.” For me, that insinuates that the valley moves. Not so. We move through the valley. We do not get distracted from the destination of our pilgrimage by the thorns in the valley around us. We keep on passing through.

Second, though there will be tears shed in that valley, those tears become the healing waters of the valley and turn it into a place of springs. God has placed us in that valley to bring His grace to it.

It’s so easy to become self-focused when we are in a valley. We seek strength and ask for deliverance for ourselves, when all the while we are the walking warehouses of God’s wealth. He has placed us in the valley to change the valley. O my friend, if we could only grasp this point. We are God’s instruments of grace, yet we spend most of our “valley” time seeking what we already have. Let it flow from you and it will turn your desert into an oasis.

Third, to expound a little more on the last point, we are to live our lives going from strength to strength, not from weakness to weakness. So many of us waste our lives seeing only the valleys. No sooner do we get through one than we begin preparing for the next. How much more splendid is the life that is lived from peak to peak, rather than from valley to valley. It is on the peaks that we can keep our eyes most clearly fixed on the destination of our pilgrimage.

Let me close with the words to another song from Steve Green:

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

Happy trails, Pilgrim.

Pastor John

Shock Value

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

 Psalm 83:18 “…that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.”

News headlines can be shocking. They are written to intentionally get our attention. These are the headlines from today…

Carrier Heads to the Keys

Wait a Second

Amazon Massacre

Viking Discovery

So be honest – which headline got your attention? Some of you may think that mine would be the Viking discovery, and you Packer fans would probably joke “They discovered the end zone.” To which I reply “Get used to it.”

Or maybe you thought the Amazon Massacre had to do with a tragedy at the online shopping giant Amazon. Wrong!

In actuality, the headline that grabs our attention is usually the one that shocks us and directs us to a story we have not heard before. Shock value has only one chance. After that we become desensitized through familiarity. If a story is to live on, then the headline must supply some new information that again grabs our attention so we read on. The whole purpose is to satisfy our need to know, and more specifically our need to know the graphic details.

We also have a spiritual need to know. God has designed each one of us with a recognition of eternity, and a desire to know about it.

Unfortunately, far too often, our human need to know and be known overwhelms the spiritual need to know and be known. The writer of Psalm 83, Asaph, recognizes that condition of man’s heart. In his attempt to know and be known on the earth, man has united together to overthrow all that is God’s. But Asaph makes a powerful request of God. If I were writing the headline for the story it would read:

Catastrophe Produces Sightings of God

Asaph asks God to end man’s pursuit of his own fame in such a way that it shocks people into seeking the knowledge of God. It is clear from what he says in verse eighteen that God is actively designing opportunities for mankind to know Him and be known by Him.

The question for us to consider today is this: What is God doing in your life right now to get your attention so you will value the eternal over the temporal?

The current events of our lives are designed by God so that we may know Him as the Most High over all the earth. The reason some of the events are so shocking is that God needs to get our attention. The “same old, same old” makes us complacent and self-sufficient. Comfort zones are the poisonous bites of the Devil that bring extinction. We need to be shocked backed to life.

God is working to let you know that He is the LORD – the self-sufficient one – and that you are not. He is the Most High God over all the earth. Nothing has happened outside of the direct and complete control of His will. You will find life and peace if you seek Him. To know Him and be known by Him brings the abundance of life that He promised.

Our prayer should be the prayer of Asaph – O God, shock us with your story today so that we may know you.

Pastor John