No Fear Here!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Psalm 112:4, 7-8  4  Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; … 7  He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

 When Napoleon was an artillery officer during the siege of Toulon, he built a battery of guns in such an exposed position that he was told he would never find men to man it. But Napoleon had a sure instinct for what was required. He put up a sign naming the battery The Battery of Men without Fear. Volunteers abounded and it was always manned.

The Psalmist recognizes the reality of fear in today’s Scripture. In fact, he distinguishes three levels of fear that we all experience.

The first phase of fright is darkness (see verse 4). I remember one event when our grandkids were all at our house, and one of them who lives in town stayed overnight at our house so she could spend more time with her cousin. But when it came time to go to bed we had a problem. One of them wanted the room absolutely dark, while the other one needed the door open and a light on. We had to let one of them fall asleep in a different room and move him into the lighted bedroom later. One of them was afraid of the dark.

Darkness is all around us. Evil makes the world dark. It penetrates our minds and our spirits. Hardships and suffering bring emotional darkness. At times, it even seems our spiritual light has been shut off. But it is not true for the upright in heart. The LORD is gracious and compassionate and righteous, and His light will dawn in the deepest darkness. No matter what depth of darkness you are currently experiencing, look to the Son – His light is dawning.

The second phase of fear is bad news (see verse 7). When added to the darkness one is already experiencing, bad news can be crushing. At times it seems to come in bunches. When compounded, even simple things can become overwhelming, but for the one who trusts in the LORD, there is no such thing as bad news. All news is God’s news of His activity to work all things out for His glory for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

News only becomes bad news when we lose sight of the faithfulness of God. When we allow our hearts to become self-focused or world-dependent, then we must be prepared for bad news. But when our hearts are steadfastly trusting in the LORD, there is no fear of any news we receive.

The third phase of fear is defeat at the hands of an enemy (see verse 8). The experience of emotional and spiritual darkness is difficult. When compiled with tragic circumstances it becomes serious. But when personal attacks from people are added it is crushing and debilitating.

Most of us would agree that we can handle darkness and difficulties if we know that we have someone to stand beside us. But when our friends become our foes it is unbearable. The Psalmist tells us why – because we have taken our eyes off the future victory and we are demanding immediate relief.

The key to conquering fear at any level is to keep our eyes fixed on the finish line and not the hurdles in the race. In the end, we will look in triumph on our enemies. Just remember – it’s not the end yet.

The person who learns these truths will be able to live free from fear like this anonymous author who wrote:

If I can throw a single ray of light across the darkened pathway of another; if I can aid some soul to clearer sight of life and duty, and thus bless my brother; if I can wipe from any human cheek a tear, I shall not have lived my life in vain while here. If I can guide some erring one to truth, inspire within his heart a sense of duty; if I can plant within my soul of rosy youth a sense of right, a love of truth and beauty; if I can teach one man that God and heaven are near, I shall not then have lived in vain while here. If from my mind I banish doubt and fear, and keep my life attuned to love and kindness; if I can scatter light and hope and cheer, and help remove the curse of mental blindness; if I can make more joy, more hope, less pain, I shall not have lived and loved in vain. If by life’s roadside I can plant a tree, beneath whose shade some wearied head my rest, though I may never share its beauty, I shall yet be truly blest—though no one knows my name, nor drops a flower upon my grave, I shall not have lived in vain while here.

You are the light of God into someone’s darkness. You are the model of trusting God when news arrives that others call bad. You are the friend someone needs to stand by them and give them hope. You are the ambassador of Jesus. There’s no fear here!

Pastor John

Wise Up!

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 30, 2017

Psalms 111:10 (NIV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

We have all been exposed to wisdom, but we have not all chosen to live by it. I was exposed to wisdom at an early age. My mom taught it to me. She taught me some very practical principles that have served me well over the years.

For example, she taught me to appreciate a job that had been done well when she said to me and my brothers, “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning the house!”

She taught me about the importance of prayer when she said, “You’d better pray that comes out of the carpet.”

She taught me the principles of advanced logic and to look at the future consequences of choices when she said, “If you fall out of that tree and break your neck, don’t come running to me.”

I miss my mom.

Wisdom has been defined as the activity of intelligence, meaning it is the practical application of knowledge. But that definition falls short of what true wisdom really is. True wisdom is the proper activity of intelligence. The activity of knowledge may not always be wise. Someone who acts upon their knowledge of crime is not wise. Similarly, a driver who knows what red lights mean but chooses not to properly apply that knowledge is going to be in a serious accident. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.

Where do we begin our search for understanding of what’s proper? According to Psalm 111:10, it all begins with the fear of the LORD.

The word fear in this passage has a dual meaning. It’s primary meaning describes the terror one feels when their life is at great risk and they have no control of the outcome. Imagine what you would be experiencing if you were free falling from 10,000 feet with no parachute, or if you were standing unarmed in the path of a charging grizzly bear. The fear of the LORD begins with such terror of the awesome power of Almighty God and an honest evaluation of our frailty before Him.

The moral meaning of the word fear describes the awe we feel when we stand before something or someone majestic. I get that feeling every time I see a great waterfall cascading over a mountain cliff. I know that the force of the water could destroy me, but it’s power is balanced by its beauty and from a distance I stand in reverence and respect.

That is what it means to fear the LORD. His power terrifies us, but His beauty – His grace, mercy, and love – causes us to worship Him with reverence and respect. It is at the point of conflict between fright and faith that wisdom begins. The combined knowledge of God’s power and grace results in the understanding of what is proper. Such understanding will result in following His precepts. To be wise is to obey God. A wise person is a doer, and not a hearer only.

Andrew Murray, in a Christianity Today article entitled With Christ in the School of Obedience says it this way.

The true pupil, say of some great musician or painter, yields his master a wholehearted and unhesitating submission. In practicing his scales or mixing the colors, in the slow and patient study of the elements of his art, he knows that it is wisdom simply and fully to obey. It is this wholehearted surrender to His guidance, this implicit submission to His authority, which Christ asks. We come to Him asking Him to teach us the lost art of obeying God as He did …. The only way of learning to do a thing is to do it. The only way of learning obedience from Christ is to give up your will to Him and to make the doing of His will the one desire and delight of your heart.

Wisdom starts with a proper fear of God. Because we are in Christ, we no longer fear His condemnation, but we worship Him in reverence of His grace that saved us. We also continue to stand in awe of His power and authority over life and death, and His right to condemn those who don’t know Him. We must still feel the awesome terror of Almighty God. It not only reminds us of the marvel of our salvation, but it motivates us to serve Him and spread His love and grace to those who are still subject to His wrath. As we do, we will be truly wise.

Pastor John

Our One Mission

LifeLink Devotional
Friday, October 27, 2017
Psalms 110:1 – 3 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.

The 110th Psalm is what we call a “Messianic” Psalm – it is a prophecy of the coming Messiah named Jesus. While He was on this earth, Jesus quoted from this Psalm to prove to the Jewish religious leaders that the Messiah would be the Son of God and not just some political hero. (see Matthew 22:42-46) In fact, this Psalm seems to indicate that the Messiah would have very little if anything to do with political and social reformation. His Messianic work would be spiritual in nature, and His followers should have the same focus.

The LORD, who is Almighty God the Father or JHWH (Jehovah), says to the Messiah, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Notice the roles assigned in this command.

• The Messiah is heir to the throne, but JHWH is still on the throne.
• The LORD’s role is to bring all the political and social systems of the world to a point of submission to the Messiah.
• It is only after the Father has completed His work in the world that the Messiah is handed the scepter of rule.
• One day the Father will command the armies of heaven to follow the Messiah into the final battle that will usher in the new kingdom. Until then the Messiah and His followers are not involved in fighting political battles.
• The Messiah’s responsibility is to build the church – the kingdom of heaven – not fight the enemies in the earthly kingdoms.

This is so very critical for the followers of Jesus Christ to understand. When Jesus Christ gave us our commission as His followers, it was not to go and change the world and prepare it for the coming of the Messiah. That is the Father’s job alone. His commission to us was this – “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our mission, in full partnership with the Messiah and under His authority, is to make disciples.

When the Messiah left this earth to take His place at the right hand of the Father, He sent us the Holy Spirit who indwells us and equips us to accomplish the Messiah’s mission. The role of the third Person of the Triune God is to produce in us the life of Jesus Christ so that we are His representatives in enemy territory.

As His ambassadors, we have been given the authority to take the message of His kingdom to the nations of the world. Our mission? Tell them the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

It is not our mission to change the political structure of the nations. It is not our mission to change the laws of the nations. It is not our mission to overthrow the enemies of the Messiah. That is God’s mission. Our mission is to live out the love of Jesus and His forgiveness for sin and share that message with others. When we do, the Father will rescue them from the kingdom of darkness and place them into the kingdom of His Son whom He loves. (Colossians 1:12-14)

My friends, the day is coming when we will be called to follow the Messiah into battle. But until that day arrives, we have but one task – witness. We will all do it in different ways, but we must do it. Every activity of our lives must be permeated with prayers for people to see the love of Jesus in us. Every day there are sinners who cross our paths – people who are headed into a Christ-less eternity of suffering. As they pass us, do they see Jesus? Are they given a glimpse of hope? Are our lives being lived in such a way that they are drawn to the Messiah?

Leave the fighting of the enemies of God to God. He can handle it. Our role is to show the enemies of God how to be friends with God through the grace of God found in Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Revenge Isn’t Sweet

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Psalms 109:4  In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.

When you’ve been hurt by someone, do you believe in getting even? Is your first response to seek revenge? Do you justify it by calling it justice? These are piercing questions, and maybe just a little too personal, but it is an issue we must deal with.

Some people believe that revenge can be sweet. In fact, I found a web site called Revenge Lady. She has written the Rules for Revenge. I share these with you with the goal of showing how often our thoughts and actions do reflect God’s steadfast love. Please remember that none of these rules are Biblical, and I am most definitely not advocating or endorsing any of them.

REVENGE LADY’S RULES

  1. Get mad….then get even.  It’s justice, plain and simple.
  2. Revenge is healthy. Don’t listen to those mealy mouths who tell you otherwise.  You’re teaching people to behave better.  At the same time, you’re getting icky poisonous feelings out of your system once and for all.  What could be healthier?
  3. Remember, Karma is a good thing.  Be sure everyone gets his or hers…in this lifetime. You’re helping to bring the scales of justice back into balance and restore order to the universe.
  4. Revenge is excellent self-therapy. It’s far cheaper than a therapist and much healthier than pigging out on a box of donuts.
  5. The punishment should always fit the crime. In other words, don’t go nuclear over something trivial.
  6. Always aim your revenge where it hurts the most.  Go right for the jugular.
  7. Let your creativity blossom.  Don’t go for clichés like slashing tires. Yawn. Be original. Enjoy yourself. Give your mark an experience they’ll never ever forget.
  8. Don’t break the law.
  9. If you must do something you’re not proud of, be sure to cover your tracks well.
  10. Have fun. If you can end up laughing at the jerk who wronged you, you’re well on your way to being over it.
  11. Once revenge is consummated, move on. It’s over.

How sad it is that people actually choose to live by these rules and justify it based on the philosophy of self-preservation and self-protection.

As God’s people we live by a different philosophy – self-sacrifice. King David models that in today’s Psalm.

Was he emotionally charged over the injustice of people’s attacks against his life?

Absolutely!

Did he have all kinds of ideas in mind as to how those people could and should pay for their actions?

Certainly!

But he directed all of those responses to the Keeper of his soul. When he could have been a man of action and sought revenge, he became a man of prayer. His confidence in God’s justice overwhelmed his own desires for human justice. His trust in God’s preservation and protection blew away his own desires for self-preservation and self-protection. His admission of weakness and need before God facilitated the delivering power of God in his life. His faith in the unfailing love and faithfulness of God allowed him to stand strong and wait for God to act.

Your emotional responses to pain, suffering, hurt, and injustice are not wrong. Your desire for justice is not wrong. But it is wrong for you to respond to those feelings and desires with any form of action against another person that is motivated by revenge. Taking any action to accomplish our own understanding of justice is contrary to trust in God.

The correct response is to pray. God has it all under control, and while He comforts and cares for you, He corrects those who are wrong. We can all learn from King David, and in the worst of times become people of prayer. It shows whom we really trust.

Pastor John

 

STEADFAST

LifeLink Devotional
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Psalms 108:1 My heart is steadfast, O God.

When I was a young boy, Bible verse memorization was a must in our family and church. To this day when I am preaching or even conversing with people, the Holy Spirit will bring to my mind verses I had learned at a young age that fit the current situation. I can even remember the circumstances under which I first learned that verse.

For example, I remember the plaque that was on the wall of our home for as long as I can remember. It was a plaster cast of an open Bible, and in raised letters across the pages was this verse – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

 Because of that verse, the word steadfast has always fascinated me. When I started reading the 108th Psalm, I couldn’t get past verse one. There’s that word steadfast in the translation I was reading. I got to thinking about what that really means for my life today.

Several years ago I was working with a friend on a barn. We were up in the rafters installing a hoist, and the only way to reach the mounting position was to walk across a 2” x 6” board that had been laid between the rafters. That wasn’t so bad, because I could hang on to the rafters as I walked, until I reached the place in the barn where the roof was raised, and there were no more rafters to hang on to.

In front of me was a 10 foot span bridged by a board less than six inches wide, and I had to walk across it to reach our job site. My fear of heights kicked in big time. I was frozen. My friend began to laugh. He came around me and casually walked across the span while I stood clinging to the last rafter. I thought about my options, and every one of them ended with me falling 12 feet to the concrete floor below.

I imagined kneeling down and crawling on all fours. I thought about sitting down and straddling the board and scooting along. Nothing gave me any comfort.

My friend said to me, Just imagine the board is on the ground. Would you be able to walk across it then?

I knew I could, because falling wouldn’t hurt. I would stand up straight and walk with confidence. I would trust my balance. I could trust the board because he had just walked across it, so I stood up straight, took my eyes off of the floor, focused on the finish line ten feet away, and took off. I was like a gymnast on a balance beam…NOT! I think I covered that span in about three steps, all without breathing.

We finished the work and it was time to go back. When I got to that span again, I stopped. But this time I didn’t freeze. I was still scared, but I remembered the last time I had been in this position. I stood up straight, fixed my eyes on the rafter ten feet away, and walked across. I hated every minute of that experience, but I learned two valuable lessons:

1. The way to conquer fear is to face it head on standing straight and strong. The Hebrew word translated steadfast in Psalm 108:1 means “to be erect and stand perpendicular.” Being steadfast means to stand up straight and strong. Whatever life throws at us, and whatever our fears, our hearts are to be steadfast in Christ.

2. Experience produces steadfastness. When you face a trial, difficulty, or fearful situation for the first time, try to recognize God’s training tactics in it. He is using that experience to prepare you for something He wants you to do. He wants you to be ready to stand up straight and strong. He is teaching you to be steadfast.

Recently I spent some time with a young couple who have been through the most fearful and heartbreaking experience I can imagine. They told me how God taught them to stand straight and strong. Then they told me that they are going to purposefully put themselves back into that situation again because they are now equipped to be steadfast and use their experience for God’s glory.

I cried. I rejoiced. I was blessed. You see, not many people choose to purposefully walk the plank. Not many people are that steadfast.

Are you?

Pastor John

Speak Up!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Psalms 107:2, 8 Let the redeemed of the LORD say this—give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love.

The 107th Psalm is a marvelous testimony to God’s redeeming love that rescues us from sin. Every person who has been saved from their sin is given reason to praise the Lord for His unfailing love. That’s because every saved person can relate to one of the sinful scenarios that is presented here.

The first group of people described are those who have no purpose in life, and wander aimlessly hoping to find satisfaction somewhere.

Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.(vs. 4-5)

But God rescues them. He gives them direction. He fills them with good things that satisfy.

He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle…he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.(vs. 7,9)

Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love that redeems us from a purposeless and unfulfilling life.

The second group of people described are those who are in the prison of guilt and shame because of their sin. They are depressed and in despair because they have no hope of forgiveness. They are captives of their own choices.

Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.(vs. 10-11)

But God sets them free. The power of His love expressed in His unconditional forgiveness of sins breaks their chains and opens the doors of their prisons.

He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.(vs. 14, 16)

Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love that redeems us from the consequences of our sin and restores our hope.

The third group of people described are those who have become fools because of the consistency of their selfish choices. They are so self-absorbed and self-serving that they have lost the ability to make wise decisions about anything in life, including the need to eat and stay healthy. Their pursuit of sin to produce pleasure has become an addiction and has taken them to the doorway of death.

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death.(vs. 17-18)

But God sends forth the truth of His Word and heals them. The desires of sin are destroyed, and the water of life springs up from within them and redeems them from the grave.

He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.(vs. 20)

Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love that redeems us from the addictions of sin and gives us eternal life.

The last group of people described are those who are simply living according to the standards and pursuits of the world’s system. They appear average in every way. They are involved in business. They hold good jobs. They are responsible citizens. But they are overwhelmed by their inability to control the outcomes of their lives. They feel helpless. They are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. They blame the economy, the government, and society for all that is going wrong with their plans. They have put their faith and trust in the system, rather than in the Savior, and they are reeling like drunken men, and they are at their wit’s end. They have no peace. Their desire to find security has left them more vulnerable than ever.

Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters…They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. (vs. 24-27)

But God comes and calms the storms of life. He brings peace and security. He gives us rest in a preferred haven.

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. (vs. 29-30)

Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love that redeems us from discontent and fear and fills us with peace.

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor (group 1). He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (group 2) and recovery of sight for the blind (group 3), to release the oppressed (group 4), to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Let the redeemed of the Lord who now know His favor say this – “Thank you, Jesus, for your unfailing love!”

Pastor John

I Need More Words

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 23, 2017

Psalms 106:2  Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?

Here’s a lifelong challenge – try to keep an accurate and up-to-date list of the mighty acts of God on your behalf.

Here’s an even greater challenge – try to fully declare the praise of His mightiest act: your salvation.

I find that the times I come closest to fully declaring the praise of my Savior is during a worship service that celebrates the Lord’s Supper. I remember one specific service in our church several years ago. I was again overwhelmed during that service with the wonder of my salvation.

We sang about the glory of God and His holiness, and then entered into our communion service by singing The Old Rugged Cross. I was brought to tears of brokenness and rejoicing that Jesus had died to save me from my sins.

Then, our youth drama team performed a mime to the song Watch the Lamb. I couldn’t look at the cross being carried in. I was not deserving of His gift of love, and I was again overwhelmed with His grace. While partaking of the bread and the cup in memory of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the words of the song When I Survey the Wondrous Cross that was being sung again brought me to tears. I hesitated before eating the bread and drinking the cup as the Holy Spirit moved me to a deeper level of appreciation and gratitude for what Jesus did.

At that point, I had to stand up and lead the congregation in prayer. With broken voice and tears flowing down my face, all I could say was “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” I could not find words to express the magnitude of love and gratitude I was feeling.

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?

With one tongue and one voice I cannot fully express the splendor of salvation from sin. I am reminded of the old hymn entitled O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, which is Charles Wesley’s confession that he too cannot fully declare the praise that God deserves. Read the words of this song carefully and seek to fully praise the mighty act of God that provided your salvation.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

See all your sins on Jesus laid:
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

I wonder how many people participate in communion services and for them it is nothing more than a routine experience that has little or no significance to them? Has church become routine to you, or do you still get overwhelmed with the joy of your salvation when you consider the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins on the cross of Calvary?

The Psalmist’s admission that there are not enough words to fully declare the praises of the Lord is not our justification for silence. Praise Him with the words you have, and then pray for a thousand more.

Pastor John