Lying Lips

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, December 29, 2017

Psalms 120:1 – 4 (NIV) I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me. Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue? He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.

In Boston, a minister noticed a group of boys standing around a small stray dog. “What are you doing, boys?”

“Telling lies,” said one of the boys. “The one who tells the biggest lie gets the dog.”

“Why, when I was your age,” the shocked minister said, “I never ever thought of telling a lie.”

The boys looked at one another, a little crestfallen. Finally, one of them shrugged and said, “I guess he wins the dog.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Sin comes in all shapes and sizes, but lying is the handle that fits them all.”

God hates lying. In Proverbs 6:16 – 19 we read, There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

Notice how lying is involved in all the things God hates.

  • Haughty eyes, or pride, is a lie about who we really are.
  • Hands that shed innocent blood have lied about someone else to defend their own actions.
  • Hearts that devise wicked schemes will lie to accomplish their own goals.
  • Feet that are quick to rush into evil believe the lies of immediate gratification and self-indulgence.
  • People who stir up dissension among others may lie about them, but in reality, they are lying to them about their own innocence, using the dissension as a smoke screen for their own guilt.

Lying is the handle that fits all the sins that God hates.

When Saul was still king of Israel, and David’s popularity was growing, Saul tried to rescue his monarchy by banishing David from the land. As David and his mighty men traveled they came to the town of Nob, where a priest named Ahimelech officiated over the people. He saw the big picture of God’s purpose for David and provided food for David and his men.

Also present at that time was a man named Doeg. He was Saul’s chief shepherd of all his flocks. He went and reported to Saul that Ahimelech had helped David. Saul ordered Ahimelech and all his family killed, and Doeg volunteered for the task. That day Doeg killed 86 people.

It is in the context of these events that David writes Psalm 120. To protect his own status, Saul had been lying about David. To advance his own position, Doeg lied about Ahimelech. David was tired of suffering the effects of lying lips and deceitful tongues.

There are many ways to lie. Some of them have become acceptable even among Christians. We strive for desired outcomes by changing the meaning of our words with inflections and body language. We embellish the truth to draw attention to ourselves. The need for recognition couples with the desire for acceptance and convinces us that those goals justify any lie.

But lying hurts. It hurts others and it hurts us. It hurts God.

Here’s why God hates lying – because lying is the proof of pride. To lie to another person is to prove that we love self more than we love them. But what we may not really undersstand is that seeking to advance self is really a proof of hatred of self. If one truly loves self, then there is no need to continually try to prove self to others, to protect self from others, or to improve self-image in the eyes of others. Lying is the attempt to protect whatever value we believe we have, which is really a product of hating all the rest of who we are. God hates lying because it focuses on our worth and denies His worth in us.

God, save us from our own lying lips. Show us the worth of your Son Jesus and that we are complete in Him. With that knowledge and in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we are free from any and all attempts to defend, protect, and advance our own cause. The truth will set us free.

Pastor John


Tough Choice

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Psalms 119:169 – 176 (NIV) May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

As a pastor, I have stood with families beside the beds of many people who were near death. Some have asked for prayer that they might live longer. Occasionally I will ask them, “Why do you want to live longer?” I get lots of different answers. Most involve family, and the desire to spend more time with them. Some answers involve unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. But never once have I heard this response – “Let me live that I may praise God.”

How would we answer that question if we were the one lying at death’s door? Why do we want to live? Maybe it would be for personal reasons that benefit us or those close to us. Maybe it would be to accomplish something we left undone. Maybe it would be to spend the money we built up as a treasure for our old age and we now know we can’t take with us. We face the possibility of death every day, and we have all developed a list of reasons why we hope and pray we don’t die today.

Some people actually don’t want to live any longer. There are two reasons for this. First, they are hopeless. John G. Neihardt is listed as one of our great American poets. He lived from 1881 – 1973 and was the author of some twenty-five volumes of poetry, fiction, and philosophy. His official web site says that he was a visionary thinker with keen spiritual insight, and he left us a rich inheritance of wisdom and a legacy of understanding. I found it interesting that a man with keen spiritual insight would write a poem with such a hopeless theme as the one he entitled Let Me Live Out My Years.

LET me live out my years in heat of blood!

Let me die drunken with the dreamer’s wine!

Let me not see this soul-house built of mud

Go toppling to the dusk—a vacant shrine.


Let me go quickly, like a candle light

Snuffed out just at the heyday of its glow.

Give me high noon—and let it then be night!

Thus would I go.


And grant that when I face the grisly Thing,

My song may trumpet down the gray Perhaps.

Let me be as a tune-swept fiddlestring

That feels the Master Melody—and snaps!


Some people don’t want to live because they are hopeless.

But others don’t want to live because they are hopeful. Let me explain. The Psalmist says “Let me live that I may praise you.” As I think back to all those dear saints I have watched pass into eternity, one thing was true of them all – they had hope. And even while they longed to live longer on this earth to experience more of this life, their highest ambition was to live eternally in the presence of their Lord and Savior so that they might praise Him. They never said they wanted to live longer here to praise Him because it was understood that their hearts were set on living with Him and praising Him.

The Apostle Paul struggled with this in his letter to the Philippians. He said, as paraphrased in The Message, “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.”

Paul was willing to stick around in this life for one reason – to join with God’s people in praising Jesus Christ as they grew together in the joy of trusting God.

May this be our prayer today and every day that we are granted life on this earth – For me, living is for Christ. Dying is my gain.

Pastor John


Treasure Hunting

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Psalms 119:161 – 168 (NIV) Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.

I am not a thief. I have, however, been a safe-cracker.

In 1974, I went to work for the new owner of a grocery store. Included in the purchase of the store was a large old safe that was locked. The previous owner said he couldn’t remember the combination and if we could get into it we could have whatever was in it. I volunteered to crack the safe. I tried for a couple of hours to listen to the tumblers fall on the dial. I had seen it done that way on TV and figured it would work for me.  It didn’t. It was time for demolition techniques. I didn’t have access to dynamite, so breaking through the outer shell was my next best plan.

This was a huge safe. It was 5 feet tall and three feet wide. With sledge hammer and chisel I began to slowly peel off the steel side of the safe. Underneath I found four inches of concrete reinforced with iron rebar. I smashed the concrete and cut through the rebar. Then I had to somehow get through the inner steel wall. I don’t believe that sledgehammer and pry bar had ever been used so hard. Finally, after two days of work, I broke through.

Inside we found lots of old papers and ledgers from the early days of the store. Then, tucked away in one small drawer was a little black velvet bag. Inside I found something I had never seen before – two, twenty-dollar gold pieces from the 1800’s. The boss told me I could have them for all the work I had done on the safe. I took them home and hid them in a safe place.

The next time I went to the big city I stopped and bought a coin collecting magazine to see what they were worth. I was shocked when I saw their value at over $400 each. Eight hundred dollars was a lot of money to a single guy back in those days. It would be like finding five thousand dollars today. I immediately started making plans for how I would put that money to good use.

Unfortunately, I never got to spend any of it. News travels fast in a small town. The previous owner heard about the discovery and it jogged his memory. He asked that the coins be returned. I gave them to him. But for a time, I knew what it was like to discover treasure. The thrill of finding it and owning it captivated me and dictated most of my thought process as I evaluated all the options the treasure afforded me.

I can also remember when God’s promises captivated me in the same way. Once I could relate to the words, I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. I remember the first time I discovered some of those treasures. They would dictate all my thoughts as I evaluated all of the options those promises gave me for my life.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. I remember the thrill it brought to my heart to know that God promised to direct every part of my life and that I could trust His control.
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I remember the peace that came from letting God have control. I remember taking those and many more such treasures to heart and tucking them away for safe keeping.

Some days I wonder where the thrill has gone. Why have the “spoils” been spoiled? Has God asked for the treasures to be returned and they are no longer mine? Unlike the story of the gold pieces, God has not asked for the treasure to be returned. Actually, His treasures are ours forever. His promises will never be taken back.

So why are we not rejoicing over the treasure anymore? I think it’s because we locked them up for safe keeping and have forgotten the combination to the safe. They sit in the back of the store of our lives while we continue to conduct business as usual. We’re so wrapped up in doing things our way that we’ve even forgotten that the treasures of God are still in the safe.

If a young man would spend two days of hard labor cracking into a safe just for the chance to see if treasure exists, don’t you think it’s worth whatever effort you have to put forth to discover the treasures you know are in God’s Word?

And when you find them, don’t hide them. Use them. Their value can never be fully spent.

Pastor John


Pickled or Preserved

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Psalms 119:153 – 160 (NIV) Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees. Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws. Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes. I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word. See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love. All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

Some churches still hold regular mid-week prayer meetings. One element of many such meetings is the testimony time. At one such church there was a man who always liked to be the first to get up to repeat his memorized testimony. Some who knew him well were consistently confused by his cantankerous behavior. Finally, after one particularly disagreeable discussion prior to the meeting, a friend couldn’t take it anymore. When the first man stood to give his testimony and said, “I praise the Lord for saving me and preserving me,” the friend got up and said, “Brother, He didn’t preserve you, He pickled you.”

Life has a tendency to pickle us when God intends to preserve us. I understand that pickling is preserving of sorts, but unless I am mistaken, things that are pickled generally make you pucker. They put a squint in your eye and a scowl on your face. I like pickles and pickled herring as much as anyone, but put them next to a jar of apricot preserves and fresh warm biscuits and I’ll choose the preserves every time. Things that are preserved are sweet and taste like they did when they were fresh. Things that are pickled are sour and their original taste has been changed. Instead of being made better, they have been made bitter.

You’ve probably met some pickled saints in your day. Maybe you’ve even been one, or still are one. Pickled saints can turn any smile into a scowl. Pickled saints absorb the acid of society and believe it is their purpose in life to pass it on to everyone they meet. Any sugar that was in their original recipe has long been overwhelmed by the vinegar of life. They have been saturated with sour.

Preserved saints are different. The Hebrew word translated “preserve” literally means “to revive to fullness of life.” Preserved saints can turn any frown into a smile. Preserved saints have absorbed the promises of God and believe it is their purpose in life pass on God’s love to everyone they meet. Any acid that was in them has been overwhelmed by the sweetness of God’s law. They have been restored to God’s intended abundance of life.

I don’t want to be pickled. I want to be preserved. Three times in this Psalm the author asks God to preserve his life. There are three elements to preserving food – cooking, flavoring, and sealing.

There are also three elements to preserving our lives.

  • First, we must be cooked in the circumstances of life.
  • Second, during the cooking process, flavoring is added. We get to choose the flavoring recipe. One recipe is based on the vinegar of anger mixed with spices of contempt, regret, disobedience, and selfishness. The other recipe is based on the sweetness of God’s love blended with the additives of His promises and law. One recipe pickles: the other preserves.
  • Third, when all the ingredients from each individual cooking circumstance have been absorbed, the jar is sealed. When opened it will always taste just like the ingredients that were added while it was being cooked.

Each of us has a pantry full of preserved circumstances. Each day we go into the pantry and choose a jar to be our flavor of the day. We will always taste just like the jar we open. People around us will know whether we are pickled or preserved. I think it’s time for me to go through my pantry and throw out all the pickled jars. I want every day to be a jar of apricot preserves.

Pastor John


The Lord Heals

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, December 22, 2017

Psalms 119:145 – 152 (NIV) I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.  Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws. Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law. Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.

It was a two-hour trip by boat across the Philippine Straits. We stood on the shore of the main island of Mindanao waiting for our boat to arrive. We had hired a local fisherman who had several boats to take us across to the island of Balut, where we would dedicate the land where a new church would be built. It would be the first evangelical outreach on that island, and to our knowledge there were only a handful of Christians amongst the entire population.

As we stood on the beach we began to notice the boats being used by the fisherman of that village. They were all outriggers, and there were three basic sizes. One was quite small – maybe 12 feet long – and the outrigger extended on only one side of the boat. It had no motor and no seats. We were assured we would not be using a boat that size for the trip. The six of us breathed a sigh of relief.

The second type of boat was maybe 16 feet long, and had the outrigger on both sides of the boat, and it was motorized. It was a narrow boat, only wide enough for single seating on top of the outrigger frame. When we tried to imagine all six of us in there along with the boat owner it seemed very small.

The third type of boat we saw was much nicer. It was probably 20 – 24 feet long, with a wheel house at the back for the captain. It was wide enough for double seating on the outrigger frame. It had a bigger diesel inboard engine.

We asked our Filipino friend who had made the trip arrangements which of the two larger boats we would be using. He said he didn’t know, because the man they had hired had not arrived yet, and none of the boats we could see were his. We would be taking whatever boat he showed up in. We immediately held a prayer meeting and cried out to God for the bigger boat. The longer we waited, the more we prayed.

Finally, a boat approached, and it was a big one. We made the trip to the island with no problem. But the next day, the return trip was terrible. A strong wind blew from the south through the straits causing 14 foot swells on the ocean. Even in the big boat that trip was the scariest thing I have ever done. But God knew which boat we would need. He heard our cries and He answered us.

While we were on the island, we took an afternoon excursion on the boat to a tiny atoll just a few hundred yards off the island. As we walked down the dock to the boat we were stopped by a woman sitting with a sick child on her lap. The 3-year old boy was lethargic and unresponsive. He had a high temperature. There were no medical facilities on the island. She had heard that the Americans were there and that they were connected to this new church that was to be built. My dear Filipino friend Victorino heard her ask for help for her son. He immediately grabbed my hand and said, “Brother John, you pray for her.” Right there on the dock we laid hands on that boy and the mother and we cried out to God for His healing power. We proclaimed the Name of Jesus and asked Him to reveal Himself to this woman by healing her son.

When we had finished praying we went to the boat and took our little trip. When we returned two hours later we were met at the end of the dock by the mother. She thanked us for what we had done. As we looked beyond her on the dock we saw the boy – running and playing with a friend – completely healed. We told her it was Jesus who had done it, and that she should come to the meeting we were having in the town square that night.

I don’t know if she came or not, but I do know that at the meeting that night dozens of people came forward to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, and the church was born.

Call on the Lord with all your heart. Cry out to Him in your time of need. Put your hope in His word. He will hear you. He will answer you. He will save you.

Pastor John

Tests of Faith

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Psalms 119:137 – 144 (NIV) Righteous are you, O LORD, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them. Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts. Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.

WARNING! The following is not intended for children. Do not try this at home. We are professionals. I bet that got your attention.

Several years ago I was invited to go on a fishing trip with my oldest son and some of his friends. We travelled about four hours to the Peshtigo River, a world-renowned trout river in northeastern Wisconsin. After setting up camp and spending a little time on the river, it was time to build the campfire and eat supper.

After supper, as we sat around the fire, the boys talked about doing a scientific experiment. They had been talking about the explosive nature of gasoline. We knew the scientific fact that gas as a liquid does not burn unless it is vaporized first. They wanted to test that theory.

Here’s what they did. They took a glass bottle with a cap and punctured a tiny hole in the cap. White gas was placed in the bottle and the cap was firmly replaced so that it sealed.  The bottle was then placed upright in the middle of the fire. During the first attempt, we all backed away from the fire. Soon we could see bubbles in the gas. Then a small stream of steam began shooting from the bottle cap as the gasoline vaporized in the heat. As the flames of the fire lapped their way up the side of the bottle, the vapor ignited, creating a blow torch that shot fire fifteen feet in the air or better. That continued until all the gas in the bottle was vaporized. The bottle never did explode.

Needless to say we were all thrilled with the success of this experiment, so it was repeated several times. We experimented with different size holes in the cap, and at one point even put more than one hole in the cap to produce different torch effects. Only once did the experiment fail, and that was when the bottle cap blew off prematurely sending a ball of flame forty feet in the air. We screamed with delight like little boys.

I’m sure you could tell stories like that one, too. We have all tested the laws of nature and science in one way or another. In fact, just the other night I watched from my office window as a young man tested the spin rate of his car on ice by using his emergency brake. It was a very nice move, Matt.

It is our human nature to test the laws and rules. We started out doing it as children. Mom told us it was hot, but we had to touch it to see for ourselves. Dad told us it was sharp, but we had to test it. Learning by experience is how we come to a thorough understanding of truth and reality.

The Bible says God is righteous, and therefore His laws are also righteous and trustworthy. Go ahead – test them. Since the beginning of time His promises have been thoroughly tested and they have never failed. Not once has the cap been blown off prematurely.

Go ahead – test them. The result of every test will be a deeper love for God and a deeper dependence on His Word.

What are you afraid of? Sure, you’ll probably back up from the fire when you test the first one for fear of the unknown. But true faith requires risk. Go ahead – start the test.

  • Speak up for Jesus in a public place and test the promise that the Holy Spirit has prepared someone to hear the truth and respond.
  • Give more money than you’ve ever given before and test the promise that God will provide your every need.
  • Forgive those who have hurt you and test the promise that God will cleanse your soul from all your pain by forgiving you the same way.
  • Walk in the Spirit of God and test the promise that He will strengthen you to resist every temptation of the flesh.
  • Surrender every worry and care to God and test the promise that He will overwhelm you with indescribable peace.

Soon you’ll be living a greater adventure than you ever dreamed possible. You will sit in awe as the flame of the Holy Spirit shoots into the darkness of your night and thrills you. God’s promises cannot fail.

Pastor John

Streams of Tears

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Psalms 119:129 – 136  Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees. Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

When I read the last line of this section of Psalm 119 I immediately started thinking of all the ways that God’s laws are not being obeyed in the world today.  I have cried many tears over the spiritual depravity of people in our society. But as I thought about that, I was suddenly struck with the realization that I have cried far fewer tears over my own disobedience. Why is it that we can cry over the “big” sins like murdering of unborn babies, rape, incest, adultery, pornography, etc., but we have a hard time feeling any sense of guilt over our own “little” sins like lying, cheating, gossip or selfishness?

It is our natural tendency to apply truth to others before we apply it to ourselves. Somehow it makes our flesh feel better to make sure we find fault with others before we look at our own condition. Sure, there’s a lot wrong with our culture; but it’s not God’s plan to change our culture. His plan is clearly stated in Scripture – He will draw us to His heart and show us His love, so that we can then draw others to God by showing them His love.

Twice in this passage of Scripture the author, probably Ezra, refers to sin. Once in a clearly personal way – let no sin rule over me – and once in a seemingly generic way – your law is not obeyed. But I think it benefits us immensely to think of the second reference to sin in just as personal a way as the first. It is only when we begin to allow streams of tears to flow from our own eyes because of our own sin that we will begin to experience true revival in the church today. The healing of our culture can only be accomplished through the repentance of God’s people. You may be familiar with this verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  This is God’s pattern for each of our lives.

I want you to notice one important principle found in this verse. Nowhere does it tell us to ask for forgiveness. Our forgiveness was accomplished once and for all on the cross of Jesus Christ. What it does tell us to do is to turn from our wicked ways. We have seriously corrupted God’s pattern of forgiveness and it has resulted in the corruption of our hearts. We have been taught since our childhood to say that we are sorry and then ask for forgiveness, with very little teaching on repentance. While there has been an increasing emphasis on confession there has been a diminishing emphasis on change. But true confession requires change.

Confession is the act of coming into agreement with the person wronged about what was done. Confession is to see the action from the eyes of the victim and agree with them that it is wrong. When that agreement happens, then change results.

Pride keeps us from true confession of sin. That’s why God says in Second Chronicles that we must humble ourselves before Him. We cannot agree with God about our sin unless we are willing to deflate our pride that would seek to protect our image by defending our actions. Then, when we have come to the point of agreement with God about what we have done, and we see it through His eyes as an offense against His holy character, the tears will stream down our faces. We will open our mouths and pant with sincere longing to know His commands. We will be seeking His face. That, in turn, will result in a change of heart and a change of action in our lives. We will turn from our wicked ways. At that very instant of repentance, God forgives us and restores us to perfect fellowship with Himself.


When we practice this process at every occurrence of sin in our lives we will be able to say with the Psalmist that no sin will rule over us. Do you struggle over and over with the same sin? There is a single reason why you do – you do not yet see it through God’s eyes as an offense against His holy character. Somewhere within the context of that sin pride is still protecting your position.

It is time to seek the face of God. In your own strength you cannot conquer it, but God can. Humble yourself before Him. Let the streams of tears flow down your face as you see your actions as an offense against your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross for your sin. Then turn from it. Repent. God will forgive you and heal your heart. And when God’s people begin to do this collectively in the church, we will have revival, and our culture will be healed.

Pastor John

Make Me A Servant

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Psalms 119:121 – 128 (NIV) I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors. Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me. My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes. It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken. Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.

Music has always been an important part of my life. When our children were growing up it was an important part of our family. Our favorite children’s music was sung by a big blue talking songbook named Psalty. He had three children – Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm. I loved Rhythm. Our kids were involved in performing Psalty musicals in church. Guess who got to play Psalty. Yep! I did. I was dressed in a big blue box painted to look like a songbook. It was so much fun.

I can still remember many of those great kids songs. The best thing about Psalty songs was that their message was for adults too. They taught true Biblical values and character. One of them we still sing occasionally in church today. It goes like this:

Make me a servant, humble and meek

Lord let me lift up those who are weak

And may the prayer of my heart always be

Make me a servant

Make me a servant

Make me a servant today.

Three times in today’s Psalm the author refers to himself as a servant of God. A servant is defined in its simplest form as one who works for another. It can mean either forced labor or voluntary labor. When servants were more popularly known as slaves, the labor was forced. At least in our culture that type of forced labor has become illegal. We learned that forced labor destroys dignity and denies liberty. In contrast to that, true liberty motivates voluntary service. He who has been truly set free becomes a voluntary servant of the one who granted liberty.

Prior to being elected President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln abhorred slavery. One day he went to a slave auction. He bid on a young woman and bought her. As they walked away from the town square, he said to her, “You may go. You are free.” She didn’t know what that meant, so she asked Mr. Lincoln, “Do you mean I am free to go anywhere I want to go?” He replied that she was. “Do you mean I am free to do whatever I want to do?” Again Mr. Lincoln said yes. “And do you mean I am free to be whatever I want to be?” Once more he said yes. Her response startled him. “Then I choose to go with you and be your servant.”

True freedom is found in serving the one who provided our liberty. To understand that completely we must first appreciate our freedom. The awesome grace of God that has been applied to our lives to set us free from the bondage of the law and sin and death cannot be over-estimated or over-emphasized. Those who minimize it are not truly free. Those who are not truly free still serve themselves in an effort to attain freedom.

But those who know and fully appreciate the marvel of mercy and the greatness of grace become servants of God who paid the full price for our freedom in His Son Jesus. We no longer serve ourselves, or demand to be served by others. We have been transformed by the nature of the Ultimate Servant who said, “The Son of man has come not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  We are now servants of God, and our voluntary labor is to serve others.

So, take off the old garments of self-serving sin, and put on your big blue box. Join me on the stage of the world and sing the song of joy that comes from your liberated heart – Make me a servant, humble and meek…

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Monday, December 18, 2017

Psalms 119:113 – 120  I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees. You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their deceitfulness is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes. My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

Here’s a true to life story for you from another pastor.

When I was in college, I attended a weekly Bible Study with several friends. We tended to get into some pretty deep discussions about spiritual truth. One of the members of the group was very good at bringing the lesson down to a point of personal application. I remember one Bible Study in particular when we were discussing hypocrisy. We had looked at several passages of Scripture that stated God’s hatred of being double-minded. Our leader knew that there was at least one person in the group who had a people-pleaser personality. He knew this young man would change his position on issues and beliefs depending on his perception of how it might please the people he was with. So he posed a very simple yet plausible hypothetical situation.

Assume for a moment that you are back in high school, and the elections for class president are to be held tomorrow. There are two candidates. Candidate one is very popular and well liked. He is always seen hanging with the “in” crowd at school. You are not in that crowd, but you wish you were. In the public forums, he seems to have all the right answers to the questions of school issues and administration. You talked to him this morning and he was passionate about breaking down the status barriers between the “in” crowd and the rest of the students. Then at lunch you overheard him say to his closest friends, “I can’t wait to get elected. I’m going to make all of you stand out above the crowd even more than before.”

Candidate two is not so popular or well-known. He is not an athlete, and certainly not one of the “in” crowd. He attempts to answer all the questions but stumbles slightly over words as he responds. But when his words are evaluated, he has consistently stood for the same values. He may not have the outward appeal, but he is a young man of integrity in what he believes.

At this point the group leader asked a simple question – “For whom do you vote?”  I answered quickly that I would vote for candidate number two because I could trust him. The leader looked right at me and said, “Then Frank, you have just voted for your opponent.”

OUCH!  At the time that really hurt. It was so true. I knew I needed to change. But within days I had forgotten that admonition and returned to my comfort zone of pleasing people. I wish I would have listened back then, instead of wasting so many years being double-minded and unstable in all of my ways.

If you were the candidate, would you vote for yourself? Those who put their hope in the word of God and live according to His law are not double-minded. They are people of integrity who can be trusted.

Are you such a person?

Pastor John


Get in the Right Line

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, December 15, 2017

Psalms 119:105 – 112 (NIV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word. Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

It was their first day in heaven. God says, “I want the men to form two lines. Line one is for all the men who felt that they led their families with the spiritual authority I gave them, and line two is for all the men who felt inadequate. As for all the women, please follow Peter as he has something special to talk to you about.” The men quickly hustle to their lines. Line two grows longer and longer until it’s over 100 miles long. Line one has only one man it. God said to the men in line two, “Why are you here. I did not create you in Christ Jesus to be inadequate. I created you in my image to lead and represent me with confidence. At least one man did that. Tell them sir, why you are in this line.” The lone man in line one replied, “I’m here because this is where my wife told me to stand.”

Feeling inadequate is a full-blown epidemic of society. We are surrounded with images and messages that convince us of our inabilities and make us feel inferior. Television, movies, magazines, and advertisements all depict culture’s choice of body style and appearance. We are bombarded with input that screams lies about our inadequacies to measure up. Lies like:

  • Women will only be happy, accepted, and appealing if they are slender.
  • Men are only acceptable if they have rock hard abs and no body hair.

From the clothes we wear to the beverages we choose to drink, we are being convinced that the highest pursuit of life is to be accepted by society, and no matter how well we listen to culture’s call, we still feel miserable.

This conditioning carries over into our spiritual lives as well. We all wonder at times if we will ever measure up to the high standard that seems to be set by the heroes of the faith written about in the Bible. The last several weeks have been especially hard for us. Every section of this 119th Psalm so far has been a spiritual benchmark of faith and trust.

The constant reminders of the Psalmists love for God’s Word and his obedience to it have been tough on some of us. When will we ever have the confidence to say that those things are true of our lives? Even today this section starts out with a high standard of spiritual connectedness to God. The Psalmist declares that God’s word is his light for every step he takes in life. He proclaims his oath and confirms it that he will be obedient at all times, even when he is suffering. He even states that the praises of his mouth to God are not forced but flow willingly from his heart as the natural expression of gratitude for God’s love. How can we measure up to that?

But wait. What’s this we read in the next phrase? Is the Psalmist admitting that he really struggles with his human nature like the rest of us?

Yes he is!

Look at what he says – though I constantly take my life in my hands.

What? Is this elite spiritual example admitting to continual struggles with self-centered living?

Yes he is!

In fact, that’s one of the fascinating things about the Bible – it shows real people living real lives of real inadequacy.

  • Abraham takes his life into his own hands and sets aside his faith to protect his wife by lying about who she is…twice.
  • Moses shows his feelings of inadequacy when he argues with God about his ability to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and then is not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he took his life into his own hands.
  • Peter declares his superior faith and steadfastness and then takes his life into his own hands and denies Jesus…three times.

Yet in every one of these situations, and many more besides, God does not reject any of them. His grace rescues them from themselves.

  • Abraham is still given his promised son.
  • Moses leads the people out of slavery and then is taken directly to the true Promised Land of God’s presence.
  • Peter is forgiven and restored and equipped to lead the early church.

Even when they failed, God did not, and He never will. Once we have made an oath of commitment to serve the Living God, He is faithful to overcome all our inadequacies and failures.

The Apostle Paul is a great example. He had taken his life into his own hands until God interrupted his life on the road to Damascus and chose him to plant churches rather than destroy them. Later in his life, Paul wrote these words.

Here is a trustworthy saying…if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:11 – 13)

So, on the count of three, we will all move in unison from line two to line one, because God is faithful to overcome ALL our inadequacies.

Ready? One…two…Three!

Pastor John