Never Alone

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Psalms 142:1 – 7 I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.  Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

Now, for those of you who skipped it, please go back and really read today’s Psalm. The Holy Spirit is to be your primary teacher every day. Let Him speak to you before you read what He said to me.

How deeply are you troubled today? How unbearable is your emotional burden? How lonely are you? How close are you to giving up? How loudly are you crying out to God for mercy? This Psalm is your help and your hope.

Back in December I was in Israel in the location where King David took refuge in caves to hide from his enemies. Once he was hiding from King Saul, who had him surrounded with 3,000 soldiers and there was no hope of escape. The other time he was seeking refuge from the Philistines who had taken over Bethlehem. As David writes this Psalm he recalls how he felt during those times of exile.

The cave he was in is nearly impenetrable. I did not get to go into the cave when I was there, but I did walk along the edge of the cliff and saw it. Another visitor, who at one time found his way in, described it this way.

It is situated on the side of a mountain, having a fearful gorge below, gigantic cliffs above, and the path winding along a narrow shelf of the rock. At length, from a great rock hanging on the edge of the shelf, we entered by a long leap to a low window which opened into the perpendicular face of the cliff. We were then within the traditional hold of David, and, creeping half doubled through a narrow crevice for a few yards, we stood beneath the dark vault of the first grand chamber of this mysterious and oppressive cavern. Our whole collection of lights did little more than make the damp darkness visible. After groping about as long as we had time to spare, we returned to the light of day, fully convinced that while inside David was safe, and all the strength of Israel under Saul could not have forced an entrance into it and would not have even attempted it. (William Thompson)

While the cave offered David safety from the enemies outside, it could not protect him from the attack against his spirit which grew faint within him. With no visible means of escape, and no way of replenishing his supplies, he does what we all tend to do – he exaggerates the severity of his condition. He looks around and declares that he is alone and no one cares about his life.

Go with me into that cave for a moment where the darkness is so complete that without man-made light you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Of course, he could not see anyone when he looked around, even though 400 people had gathered with him in the cave to support him and care for him. He was surrounded by his mighty men who put their lives on the line for him when he needed a drink of water. But the physical darkness had closed his spiritual eyes.

There is a personal lesson in this for us. In the midst of whatever cave you find yourself and the darkness you are currently experiencing, do not forget the truth that the other members of the Body of Christ – your spiritual family – are still with you. Even though your physical eyes may be unable to see a resolution, do not let your spiritual eyes become darkened to the truth of your connection to Christ and His community of believers.

There is another lesson that is important as well – in your times of despair, loneliness and hopelessness, God knows the way. When people and circumstances have set snares for you and you feel trapped, God knows the way. When you feel alone and rejected, God is your refuge and your portion in the land of the living. He is your constant companion and friend. He cares for you.

This was the prayer of a man who was desperate. These were the words of a man who was in a deep and dark cave. This was the cry to God of a man who believed in the power of God to rescue him.

These were the words of a man who lived to write about it.

This can be your prayer of faith to God who knows the way. Put your trust in him. He will show you the way out of your cave. Until He does, He will NEVER leave you alone. He who knows the way is with you to stay.

Pastor John

The Only Place for Answers

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Psalm 141:1-2  O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 2  Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

I need answers!

We all need answers at times, but where we go to find them can make all the difference in our lives. There seem to be many options for us – from worldly philosophies and self-help gurus to escape mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, and sex. All are available to us, but all any of them do is provide an escape that keeps us from facing the real need. However, I can assure you that the real answer is found in only one place. In Psalm 141, King David declares and demonstrates that only real option is to call out to God in prayer.

But how can we know that God will answer us when we call to Him? Let me give you some basic truths that may help. Read Matthew 7:7-12.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

First, God is the source of all your answers. Whatever your need, God has promised to answer it. Do you need the provision of your basic needs for living? Ask, and it will be given to you. Do you need wisdom and understanding for your current situation? Seek, and you will find it. Do you need doors opened for you to move ahead in your life in serving God? Knock, and they will be opened. Every need you have will be met with the response of God’s provision, power, purpose and protection. He is the source of all your answers.

Second, His answers are significant, because they are the expression of His endless love for you. Every answer He gives is a good and perfect gift from His heart. When you pray with a humble heart of dependence upon your loving Father in heaven, and seek to know His will and purpose for your life, then every answer is a manifestation of His love for you that will result in the experience of good.

The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28)

The answer may not make sense to you today, and it may not be what you expected or had hoped for, but it is God’s best for you. God cannot deny His nature, and every answer you receive is the expression of His love to you that will result in His glory and ultimate good.

Third, the starting point of receiving God’s answers is to ask correctly. Jesus uses the illustration of a son asking his father for food, and showing how the father would respond in love. After making His point that God’s love motivates His answers as well, He then makes this crucial point – in everything you ask for, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

We can be assured of God’s answers when we ask with the right motive. What is the right motive? The glory of God and service to others. Isn’t it interesting that the verse we call the Golden Rule is connected to the principle of prayer in Jesus’ teaching? It’s also very interesting that the majority of our prayers are self-centered. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3) The starting point of all our asking is to be for the benefit of others, not self.

All basic needs will be provided when we ask for them in the context of using them to serve others. All wisdom and understanding will be granted to us when we seek it on behalf of others. Doors of opportunity will be opened for us when we knock with the intent of ministering the grace of God to others. When we come before the Father in heaven with our requests, let them be motivated by a humble desire to serve Him according to His purpose for our lives, and we will receive everything we need to do it. His love will respond.

Pastor John


Keep Running in the Right Direction

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 29, 2018

Psalms 140:6-8  O LORD, I say to you, “You are my God.” Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy. O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle—do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud.

There are times when it seems like the wicked will win. The ravaging effects of sin on our world and the people living in it bring us to our knees. That is a great place to be if we are there to pray, but for many it is a not a place of faith but rather the final fall into the realm of hopeless quitters.

It’s easy to feel like quitting sometimes. Pressures seem to mount from circumstances, and if each one is not dealt with individually their combined weight can become too much to bear.  The plans of the proud begin to capitalize our attention and activity, which results in the proud becoming prouder and demanding even more from us. It seems sometimes that we don’t have any more to give. It is especially hard to keep going and giving when our friends turn out to be the proud ones and their plans sap our energy and desires. Our eyes shift from the finish line to the sidelines, and soon we have left the race and collapsed on the grass with no desire to return.

I am so thankful for a poem I found on a website that is used to encourage those who are experiencing extreme difficulties in their lives. I want to share it today with those of you who feel like quitting.

I was running the race of life, and the wind was at my back;

There was never a fairer day to run, never a smoother track.

I ran with careless ease.

I would run this race,

I would win first place,

So my Master I would please.

Then an unforeseen hand rudely pushed me down,

and I fell with a thud to the cold, cruel ground;

and broken and bruised, I began to cry

as the other runners all passed me by.

Lord, help me please! I can’t run anymore;

I’m broken and battered, I’m tired and sore;

I don’t think I can make it, I just want to die,

I don’t even have what it takes to try.

And as I lay bleeding upon the ground,

a vast cloud of witnesses gathered around.

There were heroes of old, all the saints of the ages,

who through weakness were strong and through faith made courageous.

They started to cheer and wildly applaud,

and their voices rose up giving glory to God.

And then to myself I said, How can this be?

For the saints of the ages were cheering for me!

Then Abel cried out, “There is power in the blood!”

And Noah said, “He’ll keep you safe through the flood”

Then Jacob said, “Weary one, lean on the Lord”

And Moses cried out, “Child, Look to the reward!”

Then Sarah stepped forward, holding Abraham’s hand,

and they both said, “Trust God when you don’t understand.”

In God’s promises, child, you must always believe,

for sometimes He’ll do things you just can’t conceive.

Come on! You can do it! Get up off you face

and run with endurance the rest of the race.

And remember, my child, when your strength is all gone,

the saints of the ages are cheering you on!

So, I rose to my feet midst their thunderous ovation

and started to run with great determination;

and that’s when I saw Him, My Savior and Lord,

and I knew in my heart I must win the reward

to cast down before Him the crown that I won,

and to hear Him say to me, “Well done, child, well done!”

Author, Janice Rogers Edmiston

When it seems like too big a task to switch your eyes from the comfort of the grass back to the finish line of the race, then might I suggest you at least look at the bleachers. Thousands have run the race of life before you, and done it with enduring faith. The testimony of how they did it serves as the motivation for us to get back into the race and finish strong. If you need to read a synopsis of their race, read Hebrews 11.

Come on! You can do it! Run to the arms of Jesus. He is your strong Deliverer.

Pastor John

God’s Thoughts of Me

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 26, 2018

Psalms 139:1-18

Several years ago, after two days of ministry to someone in need, God directed me to this Psalm. He who holds all of creation in His hands and who knows all things from beginning to end, ordered my steps to arrive at this Psalm on that day. It amazed me, and as a result I wrote the following.

God is beyond our comprehension, yet He comprehends us. He who knows all knows us. He who takes care of everything cares for us. He who is everywhere always is wherever we are always. His thoughts are about us. His actions are for us. His hands that hold the world also cradle the tiniest and most delicate baby.

I had spent two days at the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital with a young man who at that time was our church’s worship minister. Complications developed during the birth of his daughter.  What I saw in him was amazing faith. Not just any faith – but faith in the One True and Living God who holds us all in His hands and loves us with an immeasurable and unconquerable love. Not just stated faith, but active faith. Faith that rests in God’s love. Faith that patiently waits for God’s outcomes. Faith that trusts God’s sustaining grace. Faith that believes in Light when all is dark. Faith that hopes in a God-glorifying result, even if that glory is not experienced until we are in His Presence. That was the faith I saw in him..

On my last day at the hospital with him, I got up early and went to have my own devotions. I read this Psalm. It has never meant more to me than it did at that moment. Let it speak to you today as well.

1    O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

2    You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3    You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

4    Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

5    You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

6    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

7    Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8    If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9    If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10    even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

11    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

12    even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15    My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16    your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

17    How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18    Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

During the long stay in the hospital with his daughter, one of the father’s friends wrote the words of a song to him in their guestbook on the Caring Bridge site they had. I’m sure there’s a place for these words in the circumstances of our lives today..

If I forget, yet God remembers. If these hands of mine cease from their clinging, yet the Hands divine hold me so firmly I cannot fall. And if sometimes I am too tired to call for Him to help me, then He reads the prayer unspoken in my heart and lifts my care. I dare not fear since certainly I know that I am in God’s keeping, shielded so, from all that else would harm, and in the hour of stern temptation, strengthened by His power. I tread no path in life to Him unknown; I lift no burden, bear no pain, alone; my soul a calm, sure hiding place has found: the everlasting Arms my life surround. God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that. I know Thee who has kept my path, and made light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow so that it reached me like a solemn joy. It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love.

How precious it is that God’s thoughts are of me!

Pastor John

Humility Needed

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Psalms 138:6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar.

Pride can certainly cause us to do some pretty dumb things. Like the guy in New Zealand who had been ticketed and fined thirty-two times for not wearing his seat belt. Finally, in an attempt to avoid detection, he fabricated a fake seat belt strap that would rest across his shoulder to give the appearance of wearing one. He never got another ticket. He was killed. His car was hit head-on by another car, and authorities say that had he been wearing a real seat belt he would probably have survived. He’ll never know.

Wanting our own way is deadly. Pride has caused us to be enamored by image and appearances. We do everything we can to keep up with what looks like success. We’ve discovered it’s impossible to save money when our neighbors keep buying things we can’t afford. Our pursuit of personal happiness has stifled our pursuit of God.

Pride is eating away at the very foundations of Christianity in our world. The church has become overrun with people who have climbed onto the cross merely to be better seen by others. In doing so, they have trampled on the One who has been there all along. Pride has made us look down on others, which makes it impossible to look up to God.

There’s a predictable and consistent consequence of pride – loneliness. Friends will leave us alone when we care more about ourselves then we do about them. We alienate people when we draw attention to ourselves. But the loss of human relationship is not the biggest consequence. God also stands far off from proud people. He models humility for us, by stooping down to help the least and the lowest. He withdraws from those who don’t follow His example.

The prophet Isaiah says, For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

I believe the power of God is severely stifled in today’s church because of the arrogance of people who call themselves Christians. They seek to know themselves far more than they seek to know God and be known by Him. They are satisfied to work in their own strength to accomplish their own goals, while God stands at a distance and watches. How sad that so much that is done in the church today is done apart from any involvement of the Spirit of God and done solely with the skill of man. Our pride stands in direct opposition to God’s power.  I seriously wonder what God would be able to accomplish if we were not in His way.

I recall an illustration from the life of D.L. Moody that has had a huge impact on me. Mr. Moody held a series of remarkable evangelistic meetings in Birmingham which intensely stirred that city. Dr. Dale, who was warmly sympathetic, was greatly amazed at the marvelous results produced. In his comments about the revival he said, “this work must be of God for I can see no real relation between him (Mr. Moody) and the work that was done.” That is the proof conclusive of the Spirit’s presence and active power. In all truly Divine blessing and success, there is something which cannot be attributed to merely human causes.

Let it be said of our lives that there is no relation between who we are and the work that is being done. That will happen only when God’s people humble themselves before the Lord and become weak and needy. Then, and only then, will we experience the power of God to do great things, and they will truly be the work of God.

Pastor John


LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Psalms 137:1-4 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

It was one of the worst nights of my life. The leaves were beginning to change colors in the fall of 1967. Our family was living in a small summer cabin on a lake outside of Oscoda, Michigan. It was cold at night. Several weeks earlier we had been evicted from the home we were living in. Dad was without a job. Mom was trying to bring in some money through substitute school teaching. As a freshman in high school I was experiencing deep sorrow and loss for the first time. Before school had started that fall I knew we would be moving, so when the time came to sign up for football and join the team with all my friends, I chose not to. I didn’t want to put my teammates through the same loss I was already experiencing. We ended up moving before the first game, so I made the right decision. I ended up never getting to play football.

I remember the night that Dad came to the family and said he had a new job, and that we were moving to Minnesota. I went to bed that night and cried myself to sleep. I have never felt so alone in my life. I was homesick before we had even left. Everything in my life changed. All I wanted for the longest time was to be back where I loved living and where I was loved by those living there.

The Israelites experienced such homesickness when they were led away into captivity in Babylon. They would sit and weep for their homeland. They refused to play their musical instruments and sing any songs of joy. But notice, they did not destroy their instruments or forget their songs. They simply hung them up until such time as God fulfilled His promise of restoring them to their land. God has promised to take us home again.

We do not sing the songs of this world. We are not overjoyed with the prospect of life forever in this land. We are not filled with hope that this world is our final destination. On the contrary, we long for the Land that is to come. We are homesick with the hope of Heaven.

The Apostle Paul said it this way. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in usThe creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18-24)

Charles H. Spurgeon writes, “Have you ever seen a caged bird with its breast or wing bleeding from blows received by crashing against the wire of its cage? The poor creature dreams of the forest and streams. Filled with aspirations for most sublime flight, it stretches its wings and flies upward, only to bring itself into sharp contact with its prison. So it is with us. Our new-born nature, stirred in its inmost depths with longings suitable to its celestial origin, aspires after the joys of heaven, stretching all its wings to move toward perfection. But we who are in this body do groan; we find the flesh to be a prison, and so the more we long the more we pine. And pining, we sigh and cry, and wound our hearts with insatiable desires and bleeding discontents. The pangs of strong desire for the presence of the Lord in glory—who among believers has not felt them? Who among us has not found our flight upward brought to a painful pause by the stern facts of flesh and blood, and earth and sin?”

I’m homesick. Not for Michigan, or any other place I have lived. I’m homesick for the place I want to live forever. I’m homesick for heaven. And so long as God chooses to delay my departure for my true home, I will be homesick. I will go to war in my heart against anything in the present that would distract my attention from the glory of my future. And when I sing, I sing not of the pleasures or possessions of this life, but of the certain hope of inconceivable pleasures and possessions in the Presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then someday, hopefully soon, I will sing as never before, when I stand before the throne of God and thank Him for bringing me home.

Pastor John

Enthusiastic Worship

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Psalms 136:1-3 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.

Occasionally I hear a complaint about today’s contemporary worship songs. It usually sounds like this – “I don’t like the way they repeat themselves so much.”  I can’t help but chuckle under my breath when I hear that. I think of all the songs I sang when I was growing up in church, and after every verse we repeated the same chorus. Some of the songs, like one of the most popular Resurrection songs, has only two lines of verse and then four lines of chorus. In actual time, it takes three times longer to sing the chorus then it does the verse. Yet somehow that is not called repetition.

The pattern for repetition is set in Scripture. God can be exalted by repetition. When Isaiah sees God on the throne, he declares “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  When describing the scene in heaven around the throne of God, the Apostle John writes in the book of Revelation, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Now that’s repetition. Day and night they never stopped repeating the same things, because they declared the glory of God and exalted Him.

When the people of Israel gathered together in worship to dedicate the temple that Solomon had built, they sang the song we now call Psalm 136 (See 2 Chronicles 7:1-6). Several years ago at our church I thought it would be a good idea to try this. We were celebrating our first ever Jubilee Sunday – our annual gathering of remembering God’s goodness of the past year and casting the vision for the new year. It had been an especially exciting year at Calvary, and I knew it would honor God to give Him thanks and have us focus on His enduring love. As I led the congregation in the responsive reading of this Psalm, I gave the instructions that I would read the first half of each verse, and the people would respond with the phrase, “His love endures forever.” I thought it would be enthusiastic. I was wrong. By the tenth repetition of their phrase the people’s intensity level had dropped dramatically. By the time I was building to the finale, the people were already finished, and only a few were truly worshipping the LORD whose love endures forever. They were tired of the repetition. I was told very bluntly after the service to never do that again.

Isn’t it sad that we so quickly grow tired of declaring the praises of God? Imagine the scene at the temple that day. This immaculate structure built to the glory of God as a testimony to His greatness and majesty and splendor is being dedicated to His ministry and put into service for the first time. The people have sacrificed their time and their resources for God’s glory. Their investment is going to be used for God’s glory and ministry for generations to come. The musicians have gathered. The trumpets are sounding. The choir starts singing. The people are shouting. Fire comes down from heaven and the glory of the LORD fills the temple. For seven days, they stay there and worship God, declaring their thanks for His goodness and proclaiming that His love endures forever.

Seven days! We have trouble with seven minutes. It seems that when we do come to worship, we are so busy with our own lives and have so many plans for how we will use our time and our money that we can’t wait to be done with this interruption of regular life. Add repetition to the mix and we really rebel.

If that is true of us, then something is seriously wrong with our hearts and our perspective. You see, it’s not our time. It’s not our money. It is all about God and His glory. We have been bought at the price of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. His love for each one of us sent Him there. His tender love is the motivation for Paul’s command to “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, for it is your reasonable act of worship.”

I am deeply concerned that many people can claim to be worshiping God but do it with no expression. No emotion. No enthusiasm. No evidence of thanksgiving. Certainly no evidence of awe.

How many times have we watched a video of the Minneapolis Miracle? How many people have published videos of people exploding with celebration when it happened? Yet we choose, for whatever reason we use to justify our choice, to not enthusiastically join the Angels in heaven and celebrate enthusiastically the glory of God and the salvation of our souls.

When we come together to worship, we are in the awesome Presence of God. How can we grow tired of praising Him? I hope I never grow weary of worship. I hope I am never so focused on the style of music, the instruments, or the musicians that the splendor of the words doesn’t elevate me into the presence of God where I can exalt Him as LORD.

Let the glory of the LORD fill His church again.

Pastor John