Celebrate Spiritual Touchdowns

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Psalms 132:7, 13 – 16 Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool…For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it—I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.”

Here’s a dream job if there ever was one – being the chaplain of a professional sports team. I always thought that my golf skills could be developed enough so I could become the chaplain of the PGA Seniors Tour. Imagine being able to spend every day playing golf with the best players in the world for the express purpose of sharing with them the love of Jesus Christ.

Rod Cooper had such a job. Years ago, he was the chaplain for the Astros and the Oilers when he was in Houston, Texas. After conducting a chapel service, they’d give him tickets. One time in the Astrodome he watched Earl Campbell run over everybody, his own men included, to get to the goal line. When he got to the goal line, he put the ball down. The place went crazy. People were giving high fives and jumping around. The score board went off. The same thing happened when the Astros hit a home run. It was a ringing shout, because their man scored a touchdown.

Chaplain Rod made this observation. “I’m not saying that when you come to church you need to give each other high fives or do cartwheels down the aisle, but worship is a time of anticipation and expectation. We come together because all week God has been knocking home runs and scoring touchdowns in our lives. Worship is a time to celebrate what God has done for us.”

I participated in the same kind of celebration on Sunday, but it wasn’t at church. It was later in the day following a touchdown at the end of a game. Tears, shouts, explosions of emotions, and immediate conversations with other fans took place as we all shared our enthusiasm for what had happened.

When we have the opportunity to come together as the family of God, maybe we should act a little more like fans of God. I bet our churches would experience a radical change in spirit if we spent less time talking in church about sports, weather, new clothes, jobs, and a long list of other trivial pursuits, and we spent more time talking about the touchdowns God scored in our lives in the past week. What if, when we arrived at church, we spent the time prior to the service connecting with God through conversations about God instead of about stuff. Imagine the enthusiasm we would experience if our hearts were already flooded with the joy of the Lord when the worship band begins to play and we are invited to join the singers in praising God. Can you feel the excitement as we begin to sing, Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save. Forever, Author of salvation; He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave. I have tears in my eyes already.

For many, worship seems like an interruption rather than the main event – a seventh inning stretch in the game of life. But worship is to be the game of our lives. It is to define our career. It is our hall of fame moment. We have been permitted weekly access into the post-game locker room of the greatest team on earth. The Coach stands before us. He reminds us of how well we played in the game this week. He commends us for our discipline. We acknowledge the wonder of His play calling. We marvel at His strategies that always end in victory. He closes His speech with these words – “Enjoy this win!” We don’t even hear the rest when He says, “’cause tomorrow we get back to work.” We are already shouting and jumping around as we do what He said – celebrate.

God has blessed us with abundant provisions. He has satisfied even the poor with food. He has clothed us with salvation. He has overwhelmed us with joy. Let us enter into His presence with thanksgiving in our hearts. Let us shout to the Lord. Let us lift up our hands and praise Him, showing the world that we love Him. Let us worship the Lord in the splendor of His majesty, for He has done great things. Let us come together as the fans of God and celebrate every spiritual touchdown.

Pastor John

I’m Too Busy!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Psalms 131:1 – 3 My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.

We have been invaded. The enemy has infiltrated the interior of our lives.  He was not satisfied to surround us. He sought to saturate us and he has succeeded. Now our last defense, the weapon of awareness, is under attack. We are becoming oblivious to our condition. We have become blind to this tyrant’s tactics. His presence has influenced every area of our lives. His deception has declared we are better off with him around. We have been overrun by a terrorist named Busy.

Have we forgotten how sweet it is to find a moment of peace and quiet? Have we lost the thrill of sitting still and simply listening for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit? Why is it that we don’t cherish conversation with the Almighty?

But the enemy is pretty well entrenched in our lives. We have gotten used to his presence. It will hurt to evict him. He strokes our egos by making us proud of our accomplishments. We have become so dependent upon his perceived benefits that we would rather endure the pain of his presence than the pain of his extraction.

A former presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, tells this story that illustrates our point.

When [our son] John Mark was 4 years old, he was out playing in the back yard and got a splinter in his foot. He came in and held up his foot. He was crying, and he said, “I got a splinter in my foot!” I said “Sit on the couch. Let’s look at it.” So I looked at it. Then, as he held up his foot and I reached over to pull the splinter out (because I knew it would feel better), he said what every kid says (which I still, to this day, don’t understand): “Don’t touch it!” I said, “What do you want me to do? Take a picture of it and mount it on the wall? I’ve got to touch it, Son. I don’t levitate splinters out of your foot. There is no choice.” “It will hurt,” he moaned. I said, “It might, but it won’t hurt as long. It will sure feel a lot better when I get the splinter out.”

But somehow that wasn’t adequate. So Janet held down the top of him while I tried to hold down the bottom of him and pull that splinter out. He was kicking and screaming and jerking in all different directions, and here I was with the tweezers, trying to pull out the splinter. I was afraid that I would jab those tweezers way up into his foot. I wanted to say to him, “Son, don’t you trust me? What do you think I’m going to do, cut your foot off? I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to help you, and if you don’t let me help you, it’s going to get worse not better. Trust me; I’m your father. I love you. I care about you. I do this only to help you. Be still. Relax.”

I think sometimes God in heaven must look down upon us, and we must be like a little child who says, “God, I’m hurt. God help me.” God reaches in to help us, and the first thing we do is say, “God, don’t touch me! Don’t do that God!” God is saying, “But I’ve got to reach in there and deal with the hurt. It may hurt a little, but I’ve got to do it.” We say, “No, God. Please, nothing like that!”

So here we are fighting with God. It is the equivalent of being in surgery when the surgeon has both of his arms up to his elbows in your abdomen, and suddenly you decide that you don’t want to be operated on and try to get off the table. How many times in our lives do we find ourselves on the surgery table of the Almighty, where God is trying to work in our lives that miracle of making us like Christ, and when we realize what God’s doing, we wake up and say, “God, I don’t want you to do this. Let me out of here!”?

Busyness is a splinter that needs to be removed. It will hurt to remove it. It will require sacrifice. We will resist with kicking and screaming. But when the splinter is gone, we will be still. Our hearts will be quieted. We will be able to hear God while the world roars around us. We must trust the Father as He does what’s best for us.

Tim Hansel put it this way. One of the ways that our faith expresses itself is by our ability to be still, to be present, and not to panic or lose perspective. God still does his best work in the most difficult of circumstances.

Let the Father go to work on you today. Be still, and know that He is God.

Pastor John

Check out these words of practical application from Bob Moorehead.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/424528.Bob_Moorehead

 

The Great Eraser

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, January 15, 2018

Psalms 130:3 – 4  If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, you are feared.

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that game, a young man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later, the Bruins had to punt. Georgia Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team.

The strange play came in the first half. At half-time the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As others sat down on the benches and the floor, Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands.

A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during halftime. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels.

When the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him. Riegels didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”

Roy Riegels looked up, his cheeks wet with tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the university’s reputation. I’ve ruined myself. I can’t face that crowd out there.”

Coach Price reached out, put his hand on Riegels’s shoulder, and said, “Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over.” Riegels got up. He went onto the field, and the fans saw him play hard and play well.

All of us have run a long way in the wrong direction. We all tend to grieve over past failures. But the game is not over. God keeps no record of our sins. He does not remember where you have been. He is only focused on where He wants you to go. The forgiveness of God erases the past and empowers the future.

Marjorie Holmes writes in Christianity Today that at a time when she was especially down about her sin she received a letter from a friend who told her how she and her granddaughter had been watching a plane skywrite. The little girl was puzzled when the words began disappearing, but suddenly piped up, “Maybe Jesus has an eraser!”

In her innocent wisdom, she had unlocked a deep spiritual truth – just as skywriting disappears, Jesus will wipe away all things we so bitterly regret. No matter how much we may try in our own strength to compensate for the past, memories of our own failures can rise up and haunt us. But, with God’s forgiveness, they will fade away. Jesus does have an eraser.

Let Him use it on you.

Pastor John

Notice Others

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 12, 2017

Psalm 129:5-8 5  May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward! 6  Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up, 7  with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms, 8  nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”

What a contrast this Psalm is from the previous one. Yesterday we saw the Lord seated on Zion bringing prosperity to the church and blessing to Godly families. Today we see the removal of blessing from those who hate Zion.

As I observed people the other day, I noticed a specific difference in some of them. I’d never really seen it so obviously before, but the more I thought about it the more of a generalization I began to form. The danger with generalizations is that those who don’t fit into them can be offended. For this I apologize up front. If you are outside the norm of this generalization, then be blessed and be thankful.

Here’s what happened. I had several stops to make at different businesses, and at each one I passed by people either leaving as I was entering or entering as I was leaving. As I entered the bank, a young woman in her 20’s came out, and as I opened the door for her she hurried to her car without a word and made no eye contact. As I came out of the bank I met an elderly man on the sidewalk. He said hello, and then asked, “Did you leave any in there for me.” I told him I had put more in for him, and we both chuckled. Behind him was a middle-aged woman who looked me right in the eyes and said hello. I got in my car and drove to my next stop.

When I arrived the store was busy. People of all ages were milling around. As I passed by them I purposefully made eye contact with each one. I wanted to see who would initiate a greeting, even though we did not know one another. Here’s what I found. People over the age of 50 (my estimate) are much more willing to greet people they don’t know than those younger than 50. Those who are under the age of 30 are most unlikely to care that anyone else is around them. Of course, one huge factor is my age. But I also noticed that those under the age of 30 were not even acknowledging their peers.

What’s my point in this. When I get greeted by another person who initiates conversation with me, I am made to feel valuable and important and my spirit is blessed. It feels good to know that someone else noticed me and cared enough to say hi. I’m convinced that when I initiate the greeting, I become a blessing to them.

How much more is that true when I meet someone I know already. Even beyond that, how much more of a blessing it is when that person is a brother or sister in Christ and we share a moment of true fellowship in the Lord. Such relationship is sweet to the soul and uplifts the heart.

What a contrast that is to the removal of blessing we see in Psalm 129. Rather than experiencing the blessing of fellowship in the Lord, those who hate the Lord are removed from receiving any such blessing. People who choose to reject the grace of God when it has been presented to them, and live only by the flesh, will be left to themselves. How discouraging it must be to be so wrapped up in one’s self that there is little or no connection and interaction with others. Even the contact they have with others brings no real satisfaction because they are only feeding off each other’s despondency. Any blessing they may receive from someone is unfulfilling, because apart from God there is no true experience of love. People are walking around hopelessly lost.

But we who know the Lord are to recognize them and reach out to them with the love of Jesus. Years ago, I remember a young couple who visited our church. We had no idea who they were. They came in and sat in the back. Later that day we discovered that one of the men of our church, who understands the principle of recognizing others, had seen them sitting on the front steps of their apartment building. He initiated contact with them, and invited them to church. Not discouraged by their initial resistance to the subject, he continued to relate to them at their level of understanding, and then left. How surprised he was when they showed up in church. Since then another person from our church has been to see them and talk to them. One of our staff members responded to this situation with this statement – If we were all doing what he did, our church would be going to a 2nd service soon!!

Why aren’t we all doing what he did? Why aren’t we, no matter what age we are, noticing people around us and initiating contact with them, even if it’s just a simple hello? Are we so wrapped up in our own lives that we cannot notice others? Are we so busy and hurried that we cannot take time to be polite? Is our love for Jesus Christ and the eternal hope of heaven so small in us that we neglect to accomplish His purpose for our lives?

These are penetrating questions that run through my mind. I hope they stimulate you to think about this as well. Think about it hard. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Let’s be the living examples of God’s love that Jesus will use to draw others to Himself.

Pastor John

Measuring God’s Blessings

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 11, 2015

Psalm 128:1-6  Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! 2  You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. 3  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. 5  The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6  May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

It brings joy to my heart to hear the promise that the LORD, seated on the throne of Zion, blesses us all the days of our lives.

However, we must be very careful that after receiving the words of blessing, we do not define the type of blessing we want to receive. In this Psalm, God describes how He wants us to experience His blessing.

The first way God wants us to experience true blessing is in the prosperity of Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were the chosen people of God to accomplish His glorious purpose. Jerusalem was the center of their spiritual and political presence in the world. When Jerusalem rejected the Messiah, God removed His blessing from them for a time, and established the church as the living organism through which His will is being accomplished.

Until Jesus returns and personally fulfills His covenant with Israel, the church is God’s chosen instrument of revealing His glory on the earth. The Body of Christ is spiritual Jerusalem in this age. God’s blessing today is most fully experienced when the church of Jesus Christ is prospering. We personally experience that blessing when we are actively involved in it.

But how do we measure the prosperity of the church? We are tempted to measure God’s blessing using human standards: attendance, budget, and building size. Yet none of these is the indicator of God’s blessing, but they all can be the product of His blessing.

God’s blessing is being experienced in a church that is winning souls to Christ and discipling them to be true worshippers who are in turn making more disciples as they follow Jesus. We are to measure the blessing of God in our lives by our involvement in the spiritual prosperity of the church. Please be clear – the spiritual prosperity of the church is measured by one single criteria – the proclamation of the Gospel and the power of God to save people from their sins.

The second defined area of blessing in this Psalm is the heritage of family that we leave. Of all the investments we could make with our time, energy, skills, and resources, none exceeds, in God’s heart, the blessings and benefits of family.

No matter how careful you are to invest wisely in the things of this world, and no matter how you choose to use them for God’s glory, none of them are guaranteed. Your wealth will go to someone else. You will be replaced someday by someone else who will do your job, maybe better than you did. Your “toys” will break down or become the property of another. No matter how well you use your resources and things to serve God today, they are not guaranteed to remain in God’s use when they are no longer yours.

But what you invest in the spiritual heritage of your family will always remain in God’s hands. You will live to see your children’s children serving God, because you invested the best of your life in their spiritual heritage. They will be the crown of your life. (Proverbs 17:6 – Children’s children are a crown to the aged.) From generation to generation, the glory of God will continue to be seen in the lives of the people whom you have impacted for Christ.

There are many blessings God has promised, but for this day, consider the priority of these two blessings. I cannot imagine a greater experience of God’s blessing than to know that I have personally been involved in the accomplishing of Christ’s great commission to see the lost get saved and discipled; and to invest in my family to ensure that from generation to generation the love of God is visible to the world.

May the blessing of the Lord from Zion fall on us all in the same way.

Pastor John

Vain Efforts

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 10, 2017

Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Sometimes I feel like blood – everything I do is done in vein.

I know, it’s stupid humor. But it gets me right to the point. We often feel like our best efforts are going unnoticed and unrewarded. Our best work sometimes ends in failure. Our well-thought-out plans get interrupted and sidetracked. We fail to reach our desired goals. We wonder why it seems that whatever we do turns out wrong. We begin to doubt our abilities. We are tempted to give up and not even try any more. Everything seems vain.

Three times at the beginning of Psalm 127, Solomon uses the word vain to describe man’s efforts apart from God. Lightbulb moment. Anything and everything done apart from God is vain. Whatever we do to build a life for ourselves will ultimately tumble. Whatever we do to protect our own lives will ultimately crumble. Whatever we do to provide financially for ourselves we will ultimately fumble. Everything we do apart from God’s will for our lives is vain.

However, the converse of that truth must also be true – everything we do under the direction of the Lord will succeed. We can build lives that will be meaningful and fulfilling. We can live in security. We can enjoy the peace of provisions and rest. The one and only criteria for doing so is to live as the servant of the Master and not as the master.

When the life you are building is the life God designed and you are building it according to His plans, then you will be rewarded. When the guard you post around your life is the shield of faith in Jesus Christ, then you will be protected. When the labor you do is done for the glory of God, He will provide for your every need and you will sleep well.

Whether or not our lives are lived in vain depends solely on our choice of masters. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 the Apostle Paul says, Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.”

Has the passion for wealth become your master? Has fear become your master? Has professional status become your master? Have friends and family become your master? Have you decided to be the master of your own destiny? Has anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ become master of your life?

Be careful. Whatever you think you are accomplishing now will be proven vain. Be steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. Your labor is not in vain when done in the Lord! (1 Cor. 15:58)

Pastor John

From Jams to Joy

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, January 9, 2017

Psalm 126:1-6 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3  The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. 4  Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! 5  Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6  He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

It’s human nature, I guess. We have a seemingly irresistible drive to be preoccupied with problems. We are captivated by our circumstances. We fixate on our failures. We illuminate our issues. We tarry in our tears. We wallow in our weeping. We remember the hurts far longer than the happiness. Yet God has promised that in every jam He will give joy, and in every pain, He will provide peace.

I found this poetic prayer that makes the point of today’s Psalm.

 

Lord of the compost heap

you take garbage

and turn it into soil

good soil

for seeds to root

and grow

with wildest increase

flowers to bloom

with brilliant beauty.

Take all the garbage

of my life

Lord of the compost heap

turn it into soil

good soil

and then plant seeds

to bring forth

fruit and beauty

in profusion.

I don’t know how to express the overwhelming sense of excitement I experience as I read this 126th Psalm. It applies to so many areas of my life and my ministry. I know it must apply to your life as well. It helps me to realize how guilty I am of focusing on the problems and the stresses of life rather than the joy of the Lord. The promises of this Psalm are magnificent and fill my heart with songs of hope. They renew my strength. They fill me with joy. The Lord has done great things for us! He is about to do more!

Carole Mayhall, writing in Today’s Christian Woman magazine, brings home the point.

I squirmed a bit as I forced myself to listen to my friend cataloging her problems. After three hours, I interrupted her gently to ask, “If you were to draw a circle to represent your life, what would be in the center?

She thought a moment, then said, “My problems.” My friend spoke the truth.

A week later, I sat across the hospital bed on which lay my younger sister, Joye, who had just been diagnosed with acute leukemia. Gray and perspiring, with a swath of bandages encasing her throat from a biopsy, Joye talked to a student nurse who was interviewing terminally ill people to see if there was any way she could help them.

“Oh, Jan, I’m a bit fearful of the pain and process of dying—but I’m not afraid of death! It’ll just be a change of residence for me,” I heard my sister, her face radiant from within, say to this student nurse. And for forty-five minutes, Joye explained the good news of Jesus Christ to Jan.

Afterward, I thought, both my friend and sister have serious problems. Yet one’s walking in despair, and the other in joy. What makes the difference?

Then I realized what it was. My friend’s heart was occupied with her problems; my sister’s heart was occupied with the Living God.

It’s our choice – be preoccupied with our problems, or present them to God who will turn jams into joy.

I choose joy!

Pastor John