The Divine Influence

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

In the childhood of Jesus, we see a pattern for growth for each of us. In addition to physical growth, God has designed for us to grow in wisdom and grace. For the last week we have been looking at growth in wisdom. Today let’s begin a study of growing in grace.

I came across a very meaningful definition of grace the other day. In the past I heard grace described as “God’s unmerited favor”. I also was taught the acrostic God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. I still wondered how to fulfill the command of Scripture to grow in grace. It also puzzled me why Jesus was described as having the grace of God upon Him when as God He certainly did not receive anything that was not merited.

Then I came across this definition of grace in Strong’s Greek Dictionary – Grace is the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.” WOW! That answered both my questions. Jesus had the grace of God upon Him so that His life was a true and total reflection of the Glory of God. That means I grow in grace by allowing God’s divine influence to not only change my heart but also to be reflected in the way I live.

I began to consider the ways that Jesus’ life reflected the grace of God. I have discovered five specific references made to grace by Jesus during His public ministry. Each one of them becomes a standard for measuring our personal growth in grace.

When the free and unmerited Divine Influence of God impacts our hearts, these five characteristics of the life of Jesus will also be reflected in our lives.

  1. The Divine Influence to be merciful
  2. The Divine Influence to not require recognition
  3. The Divine Influence to withstand persecution
  4. The Divine Influence to endure suffering and loss
  5. The Divine Influence to fulfill God’s purpose

When grace grows in our hearts, it will result in a divinely influenced lifestyle. Colossians 2:6 says “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” We have been saved by grace – God’s Divine Influence upon our spirit – and we continue to live by that same influence.

In the next five devotionals we will study each of these characteristics of a divinely influenced life. To prepare, consider this – are my current lifestyle choices and my responses to life’s circumstances a reflection of God’s divine influence on my heart?

Pastor John

Provisions for the Trip

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 21, 2019

Psalms 121:1 – 8 1I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? 2My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

In the quest for wisdom, God has not left us to fend for ourselves. On this journey toward being wise, He has given us three resources that guarantee we will arrive successfully – assuming we use them.

First, He has given us a road map to our destination. The map is called the Bible. This map is a detailed description of every step we must take on our journey. It displays all the routes we must travel and gives us some incredible scenic rest stops along the way. It warns us of dangers that exist if we go off-roading. It even provides us with directions to the best spiritual restaurants along the way, so we can keep our strength up.

Psalms 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Wisdom is the guaranteed destination of the person who studies God’s Word. Psalms 119:98 – 100 tells us, “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.

Second, God has given us a Personal Tour Guide for the journey. This Guide is completely familiar with the map and can explain any of the symbols found in it so that we are never confused as we follow it. He is also totally familiar with the destination and can keep us interested in reaching it when the trip seems to be getting long and tiresome. Even when we seem to be traveling across a flat desert wasteland and have no hope of reaching the other side, our Guide can give us a beautiful description of what lies ahead so we persevere.

Our Guide is promised to us by Jesus Christ in John 14; And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth… the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Do not fear the journey to wisdom – God has given us a Personal Tour Guide – the Holy Spirit.

Third, God has given us traveling companions for the journey. Friends who are also making the journey can occupy every seat in our vehicle. They are there to encourage us. They can share the driving responsibilities. Sometimes, like all good back seat drivers, they make sure we are going the right way. They have permission to ask lots of questions and hold us accountable for the decisions we make. They share expenses along the way. They pray for us. They are God’s gift to us so that the journey is not lonely. With them along, we do not get discouraged and pull of the road to consider ending our trip.

It is already evident that you have wisdom because you have invited these friends to join you on your journey. Proverbs 13:20 says, He who walks with the wise grows wise. You are also wise because you have chosen to listen to their advice. Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise (Prov. 19:20).

Three resources given us by God to guarantee our arrival at the destination of wisdom – a Map, a Guide, and traveling companions. Happy trails!

Pastor John

The Treasure of Wisdom

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 18, 2019

Proverbs 2:1-6 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Life is hard, and some days it is hardly life. We are constantly bombarded with the question of “Why?” We know that we can ask God for wisdom. James in the Bible says, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 

We ask, but we are frustrated because the answer never seems to come at the time we need it or in the way we want it. Did God break His promise? We become more confused, and life seems to get harder instead of easier.

If this sounds like your thought process and your experience, let me make a couple of observations before we proceed to the lesson for today.

First, the wisdom God promised is not to be confused with the answers and solutions we have pre-determined. God’s wisdom is far outside the box of human reason. When we ask for it we must believe that we will receive from Him something that is beyond our pre-determined outcomes. We do not experience the wisdom of God because we expect the answers of man.

Second, where did we get the idea that wisdom makes life easier? It makes it more understandable, but God did not promise us relief from the pain just because we ask for wisdom.

When we read the Bible, we must read it in the context of what other passages say. The passage in James tells us to ask for wisdom, but so does the passage in Proverbs that is printed above. It includes some other responsibilities along with the asking. It will be to our benefit to make them a consistent part of our search for wisdom.

First, we are to turn our ears to wisdom and our heart to understanding. This means that our wills are surrendered to what God will give us with no pre-determined outcomes. We will listen for His voice without our input, and we will apply what He says to our hearts without compromise based on personal preference.

Second, we will call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. Once our ears and hearts are humbled to listen and learn, we may ask boldly for what God will grant us. Calling out and crying aloud are much more intense than just asking. God expects that the longing of empty hearts will be expressed with fervor. Asking flippantly does not model a surrendered heart. It reveals that we believe an answer would be nice but not necessary because we will end up doing it our way anyway. Where there is absolute dependence upon God there is intensity to know God’s answers.

Finally, we look and search for wisdom as we would for silver and hidden treasure. Wisdom’s worth to us will be evident in the way we search for it. When we lose something of value, the intensity of our search reflects the value of the item lost. When we search for wisdom, do we search in every possible location to find it? Are we reading God’s Word? Are we seeking the counsel of God’s servants? Are we fervently praying and seeking the input of the Holy Spirit?

The treasure is worth the search.

Pastor John

Wisdom’s Discipline

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Proverbs 1:1 – 5  1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— 5let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.

When Solomon introduces his book of wise sayings in the Bible, he sets forth the purpose and practical outcomes of wisdom. You will notice with a careful reading of today’s passage that all the “buddies” of wisdom we looked at yesterday are present at the very beginning of the book. Knowledge, understanding, discernment, and insight have all joined together with wisdom in a band of brothers that is set to accomplish two objectives – discipline and justice.

Look at verse three – for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.

The outcome of wisdom’s activity in our lives is predetermined. Those who are wise will live a disciplined life and their actions will be fair. But how does wisdom accomplish those outcomes?

First, becoming a disciplined person is a three-part process: instruction, warning, and correction. Those who are disciplined are those who have listened to instruction, heeded warnings about error, and been willing to be corrected when wrong.

Humility is at the top of the character chart for a wise person. The proud do not listen to instruction, nor do they heed warnings, nor do they accept correction. Humble hearts are the fertile soil into which wisdom can be planted and bear the fruit of discipline.

Second, the actions that proceed from the life of a disciplined person will be fair. Three words are used in the original Hebrew to define fairness in this passage – justice, judgment, and equity. Let’s define each one.

Justice means to be morally and legally right. It is translated most often in the Old Testament as righteousness. Wisdom always balances morality and the law. All human laws that are not based on God’s moral laws are unwise and will only lead to destruction. The same is true for our lives. The laws we choose to live by and choices we make must be morally in tune with the heart of God or they are unwise. We cannot call our choices right if they do not reflect the moral righteousness of God. True justice is always morally correct.

Judgment in this context is defined as a verdict. After all the evidence has been presented in a court of law, the judgment is handed down. If all the laws by which the case was heard are morally correct, then the judge has the responsibility to pronounce a moral judgment. In a wise person’s life every decision made, and every conclusion reached, will be just because they are based on the moral law of God.

The final word is equity, and literally means to be straight. This means we are to be consistent. All situations are treated with the same level of justice and judgment. No favoritism. No bigotry. Absolute impartiality.

In review, the balance that will exist in a wise person’s life is that they will be disciplined and fair. Discipline is only possible in a humble life that accepts instruction, warnings, and correction. Fairness is the product of moral rightness and will be reflected in the consistency of decisions and conclusions reached.

Our responsibility now is to make sure we are people of wisdom and that the qualities of discipline and justice are balanced.

Pastor John

Wisdom’s Buddies

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 10:13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning…

Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight.

Men understand the concept of buddies. Women have friends; men have buddies. The difference is simply in how they share intimacy.

  • Friends sit down and have a heart to heart talk: buddies share a recreational moment and wrestle each other with their words.
  • Friends consider their words carefully so they have the greatest impact with the least amount of pain: buddies expect pain.
  • Friends would never throw jabs: buddies throw jabs, hooks, and uppercuts.

I’m glad I have buddies. They challenge me. They sharpen me. They teach me lessons I must learn so I become better. They are not afraid of a fight that they know will result in growth.

It may seem shallow to those who have friends with whom they can have heart to heart talks, but I guarantee you the intimacy level of a buddy’s confrontation is no less significant. We need each other. We would not be the men we are today if it were not for incredible buddies who spoke the truth in love.

Wisdom has buddies – four of them. They form a band of brothers that are inseparable. They challenge each other. They sharpen each other. They bring out the best in each other. Before I introduce you to them, let’s review our working definition of wisdom from yesterday.

Wisdom is the ability to assess a situation accurately and develop a workable plan to accomplish a desired goal.

Here are wisdom’s buddies:

  1. Knowledge – Wisdom would have no foundation if not for his buddy knowledge. Knowledge of God is essential to the ability to accurately assess any situation in life.
  2. Understanding – Wisdom must have understanding or the only thing available to us are facts. Understanding brings an emotional connection to the facts as well as the ability to assess any situation.
  3. Discernment – Wisdom needs discernment, or the wrong facts would be applied to the wrong situations. When facts and emotions are buddied up with discernment, then wisdom is able to develop a workable
  4. Insight – Wisdom’s plans have no outcomes of real value if they are developed without insight. Insight is essential to the eternal worth of the desired

If we were to remove any one of these buddies from this band of brothers, wisdom would cease to function. It is possible we are not considered as wise people because one of the buddies has been eliminated from the brotherhood in our lives. We must ask ourselves these heart-searching questions:

  1. Is my knowledge of the Holy One growing every day so that His Presence captivates my heart?
  2. Is my mind being transformed every day so that I understand the connection between the knowledge of God and the situations of life? Am I seeking to turn the facts into workable principles for life?
  3. Am I prayerfully discerning the truth of the situations in which I am involved, seeking to develop a workable plan that accurately applies the principles I understand to be true?
  4. Am I prayerfully considering the long-term spiritual impact of the plan I have developed, seeking God’s insight into His desired purpose?

When wisdom gets together with his four buddies, watch out – they’re going to make noise, and something will probably get broken – the power of the enemy!

Pastor John

What is Wisdom?

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

James 3:13  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom…

How would you define wisdom? Many people define it in a limited way as knowledge based on experience. To these people, experience is a wonderful thing. It enables them to recognize a mistake when they make it again.

Unfortunately, this also defines a fool, who keeps doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.

According to James 3:13, wisdom involves both understanding and action. Our human dictionary agrees. It states that wisdom is both a quality and an action. Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Wisdom also determines the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

Here’s my attempt to write good working definition of wisdom:

Wisdom is the ability to assess a situation accurately and develop a workable plan to accomplish a desired goal.

Two words help me to distinguish between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom – accurately and desired.  An accurate assessment of any situation depends upon humble spiritual insight that only comes through a Christ-centered mindset. Desired goals that are not dictated by the purpose of God will end up in disorder and ultimately fail. True wisdom develops workable plans based on an understanding of God’s purpose. Such plans are always God glorifying.

Many times, we forget one or both of those vital elements of decision-making. We usually take into consideration the plan of God, but we forget to include God in the outcome. We may study our Bibles and find truths and principles that apply to our situation so we can develop a plan that honors God, but then we may forget to designate God as the beneficiary of any results of the plan. We tend to get so wrapped up in the process that we forget to honor the One responsible for the product. Let me illustrate.

A young ensign, after nearly completing his first overseas cruise, was given an opportunity to display his capabilities at getting the ship under way. He wanted to display his ability to assess the situation accurately and implement a workable plan to accomplish the desired goal. With a stream of commands, he had the decks buzzing with men, and soon the ship was steaming out the channel on route to the United States.

His efficiency established a new record for getting a destroyer under way, and he was not surprised when a seaman approached him with a message from the captain. He was a bit surprised, though, to find it a radio message and even more surprised to read: “My personal congratulations upon completing your underway preparation exercise according to the book and with amazing speed. In your haste, however, you have overlooked one of the unwritten rules—make sure the captain is aboard before getting under way.”

Principle number one of being wise – make sure the outcome of every workable plan not only includes the Captain of our souls but also honors Him.

Pastor John

Becoming Godly

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 14, 2019

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…

1 Timothy 4:8 … godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 Timothy 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

The three Scripture passages above are a great conclusion to our study of being strong and wearing the armor God has provided us. The total pursuit of God’s glory is to be reflected in every aspect of our lives. The power of the indwelling presence of Jesus produces the work of godliness, and in our commitment to wearing the armor godliness is accomplished.

In my files I found this anonymous prayer that encourages and challenges me.

The Warrior’s Prayer

Heavenly Father,

your warrior prepares for battle.

Today I claim victory over Satan by putting on

the whole armor of God.

I put on the Belt of Truth!

May I stand firm in the truth of Your Word

so I will not be a victim of Satan’s lies.

I put on the Breastplate of Righteousness!

May it guard my heart from evil

so I will remain pure and holy,

protected under the blood of Jesus Christ.

I put on the Shoes of Peace!

May I stand firm in the Good News of the Gospel

so Your peace will shine through me

and be a light to all I encounter.

I take the Shield of Faith!

May I be ready for Satan’s fiery darts of

doubt, denial, and deceit

so I will not be vulnerable to spiritual defeat.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation!

May I keep my mind focused on You

so Satan will not have a stronghold on my thoughts.

I take the Sword of the Spirit!

May the two-edged sword of Your Word

be ready in my hands

so I can expose the tempting words of Satan.

By faith your warrior has put on

the whole armor of God.

I am prepared to live this day in spiritual victory!

Amen

May I suggest that we read that prayer every morning as a part of our routine to start the day.  I have found that it changes my perspective and gives me strength for what is ahead. Especially on Monday.

Pastor John