Revealing the Presence of God

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Moses has finally come to the understanding that everything in life is to be about God’s glory. Moses admits to God that life is meaningless and has no purpose unless God’s Presence is visible to everyone. Unless other people can see the reality of God through His Presence in their lives, Moses says that they might as well not proceed with life. The Presence of God is the one thing that distinguished the followers of God from all other people on the earth.

Exodus 33:15-16 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

WOW! What a deep cave for us to explore. I trust that the Holy Spirit motivates you to dig for all the treasures hiding here. Let me start the process by focusing on one gem: the single identifying mark of a Christian is the visible Presence of God in their life.  That being said, we can also conclude that the single identifying mark of a church that is truly following God is the Presence of God in it.

We have allowed the influence of the world to change our methods of identification. We have moved from being identified by His Presence to wanting to be identified by the fulfilled promises. We have looked hard for those promises that personally benefit us, and if we can see them fulfilled then we can be identified as followers of God.

For many, prosperity resulting in big bank accounts and lots of expensive toys shows the Presence of God. Big buildings show the Presence of God in a church, don’t they? Why is it necessary to place a humanly tangible product on the Presence of God to prove that God is present? Those tests fail miserably. Aren’t the unsaved as wealthy or wealthier than the saved? Aren’t the buildings of the cults and unrepentant churches bigger and better than those of the saved? Why do we insist on competing for recognition at the world’s level?

So how is the Presence of God seen in people and in the church? It is not through the physical manifestations of God’s power, although that may accompany His presence. It is through the spiritual manifestations of God’s character in the lives of His followers. It is through people who live with merciful and compassionate hearts.

When Moses asked God to reveal His Presence to him in Exodus 33:18, God responded this way in verse 19 – And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

When God did this, and Moses saw His glory, Moses heard these words from God as He passed by – “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

God reveals to Moses and to us the identifying marks of His presence – compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness. It would be wise for us to reflect on these qualities, and evaluate the consistency of their activity in our lives. It will reveal how well the Presence of God is being seen by others.

Pastor John

Faith Increases Knowledge

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 22, 2019

Yesterday the challenge was to be people like Moses who are truly known to God by our reputation and character and find favor in His sight. Today the challenge is to be people like Moses who seek to know God fully.

Exodus 33:13-14If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Notice how Moses begins this dialogue with God: he builds upon what God has already said about him. “If you are pleased with me, then let me know you better.” Now we must be careful not to fall into the misinterpretation of this statement as some have. We do not earn the knowledge of God by doing all the good works necessary to please Him. Quite the contrary! God and Moses had a relationship based on faith, not works. But as a result of his faith in God and the loving relationship that had been established based on faith, Moses’ character was changed, and he responded to God by serving Him obediently. Works are always the result of faith, never the means to it.

But when Moses realized that the character development that was taking place in his life pleased God, he wanted to be sure that he would continue to live in the favor of the Lord. I think far too many of us are content with where we are right now. We may have stopped seeking to know more about God or to experience more of God’s power in our lives. But Moses wanted everything from God that was available to him, so he asked for it.

It is important that God see the true condition of our hearts in the asking. As a father, I am most blessed with my children and grandchildren when they ask me for something. It represents a heart of trust and humble dependence: trust in the loving supply of the father and humble acceptance of one’s own inability to provide totally for self. This is how God views our asking Him to supply our needs and reveal His nature.

Moses also understood that if God would reveal His ways to him, he would be better able to understand His nature and character. We do the same in our relationships. We observe their actions to better understand their character.  We can do the same with God. When we ask Him to reveal Himself through His activity, we gain a deeper understanding of His nature and character.

Many of us have limited understanding of the fullness of God’s presence because we are still doing far too much in our own strength and wisdom. We must step back and ask God to show us His way of doing it, and then we will begin to truly know His heart.

In response to Moses’ request, God gives him two promises:

  1. “My Presence will go with you.” This is the Hebrew word “face”. Those who seek to know God will be blessed with the favor of God’s face shining upon them. Those who seek self will have the face of God turned against them (Ps. 34:16)
  2. “I will give you rest.” Seeking to know God in the fullness of His nature and character brings peace to our lives because of the faith and trust that grows out of that knowledge. When our youngest grandson is fussy, his parents have the ability to get him to rest because he already knows he can trust their strong arms and provision for his life.

The faith lesson for today is this: seek God. Seek His face. Ask Him to reveal His ways to you so that you may truly know His character. Then you will find rest.

Pastor John

Faith Seeks to Know God and Be Known By God

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 19, 2019

One of the blessings of the way God equipped me for ministry is that He gave me a memory for names and faces.  As I have gotten older the ability to remember the correct name that goes with the face has diminished.  I used to be able to remember people after just one conversation, but not anymore. But I still have that reputation with my family. Whenever we go somewhere, even out of state, the consistent theme of conversation is, “How long will it be before we run into someone PJ knows?”

This ability to know a person’s name is quite different from what is said in our Scripture passage today about how God knows us by name.

Exodus 33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’

There is a much deeper meaning and significance to how we can be known by name to God than how we are known by name to most people. It is the same in the reverse, for there is much more to knowing God than simply knowing His Name.

In the Bible, the name of someone was a representation of their character. Some characters were able to be named before their birth because God knew what their lives would represent – like Jacob. Others had their names changed later in life because of what their lives grew to represent – like Abraham or Paul. Others simply earned a reputation that was attached to their name because of how they lived their lives. That is what is true of most of us.

When God told Moses that He knew him by name, He was stating that He knew and understood his character and reputation, and it pleased Him. When God dug into the deep parts of Moses’ life, he found favor with him. What an incredible thought: Almighty God, perfect and holy, found favor with the way Moses was living his life. Moses was far from perfect, and none of us will ever measure up to the perfection of God. But God saw in Moses the integrity of a maturing character and informed Moses that he was qualified to lead the people.

Our challenge today is two-fold:

  1. When God looks at the deep parts of our lives, does He find favor with us? Can He say that He truly knows us by name? What is the reputation that is attached to our name because of the way we live?
  2. Are we following the leaders God has placed over us so that we may attain full maturity in Christ? Paul says it this way in Ephesians 4:11-13, It was he(Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Here’s the challenge. A new mother and father know their baby by name, but they will have to be patient to really get to know the child’s character and reputation. It will take time for the child to know their character as well.  In the same way, we must move from simply knowing God by name to knowing Him by reputation and character, and to be known by God in the same way.  This requires honesty, transparency, and vulnerability. How much more precious is the relationship when we get beyond face and name recognition and move to heart understanding.

Pastor John

The Intimacy of Faith

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 18, 2019

God’s desire for us to be people of faith leads Him to reveal Himself and His plan to us.  Moses made it his priority to know God, and he is a model for us of becoming a faithful friend of God.

Exodus 33:7-11 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

The first thing Moses did was to establish a specific place where he and the people could go to meet with God. I understand that in this age since the resurrection of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit we always have God’s presence with us, but I think the principle of setting aside a time and a place to meet with God still holds true today. Many of you are doing that right now as you read this. You have set aside your computer as a place to meet with God. Reading this devotional is a part of hearing from God and knowing Him better so you may follow Him more faithfully.

Moses established a tent outside the encampment where people could go to personally inquire of the Lord. This is a great statement of God’s intention to establish every believer’s right to enter the throne room and talk to the Father personally. The death of Jesus Christ made that possible when the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. God opened the way for all His children to meet with Him face to face. Moses had a unique relationship with God at that time, and would go to speak with God face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. What an incredible statement of intimacy! That is the potential for all of us, and should be our passion.

When God spoke with Moses, His glory was visible to the people, and they responded by standing and worshiping at the entrances to their own tents. In other words, each person made his own home a place of worship. The fact that we have a specific place called a church where we come to meet with God and hear from him is not an excuse to disregard the daily worship of God. Let us make the worship of God the priority of our homes.

Finally, notice the young man Joshua, who has taken on the responsibility of guarding the tent of meeting. Here was a young man who had a passion to know the God of Moses and to hear from Him intimately, and sacrificed everything to pursue God’s presence in his life. Such pursuit of God was important for Joshua’s future. Based on his relationship with God and faithfulness to God’s plan, he was chosen to replace Moses as the leader of Israel. His leadership success can be directly traced to his passion to be constantly in the presence of God.

Personal intimacy with Jesus Christ is the goal of our faith.  Intimacy is best accomplished through communication and quality time. May God’s Spirit motivate our hearts to be intentional in setting aside time and a place to meet with God. May we be people of faith who passionately pursue intimacy with God.

Pastor John

Faith Eases the Burden

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Several years ago, I had a great time with a missionary family that our church supports. Along with their teenage son, the couple ministered at our church in the morning. After  lunch with some church people, they came to our house and we loaded up the boat and headed for the Chippewa River for some tubing fun. We met a couple of other church families at a friend’s house and we had a fabulous time getting everyone worn out hanging on for dear life. The river was crowded so there were plenty of waves to navigate, and there was some serious airtime being experienced by the tubers.

At the end of the day, after driving the boat for everyone else, one of the other families invited me to get in a three-person tube for one last run. I agreed, and it was obvious from the start that the boat driver had it in for me. Everything was done to throw me from the tube, including putting me in a faulty portion of the tube. Finally, after hanging on for dear life, the tube collapsed under me and I was gone. It was a great tumble and the water felt refreshing. We laughed and returned to the dock.

The next morning my shoulders were sore, right across the back of the neck. I must have hit my head funny when I fell into the water at breakneck speed. I have a definite understanding of being stiff-necked. However, mine is for a much different reason than the Israelites. Mine is muscle stiffness: theirs was moral stiffness.

Exodus 33:1-3 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

The background of the word stiff-necked is agricultural, and comes from a term used to describe a stubborn ox or horse that won’t respond to the yoke or the reins. These animals have their own disposition and refuse to be broken to obey the master.

That is how the people of Israel are described three times by the Lord because of their continual complaining and repeated return to their old ways of sin. So serious is their sin that God, in His mercy, refuses to accompany them on their journey to the promised land for fear that He will destroy them.

Right from the beginning of their deliverance God had said this – Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-8) Now they were returning to the yoke of the bondage from which they had been delivered.

It is a serious thing to claim to have taken the yoke of God’s leadership onto our shoulders and then replace it with the yoke of self-gratification. It is a serious thing to set our necks stiffly against the leading of God in our lives. It is a serious thing to set ourselves up as being more qualified to determine our outcomes than God. It is a serious thing to oppose the plan of God for our lives. It will lead to serious consequences, and may end in the destruction of all that we once held dear.

But Jesus offers an alternative to that kind of burdensome living. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This is the cure for a stiff neck that has been caused by the burden of guilt carried on the shoulders of a morally corrupt person. Come to Jesus for forgiveness and healing of the heart. When the heart is overwhelmed with the love of God, the will is broken, and the surrendered soul finds rest.

Pastor John

Faith Is Honest

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

When I was 6 years old I went along with my mom to the local pharmacy in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They had a toy section and I knew there had to be something there that would make my life more fun and fulfilling. While mom was getting her things, I got mine. It was a red ball, about the size of a golf ball, and it fit perfectly into my pocket. We walked out of the store and it was mine…for a while.

I couldn’t contain my excitement so on the way home I took the ball out and started tossing it in the air. Of course, mom noticed, and asked me where I got it. I lied. I said I had found it. Unfortunately for me, the price sticker was still on the ball, so my deception fell apart quickly. She turned the car around and marched me right back into that store where I had to confess what I had done to the owner of the store. I was humiliated.

At the time I thought about all the lessons I could learn from this, but every one of them was an extension of the underlying problem. I thought about how to get away with it the next time: take off the price tag…scuff up the ball so it looks used…leave it in my pocket longer…and so on. But every one of those thoughts was a temptation by Satan to hide the sin and avoid the consequences. The real lesson I should have learned that day is this – I must take personal responsibility for my choices, and when I do there is forgiveness and restoration.

The real motivation behind lying is not to avoid consequences, but rather to protect personal value and worth. When we really think about it, the consequences of our choices are not nearly so frightening as the thought of having a diminished value in the eyes of another person. That’s what really hurts, and that’s what causes our lying. Lying is an attempt to please people, and the primary person we are trying to please is self.

In our study of faith from the life of Moses, we learn an important lesson from Aaron today.

Exodus 32:21-24  Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’  So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Aaron told a  stupid lie when he claimed that the golden calf created itself. Did he think that because Moses had just been in the presence of God that he would easily believe any miracle? When self-protection mode is engaged in our lives we can easily be convinced to do and say anything that appears to benefit us. Aaron may have feared that Moses’ opinion of his leadership qualities and spiritual maturity would be diminished, so he tried to protect his reputation with a lie. So blindingly powerful is this need for self-protection that logic is thrown out the window. It was so very easy for Moses to disprove Aaron’s statement simply by asking other witnesses what happened. But Aaron’s lie was so rooted in pride that he believed that his word was more influential and trustworthy than anyone else’s word. Moses would have no reason to doubt him even though the preponderance of evidence was against him.

We have all been in this situation, and we have all been at the crossroads where the paths of humility and pride meet and bring us to a moment of decision.  Moses brought the people to that crossroad when he declared to them, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.”  He gave the guilty people a chance for forgiveness and restoration. Those who responded received both.

You may be at that crossroad today and must choose between faithfulness to God and faithfulness to self. Be careful. The choice of pride will end in destruction. The choice of humble personal responsibility will honor God and bring life. Choose wisely.

Pastor John

Faith Perseveres

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 15, 2019

Friday, we left Moses in Exodus 19 preparing to tell the people of Israel about their incredible deliverance from Egypt and that it was God who bore them up on eagles’ wings and carried them to Himself. When they heard this, the people made a promise to Moses that they would obey everything God would tell them to do. Moses went up on the mountain to find out the details of how God wanted the people to live in relationship with Him. The people all witnessed the incredible and awesome presence of God on the mountain, and watched as Moses entered God’s presence. But would they persist in their faith?

Exodus 32:1-4 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”  So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

That’s NOT the answer we were hoping for. Moses has been gone for forty days and during that time the glory of God was visible on the mountain to all the people. But the thrill and excitement of the initial event had worn off. The people were tired of sitting still, and they needed tangible results to their faith. Because they weren’t moving forward and were seeing no supernatural activity of personal benefit, they decided to look elsewhere for leadership. Imagine that – in full view of God’s glorious presence like a consuming fire on top of the mountain, they declared their distrust in the ability of God to lead them. Instead they declared that their real God was an inanimate calf cast out of gold. Apis, the Egyptian bull-god, had kept them safe in Egypt, and maybe now this god would guide them to safety once again.

Why is it that we so quickly return to our sinful bondages? I see from the example of the Israelites a couple of reasons.

  1. Their faith was still focused on the activity of God and not on the nature of God. They could see the splendor of His nature in front of them, but because there was no activity they looked for another object of faith to generate action. This is a hard lesson for us to learn. Suffice it to say that even when the activity around us seems to be moving against us, God is still carrying us to Himself on the wings of eagles.
  2. They did not persist in their faith because they were not experiencing any movement. How often are we tempted to rush out of the still moments of God’s timeline and force movement? Probably often. None of us enjoys the times when God seems inactive. We pray for answers and none seem to come. We want an immediate answer of yes or a no but are unwilling to accept the answer of wait. Wait is a weight we don’t like to bear. “Maybe God needs our help to motivate some activity,” we say. Do we realize the serious implications of such a statement? If we believe that God needs our help in any way, then we cannot believe that He is truly God, and we place ourselves above Him. It is no wonder that the Lord’s anger burned against the people because of their impudence.

Tomorrow we will look at the rest of this story, but for today I leave you with this thought. Do not fight the quiet times of God’s apparent inactivity. His glory can still be seen all around you. His promises are still valid and will not fail. He promised the Israelites in Exodus 19:5-6 that they would be His treasured possession. He has affirmed that promise to us as well in 1 Peter 2:9 which says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

God does not need our help to keep the plan moving: it is moving just fine and according to His timeline. So, in those quiet times of inactivity, do what God told the people of Israel to do – wait, and live in consecrated, holy expectation of God’s work becoming visible. Be persistent to live by faith according to what you now know, and God will give you more understanding as He determines you need it.

Pastor John