I Can Trust Him

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

In the midst of our greatest joys there can be heartbreak. That is how we tend to look at life. But what if we turned that around so that our first thought was this: in the midst of our greatest heartbreaks there can be joy.

I was overwhelmed with that thought yesterday as I read from Isaiah 44 and saw these words:

Isaiah 44:2-3   This is what the LORD says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.  For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

The God who made me will help me, so I do not need to be afraid.

When I am thirsty for relief from the anguish of my trials, God will pour water on me.

When my emotions are drying up because of the heartbreaks of life, God soften my heart again with streams of grace and mercy.

When I tend to worry about the outcome of my offspring, I hear the promise of God that He will pour out His Spirit upon them.

He knows what I need and when I need it. What an awesome God He is.

Now I must trust Him.

Pastor John

Praise God in the Storm

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Eight years ago my brother gave me a Bible. It had been my mom’s personal study Bible. It had been given to him as one of the personal items we divided up after mom died. He handed it to me and said that he would like me to have it and use it. I accepted and said that I would.

The next morning I opened the Bible and was immediately taken to Psalm 145.

Psalm 145:1   I will praise you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

At this verse my mom had written some extensive notes on praise. There was an old outline of the chapter written in the margins of her Bible, and there were notes on paper expanding on the outline. The notes in the Bible were old.  I can tell from the quality of the paper notes that they were made not long before her death, probably after she had been diagnosed with her terminal cancer. That’s what makes them so meaningful. The notes are entitled “Reasons to Praise.”

I was overwhelmed that my mom’s focus during her dying days was on praising God. I think I’m going to cry for a few minutes, so excuse me. They are tears of loss and they are tears of shame. I miss my mom, but I also am embarrassed that I don’t praise God more, especially when I believe things are going wrong.

Most of us are the same in that regard. We have an opinion about the circumstances of our lives, and that’s all it is – an opinion. From God’s perspective there is nothing wrong, there is only the expression of His grace as He trains us to have more faith and to be more faithful. We can choose to let our opinions cause us grief,

So here’s the challenge. Read Psalm 145 today. I’ve included it below. Use my mom’s outline as a tool to let the Lord teach you how and why to praise God. It is also printed below. When you are done, consider these things:

  • How bad do things have to get before we let go of our need to complain and start praising our God?
  • How long before we act like we believe God is in control of all things and making them work out for His glory and our good?

My goal is this – to praise His holy name for ever and ever!

Thanks for modeling that to me, Mom, even when in my opinion everything was going wrong.

Pastor John

 

Psalm 145:1-21  

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. 3  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. 4  One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5  On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6  They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. 7  They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8  The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9  The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. 10  All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! 11  They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12  to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] 14  The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16  You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17  The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18  The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20  The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21  My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Here’s my mom’s study guide:

Reasons for Praise (by Ruth A. van Gorkom)

  1. God’s Greatness – vs. 1-3
  2. God’s Majesty – vs. 4-6
  3. God’s Mercy – vs. 7-9
  4. God’s Kingdom – vs. 10-13
  5. God’s Grace – vs. 14-16
  6. God’s Holiness – vs. 17-20
  7. God’s Name (His Character) – vs. 21

Surviving the Storms

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 29, 2019

It’s been quite a year so far. All around us things are anything but normal. Peace of mind is a past tense experience for many. Worry is building. Fear is replacing faith.

Life has been good for a long time for most of us in America. There have been ups and downs and some financial and political storms, but we have always weathered them. We have been trained by history to believe that this too shall pass. So we tighten our belts for a time, make some adjustments to our lifestyle, and plan for the day when it’s over and we can get back to living the way we dream to live.

Well guess what? One of these days the storm won’t pass. I’m not trying to ruin your day or be the gloom and doom man, but the truth is that God’s Word says there is a time coming when the storm will not pass. These preliminary storms are not supposed to strengthen our resolve to survive and get back everything we may have lost. The storms are God’s announcement that He wants to get our attention. They are designed to turn our hearts towards God so that we learn to trust Him and experience His peace no matter what the storm may bring.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to people who had become complacent about their faith and dependent upon their culture for their value and purpose.

Isaiah 32:10   In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail, and the harvest of fruit will not come.

Later in this passage, we are given the reason for the storms on the horizon – the people were not seeking God with all their heart.

Strip off your clothes, put sackcloth around your waists. The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, (my emphasis) and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.

We can expect things to continue to get worse unless we turn to God in repentance and seek Him. Unfortunately, many are more in love with the world than they are with God. Most are more in love with themselves than they are with God. We tend to not love Jesus with all our heart because we choose to reserve sections of it for the pleasures of the world. We tend to not love God with all our mind because we allow the lust of the flesh to captivate our thinking. We tend to not love God with all our soul because we still seek to satisfy our need for acceptance and value with the approval of people. We tend to not love God with all our strength because we so easily give in to the temptations of sin. Hence the storms arrive.

My friends, the storms will continue to come because the power of sin will continue to dominate the world and keep its people from turning to Jesus. But those storms must not turn our hearts from the love of God. In fact, in the life of one who truly loves God, the storms draw us closer and we experience more grace and more peace.

May the storms today, whatever they are wherever you are, cause you to turn your eyes upon Jesus. Every storm is God’s megaphone through which He is shouting, May I have your attention? Listen to Him. Trust Him. Live for Him.

Pastor John

Proper FEAR

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, July 26, 2019

Have you ever felt like the consequences of your past won’t let you move ahead? Frustrating, isn’t it? Our past has a way of catching up with us, and when it does it usually overpowers us.

That was the story of the nation of Assyria. They were a treacherous nation that was despised by the other nations of the world. They not only conquered lands, but terrorized people. They were brutal in their tactics. But it was going to catch up to them.

The day would come when Assyria would try to relax and enjoy the fruit of their conquering. But what they had done to others would be returned unto them no matter how much they announced that their terrorist days were done.

The prophet Isaiah prayed that the day would come when the attacks would stop and be reversed.

Isaiah 33:2   O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

Isaiah knew that because of their sin, the nation of Israel deserved the punishment that had been inflicted upon them by the Assyrians. He also knew that their past would overwhelm them and that they had no power to stop it. Isaiah cried out to the LORD YHWH and said, “be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.”

Here’s what we should do when our past catches up with us: be humble and cry out to God. You cannot stop the consequences of your sin. Only Jesus can. His mercy and grace are the only thing that can give you the victory over the past. He is your strength and salvation in time of distress.

After Isaiah asks for grace from the Lord. He models prayer for us when we are in need. He begins to proclaim the promises of God and declare the Lord’s attributes. He announces, by faith, what He knows will happen, because he knows who God is. This is what Isaiah said:

  • There is no one greater than the Lord – At the thunder of your voice, the peoples flee; when you rise up, the nations scatter. (verse 3)
  • The Lord will restore us and bless us – Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts; like a swarm of locusts men pounce on it. (verse 4)
  • The Lord will be exalted in the land and bring peace –  The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. (verse 5)
  • The Lord is faithful and can be trusted –  He will be the sure foundation for your times, (verse 6a)
  • The Lord will provided everything we need – a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; (verse 6b)

Then Isaiah says one more thing. He gives us the key to victory over our past and the blessings of the future. He says, the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

The fear of the Lord can easily be defined this way:

Father Exalted And Revered.

So that leads us to these questions –

  • “In my life, is the Father exalted and revered?”
  • “Do I believe that I can deliver myself?”
  • “Am I expecting God to deliver me from my past and my sin based on my own merit or on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross?”
  • “Do I expect God to bless me because I believe I deserve it, or do I fear God and trust Him with every part of my life regardless of the blessings promised, because He is worthy?”

O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

Pastor John

Godly Humility

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Isaiah 33:10 “Now will I arise,” says the LORD. “Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up.”

Humility.

It is the exact opposite of what the world teaches. Since we were born we have been bombarded with the message that we must excel. We must do everything in our power to become the best that we can be. We must win at all cost. We must get our own way in everything. We must strive with all our might to exceed the popularity, power, and position of everyone close to us. We believe that the true measure of our worth is in the level of prestige we achieve.

Pastor Leith Anderson, in a sermon he preached in 1999 called The Height of Humility, told this story:

It was a strange bicycle race. According to the story I read, the object of this race in India was to go the shortest distance possible within a specified time. At the start of the race, everyone cued up at the line. When the gun sounded all the bicycles, as best they could, stayed put. Racers were disqualified if they tipped over or one of their feet touched the ground. And so they would inch forward just enough to keep the bike balanced. When the time was up and another gun sounded, the person who had gone the farthest was the loser and the person closest to the starting line was the winner.

Imagine getting into that race and not understanding how the race works. When the race starts, you pedal as hard and fast as you possibly can. You’re out of breath. You’re sweating. You’re delighted because the other racers are back there at the starting line. You’re going to break the record. You think, this is fantastic. Don’t let up. Push harder and faster and longer and stronger.

At last you hear the gun that ends the race, and you are delighted because you are unquestionably the winner. Except you are unquestionably the loser because you misunderstood how the race is run.

Jesus gives us the rules to the eternal race of life. The finish line is painted on the other side of our death, right in front of the throne of God himself. There you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. The winning strategy for this life and for all eternity is caring about others and not about ourselves. It is letting others go first and not pushing to the front. It is giving without the expectation of getting in return. It is to be humble, like Jesus.

I remember two events on the same day years ago involving two men from our church. Both examples involved their work and their responsibilities as managers. Both events were connected to an upcoming Super Bowl game involving the Green Bay Packers. Both men told similar stories of personal greed that required them to show Godly humility.

In both stories, an employee was scheduled to work the closing shift on Sunday night, meaning that they would have to miss the big game. In the first instance, after unsuccessfully trying to find someone to take her place on her shift, the employee sent a text message to her boss simply stating that she quit. She decided that the game and being with her friends was more important than her job. She will regret that. If not now, then most certainly later when this kind of selfish behavior brings her to rock bottom. Her decision is most likely going to result in her boss, a Packer fan, to have to work and miss the game.

The second story is similar. The employee didn’t quit, but made life so miserable for everyone around her by her whining and complaining. She deserved to be fired. Instead, her boss, also a Packer fan, stepped up and volunteered to work for her. He said he wanted to be the bigger person. I told him he was being the Godly person.

Scripture is clear that God will arise and be exalted, and bring us with Him, when we renounce self and trust Him to be our Provider and Protector. We don’t learn that from the world, but it is what results in ultimate glory – for Jesus and for us.

Remember the words of Jesus? The first will be last, and the last will be first. Anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it, but whoever strives to keep his life will lose it.

Pastor John

Thirst-Quenchers

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Isaiah 43:10  “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD.”

As we near the conclusion of our study on personal evangelism, I was challenged again with the example Jesus was while He was living on the earth. Here are some lessons the Lord taught me about the model witness Jesus was. They are taken from the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4.

First, as you may remember from the story, Jesus was on a trip from Judea to Galilee. Instead of going the traditional Jewish route which avoided any contact with the region of Samaria and/or Samaritan people, He intentionally went into the “forbidden” territory. Jesus was travelling, but His itinerary was scary.

It’s scary to intentionally go out witnessing. It’s scary just answering spiritual questions people ask us. But early in His ministry on earth and in the training of His disciples, Jesus modeled the priority of doing the Father’s will, which is to be a witness. It is what we have been called to do. It is our divine purpose. We are the ambassadors of Christ, bringing the message of reconciliation through the cross to the unsaved people of the world.

Jesus intentionally went to where the unsaved were. Not only did He choose to go into dangerous territory, but He put His own reputation at risk by communicating with a Samaritan woman – and an adulterous Samaritan woman at that. That was totally contrary to anything that a respectable Jewish man would do, let alone one who was proclaiming Himself to be the Jewish Messiah. But risk meant nothing to the Savior of the world when compared to the mission He had been assigned by the Father. Obedience to the Father and trust in His Sovereign grace was the priority of His life.

Are we willing to accept the call the go wherever God leads us to bring the Gospel to the lost? What does your itinerary look like today? Is it comfortable and controllable, or does it include something scary like sharing Jesus with an unsaved person?

Second, Jesus went to the well at a time of the day when He would meet someone who was rejected by the rest of society. The traditional time for the women of the city to go out to the well and draw water was early in the morning. They might also return in the evening. They never came at noon because it was too hot. Only the people who weren’t a part of the “in” crowd went to the well at other times.

So it was with the woman Jesus met. Because of her marital and sexual immorality she had most likely been excluded from the circle of fellowship with the other women. Jesus went to a place where He would meet the worst that society has to offer.

How about us? Are we only comfortable sharing our faith with our peers, or will we intentionally go out of our way to meet the spiritual needs of the people commonly rejected by those in our social strata?

Third, Jesus asks the woman for a drink, fully intending to steer the conversation to the living water He had to offer her. Do you realize that Jesus NEVER got His drink of water? He was thirsty, but her thirst came first! He completely set aside His fleshly desires for the sake of fulfilling His purpose to be a witness of God’s salvation to the woman.

This all makes questions pop into my mind. What desires do I have for my life that I have made a higher priority than being a witness? What am I thirsty for, and how many opportunities to be a witness have I missed because I am pursuing my physical or emotional thirsts rather than seeing the spiritual thirst of others?

CONVICTION…followed by repentance…followed by forgiveness…followed by a renewed commitment. That’s the plan for today.

Pastor John

Be the Light You Are

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Did you know that darkness does not exist? There is no tangible or measurable or scientifically provable element called darkness. Darkness is the absolute absence of light, and light is a tangible, measurable, and scientifically provable element. Before God created light on the first day of creation, darkness reigned. God did not create something that produces light until the 4th day of creation, yet he had already established periods of light and dark called day and night. From the very beginning of creation God was making it clear that without Him there is no light, and that He alone is the light of the world.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12) To those who understand Scripture this is one of His proofs of Divinity. He went on to say that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” It doesn’t say that we will be guided by the light of life, or that our path will be illuminated by the light of life, or that light will be available when we need it, but rather that we will have the light of life. The Light of the world makes us a light to the world. Our entire nature becomes light.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

What an incredible truth – we are the light of the world. We are so much more than just people who understand light or have a working knowledge of light or can explain light to someone else: WE ARE LIGHT!

But Jesus reveals that as people of free will, we can choose to hide the light. There is so much light being hidden by so many people. So many lights giving off so little light. So many lights choosing to blend into the darkness around them when they could be eliminating darkness by illuminating the world.

We might ask ourselves how the light shines through us to the world. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains how:

  1. Through pure hearts (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-30)
  2. By reconciliation of relationships (Matt. 5:23-26; 31-32)
  3. Through integrity in business and relationships (Matt. 5:33-37)
  4. Through people with self-control, humility, and a serving spirit (Matt. 5:38-42)
  5. When self-sacrifice and forgiveness define relationships with enemies (Matt. 5:43-48
  6. When generosity without recognition happens (Matt. 6:1-4)
  7. When a spirit of prayer is evident (Matt. 6:5-15)
  8. When financial decisions are based on Kingdom priorities (Matt. 6:19-24)
  9. When faith in Christ remains strong regardless of circumstances (Matt. 6:25-34)
  10. When critical and judgmental spirits cease (Matt. 7:1-6)

It would be good to review our lives in “light” of these truths and reflect on how much Light we are truly reflecting to the world.

Let your light shine before all men, so that all the attention is drawn to the Father in heaven and not to us.

Pastor John