The Joy of Salvation

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 30, 2019

It might be helpful if you take a moment and read the context of Isaiah 11:10 – 12:6 to getting the big picture of today’s lesson..

God is promising to the Israelites that the day is coming when He will establish His King and Kingdom on the earth. His people, who have been scattered all over the earth for generations, will be reclaimed and reunited in Israel and become a great nation again under the reign of Jesus Christ, the Root of Jesse.  All enemies will be cut off (11:13). All competition for recognition and prestige will end (11:13). They will become the most powerful and dominant nation of the world (11:14). God will make the way easy for them to return to the Promised Land (11:15-16). It will be the time of God fulfilling His covenant to Abraham as a testimony to His faithfulness.

Then in chapter 12 we have the songs of praise that the people will sing when the promise has been fulfilled. The people will proudly and boldly proclaim the marvelous works of Almighty God to save them and bring them into the Promised Land permanently. The whole earth will be overwhelmed with the greatness of God.

Isaiah 12:2  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

That’s the historical and prophetic picture of what happens in God’s chosen people Israel. But there is a bigger picture for us today. Notice the spiritual applications to our lives today:

  • People are living in the bondage of sin, held captive by its deceptive influence on the fleshly desires we all possess to seek acceptance and recognition. They are scattered all over the earth seeking fulfillment in a myriad of ways, all of which drive them deeper into sin and further from their true homeland in Christ.
  • Jesus has raised up a banner for all the world to see, so that people can be reclaimed and reunited in God’s true family. That banner is the cross, where Jesus died to pay for the sin of the world and reconcile people to God. 
  • God has made the way easy for people to come home. He has prepared every path of your life with crossroads that lead to Him. You may have ignored them, or been so focused on the path of self-fulfillment that you didn’t see them, but they have been there. If you will open your eyes and look you will see the path of God leading you to the cross where your life can begin.
  • Once you come to the cross, the joy of salvation will so fill your heart that you will burst forth in words of praise so that others will be able to hear about God’s greatness. No longer will your heart be filled with complaining or criticism. No longer will resentment and bitterness rule your thought life. There will be no more grudges harbored in a heart of unforgiveness, because you will have experienced ultimate forgiveness from the Lord and will be ready to do the same for others no matter what they have done.

God never gives up designing crossroads in your life to draw you to Jesus. You will come across one even today.

“Surely God is my salvation: I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Pastor John

Banner Loyalty

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 27, 2019

I wish there was a greater patriotic spirit in our land today. I remember as a child the pride we had in our country. We were not all that far removed from the end of World War 2, the Korean war was in progress, and there was a sense of national pride and unity that permeated our country. I can’t remember ever seeing a single person sitting while a flag would be carried by in a parade. I also can’t remember anyone ever standing without having their hand over their heart in a personal salute to what the flag represents.

Not so today, is it? There is a disrespectful disregard for patriotism. Some would say it is because we have drifted so far from what our founding fathers designed, so they are excused from honoring what currently stands. I believe that the reason we are where we are today is because we, the generations since those days of honor and respect, have failed to live it and teach it as we should. We became complacent. We stopped rallying around a common banner and hope, and the resulting disrespect for our Republic and changing philosophies of our leaders is what we should have seen coming.

William Arthur Ward wrote these moving words:

“I believe in America.

“I believe it became great because of its faith in God, its hope for independence, and its love for freedom.

“I am grateful for America’s glorious past; I am awed by its unbelievable present; I am confident of its limitless future.

“I am not ashamed to take my hat off and to stand at attention when Old Glory passes by. I do not apologize for the lump in my throat when I repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. I am not embarrassed by the tears in my eyes when I hear ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’

“Like millions of Americans, I want a free choice, not a free handout. I prefer an opportunity to prove my abilities on the job rather than a license to demonstrate my frustrations in the street.

“I am an old-fashioned American with a new-found determination to do my part to make democracy work.”

Like Ward, I too still get tears in my eyes when I sing the Star Spangled Banner. Just think of what that song meant to the people of that day, and what it should still mean to us. In the midst of a predictably unwinnable war against a vastly superior army from a long-established country, our troops were fighting to preserve our young Republic. During the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake in the War of 1812, the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. The flag was the rallying point for the army. It was the signal to all around that there was still fight left in the troops. The flag is our symbol of liberty, and it should be held high and in high regard.

As Christians we belong to a spiritual Kingdom. The Ruler of this Kingdom has also established a flag – a banner – that flies over us as our rallying point.

Isaiah 11:10  In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

Our banner is Jesus Christ. We display the banner with the cross on which He died for our sins. One day, maybe very soon the way things are going, the One who hung on the cross will return. The day is coming when a new Ruler will rise, or rather descend, to power. He will become the new banner for the people of the world. He will be the One to bring true world peace. He will be the One to unite the world again. All nations will bow before Him. All nations will be united in Him. He will bring peace that is glorious.

His name is Jesus, and His banner is to be lifted high and held in high regard.

Pastor John

Perfect Peace

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Let’s go on a walk today on a path leading us into the incredible hope found in Isaiah 11:9.

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

We know a lot of stuff, don’t we? We are flooded with information from countless sources. Some of the information is irrelevant to us. Some is indispensable. Some is stored away in our brains as potentially significant. Some knowledge is applied and it changes us. That’s the stuff we really believe. The knowledge that results in activity is the stuff we choose to believe.

The knowledge of people leads us to believe something about them, which results in a decision about relationship with that person. But also at play is the other person’s knowledge of us. In any deepening relationship these two elements of knowledge exist – our knowledge of them and their knowledge of us. The fundamental goal of any great relationship is to have two people who understand that they want to know and to be known.

This is to be the same goal of any individual who seeks a relationship with God. We seek to know Him and to be known by Him. Not only do we seek it, but it is the deepest desire of man’s heart, even though we may not realize it. We do not fully understand love until we understand the desire to know and to be known. The Apostle Paul connected the two in 1 Corinthians 13:12 when he wrote about the fulfillment of knowledge in the context of love’s expression. He said, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

I would assume (I know, that’s dangerous) that you already know that God knows all. But I’m not so sure we live like we believe it. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, spoke of this when she thanked the Lord for her son. She said, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.” If we truly believed that God knows all, especially that He knows all about us, it would change the way we speak and behave. The Bible says, “One perfect in knowledge is with you.” (Job 36:4)

There is a day coming when the knowledge of the LORD will fill the earth. That means that not only will all the earth understand that God knows all, but that all the earth’s inhabitants – human and animal alike – will be under the complete power of the knowledge of God. What I mean is this – the earth will know God as it is known by God. People will know God as they are known by God. Animals will know God as they are known by God. And this will be the result:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Perfect peace.  Not as a result of man’s efforts, but as a result of God’s intervention into man’s mess. Jesus will come as King. When He does, there will be perfect peace on earth. All creation will be redeemed from the effects of sin. But there’s more good news – you don’t have to wait for that to happen on the earth to experience the peace of God in your life.  It starts in your heart, in the spiritual realm, when you come to Jesus for salvation. Let the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross be more than just head knowledge. Believe it. It will transform your life and give you perfect peace.

Pastor John

Come To Us! Come for Us!

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

If it’s right it’s always right. Unfortunately the vast majority of the people in the world today don’t believe that. From the average citizen to the heads of state, there is a general consensus that truth is relative, and should be allowed to be influenced by circumstances, experiences, and emotions. Even in the Body of Christ, the true church, there is a movement to negotiate truth based on personal needs and desires and social context. But truth is truth no matter what the context, and right is right always.

Imagine the consequences of relative truth and negotiable right. We don’t really even have to imagine. Just look around. Men and women turning to sexual pleasure outside of marriage just to please their fleshly passions, and justifying it with a myriad of rationalizations designed to protect their false image of righteousness. People pursuing possessions at an uncontrollable rate using debt to buy what they think is happiness, all because they believe they deserve it and it will validate their self-worth. Employees and employers alike climbing over people up the ladder of status and position, justifying the pain they cause by proclaiming that everyone should live by the law of survival of the fittest.

Wait, there’s more. According to culture, any and every action that produces a self-defined good can be justified as right in people’s minds. The college student’s desire to get into medical school so they can fulfill their passion to be a missionary doctor may only be fulfilled if they pad their academic record, so they cheat. That’s justified according to today’s philosophy of relativity, right?

[God] will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. (Isaiah 11:3-4)

Oh how far we have come from the Biblical truth of righteousness. My heart needs revival of God’s righteousness. My heart longs for the return of the Righteous One. He will not be swayed by public opinion. He will not be influenced by fleshly passions. He will not negotiate truth based on emotions. His truth is not the product of His experiences, but rather His truth is the expression of His nature. His character is consistent – perfectly consistent – for He has no need of approval or affirmation. He is Who He is – the great I AM. He is the One and Only Eternal God, incarnate in Jesus Christ. He died to pay for each one’s sin, and then rose from the dead to conquer sin and death forever. And He is coming again to establish His kingdom based on truth – non-negotiable truth. Righteousness and justice will be found on the earth once again.

But while we wait, may the Righteous One come in us, and restore to us the integrity of living, thinking, and acting according to His truth alone. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Come to us.

Come for us.

Pastor John

Stumps Can Bring New Life

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I have a friend who is a marvelous tree climber, and has all the ropes and tackle necessary to cut down trees and make the branches and trunk fall in just the right spots. He came over to my house to help me with two trees that were dying.  It was a big job, and I was tired by the time it was done. There were a lot of branches to haul into a pile, and there was a lot of firewood to stack.

My plan was to use my chain saw at a later date to cut off the stumps at ground level so they didn’t interfere too much with the growth of the new lilac bushes I planted. Well, the stumps still stand. And now there are shoots of new trees sprouting 3 feet high from the side of one of the stumps. It doesn’t look good. In fact, just the other day, a guy was driving by and stopped and asked my wife if we would hire him to remove the stumps. He obviously thought they were pretty ugly also. (Hmmm…What a strange expression – pretty ugly.)

I was thinking about those new shoots of trees from the old stump. I really do miss that tree. It would be nice if it grew again. I wonder what those shoots would ever amount to if I pruned them and let one of them grow? I know it would take a long time, but someone, someday, would enjoy the fruit of my endeavor, if it actually worked.

History tells us that nations, like trees, tend to die. They cease to be productive. God tells us the reason: they move down a political path that rejects the truth of His Sovereignty. Death is always the result of rejection of God. Sometimes nations die a slow death of moral and social decay. Sometimes they are cut down before the decay causes further damage to surrounding territories. In the tenth chapter of Isaiah, God cuts down the nations that have rejected Him.

See, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power. The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low. He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax.                  (Isaiah 10:33-34)

God’s judgment always has a two-fold purpose. First, it is to destroy sin. Second, it is to restore life as He intended. Whether we are destroyed or restored is our choice and depends upon the humility of our hearts to repent of our sin and surrender to God’s purpose for our lives. The same is true for nations. When there is humility and repentance, there will be restoration. God promises it. It may take a long time, and we may not be around to see the full effects of the restoration project, but God is faithful to accomplish it.

God’s faithfulness is guaranteed in the very next verse after He describes the chopping of the trees.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.    (Isaiah 11:1-3)

The stump is going to produce a new shoot – a Branch that will bear the fruit of restoration. This is the spiritual truth illustrated by the stump in my front yard. Jesus Christ will spring forth from the tree of Israel that was cut down because of its sin. He will be filled with the Spirit of the LORD and He will be qualified with wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, and power to restore the Kingdom and reign as its King. He will bring to the people the delight of living in awe of God.

This spiritual principle of pruning to perfection is what God may be doing in your life right now. At the minimum He’s clipping off the unproductive and sinful branches of your life so that the righteous branches can bear more fruit. At times it seems like He’s cutting down the whole tree. Some people need that. They need to be left with a stump in order for the Branch to sprout fresh and bring them life again. To whatever degree God is pruning you, let Him. Sure it hurts – but the new growth will be much better and you will delight in it.

Pastor John

Become the Fuel

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 23, 2019

During my sabbatical I enjoyed many days of camping with my family. All the kids and grandkids were there at one time or another. We shared meals and spent time in the boat and on the beach. We played corn hole toss. And we had campfires. I love campfires. It’s the best time of the day. Anytime there’s any stress at all you can just go sit in a lawn chair by the fire and relax. It’s therapeutic.

But fires take fuel. On several occasions we camped on days when other campers were leaving, so I would go looking for firewood that had been left behind. You can never have enough fuel when it comes to campfires.

One morning I read something from a friend on Facebook that got me thinking about fire and fuel. Then I read the passage from the book of Isaiah.

The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers. The splendor of his forests and fertile fields it will completely destroy, as when a sick man wastes away.  And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few that a child could write them down.  In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 10:17-20)

After reading that passage the Holy Spirit convinced me that what my friend had written was true – we have no right to ask the refining fire of God to come upon us unless we are willing to become the fuel!!

When God’s people had wandered far enough into the ways of sin, the Light of Israel became a consuming fire to purify them. He burned everything so that those who were willing to be refined would rely upon Him alone and not on their own wisdom and strength. That is what God wants to do to each one of us – refine us with fire so His light shines in and through us.

As we sit around a campfire, making sure the kids don’t get too close, we take turns poking at it and moving coals around so that everything burns as brightly as possible. We add more fuel when necessary. In our spiritual lives we must do the same. We must let the Holy Spirit poke around in our hearts and minds and stir up the coals that are covered with ash and blackened with sin. We must search the entire campsite of our lives for any fuel that has been left behind by past failures – fuel that will ignite into sin if not burned in God’s Holy fire first. We must want the fire of God’s holiness to burn as brightly as possible in us.

So today, spend some time looking for firewood. Then let the Holy One become the flame in you that burns every log, stick, and woodchip so that you no longer rely upon yourself, but on the LORD!

Pastor John

Nothing but Tools

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 20, 2019

Every time I work on a project that requires tools, I think of a lesson I learned years ago while working with my son-in-law on his basement remodel. The lesson may seem simple, but had deep implications in my life at the time. During that entire project, not once did any of the tools I used turn on me. My hammer never once redirected its focus to my thumb. My cordless drill never once impaled me. The wiring didn’t entangle me. The insulation didn’t wrap itself around me. I was in complete control of every tool and every piece of building material, and it did exactly what I directed it to do.

Maybe this sounds foolish to you. Of course none of those inanimate objects did anything to me. They don’t have a mind of their own. They can’t make conscious choices. They are totally at the disposal of and subject to the will of the owner and operator.

But take a moment and think about the application of that simple truth to our understanding of the Sovereignty of God.

For he says: “‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding… Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it? As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up, or a club brandish him who is not wood! (Isaiah 10:13, 15)

In the context of Isaiah 10, God is speaking to the King of Assyria who has become prideful about his ability to dominate the world political scene. This arrogant king believes that it has been by his own strength and wisdom he has been able to conquer the nations of the world. But God is going to teach him who’s really in control.

Every political power currently in place is there because God has ordained it, (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17) and is serving a specific purpose in God’s glorious plan. Every politician in office anywhere in the world is a part of God’s perfect plan for the building of His Son’s Kingdom. In fact, every governmental power is seen as an inanimate object in the hands of a Sovereign God who controls all activity and outcomes. Any pride taken by any official for their accomplishments is seen by God as insubordination.

I see two applications of this truth to my personal life today:

First, I do not need to fear the political powers of the present. The threats of terrorists, the corruption of capitalism with socialism, and the attempts to destroy our republic and its democracy should not cause me alarm. They are but another step in the destruction of humanism as God calls people to trust Him alone and prepare for the King who is coming!

Hear the words of a Pastor from a recent blog he wrote: Worried about world powers? World War 3? Terrorists? Market crashes? Biological warfare? Understand this from Isaiah : “God brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”

What ever happened to Napoleon? Didn’t he die in exile on an island somewhere? Or Alexander, the not-so Great? Hitler? Or the maniac leaders of our generation – Osama bin Laden or what was his name, Sadam Hussein? Their influence is hardly a blip on God’s monitor. They may cause us to bite our nails and worry, but God isn’t pacing, or wringing His hands. Just as soon as He’s ready He will reduce those leaders to nothing and He will do it with His feet up.

Isaiah says in effect, “Don’t you get it? God doesn’t read the New York Times. If He did, it wouldn’t make any difference. Nothing stops God’s unalterable purposes in this world!”

I can’t wait for that day in heaven when we get to hear history’s real story – when we read God’s script and realize all He was doing behind the scenes. Just imagine the drama of God’s continuous, all-wise intervention in the sinful machinations of human armies and governments. To think that not one of His purposes is ever delayed or frustrated – not even for a moment. We will be amazed, stunned, and captured by God’s awesome control of human affairs.

When will we embrace the reality of God’s awesome control over history? History is and always has been God’s ballgame. He decides who gets on base, who pitches, who scores. He calls one man out and advances another runner. Don’t try to figure it out.

Second, I need to be very careful that I don’t take any pride in what I consider to be my accomplishments. Apart from God I can do nothing (John 15:5). I must, as you must, give God all the glory for everything that happens, and recognize by faith that He is in control…ALWAYS and FOREVER!

Pastor John