God Recognizes You

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 16, 2019

He was just a common citizen of his community. We know nothing noteworthy that he had ever done. He was not a sports hero nor was he an entertainer. He had not attained a position of prestige as a person of public prominence. We don’t know his family history or heritage. We don’t even know his profession, yet we know clearly what he professed. He is singled out from the ordinary as a man who was righteous and devout, and lived his life under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit of God.

Luke 2:25-27  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple…

Simeon reminds us all that no one is obscure or insignificant to God. God recognizes us, and rewards faithfulness with public and eternal acclaim. But we must not let the reward be our motivation or it will never come. Seeking personal gain is contradictory to righteous and devout living.

Simeon was living daily in the hope that each day would be THE day that the Lord would fulfill His promise to him. The word devout means to take well. In other words, it means to believe what has been promised and then live according to that promise. For Simeon it meant that every step of every day was directed by his belief that he was being led closer to the realization of what God had told him. Imagine waking every morning and having every thought, every idea, and every plan completely immersed in the hope of what God has promised. That was the devout life of Simeon. That is the life I desire.

On this specific day, Simeon knew the Holy Spirit was directing him to go to the temple. He obeyed. He would have missed everything promised if he had not listened and obeyed. But he did listen, and he did obey, because he truly believed what God had said. And because he believed, he saw the Savior!

Simeon’s life is now eternally on display as an example of how God recognizes and rewards righteous people; people who live not for self but devoutly believe the Word of the Lord. In one step of obedience Simeon went from obscure to obvious; from insignificant to illustrious.

He saw the Savior. He held the Savior in his arms. He spoke God’s truth about the Savior. He blessed the parents with a preparatory prophecy about God’s purpose for the Savior’s pain, and their own. He played a pivotal role in the declaration of God’s redemptive plan for all people.

No one is obscure or insignificant to God. Take time today to be still and listen. Simeon’s God knows you. The Savior defines your worth. He is waiting for you to believe what He is saying to you. He is longing for you to act upon it so He can declare your significance publicly and rejoice over you with song!

Pastor John

Public Obedience

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 13, 2019

Acts 16:31-34  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

It was six years ago today that I had breakfast with a post-graduate student who is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Brought up in a works and sacraments based religious system, she had discovered the truth of faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation. It happened through a connection with fellow students involved in a faith-based campus ministry.

The reason we were meeting was to discuss baptism – true biblical baptism by immersion as a public testimony to one’s saving faith in Jesus Christ. As I listened intently to her testimony of faith, I interrupted her as I wiped tears of joy from my eyes. I asked her why she had not been baptized sooner. Her simple reply revealed something to me that I want to address today. She said, “Because it was never taught as a part of my discipleship training.”

As we talked more the joy of what God was doing in her life now overcame my initial reaction to what she said. But as the hours went by after the meeting, it began to weigh on my heart. Why would we in the so-called “modern” church age de-emphasize the fundamental command of Jesus for all disciples to be baptized? What do we believe He meant when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you?” How can we teach them to observe all the commands of Jesus when we ignore the first command of discipleship that He gave?

Throughout the New Testament, without changing the truth of salvation by faith alone, people who were saved were baptized, and it happened as soon after their salvation as possible. Let’s be very clear – baptism does not and cannot save anyone from their sin, at any age. But let’s also be clear about this truth – baptism is a command of God to be celebrated and experienced as a part of the salvation experience, and disobedience limits the potential for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, just as any disobedience to God will do.

I believe that the church has de-emphasized the importance of baptism as a result of cultural pressure to be more accepting of everyone’s personally selected belief system. Someone, in some religious system long ago, decided that baptism either wasn’t important or it was wrongly granted the status of being a means of receiving the grace of forgiveness. As well-intentioned people continued to live public lives of faith, personal experience was elevated to a place of priority over the command of Jesus. The church began to accept lifestyle of faith rather than obedience as “normal”.

As this young woman and I talked, I could literally see the joy bubbling over from her heart as she considered the thrill of public obedience to Christ. She was so thankful that I had addressed this issue with her. She enthusiastically agreed to be baptized at the next opportunity, and that it had to take place in the river like Jesus.

So, on the last Sunday of September in 2013,  she was baptized in the Chippewa River. It was cold. She was excited. I was thrilled. She chose obedience to Christ by being publicly baptized by immersion as a testimony of her saving faith in Jesus Christ. I chose obedience by baptizing her as a part of her discipleship.

Have you considered this joyous step of obedience?

Pastor John

Please Come Back!

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 12, 2019

I’m sure it was just a fluke back then, because today things are quite different.

Six years ago, during a sermon about the joyous and glorious return of Jesus Christ to gather His true church to their eternal reward, I emotionally and enthusiastically read these verses…

Revelation 22:7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon…”

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Then I energetically said something like, “Friends, JESUS IS COMING BACK!”

Silence ensued.

Really? Silence from the very people that Jesus is coming to get? At the time I was a little shocked. I think it showed. I said it again. “JESUS IS COMING BACK!” This time the response was enthusiastic.  However, it made me wonder how many times in my own life I need to be reminded to not get so focused on the issues of life and to be visibly joyful about the return of Jesus Christ.

Earlier in that same worship service we had sung a couple of songs, one of which was the chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” In that song we sang these words –

Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

It only took 15 minutes between singing those words and hearing it preached for us to turn our eyes, ears, and hearts back to things that forced our silence rather than things that fueled our praise.

I know that there are many days that I have my eyes, my heart, and my desires firmly fixed on the things of earth. It happens so much that I must ask myself the question “Is the return of Jesus what I really want?”

Let’s see –

  • More sin versus no sin. That’s one vote for His return.
  • More financial stress versus streets of crystal-clear gold and a mansion made by the hands of God just for me. Another vote for Jesus to come back.
  • More emotional stress from loneliness, rejection, and the pursuit of self-worth versus seeing the face of Jesus while His arms of love wrap around me and the only tears ever will be tears of joy. So far the return of Jesus is pitching a shut-out.
  • More issues with health versus an eternally perfect body. This is getting embarrassing. Earthly things are growing strangely dim.

I could go on, but we all get the point. The Spirit of God says “Come.” The Bride of Christ – His church – is supposed to say “Come.” Everyone who is longing for satisfaction in this life is to realize that earthly things cannot satisfy and invite Jesus to come. I am to consider the coming of Jesus to be more important to me than any other upcoming event in my life.

Is it what we really want? Well as for me, YES!!!

Pastor John

OOPS!

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Daniel 5:27  You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting;

Don’t use a screwdriver as a hammer.

Don’t use a knife as a screwdriver.

These are just two of the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. To be honest, there were many times that both substitutes worked, which only fueled my pride. It was that pride that eventually led to a time when the substitutes failed and the project ended badly. I’ve said “OOPS!” too many times.

Everything that has been made has an intended purpose. Granted, some things are multi-functional, but that was intended by the designer. When we use things for purposes that were not built into the original design, we can get into serious trouble.

That’s what happened to King Belshazzar in Daniel chapter five. Belshazzar was the son of King Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had humbled. His son knew what had happened. Yet Belshazzar rejected the work of God in His life and became proud – so proud that during a showy celebration he ordered that all the vessels of gold and silver from the temple in Jerusalem be brought out and used as common serving and drinking utensils at the banquet. In his pride and desire to show off his wealth and power, the king chose to take things that were designed solely for the Lord’s work and use them for personal gain.

Immediately God responded. His hand wrote something on the wall that no one could read except Daniel. Here’s Daniel’s perspective on what happened.

And you, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”   Daniel 5:22-28

“OOPS!”

That night Belshazzar died, and Cryus became King. All because of pride, which always precedes a fall.

“OOPS!” I’ve used some of the Lord’s things for personal gain.

“OOPS!” I’ve taken money from my tithes and offerings to pay bills or buy new things.

“OOPS!” I’ve not followed through on pledges and commitments because my pride saw ways to use those resources for myself.

“OOPS!” I’ve lost the use of some things because God has immediately responded and taken them away to get my attention fixed back on Him alone.

“OOPS!” My heart has been weighed in the balances and been found wanting. What a horrible condition. Oh how I never want that statement to be true of me again.

Today, dear Lord, I commit myself again to your Holy Spirit’s correction to create in me a humble heart, so that all you have given me will be used for its intended purpose to serve you and not me!

Pastor John

Enduring Love

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

One early morning several years ago I stopped at the hospital to visit a good friend who was succumbing to the ravages of cancer. I had previously met with the family after they had heard the options from the doctor. After careful thought and prayer, this is what my friend posted on Facebook the morning that I went to visit him…

I am having a hard time trying to figure out when or how to make a final announcement to all my friends and family. I guess now is as good as it gets. As most of you know I have been fighting stage IV prostate cancer for almost 3 years now. Last Monday the 25th I was admitted for respiratory distress. My cancer has taken a serious turn and involved my liver and lungs. I am now experiencing liver failure and told I have 1 to 4 weeks left. I will be going into hospice care and letting the Lord Jesus take the wheel from here. I Love you all and just want to thank you for being part of my life and having impacted my life by being there. Everyone of you are special to me. I will monitor FB as long as possible but probably will not have a lot interaction from now on. Again I Love you and thank you for your love and friendship. God bless you all!

As I parked the car at the hospital the Holy Spirit led me to the one-hundred seventh Psalm. After some wonderful conversation around the bed with him and his wife, I read the first nine verses to him.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

When I was done reading, we talked about how the longing of the soul is completely satisfied by the love of God. God’s love is not a response to our actions or attitudes. God’s love is not a response to our work to earn it. God’s love is not limited by circumstances. God’s love endures forever.

God loves us while we have cancer. God loves us while we suffer for any reason. God loves us no matter what the condition of the world or the economy. God’s love endures forever, and it satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with good things. God doesn’t promise to remove physical problems, but He promises to satisfy the longings of our hearts during the problems we face.

While everything around us may appear harmful, hurtful, and hateful, God’s love endures forever. God’s love is not delivered through any external event. Solutions to problems is not the means of receiving God’s love. Fixing issues is not the means of experiencing God’s love. His love is delivered through the life-occupying Presence of the Holy Spirit. Love comes from the heart of God into the soul of man to flow out of man. God’s love endures forever, not matter what is going on around us, because His love is within us.

What a joy to know that my friend understands this. What a blessing it is to watch his life influence so many others to discover the truth of God’s love. What hope it gives us all to know the truth of God’s enduring love as expressed by the Apostle Paul when he wrote in Romans chapter 8 –

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Pastor John

Cry Like A Baby

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 9, 2019

Babies cry. It’s the only way they can communicate for the first few months of their lives. It’s God’s gift to them and to the baby’s parents. It’s hard for the parents to accept this gift at 3:00 AM, but nonetheless it is a gift. The love that the parent has for the baby hears the need not the annoyance. Love focuses on the person not on the imperfections of the communication.

This truth thrills my soul when I meditate on it from a spiritual perspective. To my Father in heaven I can be a crying baby, vocalizing nothing but murmurs and groanings. Yet with ears of love He hears my deepest need. He answers me according to His lovingkindness.

Psalm 119:149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;

Charles Spurgeon writes this in his classic work entitled The Treasury of David, of which I am so blessed to have an 1884 second edition printing of all seven volumes in my office. Thank you, Grandpa.

When God hears prayer according to his lovingkindness he overlooks all the imperfections of the prayer, he forgets the sinfulness of the offerer, and in pitying love he grants the desire though the suppliant be unworthy. It is according to God’s lovingkindness to answer speedily, to answer frequently, to answer abundantly, yea, exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or even think.

Our hearts long to know the full extent of the Father’s lovingkindness. Questions arise in our minds to help us understand.

  • When are we ever worthy of asking the Lord for anything?
  • When have we earned the answer we seek?
  • Are not all our prayers to be voiced with this attachment – answer me according to your lovingkindness?
  •  Is this not the only way we can be assured of any answer at all?

Father, teach us to pray with the humble cries of a child. Teach us that it is not in our abilities and perfections that we receive your grace and love, but in our brokenness that you hear us and extend your lovingkindness. Grant us the faith to understand that your love surpasses our weakness and inabilities. Show us that only good answers come from your heart, and only answers that come from your heart are good for us. Thank you for hearing us with your ears of love! Amen.

Pastor John

Leaping for Joy

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 6, 2019

I am so thankful for the time growing up living in a rural farm community. There’s something about the farm that captivates my heart. As I drive through our scenic state my heart is most often moved by the sight of a farmhouse with outbuildings nestled into a grove of trees surrounded by rolling hills of pasture and cropland. It brings a peace to me that only being on the water in a boat or in a tree stand can rival.

One of the visual images I have in my mind from some days on the farm in North Dakota is a scene that involves young calves. They have been penned up overnight in a small enclosure with adequate room to move and find water, but with not enough space to run and jump as calves love to do.

I arrived at the farm at dawn to help my friend move the calves to pasture. We re-positioned all the gates of the feed lot so that the calves would be funneled to the wide-open spaces of the pasture. The funnel was intentionally narrow to control the calves’ behavior. At the final gate, we did not have to coax them to go through the opening.

They proceeded quickly through the one-hundred-yard passageway, generating more speed with every step that drew them closer to what they considered to be freedom. They had done this before, and knew that very soon, in comparison to where they had been, there would be no more restrictions. Within five steps on exiting the last gate every calf started jumping and running and twisting and turning and leaping. They were exuberant. FREEDOM! That word exploded from every release of energy every calf made.

That is the picture that came to my mind this morning as I read the words of Psalm 119:143.

Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

What brought that picture to my mind was a verse used by Charles Spurgeon today in my daily promise devotional called Faith’s Checkbook. The verse is found in Malachi 4:2, and it says,

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Sometimes, and probably more often than not, we feel like those calves penned up in a stall. The troubles of life have us caged in. We are being nourished just enough to stay alive, but we are far from feeling free enough to leap for joy. But as we begin to recall the previous experiences of freedom found in the commandments of the Lord, the light of dawn begins to appear. Hope rises in our hearts when we hear the sound of Heaven’s voices coming from the mansion on top of the hill. The Son of Righteousness has risen, and He is coming to open the gates.

We quiver with anticipation as each promise and command of our soul’s Farmer is remembered. We delight in each one as they produce the sound of creaking and clanging as the gates swing open. Then, at last, the Master stands at the final gate that has locked us in, and with one word of permission he sets us free. We can see a passageway to the pasture where we can be fed again. We move towards it, not caring any longer that our movements are still restricted by the same barriers that seconds earlier had penned us in. There is now an opening in the cage, and our hearts and minds are fixed on making our way to it.

When the last barrier has been removed, we begin to leap for joy. We run and don’t get weary. We jump and don’t get injured. We have been released into the great pasture of God’s promises. FREEDOM! That word explodes from every part of our lives as we move about in the spaciousness of God’s grace.

Whatever has you penned up today, there is hope for freedom in the commandments and promises of God. The Son of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings, and you will soon go out leaping for joy if you pass through the gates He is opening.

Pastor John