Wake-Up Calls

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 29, 2019

Eight years ago, near the end of the winter, we had warm weather that was melting some of our snow. The end of my driveway was filled with slush.  I took the shovel and went out to remove it. After four or five exertions of my muscles to lift that heavy wet mess and toss it aside I felt a little twinge in my chest. I took a break, and it seemed to be okay, so I finished the job.

When I got into the house, I called the doctor and made an appointment. The next day I had an EKG at his office, and when that turned out normal, he scheduled a stress test. A week later I was on a treadmill having my heart function analyzed, and I praise the Lord that everything is fine. But that first twinge of pain, which was probably just muscles screaming from inactivity, was a real wakeup call.

Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, had invaded Judah. King Hezekiah had tried to be a faithful king. He had destroyed all the places of worship in the land that were primarily used by the people to worship idols. He had asked people to focus their worship on the one true God by coming to Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. But the people were rebellious and wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

When Sennacherib sent his envoys to Hezekiah with another letter defaming the name of God, it was a wake-up call for the King of Judah. This time he did not seek after the prophet Isaiah to try to re-connect with God. This time he went directly to God. He had been encouraged by Isaiah’s words that the Lord was going to deal with this attack. That encouragement motivated him to begin anew his own relationship with the Lord.

Isaiah 37:15-16  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.”

Hezekiah humbly approaches God. He went to the temple and spread his problems out before the LORD. How often do we go to the Lord in a time of distress and ask for help but we never really release the control of the problem to Him? Hezekiah laid everything on the altar and gave it all to Him. He showed great faith and trust in the Lord’s outcome.

Read Hezekiah’s prayer, and notice the honor and awe he expresses towards God.

“O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Our prayers to God for every problem, every issue, and every need should be encapsulated in this kind of praise and worship to Almighty God.

Not only should our prayers be bathed in praise and worship, but the ultimate request we make, no matter what the issue, should be for the glory of God to be revealed on the earth. Hezekiah acknowledges his fear over the facts of his circumstances. Sennacherib has already been successful over every other nation that worshiped other false gods. But Hezekiah knows that the will of God is for all men to know Him and connect to Him, so that is the basis of His request.

Friends, we get pretty selfish in our prayers don’t we? We want God to bring us glory. We ask Him to meet our needs or solve our problems according to our projected outcomes that we believe will benefit us the most. But when we pray according to the will of God – that the people who see what God does in our lives will have to acknowledge that He alone is God – then we will be praying correctly.

So what wake-up calls has God sent into your life recently? Are you responding according to His will and glory or your own?

Pastor John

 

Be Thankful

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 28, 2019

As a youngster, and still today, I think I enjoy Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. I know, that sounds so secular and unspiritual, when Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior and Easter is the celebration of His resurrection. But the memories of Thanksgiving still stir my heart. Maybe it’s because of my love affair with food. I think it’s mostly because of my love affair with family. (Just ask my kids what dad says at every family gathering.)

We have had a family tradition since I was young.  While we sat around the table, but before we could eat the turkey and all of the other great side food, we each had to express a thought of thanksgiving. One thing I have noticed over the years is that this has become an uncomfortable experience for most. The true sentiment of thanks is just not there much of the time. We say thanks for shallow stuff, and anything deeper and “mushier” draws snickers (giggles, not candy) and moans. Why has it become so hard for us to express heartfelt thanks?

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He taught them much more than just words to say: He taught them about the condition of the heart. One of the attributes of a person who prays is to be humbly dependent upon God for all things.

Luke 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.

When Jesus told the disciples to ask for their daily bread in their prayers, he was emphasizing an attitude of the heart that honors God as the provider of all things.

In the book of Proverbs there is a warning given to all who would be ungrateful and self-dependent: you may end up disowning God or dishonoring His name.

Proverbs 30:7 – 9  “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Look at this carefully:

  1. If we ask God for more than just our needs and demand that we become rich, we will be tempted to trust in our riches and not in the Lord who gave them to us. Riches are not wrong, but the wise writer of this passage recognized the danger of self-dependence that could result from having too much. He specifically asked God to not let that happen to him. His faithfulness to God was more important than the pleasures of riches.
  2. If we don’t ask God to provide for our daily needs, then we will eventually choose illegal means to maintain our lifestyle rather than providing for ourselves. We will dishonor the name of God by our behavior. The author knew that if he was dependent upon God, God would be glorified by his choices, and honoring God was of far more importance to him than his financial security or status.

So on this Thanksgiving, no matter what you are able to eat, be thankful that God is your Provider. He knows your every need, and will never fail to provide for those who trust Him. Listen to these words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 33:14–16.

The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor John

Silence is Golden, except…

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Silence is scary – especially for someone so impulsively vocal as I am. But according to an old saying Silence is Golden. The whole saying goes like this – Speech is silvern, but silence is golden. In the Bible, the wisdom of King Solomon said that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. I have the speaking part down real well. It doesn’t turn out well many times, but I certainly speak a lot. It’s the silence part that needs a lot of work.

King Hezekiah’s representatives were being verbally bashed by the commander of the Assyrian army. They were being told that they had no hope of surviving unless they surrendered. But after the audible assault was over, they remained silent.

Isaiah 36:21   But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

They were under orders to be silent. They obeyed. Hezekiah wanted information. He didn’t want debate. This was a battle that would be won by the Lord’s power not by man’s reason. That’s the lesson I need to learn and apply more frequently in my own life.

There are numerous passages about silence in the Bible. I have narrowed them down to the three areas that I believe, at least for me, are the ones that need the most work.

  • When verbally attacked, follow the example of Jesus
    • Matthew 26:59-63 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.   But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward   and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”   Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”   But Jesus remained silent.
    • Isaiah 53:7  He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.   In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
  • When angry at someone, think a long time before you speak
    • Psalm 4:4  In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
    • Proverbs 17:28  Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.
  • When questioning authority, remember who is really in control and trust Him
    • 1 Peter 3:13-15  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,   or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.   For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 

I also need to work on speaking when I prefer to be silent. Sometimes it’s more convenient to not witness about Jesus in a public place for fear of being embarrassed or misunderstood. At times it’s easier not to “Speak the truth in love” because we avoid conflict. But the biggest place of silence in our lives is when we have sinned. We like to cover our sin. We don’t want to open up and be honest about what we have done. We may speak when we have sinned, but it is usually to defend ourselves or to pass the blame onto someone else. Whether we know it or not, this is what is causing the bitterness that permeates every area of our lives. It makes us unpleasant to be around. Look at what the Bible says about this important speech impediment from which most of us suffer.

  • Psalm 51:1-5  Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.   Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.   When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.   For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah    Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
  • Psalm 30:10-12  Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.    You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,   that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

The church of Jesus Christ would be a whole lot better place if we would learn to speak when we should and be silent at other times. I know I’m going to work on that, and by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit will teach me to control my tongue.

Pastor John

Invitations

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

I remember the first time I received a wedding invitation that wasn’t the traditional formal two-envelop with RSVP card and return envelope folded inside. It was more like a postcard, and it was covered with pictures of the couple in various life experiences, including one of them kissing. On it was all the necessary information about the wedding. It was a new method of inviting people to a wedding, and I liked it.

Invitations come in all shapes and sizes for all kinds of events, and they are designed by the sender to do three things: first, to appeal to your emotions with the design; second, to give you the information of the event; and third, to reveal the personality of the sender.

In the same way, our enemy, who is called Satan, or the Devil, or the Roaring Lion, also sends invitations to us. They come in all shapes and sizes, and like junk emails they clog the inbox of our mind all day long. They are very attractive. They are designed to appeal to us and give us exactly the information we need to make a spontaneous and emotional decision. But what is different about his invitations when compared to the ones we receive for a wedding is this – Satan’s do not reveal his personality or his character.

Satan is a deceiver, and will use any lie he can to convince you to come to his party. What will appear on the outside to be an opportunity to find pleasure and fulfillment is really an invitation to death and destruction. Ultimately, Satan cannot offer anything else.

One of his most devious invitations is the one that leads us to doubt the character and promises of God. Satan knows that he cannot appeal to Christians with a display of his own character, so his only hope is to diminish our view of the nature and character of God so he can make himself look better. It’s the same tactic we use when we belittle others to make ourselves look better.

This is demonstrated in today’s portion of the story found in Isaiah 36.

Isaiah 36:13-15   Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

The commander of the Assyrian army is sending an invitation to the nation of Israel to make peace with them and join their powerful and prosperous kingdom. He does three things: he paints a word picture of the blessing they would receive by joining – “Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.”  (verses 16-17)

He also warns them what will happen if they don’t attend – “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the men sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own filth and drink their own urine?” (verse 12)

But then came the main emphasis of his invitation – he destroys the people’s hope in the Lord. He starts by saying that he is actually doing this by the command of the Lord – “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.” (verse 11). He proceeds to tell them that they can no longer trust the Lord – “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” (verse 18)

That’s the same invitation Satan sends us every day when he invites us to be married to the world. He appeals to the pleasures of the world. He convinces us that anything less than that is ugly and will hurt us. He disguises himself as the Lord so we think we are really obeying, then he plants seeds of distrust in us so that we begin to think that God isn’t really meeting all our needs and isn’t even capable of doing so.

Be careful in everything. We are receiving numerous invitations to be married to the world every day. They are lies. Let’s not be people who just say that we love and trust God. Let’s live like we do and really trust Him.

Pastor John

Faithful Love

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 25, 2019

Isaiah 36:7   And if you say to me, “We are depending on the LORD our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar”?

When Isaiah wrote the thirty-sixth chapter of his book, King Hezekiah was reigning in Judah. The king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had invaded the land and was attacking all the fortified cities. Sennacherib sent his commander with a large army over to Jerusalem. Hezekiah sent a delegation to meet them. The Assyrian commander made these statements:

  • Why are you so confident?
  • You claim to have strength but we see no evidence of it.
  • You say you have allies but they are weak and powerless against us.
  • You claim to trust in your God, but you have stopped worshiping Him and have adopted other gods.

It’s this last statement that hit me hard. The enemy of God, with no faith in the One True God, was attacking God’s chosen people. This ungodly king recognized that God’s covenant people have rejected their faith in God alone. He saw that God’s people were more concerned with pleasing people than they were with loving Jehovah. They saw worship of God as an obstacle to survival in the world. They believed fitting into their culture would be better served by not serving God.

I received a Facebook post from a young man who has been called into ministry. He asked me to watch a video that challenged him. It was from the later years of David Wilkerson’s life as he preached on the subject of anguish. Not a popular word, is it? The video touched my heart, especially at one point when this statement was made – What anguish it must bring to the heart of God when He sees that the Bride He was preparing for marriage to His Son has instead been married to the world.

My friends, as followers of Christ, why are we so easily persuaded to make friends with the world and adopt its standards? Why do we continue to see our faith in Jesus Christ as an obstacle to acceptance with the world rather than a means of bringing true life to the world? Why have we chosen to become adulterous in our spiritual lives and have a fling with the world? It is time for us to be recognized by our faith. It is time for us to find pleasure in doing the Lord’s work rather than finding more ways to find pleasure from the world.

Pastor John

 

P.S.  Happy Birthday to my brother Steve.

Keep Your Chin Up

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 22, 2019

Have you ever heard the expression, “Keep your chin up”? Sure you have. My need to know things sent me to the internet to find out where that expression originated. According to one site, the first use of was in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Evening Democrat, October 1900, under the heading Epigrams Upon the Health-giving Qualities of Mirth:

“Keep your chin up. Don’t take your troubles to bed with you – hang them on a chair with your trousers or drop them in a glass of water with your teeth.”

The unfortunate thing is that I couldn’t find one reference to this idiom that gave any reason why we should be able to keep our chin up, other than the reference to the possible health-giving benefits of mirth. That’s sad. People know the value of a positive attitude, but fail to find the real motivation for one.

In my study of Isaiah, this section looks ahead to the promised return of the King and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth.

Isaiah 35:3-4    Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Here I find my motivation for releasing worry and fear. Here is the encouragement we need to be strong. God is coming to redeem us and to set the world straight. Peace will reign because the Prince of Peace will be on His throne. That sufficiently motivates me to keep my chin up.

Read carefully the rest of this thirty-fifth chapter of Isaiah. You will find great encouragement to press on. You will find the hope you need to be determined to finish the race of life strong. You will discover the joy of knowing that Jesus is coming to save you.

Isaiah 35:1-10
1    The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus, 2it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.  The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.  3Strengthen the feeble hands,  steady the knees that give way; 4say to those with fearful hearts,  “Be strong, do not fear;  your God will come,  he will come with vengeance;  with divine retribution  he will come to save you.” 5Then will the eyes of the blind be opened  and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  6Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.  Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.  7The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.  In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. 8And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.  The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there.  But only the redeemed will walk there, 10and the ransomed of the LORD will return.  They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Pastor John

 

 

All Is Well

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 21, 2019

My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness.

The words of this grand old hymn are ringing in my head.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

No matter how sweet and inviting the world looks, it will not last, nor will it satisfy.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.

As I contemplated the application of these truths to my life, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit of the additional verses of that song.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

No matter how dark the world begins to look around me, and how severe the storms of my life become, I know I stand secure in Christ. Why? Because His Word NEVER fails. His promises are ALWAYS fulfilled. In Christ our hope is secure!

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

Then the final verse came to my mind. It fixed my eyes where they are supposed to be all the time – on the coming of Jesus to reclaim what is rightfully His. Since I am His, I will be a part of the Lord’s worldwide reclamation project.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

At this point of remembering this song, I discovered the thirty-fourth chapter of Isaiah. It is the beginning of the conclusion of the story for this section, and describes God’s judgment on man’s sin and rebellion. Isaiah gets our attention in verse one.

Isaiah 34:1    Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!

Isaiah then begins to describe the incredible day of the Lord’s vengeance (verse 8) which culminates in the enemies of God being destroyed and the people of God being restored in a transformed physical world.

As I was reading, a line from verse four jumped off the page and reminded me of another song – one that hitchhiked on the previous song still being sung in my spirit. The line is the clouds be rolled back like a scroll. As a part of God’s judgment of sin and redemption of the physical world, Isaiah describes the transformations of nature that will take place. As the stars of heaven dissolve, and the sky rolls up like a scroll, I am reminded that there’s nothing in this world upon which I can stand. But because I stand on the Rock of Jesus Christ, it is well with my soul.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Pastor John