Attitudes

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 31, 2020

It’s Friday, and our mood is typically up.

Come Monday morning we are frequently down.

Those are the bookends of an average roller coaster work week for most of us. Up and down emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. Some of us run that cycle several times a day as circumstances and people play games with our attitudes. How many of these bumps could be resolved if we would just recognize the truth that no person or event has any power over our attitudes? Attitudes are completely and exclusively our choice.

Here’s a blessing I received from the Lord recently. I awoke at 4:15 AM and did my very best to go back to sleep. I couldn’t. So I thought about things and prayed.

I thought about the message I had preached on Sunday, and how people still listen through filters. I prayed for them.

I thought about how busy I have been, and how I probably wouldn’t have time to go home until after the meetings I had that night. I prayed for strength and good time-management skills to get everything done.

I thought about the ministry vision God has given me, and how to bring others into that vision to accomplish Christ’s redemptive purpose. I prayed for wisdom and gentleness to lead people in paths of righteousness.

I thought about my emotional responses to the aforementioned items, and realized that I had allowed my attitudes to be adjusted by those circumstances and people, both up and down. The down part bothered me. I finally got out of bed.

When I went to the couch and sat down with my laptop, I opened my Bible program and went to Isaiah 60 and read the whole chapter again. When I got to verses 19 and 20 I stopped. God spoke truth into my mind and heart. He worked the truth deep into my soul and spirit.

Isaiah 60:19-20 “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”

God spoke clearly.

“When you trust me, there are no more ups and downs. Your life right now is like the rising and setting of the sun and the waning of the moon. Trust me, and the ups and downs will be replaced with the consistency of My eternal light. Stop looking to people or circumstances to validate or determine your feelings and attitudes. Let me be your glory.”

That’s what I need every day. I hope it helps you too.

Pastor John

Prepare to Move

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 30, 2020

It appeared to be a dead end. Dead was the operative word in their minds. In front of them was a great body of water. According to their human wisdom it was not crossable. Behind them they could see the dust of thousands of chariots as the army of Egypt bore down on them. They cried out to their leader in anger and said, “What have you done to us?”  Standing still meant certain death at the hands of the warriors. Moving meant drowning. It seemed hopeless.

Does this describe your life right now – a dead end? Standing still doesn’t change anything. Moving ahead is way too scary. Maybe if we just close our eyes it will all go away.

Well, I have some interesting news for you – standing still does change things and moving ahead is worth the risk, so long as God has directed you to take such action. No matter how it appears on the surface, God is working on your behalf. If He says stand firm, then do it. In His time He will act. If He says move, don’t look back and don’t fear what’s ahead. He has already been there, done that, and has everything all worked out, so move with Him no matter how swiftly you must move.

The hardest part of moving after standing still is accelerating to God-speed in a short period of time. The only thing that makes it possible is that during the standstill, we remain active, preparing to move. All the groundwork for moving can be put in place so that when God’s time to act arrives, we are ready.

Standstills are never meant to be times of complacency. Want proof? What happens at a stoplight when you are driving? You check your phone, right? You quickly throw together a text to someone, or listen to a voicemail, or read an email. Standstills are times of productivity. So instead of complaining about not moving, be productive, and be prepared to move when the light turns green again.

Isaiah 60:22b  “I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

When God puts all the pieces into place, then move. Swiftly. Hang on tight. It’s going to be an awesome ride filled with opportunities to see God’s power and provision. It will require stepping out in faith and moving into uncharted territory. But God knows we are ready. No looking back. No looking around. With eyes straight ahead fixed firmly on where God is moving, we will follow, and we will follow at His speed.

So what happened to the people at the dead end? Here’s what it says about them in Exodus 14.

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

Stand firm on the promises of God. Move when God says move. Then we will all see the glory of God.

Pastor John

 

 

Let the Light Shine

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Do you remember this?

Gloom, despair, and agony on me;

Deep dark depression, excessive misery;

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;

Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

 Maybe if you watched it you would remember – https://youtu.be/ZAAKPJEq1Ew

Too many of us live this way. Darkness covers us like the dust cloud around Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Everywhere we go we find something wrong with what’s there. Every piece of news we read or hear pushes us deeper into the chasm of cynicism. Every day the darkness gets darker as the light gets dimmer because we have run out of batteries.

The natural response of our hearts to increasing darkness is to draw up closer to ourselves. We pull everything tighter to our chests and protect what little we think we have left. We quickly turn from a giving person to a tightwad when it starts to get dark. We do the same things with our lives that we do with our homes when the sun goes down – we lock the doors behind us, finish some inside tasks, turn off all the lights, and snuggle up with the false security of a blankie, hoping no one breaks in while we sleep.

We have become dependent upon the world. The proof is in our response to crisis.

  • Do we respond by protecting ourselves from the darkness, or do we become brighter shiners of God’s light by walking in faith?
  • Do we withdraw into the security of our homes and turn off the light of influence to our neighbors?
  • Do we shut down the outreach ministries of our church and focus only on the increase of knowledge so we can survive the onslaught of culture’s rebellion against God, or do we fling the doors open wider than ever to rescue as many as possible before Jesus returns and sets it all straight?
  • Do we hedge our personal and church funds for the predicted doom or by faith do we give more than ever to shine the light of the Gospel more brightly?

I think the reason the Hee Haw quartet is so funny is that we relate to it so well. In Isaiah 60, verses 1 and 2, the prophet wrote,  “darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” But he also wrote that “the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” He challenges us to “arise, shine, for your light has come.”

Then Isaiah gives us the promises of God for those who ignore the darkness and let the light of the glory of God shine in and through them. These promises, given to the nation of Israel for the day the Lord returns and redeems their land, are for people like you and me as well who let His light shine.

  • You will be radiant – verse 5
  • Your heart will throb and swell with joy – verse 5
  • You will be blessed with prosperity – verses 5-7 (No, I am not teaching the false prosperity gospel, but rather affirming what the Lord said that whatever we sow we will reap.)
  • God’s glory will fill the church – verse 7
  • Your enemies will become your friends and serve you – verses 10-11
  • Respect will return to you – verses 14-15
  • Peace will come to you – verses 17-18
  • Complete dependence upon God will be the norm – verses 19-20
  • Righteousness and justice will rule your life – verse 21

All that can be ours if we choose to let the Light of God shine through us instead of succumbing to the darkness around us. No more gloom, despair, and agony on us. The glory of the Lord has come upon us. Arise, and let His light shine.

Pastor John

You Can Be Saved

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

To follow up on what we shared yesterday, it’s easy for many of us to just go along with the flow. We follow the crowd. Without any real attempt to be educated with facts, we move in the direction of popular opinion. We may even compromise known truths for the sake of appearances. We do so with the hope that we will arrive safely at the port of acceptance and approval.

This is not a new issue. The nation of Israel suffered from the same malady.

Isaiah 59:20-21  “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD. 21“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.

Israel was riding the wave of national identity thinking they could surf right into an eternal relationship with God based on their heritage. Many still do that today, placing their faith and hope in their religious, political, or social affiliations. The Israelites of the Old Testament thought that their identity as children of Abraham gave them automatic access to God.

Things were about to change. The groundwork for the change had always been in place, but it had been overshadowed by traditions. From the beginning of man’s existence on the earth when He created Adam and Eve on the sixth day, God’s eternal plan was to make each of us of us personally responsible for our relationship with our Creator. There would be no exceptions – no loopholes. Family ties mean nothing. Race, creed, or color offers no benefits. Political views provide no eternal hope. Religion cannot accomplish redemption. No connection of man can earn favor from God.

The fifty-ninth chapter of Isaiah is about change – changing the traditional way of depending on human connections to being personally responsible to God no matter what the rest of the world says and does. For most of the chapter, Isaiah deplores the condition of a culture that was supposedly based on faith in God. When God saw that there was no one going against the flow, He sent Himself to work salvation on our behalf. (verses 16-17)

Then, in an amazing moment of change, the Lord declares an eternal truth – the Redeemer (Jesus Christ) will come to a nation but not for national renewal, but for individual salvation! Only those who repent will be saved. A New Covenant will be established that abolishes any possibility that a person’s human affiliations will have any value in determining their eternal destiny.

The New Covenant of the Redeemer’s blood poured out on the cross of Calvary removes all national identity. It removes all racial discrimination. It eliminates all religious sacraments. It destroys any and all works of man as an attempt to earn the favor of God. Family background cannot be used as either a pass or an excuse. Each one of us is responsible for our sin before God. The greatest discover any one of us can make is that we begin to perceive that there are but two beings in the whole universe—two only supreme and luminously self- evident beings—our own soul, and the God who made it. (from the Biblical Illustrator)

The New Covenant offers the same promise of eternal life to every person based on these truths – the sinful nature of all of us and the payment for that sin that was fully paid on the cross by God Himself. The covenant of cleansing from sin is for those that repent, and once that is stated in verse 21, every pronoun in the rest of the verse is singular, not plural. You as an individual are responsible to repent of your sin so that every benefit of the covenant can be experienced personally.

This is incredible news. It’s hard to change from our traditions, but in this case, change has eternal value. Regardless of your past, your sin, your connections, your politics, or your religion, you can repent of your sin and be saved for all eternity. Jesus died and rose again so that you can be forgiven and live. That’s incredible news.

The Redeemer has come for you.

Pastor John

Against the Flow

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 27, 2020

Isaiah 59:16a  He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;

The elevator door began to open, and as it did, I took my first step to enter. I stopped before taking the second step when I saw how crowded it was in that little box. Yet the people inside motioned me to come forward as they started to squeeze more tightly than before to make room. As I entered, I realized it would not be easy to turn around, so I stood facing all of them as my back was brushed by the closing door.

Have you ever stood facing the people in an elevator? It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward because everyone in there is staring at you. They are evaluating you. They are wondering if you will say something, and if you do, will you have bad breath or will you spit as you speak. Our insecurities explode to the surface in such situations, and we imagine all kinds of things that the other people must be thinking.

It’s also awkward because you are facing the wrong direction and blocking their exit. You stand opposed to the majority, and that’s uncomfortable in any situation.

How much power do you have in that box to change people’s minds about where they want to go? Probably none. But there may be certain scenarios where people would respond to your input by making a change in their destination to go with you.

We need to remember that when our faith in Jesus Christ puts us in opposition to the direction the world is taking. The Bible is full of stories about the power of one. I think we as Christians have started to believe the lie of our Enemy that the swift current of culture is too powerful to resist. Every day we get on the proverbial elevator of life and turn to face the same direction as everyone already there. We avoid contact with others and leave them to their own choices, focusing only on the numbers above the door as they announce the arrival of our destination. We know very little about anyone else around us, and don’t understand why they are going where they are going. We miss countless opportunities to invite them to make a different choice.

That is the picture presented to us in Isaiah 59, verses 2-15. It would benefit you to read them and see how appropriately they describe our current culture.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. 4 No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. 5 They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. 6 Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. 7 Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. 8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. 9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. 11 We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. 12 For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: 13 rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. 14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.

It is into this elevator of injustice and sin that God wants us to step and face the other way. He did it. Jesus came and lived His life facing the opposite direction from everyone around Him. And while He went against the flow, He invited others to consider changing their direction.

That’s exactly how we are supposed to live.

Pastor John

Tearing Down Walls

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 24, 2020

Isaiah 59:1  Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.

We really didn’t know what to expect. When Denise and I registered for our dining time on the cruise, we had the option of choosing a large table with other people, or a table by ourselves. We decided that since there would be so many other opportunities to meet people, we would choose a table by ourselves and spend that quality time focused on each other.

When we arrived at the dining room the first night, we were ushered to our table by the head waiter dressed in a tuxedo. As we arrived at our table, I quickly discovered what private table means on a cruise ship. Instead of several tables being pushed together to form a large table, the small two-person tables were spaced twenty-two inches apart. The gentleman at the table next to me was less than an arm’s length away.

As we sat and reviewed the menu for the evening, it was obvious that our quiet private dinner would soon become a time of fellowship with the people at the neighboring table. I turned and initiated a conversation with a young couple. As we talked, we discovered their living status, state, and their professions. It was obvious that serving Jesus Christ was not on their radar, and that they were adrift in the sea of self-indulgence.

At this point it would have been easy for some who call themselves Christians to end the conversation and seclude themselves at their own table as best they could. But that’s not natural to my heart and certainly not a product of the love of Jesus that captivates me. So the conversation continued with this heavily tattooed bar owner and his live-in girlfriend.

Eventually they asked me what I did for a living. Without hesitation I said, “I’m a pastor.” Denise and I both waited for their response. The woman spoke first. She leaned in towards me and with a soft and humble spirit said, “May I ask you a favor?” After I agreed, she told me the story of her best friend back in Texas who had just given birth to premature twins, and one of them had died the day the cruise left port. She was distraught that she couldn’t be there for her friend. She asked me to pray for her. I asked for the mother’s name and it was provided to me. When our food arrived, Denise and I bowed our heads and I prayed for that mother and for our new friends as they went through this time of grief.

On two more occasions during the cruise the Lord directed our steps to connect with this couple. On each occasion I asked how they were doing, and asked specifically about the grieving mother and called her by name. Then, when the cruise was over, and we got on the bus to return to the airport, there sitting right in front of us was this couple, and we chatted again and told them we would be remembering them and their friend in prayer.

I don’t know what effect any of that will have on their lives, but I’m not in charge of that – the Holy Spirit is. But God taught me an important lesson through that experience – don’t make judgments about people based on their external appearance and their public sin. It will create small yet strong barriers between us and the people to who Christ wants to show His love.  We must not tend toward seclusion from sinners, but we must intentionally engage them. As the arm of the Lord we often come up short.

We are the arm of the Lord to bring the knowledge of salvation to those who need it. We are the ear of the Lord to listen for people’s cries for help. We must overcome the fleshly desire to judge others and seclude ourselves from them. We must stretch out the arms of God’s love and embrace people where they are and show them that grace is available. No matter how they appear on the outside, and not matter what they have chosen as their lifestyle, they have the same spiritual need that we had before we met Jesus. Let’s introduce them to Him.

Pastor John

Ready to Rescue

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Isaiah 59:1  Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.

Several years ago my wife and I went on an amazing adventure. For nine years we had been planning this trip, and every year that we thought we would do it something came up. One year our kids said, “Enough! No more excuses!” They put together a little incentive package with contingencies that forced us to make the decision and book the reservations. After all the years of hearing about their wonderful experiences on a cruise, Denise and I finally went on one. It was everything we expected and more.

While we were sitting on a beach on a small atoll called Cococay, I watched as a father took his little girl into the ocean for probably the first time ever. Dad and the girl stood hand in hand for a moment in water only six inches deep. Then the eighteen-month old girl let go of daddy’s hand and took a few steps out into a little deeper water. She turned and smiled at her dad, and he smile back.

Having discovered courage she didn’t know she had, the girl took a few more steps. It was obvious she was not used to the buoyancy of saltwater, and she worked hard to keep her balance. Then she took one more step, and as she turned around to catch her daddy’s eye for approval, she wobbled. She listed heavily to the right. Her left leg came off the white sand on the bottom. She tipped forward, and her face was very near the water. Her short arms could not reach the bottom to stop her descent.

I cringed in my lounge chair. I’m sure I made a visible move to get up. I will never forget the look in the little girl’s eyes. They were as big as they could be, and looked right into her daddy’s eyes and spoke louder than any words could have. “Daddy, help me!” By now her mouth and nose were under the water, but her eyes never stopped looking at her father. She needed rescue, and she knew that dad was the rescuer.

Her steps had taken her out of reach of her father. His arm could not grab her and lift her from where he was. She was unable to get to him. But dad saw her, and from her eyes he heard her cry for help. In two swift steps through the water he had her by the arm and lifted her into his. She threw her arms around his neck and hung on. Her eyes were facing me, and without a single tear they clearly said, “I’m safe and secure.”

That dad did an amazing thing. It may seem so simple and natural that we lose sight of the amazement of it, but it is no less amazing. As his daughter’s eyes cried out to him, he did not speak to her about the consequences of her actions. He did not tell her to deal with the problem because she had put herself in that position. He did not correct her for wandering away from him. He did what any loving father would do, he rescued her.

Surely your Heavenly Father will do the same for you. His arm is not too short to save nor His ear too dull to hear. Cry out to Him, and He will make you safe and secure.

Pastor John