TAKE NOTICE

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, October 8, 2021

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I have a question nagging at me that just won’t go away. I believe it is God’s question for all of us. It comes from the very heart of God and His concern for a lost world of people. The question is this: “How many people this week did I see through the eyes of God and recognize their hopeless condition of being led away to death by their sin?”

That question rises from the words of Solomon in our Wisdom verse for today.

Proverbs 24:11-12 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’  does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

I saw lots of people this week. They seem to be everywhere. I saw happy people. I saw angry people. I saw determined people. I saw distracted people. I saw people I would want to know better. I saw people I tried to avoid. I saw people in all kinds of situations going about their duties and calling it life.

I made judgments about people based on my perceptions of them. I responded to people in different ways because of those judgments. I saw their exterior and determined their worth and value, usually based on the return I would get from contact with them. 

What I did not do very often was to see their heart from God’s perspective and realize that whatever was on the outside could be radically changed by the transforming power of Jesus in their heart. I noticed their physical condition without recognizing the spiritual need that caused it. I need to sit up and take notice of people from God’s perspective.

But then another question nags at me:“What will I do about it when I do see people through the eyes of God?”

It doesn’t do a person any good to sit up and take notice if he keeps on sitting. Taking notice of people’s spiritual condition puts us on the right track, but as Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  Once I recognize the spiritual need in every person’s life, I must also recognize that I know the answer to their need, and that I have the Power to share that answer with them.

As you prepare to worship in church this weekend, please consider this: one reason you are there is to be equipped to better represent Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world of people. Between now and the time you go to church, how many people will you pass and meet who are being led away to death? You can choose right now to start seeing them through the eyes of God. So many people will pass into a Christless eternity. We can and must make an impact on them. 

Pastor John

SMALL BUT POWERFUL

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, October 7, 2021

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Small football players fascinate me. One of the greatest running backs of our era was one of the smallest. By his own admission he didn’t think anyone in the National Football League would give him a chance because he was too small to succeed. But the Dallas Cowboys liked what they saw in his heart, and gave him a chance. For 15 years he was the model of sportsmanship and success. 

Here’s what Emmit Smith accomplished:

  • 3 Super Bowl Rings (XXVII, XXVIII, & XXX) 
  • Super Bowl XXVIII MVP 
  • 1993 NFL MVP 
  • 1991-93, 95 NFL Rushing Champion 
  • 1990 NFL Rookie of the Year 

NFL Records he held or still holds:

  • Most Rushing Yards (career) — 17162 
  • Most Rushing Touchdowns (career) — 153 
  • Most Rushing Attempts (career) — 4052 
  • Most Rushing Touchdowns (Super Bowl) — 5 
  • Most Rushing Yards (postseason) — 1586 
  • Most Rushing Touchdowns (postseason) — 19 
  • Most Games with 100+ Yards Rushing (postseason) — 7 
  • Most Consecutive and Total 1000+ Yard Seasons – 11

What it is that makes a 5’9”, 180-pound running back have any kind of a chance against 6’5”, 275-pound defensive lineman? As Proverbs 24:5-6 teaches, I believe the answer is wisdom and guidance. 

“A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.”

First of all, this small running back surrounded himself with a bunch of 6’5”, 300-pound offensive lineman to run interference against the huge, headhunting defensive guys. He was made strong and earned victory because of the many advisors that he had – from coaches teaching him what do look for in defensive alignments to other players making a path for him on which to stay safe.

Secondly, he filled himself up with as much knowledge of his opponent as possible, so that when he came into the game situation he was able to adjust his running to what he recognized the defense would try to do. His eyes were always alert to the location of every opponent, and he avoided being hurt by running where they weren’t.

There are some great lessons for us in all of this when it comes to our spiritual lives, and how we run the race that has been marked out for us by God.

1. Fill yourself with the determination to be a spiritual success, which is really a product of the filling of the Holy Spirit. It is an act of our will to surrender to the will of God and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish that purpose. We must make it our priority to be spiritually successful.

2. Surround yourself with spiritual protectors – the Holy Spirit will direct us to people who can encourage us, teach us, train us, and fight for us. Get to know these people intimately. Trust them. Serve them. Develop a common goal and commit to its accomplishment. Study each other’s strengths and weaknesses so you can stand by them no matter what the opposition. Let’s become a team. 

3. Study the opponent. After we develop a game plan through the power of the Holy Spirit and the people that are on our team, we must then seek to understand what the opponent is doing to try to stop God’s plan. We must discover where he is and how he will try to stop us, and then run where he isn’t. Then, as we get stronger and more confident in God’s power to protect us, we can actually start running where the opponent is, and make him run away. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” What a great moment it is in a football game when the offense decides it is time to run at the strength of the defense because the have worn them down and demonstrated an ability to overwhelm them. What a great moment it is in a Christian’s life when they are able do the same.

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

It is not popularity, position, prestige, personality, or possessions that make us spiritually powerful, but it is the name of the LORD our God. No matter how small you think you are, you will find all the strength you need for any battle because “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”

Pastor John

BUILDING PROJECTS

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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All my life I have loved tools. I have trouble walking through a home improvement store and not picking up a new tool and trying to justify why I need it. I think my love for tools comes from a couple of childhood memories about my grandfather, Gunnar Gabrielson, who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. I loved to go down to the basement and look at his tools. I don’t ever remember seeing a power tool, just the old-fashioned hand tools. But what beautiful work he would do with those tools. He was a skilled craftsman. In fact, he designed and built one of the first sewing machine cabinets in America. I believe it is still on display in a museum in Cleveland.

The major difference between my love for tools and my grandfather’s love for tools is that he knew how to use them well. He was careful and precise about everything he did. I do not understand those concepts. I am the proverbial bull in a china closet. I have tried to discipline myself to be careful. I have accomplished some nice projects, but they are always flawed in some way. It is usually traceable to my lack of patience and carefulness, and to my pride that says I know just enough to do the job. The fact is that I lack the wisdom to do the job perfectly.

In today’s wisdom, Solomon uses the analogy of building a house to reveal to us the wisdom necessary for building a real life. He takes us through a natural progression of spiritual growth. 

Proverbs 24:3-4 By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

Today would be a good day for us to evaluate our progress in building the house of our lives. Maybe there’s a project that needs to be completed before the Building Inspector arrives.

The first thing that is necessary in building a life of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Solomon says that by wisdom a house is built, and he wrote earlier in Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

There is a common foundation under every spiritual house – Jesus Christ. That foundation is only available to those who have come face to face with God and recognized their hopeless and worthless condition in light of His awesome perfection and holiness. “Woe is me, I am undone,” says the prophet Isaiah. From that encounter with God comes faith in the mercy and grace of God to forgive. By renouncing our wisdom we can choose to build our house on Jesus Christ. 

The second thing that is necessary in building a house is for it to be established using the building material of understanding. In other words, everything built on top of the foundation must be connected to the foundation so it remains strong and unmovable by the storms of life. Here’s how the Apostle Paul states it in Colossians 2:2-4. Notice how understanding provides security.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”

The more we come to understand our great salvation and the God who provided it, the stronger our house becomes. That is why a daily study of God’s Word is so important to our spiritual vitality. But it cannot stop with just understanding it, we must also do what we understand. James 3:3 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” It’s not enough to have all of the building materials delivered to the construction site. Let’s pound some nails!

Finally, after laying the foundation of salvation, and establishing our house firmly on that foundation through understanding of how we were saved, we furnish the inside of the house by growing in our knowledge of God and His purpose. We tend to furnish our house with inferior goods that come from the world, when we have available to us all the riches of God in Christ Jesus to furnish every room. It’s time to remodel and redecorate. Go through all the rooms in your spiritual house. Are they furnished with the eternal riches of God’s grace or the cheap imitations of a failing world system? Your life can be filled with the finest furnishings – God’s grace and God’s love. (See Ephesians 1:7-8; Ephesians 3:16-19, and Philippians 4:19)

So, how is your house construction going? I know I have a couple of rooms that still need work. I’d better get at it.  The Building Inspector could come today.

Pastor John

LIFESTYLE CHOICES

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

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As we begin today’s devotions I am compelled to remind you that if we desire to become people of wisdom then we must be seeking God’s wisdom and not man’s. That requires the sacrifice of worldly pursuits, principles, and passions for the sake of moral purity in Christ.  Today’s subject may well reveal more than any other whether or not we are willing to become people who pursue Christ above all else. 

Proverbs 23:19-21 “Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”

One of the most divisive and destructive issues in the local church today is over the use of alcoholic beverages. Is drinking a sin, or is just drunkenness the sin? Should we or shouldn’t we use them? If we believe it’s ok to drink in moderation, what constitutes moderation? Do we have any responsibility to God or to others when we make our decision? These are all questions that are asked and argued by all of us from the young in Christ to the mature.

I pray that as I address this topic that our hearts will be open to hearing the voice of God. My desire is that all our lifestyle choices would not only reflect the wisdom of God by being morally pure, but that they would be motivated by a pure love for Jesus and not love for self.

First, the Bible does not call drinking a sin. I address this issue first because it is the issue that I believe causes the biggest problem in teaching others a true Biblical position on this subject. It is wrong to call something a sin that God has not called sin. When we try to conform another person’s behavior through untruth that we have called truth, we create rebellion in the other person against all truth. When our children grow to an age of understanding truth for themselves, they may reject what we have said because we tried to manipulate them into a certain type of behavior. Let’s just tell them the truth. Jesus performed His first miracle by turning water into wine, and we know it was alcoholic wine because the host of the party said so. (John 2:9-10)

Having said that, there are some very strong statements in Scripture about the use of alcoholic beverages, and several of them are right here in Proverbs. Let’s look at what is said:

1. It is not wise to join with those who drink too much, because it will lead to laziness and poverty.

2. Choosing not to join with them will keep our hearts on the right path. Everything about our relationship with Jesus Christ begins in the heart. When we desire to join with those who drink too much it shows that we are dependent on the world to provide us with value and not on God. Why would we who are joined to Christ have any need or desire to seek acceptance and approval from the world by joining with them? Our lifestyle choices reveal the level of our sincerity and security of our identity in Christ.

3. According to Proverbs 23:29-35, the consequences of drinking too much are severe – woe, sorrow, strife, complaints, bruises, and bloodshot eyes. Who needs any of those things? Just pick up any newspaper and you don’t have to read very far before you come to a story of an accident, a fight, an assault, a divorce, or a death that is the direct result of alcohol. We must consider carefully the consequences, not only for ourselves, but also in the lives of others around us.

4. We each must carefully evaluate our heart by asking some tough questions and then answer them honestly. The Proverbs 23:29-35 passage tells us what those questions should be:

Do I have an increasing curiosity about alcoholic beverages? Do we linger over the beverage, and want to try more and different kinds? Be careful, curiosity killed the cat, and we don’t have 9 lives to give. We have only one life to give, and I choose to give it to the glory of God. 

Do I find myself desiring alcohol because of the temporary benefits it provides? Do I use it to relieve pain or to produce pleasure in any way? Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup. Why should alcohol be the escape from the problems of life, or the producer of pleasure in life? When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” Doesn’t this reveal a heart condition that needs the healing touch of Jesus? The Apostle John says, “Love not the world, neither the things in the world…for these shall all pass away.” On what does your heart truly depend for peace and hope?

Do I find myself enjoying the taste? Proverbs says to be careful when it goes down smoothly! Just because we like it doesn’t make it beneficial or right. If that argument was valid, then let’s use it for other things we like as well, like sex. Sex is right only in the context of marriage, and when that purity is maintained it honors God. Each of us must determine in what context, if any, drinking is right and honoring to God.

There is so much more that could be said from other passages of Scripture concerning our responsibility to honor God in everything – especially in the area of the care of our temple of the Holy Spirit and our privilege to reflect the love and grace of Jesus to others. But I want us to consider carefully the three questions above, and evaluate our choices in regards to this issue. When you make your choice, make it in prayer before the throne of God, and make sure that your choice doesn’t in any way dishonor Him or exalt yourself over Him in any way. He is Lord, and is there any worldly sacrifice too great to make for our King?

GLUTTONY

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, October 4, 2021

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I love to go to restaurants that have a buffet. Oriental-style buffets are my favorite, because I can easily justify eating a lot because the food is better for me – lots of meat and vegetables and I can limit the carbohydrate intake. If a little is good for me, then a lot is better for me. 

Today’s Scripture reading has something to say about my food attitude. 

Proverbs 23:1-3 “When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.”

As we continue our pursuit of becoming people of wisdom, this week’s subject is moral integrity. But why should the quantity of food I eat be a subject of moral importance?

First of all, I think gluttony applies to a much broader base of indulgences than just food. In fact, gluttony is a heart condition that requires the constant pursuit of more and better in any area of our worldly life: more food, more money, more recreation, better house, better car, etc., etc. You have probably heard the term used this way in the statement, “He is a glutton for punishment.” Gluttony is an attitude that seeks self-satisfaction. That makes it a moral issue.

Secondly, because we are susceptible to self-satisfaction, we are in danger of being manipulated and deceived by those whom we give the power to influence our lives. Notice in the Scripture passage what is happening:

  1. He is having dinner with a person of influence and renown. Don’t be a name-dropper. Don’t take pride in whom you know or whom you have met. All such behavior is an attempt to increase our own status in someone’s eyes, and is motivated by self-satisfaction.
  2. The food that has been prepared has an ulterior motive other than just nourishment – it is meant to deceive and influence. We become easily influenced by the status and value we allow to be placed on our lives by people and things. “Note well,” it says, “what is before you.” Look deeply into your heart and determine if there is any motive of self-satisfaction or self-advancement in what you are doing. If there is, put it to death.

People of moral integrity are people who cannot be influenced to change their position on issues of truth. We must not give people or possessions the power to influence our position in Christ. No person or possession can ultimately provide us with anything of eternal value in God’s Kingdom. All they can give us is a momentary and fleeting reward to a need for self-satisfaction. Only what comes from God is good and perfect (James 1).The challenge for us is to live each day loving God above all else, especially self. Only then will we be stable, strong, unshakable and unmovable. Only then will we resist the selfish need to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. Only then will we be living with moral integrity.

Pastor John

BOUNDARY STONES

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, October 1, 2021

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This week we have been seeking God’s wisdom for financial integrity. To wrap up this subject we must be aware of the greatest enemy to financial integrity – GREED. Here is what King Solomon has to say about the fleshly desire to always have more.

Proverbs 22:28 – “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.”

Proverbs 23:10-11 – “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.”

Here’s the wisdom principle: Don’t keep trying to get more for yourself at the expense of others. These verses speak of the intentional use of one’s power and authority, or the deceptive manipulation of the law, to advance one’s own cause at the expense of another. This is GREED.

In the days before plat maps and survey crews, boundaries were established by the use of large stones on the corners of property. Crude maps were kept based on the best measuring devices of the day, originating with the average length of a man’s step. It was not too difficult a task to move a boundary stone to one’ advantage and encroach on another person’s land.

Today we use steel posts driven in the ground, detectable by electronic device, and accuracy is maintained through global positioning satellites. Even though it would seem to be more difficult to illegally move a marker and get away with it, our greedy imaginations are hard at work. I know of one instance in which a man was so intent on building a new home on a piece of property with a great view, that he forgot to check how much room he had for a driveway to get to that location. After getting the house done, he built his driveway on the neighbors land without permission. Now he refuses to fix the problem and legal action will be necessary. Greed can drive us to illegal actions.

There is another point I would like to make today about boundary stones, especially those that have been placed there by our forefathers. There are serious spiritual implications to moving moral boundary stones. 

We live in a world that is degenerating. The human race is not evolving into something more god-like, except that the god it increasingly resembles is the god of this age Satan. Boundary stones are constantly being moved and shifted. We demand it because we seek self-gratification. We seek to be more like culture. We have allowed the media to move the boundary stones of sin and righteousness. We have become enamored with what the world offers, and we will move whatever boundary stone that limits our personal gain. The moral foundation of our nation and world is quickly eroding, and the building called society is about to tumble. 

God’s Word has established absolute moral boundaries. Society can do all it wants to move them for its own personal benefit, but someday the Chief Surveyor will arrive on the property, and using the Bible as His Transom, His Throne as the Global Positioning Satellite, and His cross as the chief cornerstone from which all other boundaries extend, He will reestablish the boundaries once and for all. Anyone found outside those boundaries will be punished for all eternity. All of us who have chosen by faith to surrender to the Chief Surveyor’s boundaries will live forever within them.

Today, check your boundary stones. Are they where God placed them, or have we moved them for personal benefit?

Pastor John