God’s Megaphone

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 15, 2019

All around us things are anything but normal. Political unrest. Financial uncertainties. Global warming or cyclical weather patterns?  Peace of mind is a past tense experience for many. Worry is building. Fear is replacing faith.

Life has been good for a long time for most of us in America. There have been ups and downs and some financial and political storms, but we have always weathered them. We have been trained by history to believe that this too shall pass. So we tighten our belts for a time, make some adjustments to our lifestyle, and plan for the day when it’s over and we can get back to living the way we dream to live.

Well guess what? One of these days the storm won’t pass. Listen – I’m not trying to ruin your day or be the gloom and doom man, but the truth is that God’s Word says there is a time coming when the storm will not pass. These preliminary storms are not supposed to strengthen our resolve to survive and get back everything we may have lost. They are to get our attention and turn our hearts towards God so that we learn to trust Him and experience His peace no matter what the storm may bring.

Isaiah 32:10   In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail, and the harvest of fruit will not come.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to people who had become complacent about their faith and dependent upon their culture for their value and purpose.

Tremble, you complacent women; shudder, you daughters who feel secure! Strip off your clothes, put sackcloth around your waists. The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, (my emphasis) and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, (my emphasis) sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

There is only one reason that the storms of life, whether in nature or in your personal life, continue to rage – we are not seeking God with all our heart. We are more in love with the world than we are with God. We are more in love with ourselves than we are with God. We do not love Jesus with all our heart because we reserve sections of it for the pleasures of the world. We do not love God with all our mind because we allow the lust of the flesh to captivate our thinking. We do not love God with all our soul because we still seek to satisfy our need for acceptance and value with the approval of people. We do not love God with all our strength because we so easily give in to the temptations of sin. And as a result, there are storms.

My friends, the storms will continue to come because the power of sin will continue to dominate the world and keep people from turning to Jesus. But those storms must not turn our hearts from the love of God. In fact, in the life of one who truly loves God, the storms draw us closer and we experience more grace and more peace. May the storms today, whatever they are and wherever you are, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Every storm is God’s megaphone through which He is shouting, May I have your attention?

Pastor John

Be a Rock

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 14, 2019

 After almost 67 years of personal experience with the uncertainty of weather, I still let it dictate my attitude far too often. It bothers me that I complain about what I cannot control, when I could be thankful for what God controls. The sun came up again today. It will set again tonight.  The seasons come and go with consistency.  The furnace is working. I have shelter from the weather when it changes.

The nation of Israel went through a lot of “weather” changes, if by weather we mean political and spiritual issues. When they obeyed God, He upheld His covenant of blessing with them. When they disobeyed Him, He upheld the consequences stated in the same covenant. God always fulfills His covenants.

In chapter thirty-one of Isaiah, God continues to discipline His people for their rebellion, and also declares the punishment that will fall on the nation of Assyria for rejecting Jehovah. Then in chapter thirty-two God gives a great statement of hope – a King will reign in righteousness.

Isaiah 32:1-2  See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

From a historical perspective, this refers to King Hezekiah, whose reign was one of righteousness and peace. But from a spiritual and prophetic perspective this promise declares the coming of Jesus Christ as King. What joy I find in these words – Jesus is a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the storm, a stream of living water that nourishes and brings life to the desert places, and the rock that provides shade and protection from the scorching sun of sin.

Jesus stabilizes my life when the winds of adversity blow against me. He protects me from the storms of crisis and gives me peace during them. When the thirst of my soul is no longer satisfied with the water of the world and my pursuits have dried up like the sands of the desert, a spring of living water bubbles up from within and satisfies my every longing. And when the stress of life saps my energy like the heat of the noonday sun God invites me into the shade of His presence and I find rest.

Look closely at the passage. God declares that under the righteous reign of Christ, we are to be shelters from the wind for others who are unstable. We are to be a place of refuge and peace for those around us who are being battered by the storms of life. We are to be like streams of fresh and refreshing water for those who are not finding satisfaction from the ways of the world. We are to be the place of shade and rest for those whose strength has been sapped by the scorching sun of sin.

We are the representatives of the righteous King to those living in a weary land. Just as Jesus is our shelter in the time of storm, so are we to be a place of protection for our friends and neighbors when they are being pounded by the winds and waves of adversity.

How I praise God for being my Rock, my Refuge, my shelter. Yet I wonder how well I am representing those things to others around me.

Lord, make me a servant to others, no matter who they are, that they may see your love and the hope of glory in me, and discover the peace in you they deeply desire.

Pastor John

God Is Able

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Isaiah 30:27  See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.

Henry Blackaby, in his magnificent study entitled Experiencing God, makes this statement –

When God speaks, what you do next reveals what you believe about God.

With brevity and precision that statement dissects our hearts. Here are some things God spoke that brought initial unrest to my soul, followed by the peace of God from knowing my faith was strengthened.

  • God spoke and said, Whoever calls on my Name shall be saved. Whoever believes on the One and Only Son of God shall have everlasting life. If we will confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us for those sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So why is it that we still live under the bondage of sin, struggling with it, seeking counseling for it, and in some cases resolving to just live with it? Do we really believe God to be who He said He is and able to do what He said He would do?

  • God spoke and said, I have qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For I have rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son I love, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

So why is it that we still live with such connections to the worldly kingdom? And why is it that we still struggle to qualify ourselves in the eyes of others, giving them the right to define us and approve us? Do we really believe who God is and what He said He would do?

  • God spoke and said, See, I am coming, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; my lips are full of wrath, and my tongue is a consuming fire. You will sing…your hearts will rejoice…for I come to shatter your enemies and deliver you.

Then why is it that we get so bent out of shape about what’s wrong with our world? What do our grumbling and complaining and critical spirits say about who we believe God to be?

  • God spoke and said, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So why do we still worry? What does that say about who we really believe God to be?

  • God spoke and said, If you have the faith of a small mustard seed, you can say to a mountain, move from here to there, and it will move.

So far as I know, God has never asked anyone to move a mountain, but He has asked us to do some pretty out-of-the-ordinary things in our lives. You have heard Him speak to you about those things before. They may involve a career choice, a call to ministry, a sacrificial gift to a church, or one of a million other possibilities. The point is, you have heard Him speak to you. He gave you His direction and purpose for that time of your life. Did you obey? If not, what does that say about who you really believe God to be?

When God speaks, what you do next reveals what you believe about God.

Pastor John

Grace Abounds

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The thirtieth chapter of Isaiah is one of contrasts. In it we see the rebellious nature of man and the gracious nature of God. Our pride seeks to protect us from looking at the reality of our nature. Our hearts long to know the depths of God’s grace. The truth is, the magnificence of God’s grace towards us cannot be fully comprehended unless we also understand the depths of our depravity. It is where sin abounds that grace abounds more.

Our default position is to avoid any focus on our faults. We grade our spiritual condition on a huge curve of comparison. So many people are worse than us, and very few are better, so we believe we are in no real danger of flunking. But when compared to the holiness of God, all of us fail, and all of us need forgiveness, and none of us can save ourselves. This is the truth that makes the grace of God so grand.

Isaiah 30:15  This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”

The contrasts between our condition and God’s compassion in this passage have really spoken to my heart this morning. May they bless you as well. You may want to open your Bible and follow along. Please read each point carefully and make the personal applications the Lord has for you today. I guarantee that it will bless you with a deeper appreciation of God’s grace.

Man’s Rebellious Nature (verse 9):

  • We tend to devise and pursue our own plans rather than God’s – verse 1
  • We seek protection and provision from the world and not from God – verses 2-5
  • We build ourselves up in our own eyes by oppressing others – verse 12
  • We make ourselves look good to others by lying about who we are – verse 12 (Note the serious consequences of not being honest about who you are – verses 13-14)
  • We even reach a point where we don’t want to hear the truth anymore and reject all attempts by God to help us – verses 10-11

Now notice God’s Grace:

  • God longs to be gracious to us even during our worst rebellion – verse 18
  • God rises above our stubbornness to be compassionate towards our needs – verse 18
  • God reveals truth to us through adversity and trouble – verse 20
  • God walks with us constantly and gives us specific direction – verse 21
  • God provides for our every need and will bring out the best in everything He gives us – verses 23-24
  • God will heal all the wounds of our suffering – verses 25-26

I know we are all very busy, and that taking time out for lengthy devotions every day is difficult. I’m thankful that you take the time each day to even consider reading what the Lord has shared in my heart. But I would encourage you to take some additional time today to really let God’s Word speak to you by studying this chapter. The result will be a good grasp on the reality of our own sinfulness, so that the splendor of His grace will shower us with rejoicing in our salvation. After all, God has said,

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”

Pastor John

From Surviving to Thriving

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 11, 2019

It’s just too true. We all fall into varying degrees of discouragement at times. We tend to fix our eyes on the here and now instead of the soon to be, and as a result we get bogged down in what’s wrong instead of rejoicing in the hope of the coming right. Then, to make matters worse, we go to great lengths to devise our own plans for fixing it all, only to have our lives more completely turned upside down.

Isaiah recognized that problem in people. He saw the inward spiral of self-fulfillment and how we are trapped in the vortex of vanity. He wrote, “the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?’ You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me?’ Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing?’” (Isaiah 29:14-16)

All the plans of man will fail. We will start thriving when we accept that. When we don’t, we barely survive. When we finally fall on our knees in humble surrender to the plans of our Provider and Perfecter of our faith, we will be rescued from the whirlpool of worldly wants and transported into the peaceful port of God’s purpose.

Isaiah 29:19  Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

At the end of this chapter in Isaiah, in verses 22-24, there are several clues to how this transformation can happen in our lives:

Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob: “No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale. When they see among them their children, the work of my hands1, they will keep my name holy2; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob3, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel4. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding5; those who complain will accept instruction6.” 

  1. When we begin to see everything as the work of God…
  2. When we keep the name of God Holy…
  3. When we apply the holiness of God to every area of our lives…
  4. When we live in complete worship of God…
  5. When we commit to following God’s way and not our own, we will be made wise…
  6. When we learn to praise God no matter what the circumstances, we will gain understanding.

Picture a ruler…you know, a measuring stick. It’s six inches long. Each inch is one of the above challenges. How do you measure up? I know I’ve got some growing to do.

Pastor John

Serving with Love

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 8, 2019

It turned out to be a busy weekend that taught me an important lesson several years ago. On Saturday, my wife rose early and went over to the grandkid’s house to babysit, and I remained at our house to get some work done. We had the blessing of having some students from the Moody Bible Institute Men’s Collegiate Choir scheduled to stay at our house the next weekend while in Eau Claire for a concert at our church. I needed to get the house ready. Not only that, but on the following Monday, our very dear friends Dudley and Inge would arrive back in the States from Swaziland and they would be living with us for the next three months.

The details of my duties are not important, but suffice it to say they covered cleaning, carpentry, and cataloging. It took me well into the afternoon to get it all done, and there was still more to do. My point in telling you all of this is simple. While I did those things because I knew they had to be done, my motivation was the love I have in my heart for my wife. I serve her because I love her, and love has no limits on service.

Unfortunately that doesn’t always apply to the way we serve God, does it? Our worship of Him is not always the product of our love for Him. Isaiah saw that in the people of His day as well. They talked about their faith, they prayed, and they worshiped, but it was insincere.

Isaiah 29:13  And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.”

The hypocrisy of their hearts is obvious. But before we come down too hard on them, we must not be in denial about our own hardness of heart and double-standard lifestyles. We just might be as guilty as they were.

Here are some serious questions to consider:

  • Do you truly love God more than you love yourself in EVERY area of your life?
  • Do you do the “religious” duties of your church while in your heart you are longing to be elsewhere doing something else?
  • Do you seek to serve God out of fear of His punishment or as a response to His grace and love?
  • Is your worship of Him an expression of your love to Him?
  • Is your whole life a living sacrifice given in service to your Lord as a reasonable act of worship?

Those questions give me cause to pause. It will be another busy weekend as I consider these principles.

Pastor John

Break the Chains

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Isaiah 28:21 and 29   The LORD will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim, he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon—to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task… All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.

I am fascinated with this passage of Scripture, as is indicated by spending a couple of days writing devotional thoughts from it. What fascinates me is the modern-day application of these historical events and how we as Christians need to wake up to what God is doing around us. A good friend helped me to put the whole chapter in perspective and brought out the truths that we need to understand. Here’s what missionary Curt Kregness wrote to me from Sao Paulo, Brazil:

God, through Isaiah, is taking the leaders of Judah (called Ephraim here) to task for their alliance with Egypt in order to escape from the Assyrians.  This is the “covenant with death” mentioned in v. 15 and 18.  Judah should be looking to the precious cornerstone for its sure foundation, and not to human strength.

So, the short bed and the narrow blanket of v. 20 is a metaphor for Judah’s misplaced trust.  The alliance with Egypt will offer no rest, no comfort, for Ephraim.  The strange work and alien task of the Lord is having to fight against his own people because of their disobedience.  The mention of Mount Perazim and the Valley of Gibeon is ironic, because in those two battles God fought for Israel against their enemies.  Now he must resist his people because they are rebelling against him.

The final section of the chapter uses another metaphor—the farmer.  The breaking up and turning over of the soil, although costly, has a purpose: to produce grain to make bread.  “All this comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.”

My conclusion for this passage would be that God loves us so much that he is willing to take extreme measures to get our attention and win us back to his family.  His wisdom is completely trustworthy, even when we turn our backs on him and suffer the tragic consequences of our sin.

We are not all that different from the people of Isaiah’s day. We are at times more intimately connected to the world than we are to Jesus Christ our Savior. We are at times more interested in finding satisfaction and fulfillment from the world than we are from God.

To many of us, God’s work has become strange and alien. We have become so engrossed in the lifestyle of the world, convinced that we can love both the world and God and use both for our own gratification, that when we look to see what God is doing around us we don’t recognize Him. How sad it is when God initiates a work in our lives and we mock it or scoff at it because it doesn’t fit into our personal life plan or our daily schedule of approved activities. We have become so in touch with what we want from the world that we are out of touch with the touch of God. We have chosen to believe that the social and financial benefits of living in our modern civilization are our rights and we choose to pursue them rather than pursue what God wants for us.

But remember this – God will not stop loving us or pursuing us. We may not like what He does to finally get our attention, but He will win us back to Himself. Every event of our lives today will be an opportunity for us to turn from the pursuit of worldly pleasure and prosperity to a personal and productive relationship with Almighty God.

Also remember that what we think we are doing to find satisfaction in life by pursuing the values of the world is really wrapping us up more tightly in the chains of bondage to the world so we see less and less of God (verse 22).

God is working to bring us to fullness in Christ. It is a work of love. He is breaking up the soil of our hardened hearts.  He is planting seeds of righteousness. He will harvest those seeds by beating away all the chaff. Then we will stand before the people of this world as reflections of His glory.

God is working on you because He loves you. Embrace what happens as His expression of grace.

Pastor John